“What would be … ”

“Long before appointed time the four ‘recognized notables’ met on the deserted square and walked with slow steps to the kapia … They sat on the kapia as they had once done when they were young and carefree and, like the rest of the young people, wasted their time there. Only now they all advanced in years. Pop Nikola and Mula Ibrahim were old, and the schoolmaster and the rabbi in the prime of life. They were all in their best clothes, filled with anxiety both for themselves and their flocks. They looked at one another closely and long in the fierce summer sun, and each seemed to the others grown old for his years and worn out. Each of them remembered the others as they had been in youth or childhood, when they had grown up on this bridge, each in his own generation, green wood of which no one could tell what would be. 

They smoked and talked of one thing while turning another over in their minds, glancing every moment towards Okoliste whence the commandant upon whom everything depended was to come and who could bring them, their people and the whole town, either good or evil, either peace or fresh dangers.”

Excerpt from The Bridge on the Drina (Serbo-Croat: На Дрини Ћупријa or Na Drini Cuprija), a novel by the Yugo­­slav writer Ivo Andric, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1961. The book describes relations between Orthodox Christia­n Serbs and Muslims in the town of Višegrad in east Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Ottoman occupation.

The story spans about four centuries and is, in some sense, a collection of short stories. What unites the book and becomes in a sense the main “character” is the bridge over the Drina River in Višegrad.

“Много пре одређеног времена четворица ‘законаша’ нашли су се на опустелој пијаци и спорим корацима запутили на капију … Тако су седели на софи као некад кад су били млади и безбрижни и као и остала младеж кратили време на капији. Само што су сада били сви већ у годинама. Поп Никола и Мула Ибрахим стари, а мудерис и рабин зрели људи, празнички одевени и безбрижни за себе и сваки за своје. Гледали су се на оштром летњем сунцу, онако на дугу времену и изблиза, и долазили су један другом престарели за своје године и сувише истрошени. И сваки се сећао другог какав је био у младости или у детињству, кад су расли поред овог моста, сваки са својим нараштајем, зелено дрво од којег се још не зна шта ће бити.

Пушили су, разговарали једно а у мислима претурали друго, погледајући сваки час на Околишта, одакле треба да се јави командант од кога зависи сада све и од кога може доћи и за њихов свет и целу касабу и добро и зло и смирење и нове опасности.”

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