One of the main reasons I embarked on this global reading project was to fill in the many holes in my knowledge about the people, culture, and history of other countries. I feel as though I am gaining a much greater understanding of the world in which I live, although reading only one book from a country doesn’t give me nearly the depth and breadth of knowledge that I would like to attain.
Reading The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andrić, for my book on Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, provided me with a very broad perspective on this area, as the book covers a time period of approximately four hundred years. The focal point of the book is a bridge that was built to span the river Drina in the town of Višegrad. It is referred to only as “the bridge” in the book, but it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been named the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge, after the Grand Vezir of the Ottoman Empire who ordered its construction.
The author, a former Yugoslav diplomat, uses the bridge, not as a character, necessarily, but as the unifying element that connects all the other characters and events chronicled in the book. Some chapters educate the reader about the history of the area, and others tell the stories of individuals or families. In all cases, however, the bridge plays a central role.
The Grand Vezir for whom the bridge was named grew up near the Drina, but was taken away by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire when he was ten years old. This was due to the practice of blood tribute, in which boys between the ages of ten and fifteen were forcibly removed from their families and taken to the Sultan in Istanbul, which was then known as Stambul. This boy grew up to become a very important person in the Sultan’s court, and he used his power and position to build the bridge in the area from which he had been taken.
Although The Bridge on the Drina is centered in the town of Višegrad, it soon becomes clear that what happens in Višegrad is symptomatic of what is going on in a much greater part of the world around it. As the residents of the town discover, “Who could ever have dreamt that the affairs of the world were in such dependence upon one another and were linked together across so great a distance?” While the town is controlled by the Ottoman Empire for most of the years covered by this book, the reader sees the beginning of the fall of the Ottoman Empire reflected in the handing over of Bosnia to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And when a Serb in Sarajevo assassinates Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the political repercussions are felt in Višegrad by not only the Serbian residents, but by all who live there.
Aside from the historical and political importance of the bridge, it serves as a meeting place for the people of Višegrad. As the author points out, “In all tales about personal, family or public events the words ‘on the bridge’ could always be heard. Indeed on the bridge over the Drina were the first steps of childhood and the first games of boyhood.” The book tells the story of an unhappy bride in a wedding party crossing the bridge to take her to the home of the man she’s been forced to marry. It showcases students arguing about politics and philosophy as they sit together on the bridge, men who have had too much to drink performing dangerous feats above the raging waters of the Drina, and old men of differing faiths smoking on the bridge as they discuss how best to navigate the changes facing the village.
Ivo Andrić was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961, and in the award ceremony speech, The Bridge on the Drina was referred to as his masterpiece. The speech goes on to explain that the Nobel Prize was bestowed on Andrić "for the epic force with which you have traced themes and depicted human destinies from your country's history."
Clearly, if I had to pick only one book from Bosnia and Herzegovina for this project, I could not have chosen a better one than The Bridge on the Drina.
Judging from the number of cooking failures I’ve had in trying to prepare vegan dishes for this blog, I’d have to say that the “Cook” portion of this blog is the weak link. I’m going to keep plugging away and hope it gets better, but I’m afraid that this week’s dish didn’t turn out very well.
I didn’t find anything that I wanted to make mentioned in the book. The author included several references to halva, but since I’d made a version of that particular dish for my blog post on Bahrain, I didn’t want to make it again so soon. So I looked online and found a blog called the Old Curiosity Shop that had a recipe for a potato dish, kljukuša, that seemed easy enough to make. The only thing that needed to be changed to make the dish vegan was to substitute some other liquid for the milk and/or cream the recipe called for. I used almond milk, and just did not like the taste of the finished product. My mom suggested that if I make it again, I might want to just use vegetable broth in place of the milk, so I may give that a try someday.
War was a constant in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the years covered in The Bridge on the Drina, and it has continued to plague the area in the years thereafter. On the GlobalGiving website, three of the seven charitable projects listed for Bosnia and Herzegovina were related to the subject of peace. I chose to give my donation to the Center for Peacebuilding in order to help sponsor youth to attend their Peace Camp. At the camp, participants will address their past traumas and learn to become involved in facilitating peacebuilding activities in their home communities. According to the Center for Peacebuilding, research has shown that young people who have participated in the Peace Camp have become more involved in volunteering and developed more close relationships with members of other ethnic groups. More information about the Center for Peacebuilding’s Peace Camp is available at https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/youth-peacebuilding-bih/.the post war peacebuilding strategy in Bosnia is that it separated the country into two entities, The main problem with the post war peacebuilding strategy in Bosnia is that it separated the country into two entities, which ultimately led to extreme nationalist rhetoric and ethnic segregation, acting as barriers to creating a peaceful, multiethnic, and pluralist society. The main problem with the post war peacebuilding strategy in Bosnia is that it separated the country into two entities, which ultimately led to extreme nationalist rhetoric and ethnic segregation, acting as barriers to creating a peaceful, multiethnic, and pluralist society. The main problem with the post war peacebuilding strategy in Bosnia is that it separated the country into two entities, which ultimately led to extreme nationalist rhetoric and ethnic segregation, acting as barriers to creating a peaceful, multiethnic, and pluralist society. The main problem with the post war peacebuilding strategy in Bosnia is that it separated the country into two entities, which ultimately led to extreme nationalist rhetoric and ethnic segregation, acting as barriers to creating a peaceful, multiethnic, and pluralist society.
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