If you are anything like me, as a child you have often wondered what that huge, shapeless, hulking blotch, the Ottoman Empire was doing on the map in the history book, how it got there in the first place, and why teachers kept calling it an ailing giant, seemingly heir to decay right from day one. Through the power of literature, this and other musings can find a rewarding answer. Set in the aftermath of war with Russia, not a war in particular, just some war, in some unspecified century the eighteenth for some, the nineteenth for others , The Fortress is a slice-of-life tale of love, resilience, and despotism set in the extreme periphery of the Ottoman Empire , that other shibboleth of history hours in school — the Balkans. As a bonus, one surmises, the tyranny of Constantinople and its henchmen is meant to signify, in a more or less allusive way, that other structure of snooping and all-encompassing power, communism, which sort of wraps it all together nicely.
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If you are anything like me, as a child you have often wondered what that huge, shapeless, hulking blotch, the Ottoman Empire was doing on the map in the history book, how it got there in the first place, and why teachers kept calling it an ailing giant, seemingly heir to decay right from day one. Through the power of literature, this and other musings can find a rewarding answer. Set in the aftermath of war with Russia, not a war in particular, just some war, in some unspecified century the eighteenth for some, the nineteenth for others , The Fortress is a slice-of-life tale of love, resilience, and despotism set in the extreme periphery of the Ottoman Empire , that other shibboleth of history hours in school — the Balkans.
As a bonus, one surmises, the tyranny of Constantinople and its henchmen is meant to signify, in a more or less allusive way, that other structure of snooping and all-encompassing power, communism, which sort of wraps it all together nicely. One of the miracles of historical novels is to disaggregate the past, which we are used to picturing in terms of decades and millions of people, into single individuals with a name, a personal trajectory and the dire need to eat everyday. The Olympian procession of ages and kings all but dissolves, or at any rate becomes less relevant, when you look at it from the perspective of the common man, the one who is struggling to stay alive and keep his decency.
A moderately well-to-do scrivener whom the young man, Ahmed Chabo, has saved from certain demise on the Dniester, nurses him back to life and offers him a job. Ahmed can get married with a beautiful woman and experience months of quiet happiness, when a word too many, uttered in misguided frankness during a banquet at a powerful house, makes him a public suspect, all but altering his social persona in the space of a night. Doors close in his face, his former protector who had insisted to have him at the banquet for reasons of personal ambition finds an excuse to fire him, and nobody in all Sarajevo seems inclined to give him work.
At a loss, but unwilling to humiliate himself, Ahmed is forced to live on the earnings of his pregnant wife and the ambiguous, double-edged charity of his neighbor, an old fool, a dreamer, a bum, but the only man in Bosnia who comes any close to being a friend.
The cat and the mouse, the bloodhound and his prey. However, this time the hunter is a quiet, unassuming, unkempt inspector of the secret police, almost a monk of political repression, whose eyes are everywhere, and whose patience is endless. As the web of conspiracy is woven around the young idealist, other powers, more benign, begin to operate in the dark, because illegitimate power walks on clay feet, ambitions cut both ways, and local executioners are just as expendable as their victims in the great design of things.
A moral tale, if a rather expansive one around pages in a conservative estimate , The Fortress explores contrasting aspects of human loyalty and cowardice, testing the behavior of inherently good characters in a deadly game of survival that pits them against each other. No harbor is safe, save ultimately love, no token of friendship can be taken at face value. It is a study of what power does to people: not the brutal power that murders and enslaves, but the impalpable, ethereal fluid that reaches into every corner, corrupts the well-intentioned, bends their backs, and paralyzes the hesitant.
The customs and social rituals are straight out of the Middle Ages, just like the lurking shadow of the hajduks , brigands and freedom-fighters hiding in the woods around Sarajevo, is half Robin Hood, half real-life description out of Panait Istrati. Realism is not adjusted to the philosophical point to make, in the way of thesis novels, but rather the moral is extracted from everyday occurrences, like a meditation on humble things — the sharing of a pair of shoes, the death of an elderly beggar, the language of the powerful.
The French edition was recently revived by a slightly more mainstream but selective and elegant franchise, Motifs The Dervish and Death , of course, is a steady in the Gallimard catalogue. In Italy, the underground work was done by a small and pugnacious house from the South, Besa, specializing in the Mediterranean region. A gentle, engrossing, and poetic story. Jaca Book ricerca una figura di assistente per il loro ufficio stampa ed eventi.
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In , he enrolled to study the Serbo-Croatian language and literature at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Philology and graduated in At that time he participated in the Soko athletic organisation. After his release, he moved to liberated territory, became a member of Communist Party of Yugoslavia and the political commissar of the Tuzla Detachment of the Partisans. After the war, he briefly resided in Belgrade , and in he moved to Sarajevo , where he was the professor of High School of Pedagogy and Faculty of Philology, art director of Bosna Film, chief of the drama section of the National Theater, and chief editor of the publishing house Svjetlost. Exasperated by a latent conflict with several local politicians and intellectuals, in he moved to Belgrade, where he lived until his death in Some critics have likened this novel to Kafka 's The Trial. Subsequent novels Ostrvo The Island, , featuring an elderly couple facing aging and eventual death on a Dalmatian island, and posthumously published Krug The Circle, , have not been translated into English.
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Back catalogue #8 – Meša Selimović, "Tvrđava" / "The Fortress" (1970)
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