Sleepwalking into a big war is the title of an article by Michael T. Klare (Hampshire College), published in last september issue of Le Monde Diplomatique. Extremely interesting and (slightly) disquieting, Klare’s article mentions among others Christopher Clark‘s (University of Cambridge) The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914 (available at the UvA Library). The book is truly formidable: professor Clark beautifully wrote an impressive scholarly work which is also an exciting pageturner… the latter an achievement all the more impressive when remembering that history books are, almost by definition, those whose end is known from the outset.
When, some time ago, enthusiastically discussing Clark’s book with UvA Library colleague Andreja Lekic, she told me that, given the topic, I might enjoy reading Nobel Laureate Ivo Andric‘s Na Drini cuprija (The Bridge on the Drina; both the original Serbo-Croat edition and an English translation are available at the UvA Library).
Andreja was right, as I indeed enjoyed Andric’s book very much, both as wonderful work of fiction and – just as Clark’s scholarly text – as means to look at our own time’s moods and circumstances. Take, for example, the following extract from 116 of the book (its 1971 English translation), where two dignitaries of Višegrad (the city whose bridge on the river Drina gives the book its title) vehemently discuss with each other at the moment, in 1878, when Bosnia and Herzegovina fell under Austro-Hungarian rule:
«Indeed it would have been hard to find two worse negotiators or more unsuited contestants. Nothing more could have been expected of them than increasing general anxiety and the creation of one quarrel the more. That was to be regretted, but there was nothing to be done about it, for such moments of social upset and great inevitable change usually throw up just such men, unbalanced and incomplete, to turn things inside out or lead them astray. That is one of the signs of times of disorder».