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Death and the Dervish

4.54  ·  Rating details ·  6,494 ratings  ·  239 reviews
Death and the Dervish is an acclaimed novelby Bosnian writer Mesa Selimovic. It recounts the story of Sheikh Nuruddin,a dervishresiding inanIslamicmonastery in Sarajevo in the eighteenth century during theOttoman Turkhegemony over the Balkans. When his brother is arrested, he must descend into the Kafkaesque world of the Ottoman authorities in his search to discover what ...more
Paperback, 473 pages
Published August 14th 1996 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1966)
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Average rating 4.54  · 
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 ·  6,494 ratings  ·  239 reviews

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Lars K Jensen
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
Imagine a bag of candy with 455 pieces of the most delicious pieces of candy inside. Each is so delicate and mouth-watering that you feel the need to expand the joy to as many minutes as possible, and it sweetens the soul, just like it does the tongue.

This is basically what this book was like to me. It's not an easy read (and thank God for that), but it's great literature. Such great literature.

The book (written 1962-66 and a classic in Yugoslav literature) is set in Sarajevo under Ottoman rule
Vit Babenco
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Guilt, law, justice: I’ve already read two grand books about law, justice and guilt – The Trial by Franz Kafka and Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov – and Death and the Dervish by Meša Selimović surely belongs in this fine row of masterpieces.
The hero wants to pass his time in prayers and the passive contemplation of divinity and the world but to live is to take sides, and taking sides is dangerous…
I do not yet know what will be written here. But in the strokes of these letters at
Richard Derus
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: returned, borrowed
Real Rating: 3.5* of five

An intense read. Beautiful translated words confronting and comforting the human fear of love by the means of examining the easier-to-grasp fear of death.

I've chosen some favorite phrases and liked them from the quotes. They appear below the review. I think the patience required to read a footnoted and glossary'd read won't allow its subtleties and tremendous pleasures to spread widely among US English-speaking readers.

Make no mistake: Ahmed Nuruddin is you, reader, a
Ivana S.

There's only one word I can use for this book - MASTERPIECE!!!

"People despise everyone who succeeds and hate the ones who surpass them. Get used to scorn if you want peace and hate if you agree to fight"


“Ljudi preziru sve one koji ne uspiju, a mrze one koji se uspnu iznad njih; Navikni se na prezir ako želis mir, ili na mržnju ako pristaneš na borbu...”

I read this book back in high school and it was a school assignment. The writer of this book is from the city where I went to school. Our teacher urged us to
Rebecca Duncan
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a huge favorite of mine and I'm quite surprised that I haven't written about it - yet.

But I'm here now to correct that and to pay homage to this unprecedented masterpiece of, I dare to say, world literature.
When I first came across this book, I was frankly very, very, unimaginably young and even more so immature. But, even at that period in my life, I din't fail to recognize that this novel is like a rare diamond that not many people are allowed to discover,understand and accept.

Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
All we try to do in life is have a congruent and balanced view about the world, people and what's happening around us. And we try to protect our safe zone often ignoring and dismissing the things that not fit in our congruent view about the life. We believe in that we live in a just world, suffering people suffer because they must have done something to deserve this (!) And, what happens if our congruent world attacks us from behind and then we become the object of injustice? Can we manage to ...more
Erik Graff
Mar 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: South Slavs
Recommended to Erik by: A.M.
Shelves: literature
My closest Bosnian friend gave this to me after I'd read Ivo Andric's Bridge on the Drina. This is not as accessible a book as Andric's masterpiece. Drawing a comparison, Andric is Tolstoy while Selimović is Dostoevsky. While Andric gives you everything you need to know to appreciate his book, Selimović presupposes the reader knows enough to fill in the background.

May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
(After lots of thought...) I was going to rate this book either one star or five stars. I chose to give it the five stars and to rate myself with one, for not being able to understand ANYTHING going on in it... I totally failed me, cause even I can see that this is a world masterpiece and truly about subjects that interest me immensly: the Balkans, history, religion, inner turmoils, being ethical when everyone around you isn't, moral dilemmas that break a person. But... my God, its writing style ...more
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Good little review here:

And here:

Thoroughly recommended
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this book long time ago. Regarding Meša Selimović as an author, there can only be one conclusion - almost every sentence of his novels could be copied, memorized and quoted somewhere. His genius cannot be completely translated into foreign languages. The true heart of his recountals and descriptions is hidden in and interwoven with delicate fibres of his native language, Serbo - Croatian.
César Carranza
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I guess is one of the best books what I read, this mix of cultures, is simply great!!
Jovan Autonomašević
An epic Balkan book. What is it about? As in his other masterpiece, Tvrđava, Selimović posits the issues of his time (post-WWII Yugoslavia) in a more distant past, which allows him to not only cast those issues in a more objective light, but also to explore that little-known past and bring it to life. The main issues dealt with by the book are injustice, and how individuals operate in a totalitarian regime: the plots, manipulations and kickbacks that are necessary to get anything done. Like the ...more
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"It's not easy to change oneself, one must reject all that one has been, all that one has learned, everything that one has grown accustomed to. And you changed yourself completely. It's as if you learned how to walk all over again, to say your first words, to acquire basic habits. The reason must have been very, very important."

"Do you grieve or hate? Beware of hatred, so you won't sin against yourself and others. Beware of grief, so you won't sin against God."
John Farebrother
Another classic Yugoslav novel, by former Partisan and Bosnian Muslim Selimović. This book explores many of the same themes as his next novel, also a classic, Tvrđava. Set in the Middle Ages, the novel dissects and exposes the nature of totalitarian regimes. A former fighter, become a priest, is drawn against his will into the political intrigues of the Ottoman Balkans when his brother is arrested for speaking out against injustice. Hamlet-like, the other-wordly priest finds himself obliged to ...more
Paul Fulcher
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
This is why I love translated fiction: a book written in the 1960s, which took 30 years to be translated into English and has languished in relative obscurity since, but an outstanding read.

The plot of the Death and the Dervish is relatively straightforward. The narrator, a Dervish living in Ottoman-ruled Bosnia, has his life turned upside down when his brother is arrested. The novel tells of his Kafkesque struggles with the authorities to discover of what his brother id accused, his desparate
Goran Markov
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book about self analysis. A book about sacrifice. A book about life, religion, feelings and the impact of the society on a religious figure not really able to adapt and become what was expected of him...just another slave to his consciousness.

This story is a powerful psychological drama, filled with philosophical view of the world.

Ahmed Nurudin, a derviš (poor muslim ascet), must find a way to cope with the world that's surrounding him...he must try to explain to himself the arrest of his
Sotiris Karaiskos
One of these novels contains many more things than a simple storytelling. The author is inspired by the death of his brother to write a story about the Ottoman era in Bosnia to speak more confidently about what he lived in communist Yugoslavia. The protagonist of the story learns that his brother is accused of a very serious crime and is trying to figure out what is happening the maze of secular and religious bureaucracy, in a wand reminiscent of Kafka's The Trial, perhaps in a more explicit ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a difficult book to read. Not because the author has no skills. Not because the storyline is boring or confusing. At it's best, which is a great deal of the time, the book is lucid, interesting, compelling even, and easily relatable for the reader. Written almost entirely in the first person of the main character, it is often like walking around inside someone's head, listening to them sharing their thoughts with you, and occasionally just slipping off to talk only to themselves. And ...more
Azra Lali
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Masterpiece. If I had to chose The Book of the books - this would be my choice!
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read my review at my blog.
You’ve made it: After a rather wild youth you have settled down as a dervish in the Ottoman Empire, in a comfy little tekije in what today is Bosnia. From this abode now and then you venture forth into town to visit the faithful, always a thoughtful Quran quote on your lips – a well-respected, wise man in the eyes of townsfolk and authorities alike.

But then your brother gets into trouble: Shouldn’t you use your influence to bail him out? You hem and haw, you question your motives, suffer pangs
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As a person who typically salivates all over fragmented novels with eclectic content, this one took me by surprise. It just felt so singular. Like one of those impressive slab tables made from a single enormous piece of wood. I know that sounds incredibly unremarkable, I guess a more impressive comparison would be a marble statue.
Well, here's a quote from the introduction that hits the nail on the head: "Death and the Dervish is a hard book to extract freestanding passages from; virtually every
Jonathan yates
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The reason to read this book is pretty clear, first its beautiful, its a slow meditative beautiful story of a fictional past which for me is also a world far away, each page is slow and the details are full of color and light, sighing and the distant sounds of brooks
but secondly because like in all great literature there is something to learn here, this book is a wonderful study of the relation between the individual and the authority of governance-we all have relations to authority in our
Gordan Karlic
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't easy to grade this book grade 4.
I did it mainly because it is book written from the first person where main protagonists thoughts are a primary source of storytelling and I felt it was kinda too long.
I do like builts up toward story but I was kinda overwhelmed here, don't know maybe I am not used to this kind of storytelling.
But this book is timeless, you can find topics covered here thought the whole history and no doubt they will be found into the future.
I feel kinda bad giving
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've read this in the original of the best books I've ever read. It's very philosophical and profound, left a great impression on me.
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best novels ever written.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
slow-moving and occasionally ponderous, about a man stirred from his religious life by family trauma, leading to first downfall, then something perhaps better.
In an undefined century of the Ottoman Empire, in an unnamed provincial capital in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Bosniak Sheik contemplates the loneliness of his life and the harm he as brought to almost everyone he has ever been close to. What I enjoyed most about Death and the Dervish is that it is set entirely within the Bosnian-Ottoman culture with no outside Western interference. The writing is absolutely wonderful and worth an unhurried reading to savor.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: europe, 1001
I’m not actually sure what I think about all this. Part 1 was an almost 1 Star/DNF level read for me. I felt like he was making a point about absolute devotion to religion lacking actual morality perhaps, but I found the narrator intensely irritating in all his moaning about making a decision to act or not and in his incomprehensible thinking process.

Part 2 was considerably more plot driven and, in my opinion, considerably more interesting. I liked how everyone was corrupted by their power, how
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Mehmed "Meša" Selimović was a Yugoslav and a Bosnian writer from Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the greatest Bosnian writers of the 20th century. His most famous works deal with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the culture of the Bosniak inhabitants of the Ottoman province of Bosnia.
“Ljudi preziru sve one koji ne uspiju, a mrze one koji se uspnu iznad njih; Navikni se na prezir ako želis mir, ili na mržnju ako pristaneš na borbu...” 151 likes
“Trebalo bi ubijati prošlost sa svakim danom što se ugasi. Izbrisati je da ne postoji, da ne boli. Lakše bi se podnosio dan što traje, ne bi se merio onim što više ne postoji. Ovako se mešaju utvare i život, pa nema ni čistog sećanja, ni čistog života.” 144 likes
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