Author: Meša Selimović
Publish Date: 1966
Genre: Modernist Fiction
Page Length: Approximately 400 pages
Death and the Dervish, written by Meša Selimović and published in 1966, is a significant piece of modernist fiction that explores the complex social and psychological dimensions of an individual's search for truth and justice within an oppressive political regime. Set in the Ottoman Empire during the early 18th century, it delves into themes such as identity, power, morality, and the struggle between personal beliefs and societal conformity.
The novel is divided into four sections, each shedding light on essential aspects of the narrative. This summary will outline the plot, introduce the key characters, identify prominent themes, and provide an academic analysis of Selimović's work.
Section I: The Mosque
In the first section, we are introduced to the protagonist, Ahmed Nuruddin. As a devout Muslim and dervish residing in the Tekija monastery, Nuruddin grapples with the sudden arrest of his brother, Harun, by the authorities. His pursuit of truth and justice begins as he confronts the harsh realities of a corrupt judicial system, epitomized by Judge Aziz Effendi, a symbol of power and oppression. Nuruddin battles his own inner conflicts, torn between the desire to save his brother and the fear of the consequences that such an act may have on his own life.
Section II: The Prison
In the second section, Nuruddin manages to infiltrate the prison, where his brother remains incarcerated. Here, he witnesses the unfathomable human suffering under the tyrannical rule and is compelled to question the foundations of his faith. As he encounters a fellow prisoner, Suljo, Nuruddin is exposed to a broader perspective of the world outside the monastery, causing him to question the strict dogmas that once governed his life. Through his conversations and observations, the author critically examines the societal roles individuals are forced to play.
Section III: The Caravanserai
The third section marks a shift in Nuruddin's mindset. Having freed his brother with the help of a corrupt official, Judge Luka Paskalović, he joins the caravanserai, a meeting point of diverse people and ideologies. Here, Nuruddin faces the complexities of human nature, encountering various characters, such as Abu-Isa, a cunning merchant, and Hadži Idris, a respected figure of religious piety. These encounters broaden Nuruddin's understanding of the world and expose him to the multifaceted nature of truth, justice, and the ultimate pursuit of one's identity.
Section IV: The Dervish and Death
The final section witnesses a transformation within Nuruddin as he strategically plans his revenge against the oppressive powers that destroyed his life. Guided by his mentor, Abdulah Effendi, Nuruddin emerges as a formidable opponent despite his seemingly submissive exterior. Concepts of duty, sacrifice, and loyalty gain a renewed significance in his pursuit of truth. Finally, this section concludes with Nuruddin's internal confrontation with Death itself, as he is faced with a revelation that shatters the foundations of his existence.
1. Ahmed Nuruddin - The protagonist, a dervish who seeks justice for his arrested brother.
2. Harun - Ahmed Nuruddin's arrested brother, trapped in the prison system.
3. Judge Aziz Effendi - A symbol of the corrupt judicial system and abuse of power.
4. Suljo - A fellow prisoner who challenges Nuruddin's beliefs.
5. Judge Luka Paskalović - A corrupt official who assists Nuruddin in freeing his brother.
6. Abu-Isa - A cunning merchant in the caravanserai, representing the complexities of human nature.
7. Hadži Idris - A figure of religious piety in the caravanserai.
1. Oppression and Corruption: The narrative masterfully examines the oppressive nature of the judicial and political systems, highlighting the corruption and abuse of power.
2. Identity and Conformity: The protagonist journeys through a transformative process, questioning his own identity and the pressures society places on individuals to conform to rigid norms.
3. Truth and Justice: Selimović presents a nuanced exploration of truth and justice, encouraging readers to question the foundations of these concepts and their subjective nature.
4. Religion and Morality: The novel raises thought-provoking questions about the intersection of religion, personal morality, and societal expectations.
5. Power and Resistance: The push and pull between power structures and the individual's resistance to oppression serve as essential themes throughout the narrative.
Through Death and the Dervish, Meša Selimović invites readers to delve into the complexities of human nature, societal structures, and the pursuit of truth amidst an oppressive regime. The novel's universal themes resonate beyond its historical setting, offering readers a profound examination of the human condition and the struggle for justice and personal integrity. Selimović's work continues to be of significant academic value, fostering discussions on the concepts of power, morality, and oppression in both historical and contemporary contexts.