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The Fortress (Writings from an Unbound Europe) Paperback – September 1, 1999


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The Fortress (Writings from an Unbound Europe) + Death and the Dervish (Writings from an Unbound Europe) + The Bridge on the Drina (Phoenix Fiction)
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Product Details

  • Series: Writings from an Unbound Europe
  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; Translated edition (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810117134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810117136
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,031,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A native of the former Yugoslavia, Selimovic is of Muslim descent and writes in Serbo-Croatian. Delving deep into the Bosnian past in this dense historical novel, he charts the 18th-century adventures of narrator Ahmet Shabo, who returns with a heavy heart to Sarajevo from the battle of Chocim, in Russia. Discovering that almost all of his family has died of the plague, Ahmet first works for Mula Ibrahim, a clerk he rescued in battle. The disaffected ex-soldier loses the job when he insults a powerful man at a party, but luckily, he has married a Christian orphan who is as hardworking as she is beautiful. While she makes money, Ahmet idles around Sarajevo and ponders his own fate and that of his countrymen. Ahmet's perspective gives Selimovic a perfect opportunity to describe the Ottoman-ruled Sarajevo of 300 hundred years ago, riven then, as it is today, with hidden feuds and power politics. One of Ahmet's comrades from Chocim, student Ramiz, stirs up trouble by speaking out in the mosque against the wealthy and powerful. For this he is imprisoned in the formidable fortress of the title. Ahmet goes to a rich man, Shehaga, to plead his friend's case, and for reasons of his own, Shehaga and his dashing steward, Osman Vuk, arrange a raid upon the prison, freeing Ramiz. Ahmet is then trapped in a conspiracy of silence with Osman and Shehaga, while the serder-Avdaga, a self-appointed law enforcer and scourge of God, sniffs out the truth. Although there are some powerful scenes, American readers may not appreciate Selimovic's glacial pace. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

paper 0-8101-1713-4 The Fortress ($59.95; paper $19.95; Sept.; 416 pp.; 0-8101-1712-6; paper 0-8101-1713-4). This long, thoughtful novel by the late Yugoslavian-born author (191082) of Death and the Dervish, etc., traces the fate of its narrator, Ahmet Sabo, a Bosnian war veteran who returns home from the Russian front to a family decimated by plague and a populace fixated on the violence he has dreamed of finally escaping. A series of (unfortunately attenuated) episodes dramatizes Ahmet's increasing disillusionment with his culture's bellicosity, ethnic prejudice (hes a Muslim married to a Christian), and unimaginative fatalism. Though Selimovi too frequently employs his protagonist as representative man and mouthpiece, Ahmet's vividly evoked contemplative demeanor and fundamental decency carry the reader through his story's several longueurs. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Todd Myers on March 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
Any one who has ever experienced the pain of speaking the truth and has been punished for this act will find Selimovich's Fortress to be a journey of recognition and catharsis. Fortress not only supplies an analysis of the relationship between truth and social stratification, but it also offers a therapy for recovering dignity in the face of injustice. Selimovich defends poetic non-conformists the world round and shows how teaching the young is a refuge for the truth speakers who see the world with melancholy eyes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Ahmet Shabo is a young man from 18th century Ottoman Bosnia, who returns to his native Sarajevo after experiencing all the horrors of war during battles in distant Russia. The war has a major psychological effect on him, and he seems unable or unwilling to rejoin the society. A kind friend offers him a decent job with which he'll be able to support himself and perhaps even advance in social circles. Things go wrong for Ahmet, however, after a party that he gets invited to thrown by some very important city officials. His struggles to reclaim a place in the World become the main focal point of the book from then on.

Like in his more famous novel "The Death and the Dervish," Selimovi'c manages to embed the personal struggles of one man under a totalitarian communist regime into a much more distant past and an equally oppressive medieval Ottoman rule. One can imagine that writing under the keen watchful eye of a communist state made Selimovi' resort to this tactic. Selimovi'c is also an exceptional stylist. You can find remarkable and insightful sentences on almost every page of the book. Also, almost all of the dialogues have a deep philosophical undertone to them. Selimovic''s insights into human psyche are uncanny, and the lessons that he draws from them are timeless. Perhaps the most famous of his insights is the claim, put into the mouth of one of the protagonists, that there are three major vices that we are tempted towards: alcohol, gambling and power. While we can overcome the first two, the last one is unconquerable.

The main struggle that Ahmet is engaged in is not with his opponents who make his life extremely difficult.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Critical Reader on November 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book in its original language (bosnian), while on a vacation in Bosnia for 2.5 months. The story's setting in ottoman-ruled Bosnia is very fascinating and one gets a feel of what life used to be like for an ordionary person back then. Apart from its intriguing historical dimension this book also explores the roots of bosnian menality in interacting with each other. It is very hard to describe but this book definately gives one a very thorough look at it. The pace of the book might seem a bit slow to people whom expect an action packed plot. There is a lot of very interesting phylosophical pondering from the part of Ahmet (main character). In short this is a great read of classical bosnian muslim literature.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gogol on October 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is well worth reading even if it may be at first a little difficult to get into. Not least, because we in Western Europe know almost nothing about Eastern Europe and much of the novel assumes pre geographical and historical knowledge of the area. That aside, this along with his Death and the Dervish is an excellent read.

Set in Ottoman Bosnia the story surrounds the life of a former soldier who returns to his native Bosnia after the Ottoman - Russian wars and the trials he faces both from his former comrades at the front and the powers that be. One of the main problems with the book however I feel is that the main character Ahmet is just one you fail to sympathise with. Too busy moping around feeling sorry for himself, too busy drinking himself into stupidity why his wife is the one who has to hold things together not only financially but with common sense also.

While reading this book I found a lot of comparison with early classical Russian writers such as Chekov and Tolstoy and (maybe it is the Ottoman connection) with the Turkish writer Yasar Kemal.

An interesting read if a little disappointing after Death and the Dervish but one worth buying.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The book is a true masterpiece. Nothing more can be said of it
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