Mustafa Magyar

Review

This tale is one of the best known and artistically the most successful Andrić’s short stories.  The story is about "Turkish times" and places of main events are Doboj, Banjaluka and Sarajevo. It is published for the first time in 1923. The protagonist is a soldier who has achieved a hero’s reputation because of his brave exploits in Hungary. His return to his native Bosnia is anticipated eagerly. Like that of Đerzelez, and the people’s disappointment when confronted with the reality is similar. Mustafa is profoundly changed by his experience. The change is manifested outwardly in the fact that he can no longer play his flute, and in his inability to sleep. When he does fall into a fitful sleep he is tormented by dreams of the brutality he has been forced to witness in the course of his life as a soldier. The life he chose and the brutality it entails take complete control of his body and its demands now govern his behavior absolutely.

The story illustrates the clear distinction Andrić makes between the body, whose realm is the night, and the spirit, which can flourish only by day. The tenuous survival of Mustafa’s spirit is expressed through his flute playing, but his experience as a soldier comes to dominate his life entirely. It appears that such uncontrolled and unbalanced physical violence brutalizes the whole personality and leads ultimately to self-destruction. The coherence of Mustafa’s personality is fractured by his experience. This fragmentation, and the restlessness that will take him relentlessly on an increasingly destructive course, are expressed in his outward behavior: "He did not dare stand still. He had to keep moving, because he was equally afraid of sleeplessness as of his dreams, if he fell asleep... He could no longer endure it, but saddled his horse and left the village, in the dark, and silently as a criminal."

To the extent that Mustafa does not understand his actions and cannot control them, he can be included among the "bewildered". A mark of his incomprehension in the face of his experience is his repetition of a formula: "The world is full of swine." That is Mustafa’s formula to register his essential experience of the world.