The Bridge on the Drina
By Ivo Andric
University of Chicago Press, 9780226020457, August 1977, 314pp.
The Short of It:
An excellent book to discuss with a group.
The Rest of It:
The Bridge on the Drina is a vivid depiction of the suffering history has imposed upon the people of Bosnia from the late 16th century to the beginning of World War I. As we seek to make sense of the current nightmare in this region, this remarkable, timely book serves as a reliable guide to its people and history.
This is the book that ruined me for all reading, at least, while it was being read. It’s choppy, full of superfluous details and it’s impossible to remember any of the character’s names, but for a discussion book, it was excellent. It just wasn’t excellent for the other reading I had committed to. I could not read anything else while reading this one.
The Bridge on the Drina is the type of book that has to be discussed and picked apart. You simply can’t digest it without discussing it in some way. Parts of it put me to sleep but then every now and then there would be this beautifully structured sentence or this profound thought. Ivo Andrić won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961 so the man can write, but as a group we all decided that the book was not written for us. It was a translation, so perhaps some meaning was lost there but it was just a hard story to get through and to feel anything for.
Plus, I didn’t know much about the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina and although there were plenty of details, I felt that many of them were related to the bridge itself, not so much the timeline of events. The author focused on the longevity of the structure and how it remained unchanged while the people who lived in that village came and went with the ebb and flow of their day-to-day life. Things change but they don’t change. You know?
The book includes some violence but not as much as you’d expect. There is one particularly grotesque depiction of a man being skewered alive. Oh! The details. One thing I know, I never would have picked this book up had it not been chosen for a discussion. I also know that it’s incredibly hard to come by. It’s currently out of print and I had to order it through the university I work for. But, if you need a book to discuss, The Bridge on the Drina will definitely get your group talking.
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