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Ivo Andric (1892-1975)


Writer of Serbo-Croatian novels and short stories who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. Ivo Andric's literary career spanned some 60 years. Before World War II, he was known primarily for short stories set in his native Bosnia. Andric made his reputation as a novelist with the Balkan trilogy (The Bridge on the Drina, Bosnian Chronicle, and The Woman from Sarajevo), which appeared practically simultaneously in 1945. Its central symbol was the bridge. Andric's work, dominated by a sense of Kierkegaardian pessimism and personal isolation, arise from the collision of cultures in the Balkans.

"Here, where the Drina flows with the whole force of its green and foaming waters from the apparently closed mass of the dark steep mountains, stands a great clean-cut stone bridge with eleven wide sweeping arches. From this bridge spreads fanlike the whole rolling valley with the little oriental towns of Višegrad and all its surroundings, with hamlets nestling in the folds of the hills, covered with meadows, pastures and plum-orchards, and criss-crossed with walls and fences and dotted with shaws and occasional clumps of evergreens. Looked at from a distance through the broad arches of the white bridge it seems as if one can see not only the green Drina, but all that fertile and cultivated countryside and the southern sky above." (from The Bridge on the Drina, 1945, translated by Lovett F. Edwards)

Ivo Andric was born in the village of Trávnik in Bosnia (then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), into a middle-class family. Andric was three years old when his father, an artisan, died of tuberculosis. The family moved then to Višegrad, where he was raised by his mother, a strict Roman Catholic, and his aunt. A Croat by birth, he became a Serbian by choice. He was educated at schools in Višegrad and Sarajevo in 1898-1912. While at secondary school, he read Don Quixote and became interested in the work of August Strindberg. At the age of nineteen, Andric published his first poem, entitled 'U sumrak', in Bosanska vila.

In his youth Andric joined the revolutionary nationalist student organization Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnias), which was involved between 1912 and 1914 in a dozen terrorist plots of sabotage. However, another passion of the Young Bosnians was literature. Andric transferred from the university of Zagreb to the university of Vienna in 1913. After showing the first signs of tuberculosis  he asked to be allowed to leave Vienna for Cracow. Possibly Andric was motivated by political reasons, too. When Gavrilo Princip, a member of the group, assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo in 1914, Andric was arrested as a conspirator and imprisoned and interned in various places until the Amnesty of 1917. His time Andric devoted to reading the works of Fedor Dostoyevsky and Søren Kierkegaard, whose Either/Or (1843) had a great influence on him.

In 1918 Andric co-founded the journal Knjizveni jug, which published several of his poems. Other early literary efforts included also translations of Walt Whitman and of Strindberg. His prose poems Andric collected in Ex Ponto (1918) and Nemiri (1920). Beginning with the short story 'Put Alije Djerzeleza' (1920, The Journey of Alija Djerzelez), Andric turned his attention to prose and in the late 1920s he had given up poetry for fiction, focusing on short stories, which was the most appropriate form of expression for him. Much of the material for his stories, which could be called chronicles, came from the cultural heritage and centuries long struggle among the Yugoslavian peoples, Orthodoxs, Caltholics, Jews, and Muslims; Catholic characters were portrayed more often than Orthodox. In an essay, 'Conversation with Goya' (1935), he said: "There are a few fundamental legends of humanity which indicate or at least cast some light on the path we have travelled, if not on the aim we are pursuing. The legend of The Fall, the legend of the Flood, the legend of the Son of Man crucified to save the world the legend of Prometheus and the stole fire . . ."

After World War I Andric completed his studies in the field of Slavic languages and literatures, receiving a doctorate in 1924 with a thesis on the cultural history of Bosnia under Turkish domination. From 1920 to 1940 he was at the Yugoslavian diplomatic service first representing the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovens, which became Yugoslavia in 1929. His posts included the Vatican, Geneva, Madrid, Bucharest, Trieste, Graz, Belgrade, Marseilles, Paris, Brussels, and Berlin, as ambassador to Germany.

In the 1920s and 1930s Andric published only a few collections of stories, each titled  Pripovetke (Stories). His first collection was awarded a prize by the Serbian Royal Academy. In 1926 Andric himself was elected to the Acamedy. After World War II appeared Nove pripovetke (1948) and Prokleta avlija (1954, The Devil's Yard), in which prison inmates break out from their circumstances by telling stories. Much of his fiction was built around prominent characters, such as the monks Fra Petar and Fra Marko, the peasant Vitomir Tasovac, the brave Muslim Alija, and the Višegradian jack-of-all-trades Corcan. The protagonist are depicted in the different periods of their life. The Devil's Yard was structured as a  complex series of frame stories many of which were told by inmates of a natorious Turkish prison.

Following the outbreak of WWW II, Yugoslavia allied herself to Germany. Andric asked in a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to be relieved of his duties. After the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, he spent the war years writing in the occupied Belgrade under German house arrest. "In the worst moments of my life I have found unusual and unexpected consolation in imagining another life," he wrote in his notebook in 1939, "the same as mine in dates, names and events, but true, bright, pure; painful of course as every life on earth must be, but without any dark or ugly in that pain; a life which begins with a blessing and is lost in the heights and extinguished in light. " In seclusion, Andric produced his major works, Na Drini cuprija (The Bridge on the Drina), the story of the famous bridge at Višegrad in eastern Bosnia,  Travnicka hronika (Bosnian Chronicle), set in the town of Trávnik during the period 1806-13, and Gospodjica (The Woman From Sarajevo), a moral tale about a well-to-do old maid and her pathological love of money.

The Bridge on the Drina is Andric's most famous work, which offer a novelistic overview of Bosnian history between 1516 and 1914. The beautiful 16th-century stone bridge and the river have symbolic significance. They connect or separate generations of townsfolk, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, who are engaged in a ceaseless struggle against forces of nature and human restrictiveness. Through the metaphor of the bridge, the embodiment of endurance, Andric urged his readers to try to overcome their differences and live in harmony.

Andric structured the novel as a series of vignettes, each one presenting some aspect of life in the town from the time of the bridge's construction to its partial destruction at the outbreak of World War I. The author's personal history also is closely associated with the bridge connecting East and West. It is mirrored in the story of Mehmed Pasha Sokolli, who was taken from his Serbian mother by the Turks when he was a little boy and eventually became a vizer. Passing of time and fragility of human achievements label often Andric's work with a sad tone – only stories remain: "In a thousand different languages, in the most varied conditions of life, from century to century... the tale of human destiny unfolds, told endlessly and uninterruptedly by man to man," Andric has written. Bosnian Chronicle was an exploration of clash of cultures, in which European consuls and a Turkish vizer confront. The story spans the seven-year period, when the Dalmatian littoral fell under French rule in the aftermath of Napoleon's bloody campaigns.

In the postwar socialist period Andric's output included several short stories on contemporary subjects and themes, some travel memoirs, a number of essays on writers and painters, and two shorter novels. In 1949 he was elected to Yugoslavia's federal assembly as a representative for Bosnia. A supporter of Yugoslav Premier Josip Tito, Andric joined the Communist Party and served as president of the Union of Yugoslav Writers. During the period from the late 1940s to the early 1950s Serbian writers debated on modernism and realisms, and the stuggle ended in the victory of the modernists. Yugoslavia adopted the socialist system, but followed an independent policy, and socialist realism never took root in the country. Andric enjoyed in his own country a great acclaim, and was the most widely translated Serbian writer – only from the younger generation Miodrag Bulatovic's works arose neatly as much interest abroad.

In 1958, at the age of 66, he married Milica Babic, a costume-designer at the National Theatre. They had ten happy years together before Milica died in 1968.  Andric won in 1961 the  the Nobel Prize for Literature over names such as Lawrence Durrell, Robert Frost, Graham Greene, EM Forster and JRR Tolkien. When he was asked, what he is going to do, he replied that he is not accustomed to all the excitement around him, and he just waits to get back to his "ordinary, monotonous working day." Andric went to Greece and Egypt, but he was taked ill in Cairo, and due to health problems he refused invitations to visit the United States, France and Poland, among other countries. The remainer of his life Andric spent in Yugoslavia, where he was honored with the Prize for Life Work, an annual national award. Andric continued to work until 1974, when he became seriously ill. He died in Belgrade on March 13, 1975.

For further reading: Ivo Andric by P. Dzadzic (1957); Ivo Andric: Studien über seine Erzählkunst by R. Minde (1962); Ivo Anric: zagonetka vedrine by M.J. Bandic (1963); Turkisms in Ivo Andric's 'Na Drini cuprija,' Examined from the Points of View of Literary Style and Cultural History by Gun Bergman (1969); Ivo Andric: Bridge Between East and West by C Hawkesworth (1984); The Man and the Artist: Essays on Ivo Andric by Z.B. Juricic (1986); Ivo Andric: A Critical Biography by Vanita Singh Mukerji (1990); Ivo Andric Revisited, ed. by Wyne Vucinich (1995); The Failure of Multiculturalism by Andrew Wachtel (1998); Ivo Andric: Bridge Between East and West by Celia Hawkesworth (2001)

Selected bibliography:

  • Ex Ponto, 1918
  • Nemiri, 1919
  • Put Alije Đerzeleza, 1920
  • Die Entwicklung des geistigen Lebens in Bosnien unter der Einwirkung der türkischen Herrschaft, 1924
    - The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia Under the Influence of Turkish Rule (edited and translated by Zelimir B. Juricic and John F. Loud, 1990)
  • Pripovetke I-III, 1924-36
  • Travnička hronika, 1945
    - Bosnian Chronicle (translated by Joseph Hitrec, 1963) / The Days of the Consuls (translated by Celia Hawkesworth & Bogdan Rakic, 1992)
    - Konsulit: Travnikin kronikka (suom. Elvi Sinervo, 1962)
  • Na Drini ćuprija, 1945
    - The Bridge on the Drina (translated by Livett F. Edwards, 1959)
    - Drina-joen silta: Višegradin kronikka (suom. Aira ja Elvi Sinervo, 1960)
  • Gospođica, 1945
    - The Woman From Sarajevo (translated by Joseph Hitrec, 1965)
    - Neiti (suom. Aarno Peromies, 1961)
  • Most na Žepi:pripovetke, 1947
  • Nove pripovetke, 1948
  • Priča o vezirovom slonu, 1948
    - The Vizier's Elephant (translated by Drenka Willen, 1962)
  • Novele, 1951
  • Prokleta avlija, 1954
    - The Devil's Yard (translated by Kenneth Johnstone, 1962) / The Damned Yard and Other Stories (translated by: Svetozar Koljevic, Joseph Schallert, Ronelle Alexander, Felicity Rosslyn, Lenore Grenoble, 1992)
  • Panorama: pripovetke, 1958
  • Lica, 1960
  • Ivo Andrić: izbor, 1961
  • Ljubav u kasabi, 1963
  • Anikina vremena: Pripovetke, 1967
  • The Pasha's Concubine and Other Tales, 1968 (translated by Joseph Hitrec)
  • Kula i druge pripovetke, 1970
  • Goya, 1972
    - Conversation with Goya; Bridges; Signs (translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Andrew Harvey, 1992)
  • Kuća na osami, 1976
  • Omerpaša Latas, 1976
  • Prozor: Pripovetke, 1978 (illustrated by Zivojin Koracevic)
  • Sabrana djela, 1982 (17 vols., edited by Risto Trifkovic et al.)
  • Pripovetke, 1984 (edited by Radovan Vuckovic)
  • Letters, 1984 (translated and edited by Zelimir B. Juricic)
  • Diplomatski spisi, 1992 (ed. Miladin Milosevic)
  • Na sunčanoj strani: rekonstrukcija romana, 1994 (edited by Zaneta Dukic Perisic)
  • Priče o mitomanima, 1996 (edited by Petar Dzadzic)
  • Simon Bolivar oslobodilac, 1998 (edited by Zagorka Lilic)
  • Pisma (1912-1973): privatna pošta, 2000 (edited by Miroslav Karaulac)
  • Predeli i staze: putopisna proza, 2002 (edited by Zaneta Dukic Perisic)
  • Najlepše pripovetke Iva Andrića, 2002 (ed. Mihajlo Pantic)
  • Šta sanjam i šta mi se događa, 2003 (ed. Danilo Jokanovic)
  • Pisma Vojmiru Durbešiću, 2002 (ed. Miroslav Karaulac)
  • Pripovetke, 2007 (ed. Ivan Lovrenovic)
  • The Slave Girl: And Other Stories about Women, 2009 (edited by Radmila J. Gorup, introduction by Zoran Milutinovic)
  • Ivo Andrić, 2010 (ed. Slavko Gordic)

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