Book//mark – The Bridge on the Drina | Ivo Andrić, 1945

Book//mark - The Bridge on the Drina | Ivo Andrić, 1945
 На Дрини Ћуприја or Na Drini Ćuprija, 1945                                  Ivo Andrić, 1892-1975

“They entered there into the unconscious philosophy of the town; that life was an incomprehensible marvel, since it was incessantly wasted and spent, yet none the less it lasted and endured ‘like the bridge on the Drina’.”

“For a man filled with a great, true and unselfish love, even if it be on one side only, there open horizons and possibilities and paths which are closed and unknown to so many clever, ambitious, and selfish men.”

“Every human generation has its own illusions with regard to civilization; some believe they are
taking part in its upsurge, others that they are witnesses of its extinction. In fact, it always both
flames and smolders and is extinguished, according to the place and the angle of view.”

“They looked at the paper and saw nothing in those curving lines, but they knew and
understood everything, for their geography was in their blood and they felt biologically
their picture of the world.”

“For only thus, living each moment separately and looking neither forward nor back,
could such a life be borne and a man keep himself alive in hope of better days.”

“But misfortunes do not last forever (this they have in common with joys) but pass away or are at least diminished and become lost in oblivion. Life on the kapia always renews itself despite everything and the bridge does not change with the years or with the centuries or with the most painful turns in human affairs. All these pass over it, even as the unquiet waters pass beneath its smooth and perfect arches.”

“Forgetfulness heals everything and song is the most beautiful manner of forgetting, for in song man feels only what he loves. So, in the kapia, between the skies, the river and the hills, generation after generation learnt not to mourn overmuch what the troubled waters had borne away. They entered there into the unconscious philosophy of the town; that life was an incomprehensible marvel, since it was incessantly wasted and spent, yet none the less it lasted and endured ‘like the bridge on the Drina’.”

“Whenever a government feels the need of promising peace and prosperity to its citizens
by means of a proclamation, it is time to be on guard and expect the opposite.”

“Lost in his thoughts he looked out from his shop at the shining loveliness of that first day
of March. Opposite him, a little to the side, stood the eternal bridge, everlastingly the same;
through its white arches could be seen the green, sparkling, tumultuous waters of the Drina,
so that they seemed like some strange diadem in two colours which sparkled in the sun.”

“All at once, in his dangerous position, Ćorkan felt himself separated from his companions.
He was now like some gigantic monster above them. His first steps were slow and hesitating.
His heavy clogs kept slipping on the stones covered with ice. It seemed to him that his legs
were failing him, that the depths below attracted him irresistibly, that he must slip and fall,
that he was already falling. But his unusual position and the nearness of great danger gave
him strength and hitherto unknown powers. […] Instead of walking, he began to dance, he
himself did not know how, as free as if he had been on a wide green field and not on that
narrow and icy edge.
All of a sudden he felt himself light and skilful as a man sometimes in dreams. His heavy
and exhausted body felt without weight. The drunken Ćorkan danced and floated above the
depths as if on wings. […] His dance bore him onward where his walk would never have
borne him- No longer thinking of the danger of the possibility of a fall, he leapt from
one leg to the other and sang with outstretched arms as accompanying himself on a drum.”

”‘If you are going to hell, then it is better that you should go slowly,’
he said curtly to a young merchant. ”

“The streets were empty, the courtyards and gardens as if dead. In the Turkish houses depression
and confusion reigned, in the Christian houses caution and distrust. But everywhere and for
everyone there was fear. The entering Austrians feared an ambush. The Turks feared the
Austrians. The Serbs feared both Austrians and Turks. The Jews feared everything and
everyone since, especially in times of war, everyone was stronger than they.”

“They were all there.And all of them,these days,were as if drunk with bitterness, from desire
for vengeance and longed to punish and to kill whomsoever they could,since they could
not punish or kill those whom they wished.”

“Never can that be told, for those who saw and lived through it have lost the gift of words
and those who are dead can tell no tales. Those were things which are not told, but
forgotten. Fore where they not forgotten, how could they ever be repeated?”

Ivo Andrić, The Bridge on the Drina, 1945


Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge, Višegrad, c 1890

Ivo Andrić (1892 -1975) was a Yugoslav novelist, poet and short story writer who won the Nobel Prize  in Literature in 1961. His writings dealt mainly with life in his native Bosnia under Ottoman rule.

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