The novel is written in He is taken to a prison in Istanbul, where he tells his story, to Petar, a monk. No doubt it will be read by some as a political parable about the tyranny of the State, but also as a quite simply story about ill-fortune and human misunderstanding, fear and ignorance. For the rest of the time the reader strips layer off layer, as one narrator passes him on the next.
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The novel is written in He is taken to a prison in Istanbul, where he tells his story, to Petar, a monk. No doubt it will be read by some as a political parable about the tyranny of the State, but also as a quite simply story about ill-fortune and human misunderstanding, fear and ignorance.
For the rest of the time the reader strips layer off layer, as one narrator passes him on the next. What exactly this game of form flirting with meaning signifies, must be left to the individual reader. Details within the story are made to mimic this form. Thus when Peter receives the message telling him of his impending release:. Annoyed, he tried to break away from these exuberant youths when one of them brushed against him and he felt a folded scrap of paper thrust into his hand.
The youths continued their chase but now in widening circles The reader is led on just such a chase in the course of the novel. The effect of this is to make the plot seem more like a poetic image than an ordinary plot: capable, therefore, of as many meanings as are the images of an allusive poem.
The characters are remarkable alive, even in conversation. It is extremely moving. Fear, horror, despair, amusement at times — all these indicate that the threat of the meaning has been recognized. This nickname had long since become his real name, the only name he was known by, not just here but far beyond the walls of the Damned Yard.
It exactly suited his appearance and everything about him. His father had been a teacher in a military school; a quiet, pensive man who loved books, who married quite late in life and had only one child, a boy. The child was lively and bright. He liked reading, but particularly music and all kinds of games.
Up until his fourteenth year the boy did well at school and seemed set to follow in his father's footsteps, but then his liveliness began to change into rage and his quick wits to take him in the wrong direction. The boy began to change, even physically. He became suddenly thickset and unnaturally heavy. His clever brown eyes began shifting rapidly around. But he was attracted to those people and everything connected with them, just as he was repelled by everything that belonged to the world of quiet, ordinary pursuits, steady habits and normal responsibilities.
Unruly and still inexperienced , the young man soon became involved in the dubious activities and foolhardy exploits of his companions and came into conflict with the law. And more than once. His father got him out of prison several times, relying on his reputation and his acquaintance with important people, particularly the Chief of Police, an old school friend. And the old, seasoned Police chief answered calmly but truthfully: it was not that he himself broke in, or robbed merchants, nor he abduct girls, but wherever these things were happening, you could be sure you would find him somewhere nearby.
And if nothing were done about it, he would himself soon drift into crime. A solution had to be found in time. And the Chief of Police had found a 'solution', which he believed was the only one possible, therefore the best: to take the young man who had begun to go wrong into his service. And so, as often happens, the young man who had already taken up with gamblers and rich layouts became a good, zealous Stamboul policeman. This did not happen overnight.
For the first few years he was uncertain, trying to find his place, but then he found it where it could least have been expected, working against his former companions. He turned implacably on tramps, drunks, pick-pockets, smugglers and all kinds of wretches and idlers from the dark quarters of Stamboul. He worked with passion, with inexplicable hatred, but also with skill, with a knowledge of that environment that only he could have had. His old contacts enabled him to extend the range of his activity, because petty criminals betray the big ones.
Information about people accumulated, his network of informers spread and was strengthened. Ten years later his exceptional zeal and success brought him to the position of assistant governor of this large remand centre.
And when the old governor died of a heart attack, he was the only person who could take over. That was when his rule over Damned Yard began. And it had been going on now for twenty years. The former governor, a hard man with years of experience, had an inflexible, conventional method of control. For him the most important thing had been that the world of vice and lawlessness should be identified as such as clearly as possible and separated as far as possible from the world of order and law.
He was not particularly interested in the individual or his crime. In the course of many years he had looked on the Damned Yard as a quarantine and saw all its inhabitants as dangerous patients whom it was hard to cure, but who must be kept away, in physical and moral isolation, from so-called healthy, honest people by various measures, punishments and fear. Apart from that, they could be left entirely to their own devices. They must not be allowed to break out of their circle, but they should not be interfered with unduly, because nothing good or sensible could ever come of such contact.
The new governor immediately adopted quite different methods: in his whole attitude and his actions. The first year , when his father died, Latif sold his fine, spacious family house in the New Mahala and bought a large neglected estate just above the Courtyard itself. Overgrown with cypress trees, it looked like an abandoned island or an ancient cemetery. It was separated from the Courtyard by a shady gorge full of fine trees and a whole system of various fences and high walls.
Here, beside abundant running water, among the old trees he built a beautiful house, which faced the opposite side of the slope and so was protected from the south wind and the unhealthy stench from the arsenal and docks. The house had the great advantage being both very remote from the Damned Yard and very close to it. Its whole appearance, its calm and cleanliness, made it seem another world, thousands of miles away, and yet it was right next to the Courtyard , invisibly connected with it.
As a result no one could ever know for certain whether he was there, or where he might suddenly appear. The governor made frequent use of this situation. He watched over both the prisoners and their guards personally. And, as he knew most of the inmates, their past and their present crimes, he could say with some justification that he knew 'how the Courtyard breathed'.
And if he did not know an individual personally, he knew his vagrant's or criminal's soul and at any moment he could stop in front of him and continue the discussion of his or someone else's crime. And in the same way, and even more closely, he knew every guard and his good and bad, public and secret traits and inclinations. At least that is what he himself boasted. And so he remained his whole life in close touch with the underworld of crime which he had abandoned forever in his youth.
But at the same time he was above it and remote from it, separated by his position, his overgrown gardens and by iron fences and gates inaccessible to others. This unusual method made him both far more difficult and dangerous, and in certain sense, sometimes more humane than the earlier governors.
Dark-skinned, with abundant hair, he had put on weight and aged early, at least apparently. But his appearance could be deceptive. For all his bulk he could be as swift and agile as a fox when he wanted, and than his heavy, flabby body would develop a bull's strength. His sleepy, lifeless face and closed eyes concealed constant alterness and a fiendishly restless and inventive mind.
This face could stretch and contact, altering from an expression of absolute revulsion and terrible threat to deep understanding and genuine sympathy. The left eye was usually almost completely closed, but between the closed lashes one was aware of a watchful gaze, sharp as a razor.
And his right eye was wide open, huge. It lived a life of its own, sweeping around like a searchlight; it could have its socket to an unbelievable extent and just as quickly retreat back into it. It attacked, provoked, and confused its victim, pinning him down, penetrating into the most hidden corners of his thoughts, hopes and plans.
This gave the whole hideously cross-eyed face the appearance of a grotesque mask - at one moment alarming, the next comic. Some maintained that he saw nothing with his left eye, others that it was in fact with the right, wide-open one that could not see. And in twenty years they could not agree, but they all shuddered at the gaze of those eyes, avoiding it as far as possible.
In each individual case, with each suspect, he would play a different game. He showed no shame or consideration, no respect for the other man or for himself. Whatever he did was unexpected, inspired. He would burst in at various times of day or night, approaching an individual or a whole group of prisoners.
He pronounced these sounds in a varying pitch and intonation, always differently and always sounding as though he was amazed and disguised by this person, by himself and by the whole 'affair' between them. That is how the conversation would begin, but it was never clear what was coming next. It could have been a long interrogation, in which every detail was known, with grave threats which were often only threats, but one of which could at any minute be transformed into a terrible reality. It might take the form of tenacious, ominous and irresistible coercion, but also of heartless clowning with no obvious sense or purpose.
What are you saying, you're completely innocent? Ah, why are you telling me now, for god's sake, man. If you'd told me you were guilty, I could have let you go, because there are a lot of guilty people here. They're all guilty. But it's precisely an innocent man that we need. So I can't let you go. If you hadn't said so yourself, something could have been done.
But as it is, now you'll have to say here until I find another innocent man somewhere, someone like you, to take your place. Now, sit still and keep quiet! Just don't let anyone tell me someone's innocent. Not that. Because there's no one innocent here. No one's here by chance. If he's crossed the threshold of the Courtyard, he's not innocent.
The Damned Yard and Other Stories
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Heterotopic Discourse in Ivo Andrić’s The Damned Yard
Ivo Andric - is a major twentieth-century European writer, winner of the Nobel prize for the literature in Set mainly in his native Bosnia, the stories and novella, collected here reflect Andric's overwhelming love of storytelling. Vivid, intensely suggestive and often disturbing, Andric's stories draw on legend, myth, archetype and symbol to reveal universal patterns of behavior. Andric lived through the turbulent first half of the twentieth century, with its two world wars and extremes of revolution and totalitarianism. The wisdom that informs his work is tempered from that brutal reality.