by Ivo Andric
Plot summaries of selected stories with spoilers!
Love in the Kasaba - A Bosnian town in a deep basin surrounded by
cliffs. Villagers are serious and hard working scraping a living from a
harsh land. A Christian military Captain stationed in town scandalously
woos a pretty young daughter of a Jewish family. After he is caught in
her garden late at night, her father asks his superiors to send him away
to a different post to save her virtue. The daughters heart is broken as
she loves him and she throws herself into the river and drowns. There is
a drought and superstion says pouring water on her grave will break it.
But it doesn't work, and a curse seems to fall on the village, people go
mad, animals stop giving milk. Then summer ends, the drought breaks, and
the cycle of life begins anew.
An Uneasy Year - A fat paraplegic pillow-sitting fez-wearing
money-lender holds sway over a town with his powerful influences of
personality and money. A young gypsy orphan girl is adopted into his
house after her parents are killed in a gypsy cleansing sweep.
Strangely, she is the only person the money-lender seems unable to force
around with the power of his words, she in fact is more strong willed
than he. This marks the beginning of the end of his confidence and
power, a crack that never heals. The girl is eventually given to a
visiting army Captain and taken away after an uneasy year in his
Corkan and the German Tightrope Walker - A village idiot falls in
love from afar with a young tight-rope walker from Germany, who is in
town with the travelling circus. In fact many men in town lust after
her, but his virginal love is the most true. After a drunken incident
involving town notables late at night trying to get her to "perform" in
private, constibles come and lay the blame on the idiot, who is beaten
to an inch of his life. He slowly recovers from the wounds, both the
physical and the emotional of her loss, and returns to his days as a
village idiot happy as ever.
Maltreatment - a simple but powerful story about a hard working
and well-meaning young woman who marries a weak man. He is not outwardly
mean or abusive in any material way, and well respected in the
community, but his constant vanity in private, as he makes up stories
about himself, drives her crazy until she leaves him, much to the
confussion and disagreement of those around her who don't understand.
This story taught me a lot about how men can drive women nuts and the
importance of empathy and personal integrity.
Olujaci - Olujaci is an isolated Bosnian mountain village set
steeply into the sides of a ravine. The people are dull, suspicious,
short and ugly, interested only in work. They raise nut trees. A tall,
beautiful sensitive woman is sent there from another town in a forced
marriage. She is unable to adjust, and when her brother comes to see how
she is, her crazy husband becomes jelous and kills them all, including
himself, by burning the house down. The villagers don't seem to care
much and use the burned plot to work on cracking nuts, metaphorically
too much work makes one physically and emotionally stunted, crazy like a
nut. This is a highly atmospheric and visual story.
Thirst - A military commander searches for a bandit in the
mountains, returning every few days to his wife in town. When he finally
captures him and imprisons him in his basement, his wife stays up all
night unable to sleep, unable to reconcile the brutality of the bandit
and her husband, who has denied the injured man water ("thirst"). He
then wakes up and roughly begins to make love to his wife, who "Losing
all recollection not only of last night but of all life, she sank into
the deaf and twilit sea of familiar and ever-new pleasure. Above her
floated the last traces of her nighttime thoughts and resolutions and of
all human compassion, dissolving into air one after another like watery
bubbles over a drowning person." Beautiful, an example how Andric can
take the commonplace and familair, like the common people he writes
about, and make it profound and deeply human.
The Slave Girl - A girl is held in a cage at a seaside town while
her owner haggles with potential buyers. The girl thinks back on how she
was enslaved, her family killed and town destroyed, and sees nothing but
disgrace and blackness. She manages to hang herself in the cage in a
highly descriptive manner.
Zuja - A young girl Zuja is given over by her father to a rich
family where she serves out her life as a maid and raises the families
children as a governess. Later after she grows old and dies, and the
children grow up. She returns in a vision to one of the grown children.
This vision includes an episode early in Zuja's life when she is raped
by a stranger on a bridge over a stream.
The Pasha's Concubine - Novella. A Pasha takes a 15yo concubine
and sleeps with her nightly until a Bosnian uprising forces him to
abandon her. Tainted by shame and no place to go, she finds refuge in a
rich household as a servant but is treated coldly. She dies in
childbirth, along with the baby, at the same time Serejavo is under
attack by the Austrians. The idea being the mixture of Turkish and
Bosnian (Christian) living together has died.
Anika's Times - Novella. A young women is spurned by her lover
and she becomes a prostitute, ruining every man in town. Sort of a
Zola-esque take on Nana. Great insights into guilt, grief, evil and