#1 Precisely – “Andrić est arrive”1F – the author of “Selidbi” (Moves), the long past Miloš Crnjanski wrote, announcing the entry of a striking author in literature; basing this on the poems in prose “Ex Ponto” as the future literary development of the then young author, not known enough, but with a striking creative self-awareness and individuality – Ivo Andrić. The experienced ear of Crnjanski could not stay deaf for – as he puts it – the dark Slavic tones that could be sensed in this small, but anyway, valuable book. The literary debut of Andrić only confirmed what happened later: his future published works confirmed him as an authentic author whose works have high esthetic values. And if it necessary to say at all, his work, quite expectedly, eventually received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
It is clear that the writing about an author such as Andrić, from a time distance since the time of his death and his last published works, has its risks. The first, maybe biggest risk is the attempt to understand – in the context of the basic Balkan logic – as a nostalgia for a past time. The risk in the current post-modern time, obsessed with fragmentariness, with the awareness of textuality being different, is big that this attempt is understood as an anachronism, re-actualizing of an outdated poetics, calling of ghosts!
But, fortunately, what makes the literature a sublimate of eternity; what makes it a sign of the being, though a diachronic vertical, is not the moment in which it was created, but something quite different: to what extent, in which way and how the human existence is questioned? Or, more precisely: how the very phenomenon of existence is artistically shaped? To what extent – via an artistic procedure, of course, the being of man is revealed?
The fist published literary works of Andrić appeared in the first decade of the last century. This was a time when – in a broader European and world context – there were many voices about the artistic procedures that were practiced: the influence of the symbolism was still present, the futurism slowly entered the stage, there were the first hints of surrealism. Put in the context with the stylistic formations of that time, the first published works of Andrić seemed to have little in common with the general fever of research of that time, with the obsessive demands for new forms via which the spirit of time will be expressed. The small book of lyric prose “Ex Ponto”, which was published in the first decade of the century, first and above all a lyric confession of a young man where the first life experience, dilemmas, thoughts were given…
In the period that followed, Andrić would give his opinion in the periodicals via reviews, about a number of works from the literary production then. Not sticking firmly to some poetic norms and standards determined in advance, he would sharply and critically give his opinion on some prose works in the spirit of larmoayance, pale sentimentalism and constructed romanticism. He would also know how to sense the talent of Rastko Petrović, greeting, with a small dose of reserve, his debut prose book “Burlesque of Perun, the God of Thunder.”2F it seems that two of the essays Andrić wrote then take a special place in his whole essay work. The first essay, “A. G. Matoš” is a mini brilliant study of the personality of Antun Gustav Matoš. Reviewing the complexity ad all complexness of the person of this artist from a psychological aspect, Andrić would leave a testimony of this Balkan traveler through the European metropolis who would become a spiritual support to many generations, both in the time of Andrić and after him. The second essay entitled as “Discussion with Goya” is a meditative reflection of the destiny of the artist, on his place and role in the world. Rarely in the world can there be such a precise and refined treatment of this issue, the issue of the artist and the art. Via the words of the artist Goya himself, who stands for the alter-ego of the artist himself, Andrić would speak about the powerlessness of the artist and the spirituality of a world that is first of all based on material principles. Even more, through this historical overview he would conclude that in all crucial historical eras the artist, despite all of his spiritual supremacy and knowledge, usually has the supporting role and that of a powerless observer.
Although the essay heritage is not less important when we speak fo this author, still Andrić remained first of all remembered as a prose writer. His prose is significantly bigger compared with the essays. He is the author of about one hundred short stories, four novels: “Travnik Chronicles”, “The Bridge on Drina”, “Doomed Gate”, “Mademoiselle”, as well as the unfinished novel “Omer Paša Latas”.
Concerning the resistance that he would encounter even as a young writer, Andrić would say: “When I published my first short stories, many people wondered and said: what are you doing, you have with drawn to this Bosnian province, what are these topics, what are these primitive heroes” Is this how you write in a modern way?” (…) “And don’t think that I disagreed with them?” Historian by education, using abundantly the historical archive material, Andrić managed to artistically shape the image of Bosnia through several centuries via his multilayered narrative procedure. Although as a prose writer he has created memorable characters, still what is important for him as a story tells in the first instance is that he managed to give the successive, consequent course of history an epic broadness, that he managed to show all the dissonances of a specific toponym – Bosnia – in all of their broadness and magnitude. In the artistic vision of Andrić history is not an accompanying element, but it is the essence: all events, personalities and situations in his prose are just supporting role in the big walk of history. Not ignoring the fact that there are extraordinarily nuanced characters in his prose, the historical frame is what unites them in a whole. Andrić managed to frame the huge time span of several centuries, so to say, the “macro time” in the epic image of his novels. His prose art does not have the marks of the avant-garde modernism of that time, the first part of 20th century, embodies in the works of William Faulkner, Virginia Wolf, James Joyce and others. The narrative procedure of Andrić is more traditional, apollonianly objective, a result of a strong feeling of observation on one hand, and the ability for creative transformation and historical built on the other side.
“Balkan people too have their own fate”, says Andrić, immediately adding: “Maybe in Bosnia one should be warned at every step, in every thought and in each, even the most supreme feeling to be aware of the hatred, inborn, unaware, endemic hatred.” These words can sound as prophetic anticipation of what is to happen later, the disaster that took 200,000 human lives, unless we take into consideration the fact that as a creator, he is closely connected to the Balkan chronotope (time/space), and he knew too well all the preconditions that contribute to the cyclic reappearing of the evil in these areas.
In one of his diary notes on the work of the writer, Andrić quite openly asked himself the question about how he would appear to the eyes of the reader, let’s say, in hundred years. And rightly so, it seems, in the same text he concludes that as far as the truthfulness of whet he is telling about is concerned, he is quite at peace. The artistic truthfulness is the main quality with his work that keeps him from the corrosive action of time.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska
1. Andrić has arrived.
2. Already as a well-established author, Andrić would e forced to give his opinion on a number of literary works, on the request of the authors themselves. In 1948, he would answer Anton Panov, the man from Strumica. In his written response, Andrić gives the following opinion on the play “Pilikatnik”: “I have no remark on this text from artistic and literary standpoint. Characters are lively and real. The complete material is made as a real reflection of a reality that you have carried within yourself. I am surprised what could be on the way of its printing of staging. From the stage-theatrical standpoint, I have no opinion, because I am not an expert in theatre.”