Smitten By The Bridge

Prominent Turkish writer and thinker Gündüz Vassaf tells Skylife readers how the Mostar Bridge inspired his latest novel, Mostari.

My first thoughts upon seeing the Mostar Bridge were, “I’m in no hurry to live or  die.”  When one visits towns of  the Christian Middle Ages, it’s as if one is in a museum setting amidst the commercial diversions of our century.  In Mostar, I felt my mother’s childhood harking back to the multi-ethnic Islamic Middle Ages in Europe. The day here revolves not around the clock but the call to prayer. The smell of smoke from wood burning stoves sends you to another realm. There is no rush.  When someone says, “Hello,” people listen.  Mostar lives in its own time without nostalgia for the past. Calmly, quietly. Unto itself. Amelteng pot of cultures.
Home to Roman, Slavic, Catholic and Ottoman cultures, the town’s sense of identity today lies beyond the grief and sorrow of recent wars.

Close to the border of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, the town takes its name from Mostari, the name given to bridge keepers in former days.  

When I came to the bridge one morning, I jotted down  a few thoughts.  Seven hours  passed. I was still  at the same spot writing away. Next morning,  same thing.  I lived like that for months… until the bridge finally set me free.

Flow of the river.  Fluttering of the pigeons. I was taken aback at everything.  I wrote about the history of the bridge, an asteroid that passed by our planet… My notes eventually became a book.

I became a bridge keeper, a Mostari.  Ivo Andric  tells the story of the Bridge on the Drina. Now, after five hundred years, the Mostar Bridge has a book. When someone asked the owner of the coffeehouse by the bridge what I was doing every day, she replied,  He loves the bridge.


As in his earlier books, in Mostari: Diary of a Bridge Keeper, Gündüz Vassaf has produced a poetic novel that blends historical fact with fiction.Vassaf has produced a poetic novel that blends historical fact with fiction.