Death and the Dervish

Death and the Dervish


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Death and the Dervish is an acclaimed novel by Bosnian writer Mesa Selimovic. It recounts the story of Sheikh Nuruddin, a dervish residing in an Islamic monastery in Sarajevo in the eighteenth century during the Ottoman Turk hegemony over the Balkans. When his brother is arrested, he must descend into the Kafkaesque world of the Ottoman authorities in his search to discover what happened to him. He narrates his story in the form of an elaborate suicide note, regularly misquoting the Koran. In time, he begins to question his relations with society as a whole and, eventually, his life choices in general.

Hugely successful when published in the 1960s, Death and the Dervish is an enduring classic made into a feature length film in 1974.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810112971
Publisher: Northwestern University Press
Publication date: 08/28/1996
Series: Writings from an Unbound Europe Series
Edition description: Translated
Pages: 473
Sales rank: 485,148
Product dimensions: 4.75(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Mesa Selimovic (1910–1982) was born in Tuzla, Bosnia. A writer of numerous award-winning novels, including The Fortress, he was among the most popular novelists in Yugoslavia.

Table of Contents

Part 1
Part 2
Select Bibliography

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Death and the Dervish 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have no idea what the previous reviewer is talking about. If he has some political agenda to work out, a book review might not be the best place to do that. Dervish and the death is a unique book in the ways that it has nothing to do with time and place it describes. It¿s a masterpiece psychological drama that chronicles moral struggle of a man torn between everything he was thought to believe and follow and what he feels. This is a book about the price we all have to pay when we try to ignore our feelings and moral values in exchange for conformity. Dervish and the death transcends time and space and it¿s uniquely universal. In addition, it is a literal masterpiece. The sentences create a strange music of their own, that grips you until the last page. You will remember this book long after you finish it. This is one truly exceptional book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book itself is great. Accurate portrayal of the sentiments in Bosnia during the Ottoman rule and a high literary standard. I am somewhat puzzled by the introduction. As a reader I am lead to believe that the works should be regarded as some kind of a Serbian great contribution to Bosnia/culture/literature. Given that the translation took place during the last conflict in the Balkans it is highly unlikely that anyone in their right mind can be convinced of `Serbian tolerance¿ referred to at the beginning of the book. Selimovic may have sympathised with the Serbian rebellious tendencies at the time but if anything, this novel should be a praize to the writer¿s critical view of his own nation (he was after all a Bosnian Muslim although wrote `Serbian national¿ as it was fashionable if not necessary to be either a Croat or a Serb at the time), rather than a reflection of Serbian alleged quest for justice. Rather arrogant and irresponsible to present the first ever English translation of this masterpiece in such a light. And what an insult to the Bosnian peoples. Skip the intro and read on the novel for what it really is ¿ just a great Bosnian novel written by a great Bosnian visionary.
Mitan_B More than 1 year ago
Exceptional book. Must read. The book that took my breath away.
atom_box on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dense and therefore, a life project for me. I read 80 pages around 1999, another 100 pages in 2004. I find it tough going because it is mostly a man's thoughts. It's worthwhile and I hope to finish it someday. It's lived in 6 different apartments with me.
DieFledermaus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an undoubtedly great book. It is not an easy read but is very rewarding. The main plot is simple ¿ Sheikh Ahmed Nuruddin, the dervish of the title, deals with the fact that his brother has been unjustly arrested. In the first half, he attempts to learn about the arrest and the reasons behind it, coming up against a slothful, corrupt bureaucracy. In the second half, he deals with the fallout of his brother¿s imprisonment, alternating between hatred and forgetting. There are numerous side plots, ambling tangents and stories from the past. These stories serve as a comment on the narrator¿s situation and give insight into some of the characters. Selimovic¿s writing is complex and beautiful, wonderfully conveying the narrator¿s doubts and inertia.Nuruddin is Hamlet-esque in that he learns of the crime committed against his brother but dithers and equivocates endlessly. While describing a conversation, he analyzes it so thoroughly that the actual dialogue is dominated by his nuanced, conflicted interpretations. Some of his inaction is pragmatic ¿ he is aware that the normal actions that he takes will do nothing for his brother. His puzzling of moral and logistic concerns can seem sympathetic ¿ who has not worried over the right thing to do? ¿ but gradually he starts to alienate the reader. He cannot work himself up to take one or the other side and his actions ¿ or lack of action ¿ turn him into a hypocrite. He¿s unable to float above worldly concerns like Hafiz-Muhammed or shamefully conform, like Mullah-Yusuf. He can¿t advocate cheerful civil disobedience like Hadji-Sinanuddin or smoothly bribe his way and play the game like Ali-aga. The madman who tells the truth, as embodied by the beggar Ali-hodja, certainly isn¿t a role he can occupy. The other important character is Hassan, the disobedient scion of a wealthy family, who is open, friendly and willing to break the law to help his friends. The narrator looks up to him but is unable to imitate him. In the spirit of the book, however, these characters also have their faults, hypocrisies or admirable qualities. Religion is a crutch and a comfort for Nuruddin but not much of either. His act of rebellion at the end is violent, hypocritical and ends up being a Pyrrhic victory.The book feels timeless and also like an unending nightmare. There¿s something of a flat, grey atmosphere (which can make it a bit slow at times) which is occasionally relieved by stories from the past - Nuruddin previously fought in the war, Hassan¿s adventures show up and the history of Mullah-Yusuf becomes important. The authorities who jailed the narrator¿s brother are remote and impersonal but also embodied in various minor officials who can¿t do anything or talk in circles. We are stuck in Nuruddin¿s head and his constant questioning and dithering contributes to the claustrophobic atmosphere. The synopsis says that the book takes place in Sarajevo in the 17th century, based on some geographic clues and historical references, but this is only established indirectly (though there are some nice thoughts on the divided nature of Bosnia which relate to Nuruddin as well). This vagueness contributes to the impression that nothing can be known and that the grounds are constantly shifting. I was extremely impressed with this well-written, thoughtful, wonderfully atmospheric book but would recommend it with the caveat that some may find it slow or frustrating.
puabi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A powerful novel that I would recommend highly to anyone. Some knowledge of Bosnia and the Ottoman empire might enhance the reading experience, but you can get that pretty easily.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book, mainly very difficult to understand without the knowledge of colorful history in that part of the Balkans. Therefore read it once more than you think is necessary. The author indeed described some political moments since his brother was jailed and died under new communist regime in Yugoslavia.And Dervish is dedicated to the writer's brother. As for comment of 'introductory remarks' Selimovic refered to his Serbian etnicity because his predecessors indeed were Serbs 'Vujovic family from Bileca' who changed their religino and last name .