Ivo Andric’s The Bridge on the Drina is a historical novel that tells the story of the people of Višegrad, a town located in the Ottoman Empire, and their experiences over the course of several centuries. The town was caught between two empires, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian, for a long time but its 16th-century bridge remained unscathed until 1914 when the Balkan tensions sparked World War I. The bridge of the title is a symbol of the town, its people, and the changing times that they endure. In the novel, Andric depicts the lives of different people from various generations, nationalities, and beliefs that revolved around the bridge.
The novel spans the years from the late 16th century to the early 20th century and covers a wide range of historical events, including the Ottoman Empire’s decline, World War I, and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Throughout the story, the bridge serves as a backdrop, providing a constant presence that ties together the various threads of the narrative.
One of the key themes of The Bridge on the Drina is the impact of historical events on the lives of ordinary people. Andrić explores the ways in which these events shape the town and its people, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. He also examines the ways in which different cultures and religions interact and coexist in the town, demonstrating how diversity can both bring people together and drive them apart.
Another important theme of the novel is the idea of national identity. Andrić explores the ways in which people’s sense of national identity is shaped by the events of their time and the relationships they have with others. He also examines the role of religion and tradition in the formation of national identity and the impact that it has on people’s lives.
The story features the bridge’s builder, a Serb who was kidnapped by the Ottomans as a boy, and later became the empire’s Grand Vezir and built the bridge at the same spot he was separated from his mother. A worker named Radisav tries to obstruct the construction with disastrous consequences. Later, a young woman named Fata uses the bridge to escape an arranged marriage. And, finally, a gambler named Milan stakes everything on one last game with the devil on the bridge.
Andrić narrates the tale of ordinary people of different religions – Christians, Jews, and Muslims – with humor and empathy, whose lives are intertwined by the bridge in a region that has served as a link between the East and West for centuries.
Andrić’s writing is characterized by a poetic quality that makes the events of the story come alive in the reader’s mind. He is able to convey the beauty and tragedy of life in the town of Višegrad with vivid descriptions and insightful commentary. This, combined with his skillful handling of historical events and themes, makes The Bridge on the Drina a timeless masterpiece that remains relevant and inspiring today.