Letter: Bygone Bosnia

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The Independent Online
Sir: Robert Winder (9 October) regards Ivo Andric, the 1961 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, as 'interesting', if only because the literary world has rarely paused to assess his work. This may say more about the mores of the literary establishment than about the merit of Andric's work.

Andric received his award after writing The Bridge Over The Drina, which recorded the story of one town in Bosnia through four centuries of history. The novel showed how the Western concept of nationalism in the Balkans often resulted in disaster because it was a foreign import that ill-suited the local pattern of life.

In 1992 there are few bridges left standing over the Drina, and the ethnically mixed Bosnia that Andric wrote about may soon be as remote as the Greece of Homer. But one doubts if any of this will detain the EC summiteers in Birmingham this weekend.

After the 'success' of John Major's London summit on Yugoslavia in August, Douglas Hurd has contrived to ensure a lowly place for Bosnia's problems on the conference agenda. But I predict a revival for Andric's novel, not necessarily in literary London, but certainly among the descendants of Bosnian refugees curious to know about the ethnically mixed society that the EC allowed to be killed off amid the debates about ERM and subsidiarity.

Yours faithfully,

TOM GALLAGHER

Bradford, West Yorkshire

11 October

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