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Title: Meša Selimović: Il derviscio e la morte
Authors: Marvulli, Maria Cristina
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Citation: Maria Cristina Marvulli, "Meša Selimović: Il derviscio e la morte", in: Slavica Tergestina, 13 (2011), pp. 166-183
Series/Report no.: Slavica Tergestina
13 (2011)
Abstract: The novel Death and the Dervish (Derviš i smrt, 1966), written by Meša Selimović (1910–1982), a “Yugoslav” writer from Tuzla (Bosnia), consists of two parts: the first (the subject of our essay) speaks of the futility of one man’s resistance against a repressive system (from the 1st to the 9th chapter), and the second talks about the change that takes place within that man after he becomes a part of that very system (from the 10th to the 16th chapter). The main protagonist, Ahmed Nurudin, is the sheikh of a tekke, the head of a small religious order in a town in Ottoman Bosnia. The dervish, whose name means “light of the faith”, has deliberately removed himself from the day-to-day activities of society. At forty, he is a settled and respected member of the community, until pushed onto a new path by successive shocks: the arrest of his brother and an encounter with “Ishak“, a mysterious fugitive, who becomes the interlocutor in the sheikh’s interior dialogues, after he hides him one night in the monastery. These events lead dervish to question his previous certainties and the meaning of “right” and justice, and they also bring him into conflict with himself and the political authorities . As Nurudin attempts to find out what has happened to his brother and to intervene on his behalf, he is drawn into the “Kafkaesque” world of the Turkish political and religious authorities: he visits the local kadi, muselim and mufti, trying to effect his release, but each time he meets with either indifference or threats. The sheikh’s faith in the Ottoman system gradually weakens until finally he learns that his brother has been executed. The dervish shows himself to be a profoundly troubled man, a thinker rather than a doer, ill-equipped for the challenges he has to face. He struggles to find himself and maintain his integrity and dignity in this hostile political landscape. The novel also reflects Selimović’s personal experience of the loss of his older brother, a battalion commander, who was executed without trial by a partisan firing squad, in 1944. In Death and the Dervish the author describes the conflict between ideology and life, which leads the protagonist to feel morally on trial and to bring to trial the people he encounters, acting now as the accused, now as a witness, now as the judge. Nurudin ends up becoming part of the political system himself: ill-suited to that, he is resigned to his tragic fate. Each chapter of the novel opens with a quotation from the Koran, the first and the last being the same: “every man is always at a loss”.
ISSN: 1592-0291
Appears in Collections:Slavica Tergestina 13 (2011)

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