Tuesday, 23 May 2017



The Fortress (1970) | By Meša Selimovic



  

The Fortress is a trip to Sarajevo as it was during the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Even though the novel is quite depressing, it is a wonderful read, providing a glimpse into the life in the old town of the Bosnian capital as it was a century and a half ago. From the pigeon pavilion to the old clock tower, the few square kilometres around the bazaar have transformed very little in the last two centuries.

The main character of The Fortress, Ahmet Šabo, is a confused young man, who has lived through the war in Russia. Upon his return to Sarajevo, he is submerged in a society that is not concerned with any of the existentialist problems forced upon him by the death he witnessed on the fighting fields. The petty, superficial and often cruel life in Bosnia depresses Ahmet Šabo even more and takes him around labyrinths of human vices, making him a character that is quite close to those of Kafka.

The novel is absorbing and wonderfully told. What remains unclear, however, is the extent to which one of former Yugoslavia’s most acclaimed writers, Meša Selimović, is honest about historical truth, or influenced by the ideological attitudes of Tito’s early Yugoslavia. Either way, The Fortress is an intriguing read for anyone who wants to imagine what life was like in eighteenth-century Sarajevo.

 

 

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