(Author: Ivo Andric) + (Year: 1945) + (Goodreads)
(Around the World: Bosnia and Herzegovina)
I loved this book!
How I felt about it can be summarized in a short form, however, why I felt that way might be a bit harder to explain. Or rather, how I loved it, and not how much.
The thing is I’m not sure that anyone who is not from the Balkans would be able to understand me fully. While this world of ours might be full of corruption, uneducated people, bad governments, lawlessness and even backwardness, it’s still a very special place on this planet. No other place mixes the East and the West as much as we do here. No other people in the world are so torn between how they are, and how they should be.
The Bridge on the Drina tells exactly that story. The story of me sitting with my great-grandmother in the shade in hot summers, eating the best tomatoes in the world, with some white cheese; the stories that she would tell me about the war, and how she would tell them – in a language not quite Bulgarian, full of Turkish loan words from the centuries before, when the Ottoman ruled over the Balkans. The Bridge on the Drina is also a story of my hometown, where my school was built on top of an old Turkish graveyard and the ghosts would roam with their horses at night, where everyone knows each other, and everyone, always, knows your dad! And also about how men would gather by the river, under the chestnut trees and drink rakia, while playing cards. And how they would call the gypsy orchestras to play music until dawn. How every village or city, or even a neighbourhood, has its own legend of the boys taken for the devshirme, the most cruel of taxes, or about a brave man who would conquer armies in order to win the heart of the girl he loves, and of the brave Christian girls, who, in order to protect their religion and virtue, would jump off of high rocks and waterfalls when soldiers would try to steal them from their homes.
The Bridge on the Drina is my childhood in a nutshell. I might have lived centuries after the events of the book, but on the Balkans, the story hasn’t changed that much.
This book is the story of many generations of people, and how life will always go on; that the darkest days will always end, and that they will soon be forgotten and the people will once again settle in their slumber of a half-drunken life, one that lacks great purpose, and gains from that, as the small moments are always better appreciated. The Bridge on the Drina describes a world which is dying today: one in which it serves no goal to hurry along, that a moment spent gazing at the river is not a moment wasted, and that life will always run in its own direction and you can but choose how to feel about that.