Customer Reviews: The Bridge on the Drina (Phoenix Fiction)
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on October 27, 1998
Readers who enjoyed "One Hundred Years of Solitude" will love this book, for while it is similar in feel to that masterpiece, it is broader in scope. Readers looking for insight into the labyrinth of Balkan history will find here a useful starting point. At heart, this is a book about civilization and its changes. It pivots upon the contrast between the small parochial existence of the quiet Bosnian town where the bridge is the central and everlasting feature versus the wider world of Balkan politics where Ottoman Turkey, Orthodox Serbia, and Catholic Austria-Hungary wage a centuries-long battle for political domination.
The book chronicles the bridge and the town for over three centuries. It is filled with memorable characters, soldiers, lovers, saloon-keepers, priests, and town leaders. There is the 19th-century schoolmaster who embodies the parochial village so perfectly. He is better-educated than most of the townspeople, but only slightly. This reputed wisdom gives him the arrogance to act as the town historian, a duty he fulfills by keeping a small notebook in which he fails to record historical events. Even the seminal affairs of 1878, when the region was transferred from the Ottomans to the Habsburgs, merits only a few lines in his notebook because he judges that these events are simply not terribly important. And that captures the essence of the book: events in the wider world are deemed unimportant in the village until they come, like the flood in the early pages, in a torrent of change and surprise.
Thus does the town evolve, isolated from, yet thoroughly buffeted by, the great historical affairs of the centuries. In the end Pavle the merchant finds that this myopic approach has led him to ruin. Alihodja, whose unique ability to articulate the impact of world politics on the lives of the town's provincials earns him an injured ear and a reputation as an eccentric, never quite realizes how closely his vision entwines his fate with that of the bridge itself.
The standard interpretation holds that the bridge is the symbol for the Ottoman Empire, resolute and everlasting, welcoming yet exotic, and built to standards far higher than any to which this little town can aspire. In the original title Andric uses the word for a Turkish bridge (cuprija) and not the standard Serbo-Croatian word for bridge (most). Yet at the same time, the bridge resists this symbolism. It is not a bridge from the past to the future, or from the village to the wider world, or between Christian Europe and Muslim Turkey. It is simply a sturdy stone bridge. While the uncomplicated lives of the townsfolk dip and yaw in full color, and while the ponderous events of the outside world roll on in inscrutable ways, the bridge remains unchanged. The true symbols in the book are the rich and detailed characters who live and die by the Drina river. Each has something to tell us, and none is superfluous. These characters describe for us the consequences of conflict and cooperation in a comfortable little town caught in uncomprehending suffering by its location along one of history's great fault lines. The bridge... the bridge simply spans the Drina, as it always has.
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VINE VOICEon January 28, 2001
The bridge on the Drina continues to stand witness to political changes in the Balkans while the ethnic mosaic of the region remains more or less static. Andric has done a remarkable job of explaining the intracies of Balkan society through his story. Using the bridge as an eyewitness to 500 years of history, we see the rise and fall of empires as a community of Serbs, Croats, Jews, Christians and Moslems live, love and work side by side.
Contrary to what the media would have us believe, the ethnic groups of the Balkans have not "hated one another for 500 years and will continue to do so." This book portrays Balkan life in a much more realistic manner than many newly published books on the subject have. If you are interested in the Balkans and are searching for a balanced view of what society was like before the current troubles, read this book. While it is fiction, the patterns of daily life, the social interactions and inter-ethnic relationships portrayed by Andric are right on the money. Little wonder this fabulous story was awarded the Pulitzer Prize when it first came out.
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on July 28, 2005
Ivo Andric and his "Bridge on the Drina" were an extremely great surprise. I truly did not expect to enjoy the book when I first picked it up. What I found was a rich treasure of Bosnian history. I understand that the work is fiction, but it seemed like such a true glimpse of history. Andric was a master of giving characters throughout the book that stoked the interest of the reader. The main character was the bridge itself. Everything and everyone else centered around this great old Turkish bridge. We see hundreds of years pass by over the reading of this book. Each of those new generations faces new challenges, from the days before a bridge existed, to the days of World War I. Everything in between gives detailed day to day experiences, intertwining generations and people. Andric really had a talent worthy of the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature, which he won for this book. You owe it to yourself to get a copy and glimpse the past in a special way.
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on January 6, 2002
Andric writes a fictional, yet truthful, history of the bridge at Visegrad which stood for centuries. The key to the book, from a reader interested in this from a more historical perspective rather than a literary viewpoint, is that the tensions between the different residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina are apparent. From the Turkish occupation to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the factions intertwine throughout the history of the town and the bridge. Although told, or translated, in a slow, laconic style, the writing was wonderful. The individual stories were well told and kept the history of the bridge moving forward.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. After reading it, I felt that I understood this part of the world better -- and that I had a better perspective on my ancestors (Radenovic or Ragenovich) from Montenegro who emigrated to the US in the 19th century
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on November 5, 1999
A lifelong Slavicist with particular love for the former Yugoslavia drove me to this book early in my studies of the Balkans. I read the book with no particular appreciation for what I was reading several years ago, and I recently reread it (it is definitely a book that warrants rereading for its attention to detail, its excellent descriptions, and its ability to shed light on the history of the Balkan region-- particularly for those, like me, who are not native to the region.) I traveled to the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Croatia) last year, and after having been there, I gained a whole new appreciation for this book. The most fitting way to describe it is to say that it is vivid, alive, and enduring. I loved it. It tells the story of a noble and fascinating people and culture.
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on May 24, 2001
This is the story of a bridge, built by the Turks in the sixteenth century, the gift to his homeland of Grand Vizer Mehmed Pasha. The bridge is the hero and the location of the story, which is the history of a town based on what happened on and around the bridge. When reading it, one finds it difficult to believe that it was allowed to be published in a Communist country! At any rate, the author gives equal treatment to the Moslems, Christians, and Jews that live in the town that grew up around the bridge. In fact, one of the most hard-working and lovable characters is a Jewish woman named Lotte, who manages the hotel owned by her brother-in-law. I highly recommend the book, although you should read it in a different printing edition than the one I read as the quality of the material used was very bad -- pages started falling out of the book before I was even halfway finished...
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on February 3, 2007
I have the book in the original. Edwards' translation is terrible. He has not only a dubious aesthetic sense, but his grasp of the Serbian language is wanting. In places the translation is literal; in places it is wrong. There is scarcely a line of dialogue translated flawlessly. I recommend keeping all this in mind when reading.

On the other hand, Andric's chronicle is all it aspires to be. It is a careful description of the famous Bosnian town where he spent his childhood, the town that hugs the bridge that Mehmed-pasha Sokolovichi built. Naturally, the portion of it which intersects his life, and which consists of the twenty-two years that pass from 1892 to 1914, will be found more interesting than the rest, in my opinion; but Andric knows his weakness, and the bulk of the book lies just in that portion.
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on January 10, 2005
Firstly, I remember reading this book in my native tounge, the one Andric used to write this book. That was during the last years of my high school. First thing I remember was that it was very hard to read it, initially though, due to the language and style Andric used. After 20-30 pages I could not leave the book. It is a beautiful work which I was thought is a close interpretation of the real history of that region. It is a story of a small town on the river Drina, river that separates Bosnia and Serbia. The 'hero' or the book is the Bridge built in (i believe) 15th century. Andric tells the story where everything changes trough times while the bridge still stands there as a testament to what has passed. It truly deserved the Nobel Prize it got. Recommendation is just read it.

For two people down posting about his etnicity. Ivo Andric was a catholic who said that he was born Croat but saw himself as a Yugoslav, but would always be a Serb at heart. I thing that is where Miletic and most of the Serbs get the idea that he was a Serb. The way I remember him (reading about him :-) ), i.e. what most people describe him as, is a great caring person one that truly loved people from that region (especially people from Bosnia), a true example of what most people of that region are really like.

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on December 23, 2000
Although this book is fiction, it provides some excellent insights into the complexities of the problems and issues that are present in Bosnia-Hercegovina today. Having spent a year in Bosnia (dealing with both the BiH Federation and the Republika Srpska) as a peace keeper back in 1995-96, I witnessed and participated in modern-day versions of the events and stories told in Mr Andric's book. "The Bridge on the Drina" highlites the diverse and complex interpersonal relationships of all the Yugoslavian peoples (not only Bosnian Serb, Muslim, and Croat, but the Jews and Gypsies as well) and attempts to give the reader an understanding of why the "Bosnian Problem" is not an easy "problem" to solve. Read the book for what it is, fiction, but take away what Mr Andric most likely intended it to be - an insight into a region (in which some may argue the center of Europe, and others the frontier or border between west and east) of cultural, religious, political, economic, and ethnic differences that resulted from hundreds of years of external influences. For myself, it all became clearer in Chapter XIX - could these external influences be put in check, the people would most likely solve the "problem". This is my opinion of having spent 12 months living and talking with Bosnian Serbs, Muslims, and Croats who I am very much reminded of in the characters of Mr Andric's book.
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on March 20, 2005
My initial opinion of the novel after reading it was that it was average at best. But now, after a few days spent absorbing what I had just read, I have a new found appreciation for the novel. Small things such as the symbolism of the repairing of the bridge, or the connection it representated both physically and metaphorically between two different peoples. As many other people who reviewed it have remarked, it is a powerful as well as informative novel that sheds light on the situation in that area of the world, even if it's a work of fiction. The detail given to life in the city makes it come alive and the sheer scale of the novel leaves me feeling as though I have lived there my whole life. I whole heartedly endose this novel and believe that everyone should read it.
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