- Alterity, Violence, and History in Ivo Andrić’s Na Drini ćuprija
Značenje pobedničkog mosta […] što zbog neshvatljivog sklada svojih oblika i nevidljive, mudre snage svojih temelja izlazi iz svakog isušenja neuništivo i nepromenjeno.1
[T]he meaning of the victorious bridge, because of the incomprehensible harmony of its forms and the strong and invisible power of its foundations, emerges from every test undamaged and imperishable.—Ivo Andrić, Na Drini ćuprija
As an aesthetic symbol, the bridge on the Drina possesses an ambiguous nature in Andrić’s Nobel Prize winning novel. On the one hand, the bridge is a symbol of the will-to-power that Heidegger characterizes as expressive of modern civilization’s relationship to technology. According to the late Heidegger in “The Question Concerning Technology,” modern technology enframes nature, transforming it into a “standing-reserve” or stockpile.2 Even though it was constructed prior to modern times, the Turks constructed the bridge as a symbol of imperial glory in the Balkans. The bridge is an example of technological and ideological enframing; the bridge reflects the nature of technology as an instrumental means of power. In the technological and anthropological mode of being, “everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct.”3 On the other hand, the bridge is simultaneously a symbol of aletheia, of unconcealment, and of poiesis. These terms signify a more ancient relationship between civilization and technology, in which the bridge [End Page 259] brings forth a new historical reality and acts as a reservoir of the poetic character of time and being rather than as an example of technological domination. The tension between the bridge as an example of enframing or gestell and the bridge as an example of poiesis is central to Andrić’s novel, Na Drini ćuprija [The Bridge on the Drina].
The bridge possesses multiple and ambiguous meanings that lend to a de-constructive analysis of its status as a timeless trace of Bosnian history. On the one hand, the bridge represents an idealized totality governed by the metaphysics of presence, linking the East and the West through its nearly impervious stony architecture; on the other hand, the damage the bridge undergoes by the end of the novel signifies the deconstruction of the bridge as an overarching metaphor of unity. Interpreted from a deconstructive, Heideggerian perspective, the bridge is not a reservoir of a lost historical truth retrieved through the stories surrounding the bridge. While most critics have perceived the bridge as a symbol of the Balkans and of Bosnia as a site of transnational identity formation linking the East to the West, the bridge is also a symbol of an imperial will-to-power and possesses multiple meanings. To reduce the bridge to a symbol of lost cultural unity would make the bridge participate in the project of enframing, which reduces human reality to a calculative ordering of the real. Heidegger states that in enframing, “all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing reserve.”4
The construction of the bridge possesses a twofold nature because the bridge is not merely a symbol of empire or of an imperial will-to-power. The bridge is a symbol of craftsmanship and of authenticity and stands in contrast to the presence of the railroad at the end of the novel during the period in which the bridge begins to lose its function as a link between the East and the West. The bridge represents the persistence of Being through time, as though it mocks its nature as a succession of now points receding into an irretrievable past. The bridge is therefore antithetical to this concept of time. Heidegger describes the concept in What Is Called Thinking?:
Time is the passing away of what must pass away. This passing away is conceived more precisely as the successive flowing away of the “now” out of the “not yet now” into the “no longer now.” Time causes the passing away of what must pass away, and so by passing [End Page 260] away itself; yet it itself can pass away only if it persists throughout all the passing...