Exactly 55 years ago, in 1961 one of the greatest BiH writers Ivo Andrić won the Novel Prize for the novel “The Bridge on the Drina”.
He was the first man from the former Yugoslavia to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, and the rewarded novel speaks about the construction of the bridge in Višegrad as a symbol of human creative force and indestructibility before the forces of time that wears out people, events, uprisings, political systems, ambitions and civilizations.
Official award ceremony was held in Stockhold, in the hall of the Concert Palace of the Swedish academy. This greatest world recognition was presented to Andrić by Dr. Anders Esterlling, member of the Academy.
At the ceremony, Andrić said the following:
“My homeland is truly a small country between world, as one of our writers said, and that is the country which at fast rate, at the expense of major sacrifices and extraordinary efforts, tends to compensate for what the unusually tumultuous and difficult past deprived it of in all areas, including cultures. With your recognition, you shed light on the literature of that country and thus attracted the attention of the world to its cultural efforts, precisely at the time when our literature started penetrating into the world with a series of new names and original works, in the justified endeavor to give its contribution to the world literature. Your recognition of one of the writers of that country is an encouragement for those endeavors. Therefore, it obliges us to gratitude, and I am happy that at this time from this place, not only in my name but also in the name of the literature I belong to, I can simply and honestly express that gratitude.
It is not important whether one writer describes the present or the past, or if they boldly run into the future, what is important is the spirit which inspires his story, the fundamental message which conveys his work to the people. There is no rule about that nor there can ever be. Everyone tells their story according to their internal need, in accordance with their inherited or acquired interests and understandings and the power of their expressive possibilities; everyone has moral responsibility for what they speak, and everyone should be allowed speaking freely. However, it is allowed to wish that the story, which is told by the present narrator to people of their time, regardless of its form and topic, is not poisoned with hatred and deafened with thunder of the murderous weapon, but driven by love and led by the width and brightness of the free human spirit”.
Andrić decided to donate his award for the improvement of BiH librarianship.
In the letter which he sent on May 17, 1962 to the Federation of Culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Andrić wrote:
“I want to notify the Federation of Culture of the People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina that I decided to donate fifty percent of the amount received in the name of the Nobel Prize to the People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I wish these funds would be used for the improvement of libraries at the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
Several years later, Andrić donated the rest of the money for the improvement of librarianship in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well.