Places: The Bridge on the Drina

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Na Drini ćuprija, 1945 (English translation, 1959)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical realism

Time of work: 1516-1914

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Drina River

*Drina Bridge on the Drina, TheRiver (DREE-nah). Ancient river located entirely within Bosnia and Herzegovina that forms part of the boundary of the modern Yugoslavian republic of Serbia. It is significant in that its banks represent the division between East and West in this frequently war-torn region.


*Bridge. Unchanging heart of the novel. While everything else changes, the bridge remains constant. It was built between 1566 and 1571 by the Grand Vezir Mehmed Pasha Sokolli. He ordered a bridge to be built near Višegrad. He hoped to link the eastern and western parts of the empire and improve the region economically. These goals were accomplished during the life span of the bridge. The unusually beautiful edifice quickly became the focal point of the area, where the various local inhabitants–Serbian Orthodox, Bosnian Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Jews–would gather on the two small terraces in the middle of the bridge to discuss matters of mutual concern. The bridge was witness to everything that befell the town’s inhabitants: harmonious cohabitation, wars and struggles, floods and fires, attempts to blow up the bridge, and changes such as the building of a water duct and local railroad.

The bridge’s significance is dramatized by events that occur during and after its building. According to legend, a pair of Serbian twins had to be immured in the bridge to ensure the success of the project. The main builder, the Serb Rade the Mason, was impaled on a stake in order to frighten local saboteurs, who frequently destroyed overnight what had been built during the day because they feared the consequences of tampering with nature, especially by an occupying “evil” force. Several deaths took place on or near the bridge; there were also several attempts to destroy the bridge, the latest during World War I.

The bridge on the Drina is not merely a utilitarian structure, however. Throughout the novel Ivo Andrić emphasizes three symbolic meanings of the bridge: its linking, permanence, and beauty. Despite the changes in the area surrounding it, the bridge has withstood the centuries. Andrić concludes several chapters by emphasizing the durability of the bridge, while its beauty attests the artistic, creative spirit of human beings. These three qualities make the bridge function like a character who exists among the people for generations.


*Višegrad (VEE-sheh-grad). This town by the Drina was a small settlement before the bridge was built. It grew constantly as the impact of the bridge effected not only the town but also the entire region. The town practically owes its existence to the bridge, growing out of it as if from an imperishable root. Thus, the chronicle (as Andrić calls it) of the centuries-old bond between the townspeople and the bridge reaches beyond a mere historical and geographical coincidence.

BibliographyBergman, Gun. Turkisms in Ivo Andrić’s “Na Drini ćuprija.” Examined from the Point of View of Literary Style. Uppsala, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1969. The author examines the use of Turkisms in The Bridge on the Drina from both the linguistic and the literary point of view.Goy, E. D. “The Work of Ivo Andrić.” Slavonic and East European Review 41 (1963): 301-326. One of the best introductions to Andrić in English. Goy dwells on the main points in Andrić’s life and creativity, specifying in each work its most important characteristics. In The Bridge on the Drina, for example, Andrić has solved the dilemma of existence through the beauty of creation.Hawkesworth, Celia. Ivo Andrić: Bridge Between East and West. London: Athlone Press, 1984. An excellent overall portrait of Andrić the man and the writer. The author discusses in detail every important feature of his works, underlining the importance of The Bridge on the Drina as his seminal work.Mihailovich, Vasa D. “The Reception of the Works of Ivo Andrić in the English-Speaking World.” Southeastern Europe 9 (1982): 41-52. A survey of articles and reviews on Andrić in English through 1980. Useful for both beginners and established scholars.Mukerji, Vanita Singh. Ivo Andrić: A Critical Biography. New York: MacFarland, 1990. Another general introduction to Andrić. Not as significant and exhaustive as Hawkesworth’s volume, but still useful for finding out about the basic features of Andrić’s works.
Categories: Places