Ivo Andrić was a novelist from the former Yugoslavia who gained international acclaim for his novel The Bridge on the Drina (1945), which takes place over four centuries in the northern Bosnian town of Višegrad. For his literary contributions, Andrić won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961. Recently, Emir Kusturica, a Serbian filmmaker, became involved in a project to commemorate the novelist. Along the Drina in Višegrad, Kusturica has been central in the creation of Andrićgrad — a town named in honor of Ivo Andrić.
The Route to Andrićgrad
Can anyone just create a new town to honor an important writer? Since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, different ethnic groups in the region have claimed the Nobel Prize winner as a “native son,” reported an article in The New Yorker. To lay final claim to the novelist, the Serbian region of Republika Srpska in northeast Bosnia provided financing for the development of Andrićgrad to assist Emir Kusturica. The town’s creation was funded almost entirely by Kusturica and the Republika Srpska government. It takes up only the small space of around four acres, but it contains stone streets and various buildings, including the Ivo Andrić Institute. Andrićgrad officially opened in June 2014, and it hopes to welcome tourists to the area for years to come.
While residents of the former Yugoslavia are well-acquainted with Andrić’s work, many readers outside the region are less familiar with the Nobel Prize winner’s work. Former Republika Srpska prime minister, Aleksandar Džombić, believes that the opening of Andrićgrad will help to change that. In the early days of the town’s construction, he remarked, “there is no doubt that, after Andrićgrad is built, Višegrad and the Republic of Srpska will acquire a new quality of cultural content, stimulating development of tourism and promoting our only Nobel laureate in literature.” Džombić also described Andrić as “the most important writer in Serbian language and in the entire South Slavic literature.”
How did Kusturica get involved in the creation of Andrićgrad? The filmmaker considered the town not only to be an homage to the Nobel Prize-winning writer, but also a site in which he could reinvigorate a decaying part of the region. And for around $17 million USD, Andrićgrad was born. In designing the town, Kusturica emphasized that he didn’t follow any traditional rules of architectural design. Instead, according to the Financial Times, Kusturica reported, “I followed my instincts, like the ancient Greeks.” And after its completion, the filmmaker described the generic city space, in which he sees Andrićgrad being representative, as “the strongest social memory organ of humanity.”
Imagining a Visit to Andrićgrad
If you do decide to schedule a visit to Andrićgrad to honor the former Yugoslavia’s Nobel laureate, what will you find? You’ll enter the town through an arch, after which, according to the Financial Times, you’ll be “confronted by a dizzying variety of architectural styles,” from early Islamic mosques and minarets to 19th-century-style Austro-Hungarian buildings.
There’s a cinema, a café “Goya” (named for Andrić’s favorite artist), a pub, a bakery, a pizza shop, and an ice-cream parlor. Inside the ice cream parlor, portraits of various historic figures hang on the walls, including: Gandhi, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin, and Geronimo. The portraits were painted by a New York-based artist. Within the confines of the town, you’ll also find a jewelry store, a bookstore, a gift shop, and a ćevabdžinica where visitors can try the delicious grilled meat dish, ćevapi, famous throughout the region.
Kusturica plans to use Andrićgrad as a filming location for upcoming projects. In the meantime, you can arrange a stay at the Inn within the town to see it for yourself. And, perhaps, you can pick up a copy of The Bridge on the Drina to acquaint yourself with Andrić’s vision of the space.