The above quote made me return to some important different threads I’ve thought about a lot in my life, about the continuance of human life, told through a single lifetime, and the ways in which societies rise and fall. This novel tells the story of a stone bridge across a river in Bosnia that crossed a river that served as a dividing line between Europe and the Ottoman empire built by a regional leader of the Turks. It would later become a border between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires leading up to WWI, which Bosnia would obviously serve an important role as unwitting catalyst with the death of Franz Ferdinand. This novel tells the history of the bridge from the late 1600s through the end of WWI. There are disparate characters who show up to play roles, but the bridge and the towns and the river are the only consistent characters throughout.
But like the quotes shows, this is a novel about human societies. As an American, given our relative short history as a country (400 years now), with 250 as a certified country, we have both a false sense of time, and an earnest sense of time. Both of these circulate around the fact that there are not many other modern countries in the world who can trace their modern state to an early point. What I mean by this is the US as we know, under the constitution, sits in pretty rare company as a continuous single government (regardless of change and fluctuation). Even this novel, which traces the history of this one town in Bosnia was written around the formation of Yugoslavia, which has already fallen again and split off multiple times with many different sectarian wars. So the US is a young country, but an old government. So we have this false sense of time. And this leads to a sense of imperviousness, that history cannot support, and a rigid inflexibility. I don’t think Americans will respond well whenever our country goes through the giant upheaval every society will at some point face.
This book shows that for the smallest of a society, their own life becomes the thing that matters most.