Love in the Small Town

“Love in the Small Town” written in 1923, one of Andrić’s earliest stories, may be seen even in its title, as an introduction to the Višegrad ‘cycle’. It begins with detailed description of the geographical setting: “The town lies in a hollow. The Rzav hills, the rocks of Olujaci and the crest of Liještani enclose it in a high, almost regular circle, the diameter of which is no more than half an hour's walk. On the sandy, flood-prone confluence of two mountain rivers of inconstant current, which threaten and ravage it with floods twice a year, so confined by its wreath of muntains that its last houses lean against their foothills, ravaged by droughts in summer, by avalanches in winter, by unexpected frosts in spring. “

The landscape is bleak and constricting, the climate harsh. The narrator then proceeds meticulously to draw a parallel between the town’s inhabitants and their environment: “Its closed horizon, its thin soil, its rough climate, the frequent devastation and wars, give even the children the special look of the town, aggressive and crazed.” The landscape itself foreshadows tragic fate of Rifka Papo, a Jewish girl, who attempted to cross the barrier of religion and prejudice. In the mind of Ledenik, her flippant Christian lover, she is closely related, and almost identified, with the image of Višegrad bridge. For him they are the only two things capable of comforting him and cheering him in his Bosnian desolation.

This story has less conspicuous pattern then other Andrić’s tales. After the central drama where a beauty from kasaba fell in love with a former Austrian officer who was only playing with her as Onyegin used to play with Tatyana, the author intimates that another girl now crosses the business district and attracts the attention of the shopkeepers, just as the main character, Rifka, had done before. The message of life going on after elimination of the disturbing factor is here combined with the message of that other type of short story, in which the immutability and eternal course of life emphasized.