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- From everything that man erects and builds in his urge for living nothing is in my eyes better and more valuable than bridges. They are more important than houses, more sacred than shrines. Belonging to everyone and being equal to everyone, useful, always built with a sense, on the spot where most human needs are crossing, they are more durable than other buildings and they do not serve for anything secret or bad.
- The Bridges, as quoted in The Old Bridge of Mostar and Increasing Respect for Cultural Property in Armed Conflict (2012) by Jadranka Petrovic, p. 65
The Bridge on the Drina (1945)
- The Bridge on the Drina [Na Drini ćuprija / На Дрини ћуприја] (1945) as translated by Lovett F. Edwards (1959)
- For the greater part of its course the river Drina flows through narrow gorges between steep mountains or through deep ravines with precipitous banks. In a few places only the river banks spread out to form valleys with level or rolling stretches of fertile land suitable for cultivation and settlement on both sides.
- Ch. 1, first lines
- The town and its outskirts were only the settlements which always and inevitably grow up around an important centre of communications and on either side of great and important bridges.
Here also in time the houses crowded together and the settlements multiplied at both ends of the bridge. The town owed its existence to the bridge and grew out of it as if from an imperishable root.
- Ch. 1
- There are no buildings that have been built by chance, remote from the human society where they have grown and its needs, hopes and understandings, even as there are no arbitrary lines and motiveless forms in the work of the masons. The life and existence of every great, beautiful and useful building, as well as its relation to the place where it has been built, often bears within itself complex and mysterious drama and history.
- Ch. 2
- The common people remember and tell of what they are able to grasp and what they are able to transform into legend. Anything else passes them by without deeper trace, with the dumb indifference of nameless natural phenomena, which do not touch the imagination or remain in the memory. This hard and long building process was for them a foreign task undertaken at another's expense. Only when, as the fruit of this effort, the great bridge arose, men began to remember details and to embroider the creation of a real, skilfully built and lasting bridge with fabulous tales which they well knew how to weave and to remember.
- Ch. 2
- Whenever a government feels the need of promising peace and prosperity to its citizens by means of a proclamation, it is time to be on guard and expect the opposite.
- Ch. 17
- Lost in his thoughts he looked out from his shop at the shining loveliness of that first day of March. Opposite him, a little to the side, stood the eternal bridge, everlastingly the same; through its white arches could be seen the green, sparkling, tumultous waters of the Drina, so that they seemed like some strange diadem in two colours which sparkled in the sun.
- Ch. 17
- For a man filled with a great, true and unselfish love, even if it be on one side only, there open horizons and possibilities and paths which are closed and unknown to so many clever, ambitious and selfish men.
- Ch. 21
- The people were divided into the persecuted and those who persecuted them. That wild beast, which lives in man and does not dare to show itself until the barriers of law and custom have been removed, was now set free. The signal was given, the barriers were down. As has so often happened in the history of man, permission was tacitly granted for acts of violence and plunder, even for murder, if they were carried out in the name of higher interests, according to established rules, and against a limited number of men of a particular type and belief. A man who saw clearly and with open eyes and was then living could see how this miracle took place and how the whole of a society could, in a single day, be transformed. In a few minutes the business quarter, based on centuries of tradition, was wiped out. It is true that there had always been concealed enmities and jealousies and religious intolerance, coarseness and cruelty, but there had also been courage and fellowship and a feeling for measure and order, which restrained all these instincts within the limits of the supportable and, in the end, calmed them down and submitted them to the general interest of life in common. Men who had been leaders in the commercial quarter for forty years vanished overnight as if they had all died suddenly, together with the habits, customs and institutions which they represented.
- Ch. 22
- You listen and live prudently, in fact you do not live at all, but work and save and are burdened with cares; and so your whole life passes. Then, all of a sudden, the whole thing turns upside down; times come when the world mocks at reason, when the Church shuts its doors and is silent, when authority becomes mere brute force, when they who have made their money honestly and with the sweat of their brows lose both their time and their money, and the violent win the game. No one recognizes your efforts and there is no one to help or advise you how to keep what you have earned and saved. Can this be? Surely this cannot be?
- Ch. 23
- The bridge remained as if under sentence of death, but none the less still whole and untouched, between the two warring sides.
- Ch. 23
- If they destroy here, then somewhere else someone else is building. Surely there are still peaceful countries and men of good sense who know of God's love? If God had abandoned this unlucky town on the Drina, he had surely not abandoned the whole world that was beneath the skies? They would not do this for ever. But who knows?
- Ch. 24
- Perhaps this impure infidel faith that puts everything in order, cleans everything up, repairs and embellishes everything only in order suddenly and violently to demolish and destroy, might spread through the whole world; it might make of all God's world an empty field for its senseless building and criminal destruction, a pasturage for its insatiable hunger and incomprehensible demands? Anything might happen. But one thing could not happen; it could not be that great and wise men of exalted soul who would raise lasting buildings for the love of God, so that the world should be more beautiful and man live in it better and more easily, should everywhere and for all time vanish from this earth. Should they too vanish, it would mean that the love of God was extinguished and had disappeared from the world. That could not be.
- Ch. 24