Matthew Hunter's Reviews > Bosnian Chronicle

Bosnian Chronicle by Ivo Andrić
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it was amazing
bookshelves: serbian-literature, historical-fiction
Recommended to Matthew by: Tea Jovanović

Honestly, the first two installments of Ivo Andric's Bosnian Trilogy are among my top 10 favorite reads. They're so darned good! Long, but good.

Andric sets Bosnian Chronicle in his home town of Travnik in northern Bosnia during the time of Napoleon. The main characters are Consuls from France and Austria, and Turkish Viziers. Other than the prologue and epilogue, Andric tells the story from the points-of-view of the representatives of western European powers. Through the eyes of these temporary "visitors" to Travnik, the local people are simplistic barbarians with little depth. When a curious-minded young Frenchman joins the French Consulate staff, his studied observances of the why's behind the behaviors of locals frustrate Consul Daville to no end. It's harder to treat people like chess pieces in a geopolitical game when you actually know their histories and dreams for the future. Lumping everyone under the labels of "rabble" and "savages" makes domination more palatable for dominators, doesn't it?

And really, who are the barbarians in the story? The Turkish Viziers lop off heads and terrorize the population to encourage obedience. The "civilized" Consuls make each other's lives miserable through passive aggressive and monkey wrenching diplomacy. Their smiles, postures, and fancy dress obscure their personal doubts and willingness to practice subterfuge and one-up-manship to get what they want for their empires. Sure, the locals have a propensity for drinking plum brandy and rioting when frustrations boil over, but who can blame them really? For Andric, it's the occupying powers, not the locals, that behave barbarously.

A number of authors have wagged their fingers at colonizers and would-be emperors. Where Andric separates himself for me is the kindness he shows to the representatives of power. Andric might not like what he perceives as western arrogance toward his family and neighbors. But he shows great compassion for individuals like Consul Daville caught up in support roles not of their own choosing. Daville's extremely conflicted throughout, proving that even representatives of seemingly overwhelming power are complicated, lovable beings. Andric simply refuses to demonize. He'd rather understand (like Desfosses?). I found so many of my own doubts and passions given voice by the varied protagonists in Andric's Travnik. Bosnian Chronicles might not be what you'd call a love letter to humanity, but it's at least a virtuoso exercise in commiseration.

An excellent work, and no-brainer 5-star rating. Give yourself plenty of time with this one. It deserves a close, slow, mindful read.
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Reading Progress

September 15, 2013 – Shelved
September 15, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
January 2, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read-in-january
January 2, 2014 – Shelved as: serbian-literature
January 2, 2014 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
March 2, 2014 – Started Reading
March 3, 2014 –
page 31
7.09% "Andric can flat out tell a story. Such a great start!"
March 5, 2014 –
page 124
28.38% "I'm taking my time with this one. It deserves a thorough read. Seriously everyone, read Ivo Andric's Nobel Prize-winning Bosnian Trilogy! You won't regret the effort."
March 7, 2014 –
page 229
March 12, 2014 –
page 308
70.48% "I've learned more about Bosnia and the Ottoman Empire through Andric's work than any other source. First rate historical fiction!"
March 18, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Tea (new)

Tea Jovanović I'm glad you liked it, Matthew! :)

Matthew Hunter Tea wrote: "I'm glad you liked it, Matthew! :)"

Thank you for the recommendations, Tea! I would have missed out on Andric's work without your guidance. I'm grateful!

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