Ivo Andrić

“If people would know how little brain is ruling the world, they would die of fear.”

“Between the fear that something would happen and the hope that still it wouldn’t, there is much more space than one thinks. On that narrow, hard, bare and dark space a lot of us spend their lives.”

“Searching for what I need, and I don’t even know precisely what that is, I was going from a man to a man, and I saw that all of them together have less than me who has nothing, and that I left to each one of them a bit of that what  I don’t have and I’ve been searching for.”

“Sadness is also a kind of defense.”

“One shouldn’t be afraid of humans. Well, I am not afraid of the humans, but of what is inhuman in them.”

“I gave it to life. I was not defeated but outplayed.”

“Lands of great discoveries are also lands of great injustices.”

“What can and doesn’t have to be always, at the end, surrenders to something that has to be.”

“There is no rule without revolts and conspiracies, even as there is no property without work and worry.”

“What doesn’t hurt – is not life; what doesn’t pass – is not happiness.”

“There comes a time when a man finds himself in front of a dark uncrossable abyss, which he himself has spent years digging. He cannot go forward and has no way back. Words have failed, tears won’t help, and who would he call out to? He can’t even remember his own name. Then the man sees that on this god’s green earth there is but one true suffering: the torment of guilty conscience.”

“When I am not desperate, I am worthless.”

“Of everything that man erects and builds in his urge for living nothing is in my eyes better and more valuable than bridges. They are more important than houses, more sacred than shrines. Belonging to everyone and being equal to everyone, useful, always built with a sense, on the spot where most human needs are crossing, the are more durable than other buildings and they do not serve for anything secret or bad.”

“What does your sorrow do while you’re sleeping? It is awake and waiting. And, when it loses patience, it wakes me up.”


Ivo Andrić was a Yugoslav novelist, poet, and short story writer, born in Travnik while his mother Katarina was in the town visiting relatives. His father Antun died when he was 2 years old.

Widowed and penniless, Katarina took little Ivo to Višegrad and placed him into the care of her sister in law Ana and brother Ivan Matković, a police officer. While they didn’t have any children they agreed to raise Ivo as their own child.

A country where Andrić was raised changed a little since the Ottoman period. Eastern and Western culture intermingled in Bosnia to a far greater extent than anywhere else in the Balkan. Andrić started to love and cherish Višegrad which he referred to as his real home. Višegrad was a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional town, a home mainly of Serbs and Bosnian Muslims, customs of which he closely observed and will be detailed in his works.

When he was six years old Andrić began primary school which he later remembered as the happiest day of his life. In the autumn of 1902, he continues his schooling in Sarajevo, while he received a three-year scholarship from a Croat Cultural group called Napredak (eng.: Progress). Sarajevo, at that time, was deluged with people from all parts of Austria – Hungary, thus exposing Andrić to numerous languages that could be heard in restaurants, cafes, and streets.

Culturally, in that time the city was all about German art, architecture, and also curriculum in educational institutions was designed to reflect this. Andrić disagreed with it saying:

»All that came, at secondary school and university, was rough, crude, automatic, without concern, faith, humanity, warmth or love«.

He later had difficulties with mathematics, therefore repeated 6th grade and naturally lost his scholarship. But he was brilliant in languages, particularly Latin, Greek, German, and literature. He felt destined to be a writer, although he never received much encouragement from his family.

Nevertheless, in the year of 1911, he published his first two poems, in the journal Bosanska vila (Bosnian Fairy). That was the same year when he was elected to be the first president of the Serbo-Croat Progressive Movement. Movement promoted unity and friendship between Serb and Croat youth, that opposed the Austro – Hungarian occupation. Despite that, the movement was hated by Serb and Croat nationalists, who called them as »traitors to their nations«. However, Andrić continues to reject the Austro – Hungarians and later joins to a South Slav student movement Young Bosnia.

Year after that Andrić received a scholarship for the  University of Zagreb. While he regularly participated in demonstrations, he began to be reprimanded by the university. After finishing his 2 semesters, he then transferred to the Univerity of Vienna. There he joined South Slav students in promoting the cause of Yugoslav unity. But city climate was not good for Andrić’s health, therefore he asked to leave Vienna on medical grounds and to continue his studies elsewhere, although some believe that in fact, he has been taking part in a protest of South Slav students that were boycotting German-speaking universities. However, his request was approved and Andrić moves to finish his studies in Krakow.


It was June 28th when Andrić heard that good friend of his Gavrilo Princip, has assassinated Franz Ferdinand. Andrić decided to leave Krakow and to return to Bosnia, but instead, he ended up spending his summer in Split where his close friend, poet and fellow South Slav nationalist Vladimir Čerina, awaited the World War II, caused by the assassination of Archduke.

Despite having nothing to do with assassination plot, Andrić was arrested that summer and imprisoned in Split. Later he was transferred to a prison in Šibenik, and he ended up in Maribor prison, where, plagued by tuberculosis, he spent time mainly reading, talking to his cellmates and learning languages.

Due to lack of evidence, he was released from prison on March the 20th 1915. The authorities exiled him to the village of Ovčarevo, near Travnik, where he was placed under the supervision of local Franciscan monks. Afterward, he was transferred to a prison in Zenica.

Ivo Andrić was in 1917 declared as a political threat by the Austro – Hungarian Army, therefore was he exempted from armed military service but was obliged to serve a non-combat unit until February 1918. After Charles I declared a general amnesty for all of Austria-Hungary’s political prisoners, Andrić visited Višegrad, where he reunited with several school friends. He remained there until July when he was meant to be mobilized. But due to his poor health, Andrić was placed in a Sarajevo hospital and so avoided service. From Sarajevo hospital, he was placed in a Reserve hospital in Zenica for a treatment that lasted for several months. Afterward, when in Zagreb, Andrić again fell seriously ill and sought treatment at the Sisters of Mercy hospital, which had become a gathering place for dissidents and former political prisoners.

Despite the fact that he was so ill at the beginning of 1918 that many of his friends thought he is about to die, he healed and recovered in the spring of the same year in Krapina, writing a book of prose poetry Ex Ponto, that was published in July. Ex Ponto was his first book.


By 1919, Andrić acquired his undergraduate degree in South Slavic history and literature at the University of Zagreb. And by mid-1919 he realized that he will be unable to financially support himself, his aging mother, aunt, and uncle, therefore he started to send his appeals to his friend for help in securing a government job more frequently. In September 1919, he was offered a secretarial position at the Ministry of Religion, which Andrić accepted. In late October, he left for Belgrade, but soon felt discontented with his job, so he asked for a transfer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In February, his request was granted and was assigned to the Foreign Ministry’s mission at the Vatican. However he soon requested another assignment, because of lack of time for writing he felt in Vatican, so in November, he was transferred to Bucharest. Although his health was bad, he felt happy there. His consular duties there did not require much effort, so he was able to focus on writing. Andrić requested for reassignment two more times and was once transferred to the consulate in Trieste, and later to Graz, where he soon enrolled at the University of Graz and began working on his doctoral dissertation in Slavic studies. On the 13th of July, Andrić received his Ph.D. In his doctoral thesis, entitled The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia Under the Influence of Turkish rule (original: Die Entwicklung des geistigen Lebens in Bosnien unter der Einwirkung der türkischen Herrschaft ) he characterized the Ottoman occupation as a yoke that still loomed over Bosnia. For him, the effect of Turkish rule was absolutely negative. »The Turks could bring no cultural content or sense of higher mission, even to those South Slavs who accepted Islam«, he wrote.

In the year of 1924, he published his first collection of short stories for which he received a prize from Serbian Royal Academy. Two years later he was assigned to the consulate in Marseille and in December of 1926 transferred to the Yugoslav embassy in Paris. His time in France was marked by loneliness and sorrow, for that was a period when all members of his family died. He closed himself in the Paris archives, going through the reports of the French consulate in Travnik from 1809 – 14. That was a material he will later use to create one of his future novels: Travnička hronika (Travnik Chronicle).

Andrić was in April 1928 sent to Madrid, where he wrote essays on Simón Bolívar and Francisco Goya, and started to work on the novel Prokleta avlija (The Damned Yard). He was further transferred to Belgium, Luxembourg and in 1930, he was placed in Switzerland as part of Yugoslavia’s permanent delegation to the League of Nations in Geneva. He returned to Belgrade in the year of 1933 and became an assistant to Milan Stojadinović, Yugoslavia’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.


By that time Andrić was serving his duty in Germany, and although Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite Pact behind his back, he, Andrić, had to give his signature as an ambassador in Berlin. Afterward, he wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking to be relieved of his duties and used some of his influence he had and attempted, unsuccessfully, to assist Polish prisoners following the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Before Germany invaded his country, Andrić was offered to evacuate to neutral Switzerland. He declined and was, in early June of 1941, taken to now German Belgrade where they kept him under close surveillance. Andrić refused to receive any pension or cooperate in any way with the puppet government the Germans had installed in both Serbia and Croatia. He closed himself in the apartment and dedicated all his time and energy to writing. In that period two of his best works were created: Na Drini ćuprija (The Bridge on the Drina) and Travnička hronika. In the year of 1944, Andrić was forced to leave his friend’s apartment due to a bombing of Belgrade. He joined a column of refugees and while watching all those people, accompanied by their children, spouses, and parents, carrying, saving and helping each other, he felt deeply ashamed:

»I looked myself up and down, and saw I was saving only myself and my overcoat.«

He returned to his apartment and refuse to leave, despite the heavy bombing. That October, the Red Army and the Partisans rescued the Belgrade of a German invasion.

Ivo Andrić in front of the Bridge over the Drina which his famous novel refers to.


Due to his service to a former royal government, his relationship with the communist was full of doubts. However, in the year of 1945, he published Na Drini Ćuprija, which Travnička hronika and Gospođica (The Young Lady) followed. Communists proclaimed Na Drini Ćuprija as a classic of Yugoslav literature and as Andrić’s magnum opus.

A year that followed, Andrić was elected vice-president of the Society for the Cultural Cooperation of Yugoslavia with the Soviet Union and was named a president of the Yugoslav Writer’s Union. The following year, he became a member of the People’s Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

His work had a strong influence on writers such as Branko Ćopić, Vladan Desnica, Mihailo Lalić, and Meša Selimović.

In April 1950, Andrić became a deputy in the National Assembly of Yugoslavia and in the year of 1953 his career as a parliamentary deputy slowly came to an end.

Following year, he published novella Prokleta Avlija (The Damned Yard).

Although he believed that writer should never marry, he, in his 66th year, married Milica Babić, a costume designer at the National Theatre of Serbia.


On the 26th October 1961, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature by the Swedish Academy. Documents released 50 years later revealed that the Nobel Committee had selected him over writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Frost, John Steinbeck and E.M.Forster.

“The epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from his country’s history”.

Nobel prize gave Andrić a global recognition, even though because of the health issues he was not able to participate promotional events being held in Europe and North America. Judging by the letters Andrić wrote at the time, he felt burdened by the attention and tried his best not to show it publicly. After receiving a Nobel prize, he was awarded multiple times by his own country.


Wife of Ivo Andrić died in the year of 1968, and afterward, his health started steadily to worsen. He traveled a little and continued to write until 1974. In December 1974 he was taken to a Belgrade Hospital where he soon fell into a coma.

He died in the Military Medical Academy at 1:15 a.m. on 13 March 1975, aged 82.


German and Austrian
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Heinrich Heine
Friedrich Nietzsche
Franz Kafka
Rainer Maria  Rilke
Thomas Mann

Michel de Montaigne
Blaise Pascal
Gustave Flaubert
Victor Hugo
Guy de Maupassant

Thomas Carlyle
Walter Scott
Joseph Conrad

Miguel de Cervantes

Giacomo Leopardi

Nikolay Chernyshevsky

Henrik Ibsen

Walt Whitman
Henry James

Tomaš Garrigue Masaryk

Aleksa Šantić
Fran Levstik
Josip Murn
Oton Župančič

Andrić was especially fond of Polish literature and stated that it had greatly influenced him and it appears that Kafka had an important influence on Andrić’s prose. His philosophical outlook was strongly formed by the works of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

However, his work was mainly influenced and inspired by the traditions of life in Bosnia and the complexity and cultural contrasts of the region’s Muslim, Serb and Croat inhabitants.

His two best-known novels, Na Drini Ćuprija and Travnička Hronika, put the Ottoman Bosnian’s oriental leaning in contrast to the Western Atmosphere – introduced in Na Drini Ćuprija by the Austro – Hungarians, and in the Travnička Hronika by the French.

In his work, he uses many so-called Turkisms. Those are words that originated from Turkish, Arabic or Persian language, that found their way into the languages of the South Slavs during Ottoman rule.

Na Drini Ćuprija remains his most famous work, and it still represents all sorts of correlation between the former country and the rest of the world, as it served as a bridge during a Cold War between East and West.

When received a Nobel prize Andrić described Yugoslavia as one

»which, at break-neck speed and at the cost of great sacrifices and prodigious efforts, is trying in all fields, including the field of culture, to make up for those things of which it has been deprived by a singularly turbulent and hostile past.”

In his view, the conflicting positions of Yugoslavia and its multiple ethnic groups could be overcome by knowing one’s history. Knowing the history of the region would help future generations avoid the mistakes of the past.

He expressed hope that these »differences could be bridged and histories demystified«.


Because of his life and his work Andrić remains one of the most controversial figures of the Region of former Yugoslavia. Following the disintegration of the country in the early 1990s, Andrić works were blacklisted in Croatia under the President Franjo Tuđman. Also, because he self-identified himself as a Serb, many Bosniak and Croat literary establishments have come to reject or limit his association with their literature. Andrić remains a controversial topic in Croatia. And Bosniaks, during the 1950s, accused him of everything from plagiarism to being a Serb nationalist. Some even called for his Nobel Prize to be taken from him. In early 1992, a Bosniak nationalist in Višegrad destroyed a statue of Andrić with a sledgehammer.

20 years later, in 2012, filmmaker Emir Kusturica unveiled another statue of Andrić in Višegrad, as a part of a town called Andrićgrad, which is sponsored by a filmmaker himself.

Andrićgrad was officially inaugurated in June 2014, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

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  • 1918 Ex Ponto. Književni jug, Zagreb (poems)
  • 1920 Nemiri. Sv. Kugli, Zagreb (poems)
  • 1920 Put Alije Đerzeleza. S. B. Cvijanović, Belgrade (novella)
  • 1924 Pripovetke I. Srpska književna zadruga, Belgrade (short story collection)
  • 1931 Pripovetke. Srpska književna zadruga, Belgrade (short story collection)
  • 1936 Pripovetke II. Srpska književna zadruga, Belgrade (short story collection)
  • 1945 Izabrane pripovetke. Svjetlost, Sarajevo (short story collection)
  • 1945 Na Drini ćuprija. Prosveta, Belgrade (novel)
  • 1945 Travnička hronika. Državni izdavački zavod Jugoslavije, Belgrade (novel)
  • 1945 Gospođica. Svjetlost, Belgrade (novella)
  • 1947 Most na Žepi: Pripovetke. Prosveta, Belgrade (short story collection)
  • 1947 Pripovijetke. Matica Hrvatska, Zagreb (short story collection)
  • 1948 Nove pripovetke. Kultura, Belgrade (short story collection)
  • 1948 Priča o vezirovom slonu. Nakladni zavod Hrvatske, Zagreb (novella)
  • 1949 Priča o kmetu Simanu. Novo pokoljenje, Zagreb (short story)
  • 1952 Pod gradićem: Pripovetke o životu bosanskog sela. Seljačka knjiga, Sarajevo (short story collection)
  • 1954 Prokleta avlija. Matica srpska, Novi Sad (novella)
  • 1958 Panorama. Prosveta, Belgrade (short story)
  • 1960 Priča o vezirovom slonu, i druge pripovetke. Rad, Belgrade (short story collection)
  • 1966 Ljubav u kasabi: Pripovetke. Nolit, Belgrade (short story collection)
  • 1968 Aska i vuk: Pripovetke. Prosveta, Belgrade (short story collection)
  • 1976 Eseji i kritike. Svjetlost, Sarajevo (essays; posthumous)
  • 2000 Pisma (1912–1973): Privatna pošta. Matica srpska, Novi Sad (private correspondence; posthumous)



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