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Fata Osmanagic

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violentjack View Drop Down

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    Posted: 10-May-2006 at 18:25


Edited by violentjack - 17-Jul-2006 at 13:04
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  Quote Mila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Mar-2006 at 13:11
FATA osmanagic

Fata Osmanagic lived for but a few short years during the Ottoman Empire's reign in Bosnia and Herzegovina yet her story is as widely known today as it was centuries ago.

In fact, her story was even part of a Nobel prize-winning book by Ivo Andric, who can surely tell it better than I ever could:

"Never had so many idle and inquisitive people leant on the town's bridge and watched the surface of the water, as if to read in it the answer to some riddle, as in the last days of August that year.

But the leisurely and leaning townsmen were not really looking at th water which they had always known and which had nothing to tell them: but on the surface of the water and in their own conversations they searched for some sort of explanation for themselves and tired to find there some visible trace of an obscure and cruel destiny which, in those days, had troubled and surprised them.

About that time an unusual thing had taken place on the bridge which would long be remembered and which was not likely to happen again as long as the bridge and the town on the Drina existed. It had excited and shaken the townspeople and the story of it had passed beyond the town itself, to other places and districts, to become a legend.

This was, in fact, a tale of two Visegrad hamlets, Velje Lug and Nezuke. These two hamlets lay at the extreme ends of that amphitheatre formed about the town by the dark mountains and their green foothills.

The great village of Straziste on the north-eastern side of the valley was the nearest to the town. Its houses, fields and gardens were scattered over several foothills and embowered in the valleys between them. On the rounded flank of one of these hills lay about fifteen houses, burried in plum orchards and surrounded on all sides by fields.

This was the hamlet of Velje Lug, a peaceful, rich, and beautiful Turkish settlement on the slopes. The hamlet belonged to the village of Straziste but it was nearer to the town than to its own village centre, for the men of Velje Lug could walk down to the marketplace in half an hour, had their shops there and did business in the town like ordinary townsmen.

Between them and the townsmen there was indeed little or no difference save perhaps that their properties were more solid and lasting for they stood on the firm earth, were not subject to floods, and the men there were more modest and did not have the bad habits of the town. Velje Lug had good soil, pure water, and handsome people.

A branch of the Visegrad family of Osmanagic lives there. But even though those in the town were richer and more numerous, it was generally considered that they had degenerated and that the real Osmanagic's were those of Velje Lug whence the family had come.

They were a fine race of men, sensitive and proud of their origin. Their house, the largest in the district, showing up white on the hilside just below the crest of the hill, turned towards the southwest; it was always freshly whitewashed, with a roof of blackened thatch and fifteen glazed windows. Their house could be seen from afar and was the first to catch the eye of a traveller coming to Visegrad and the last that he saw on leaving it.

The last rays of the setting sun behind the Lijestan ridge rested there and shone on the white walls and the shining face of this house. The townsmen were long accustomned to look at it from the bridge in the early evening and see how the setting sun was reflected from the Osmanagic windows and how light left them one after the other. As the sun set and the town was in shadow, its last rays, falling on one of the windows, as it broke through the clouds, would shine for a few moments longer like a huge red star over the darkened town.

Also well known and esteemed in the town was the head of that house, Avdaga Osmanagic, a bold a fiery man in private life as in business. He had a shop in the market, a low twilit room in which maize, dried plums or pinecones lay scattered over plants and plaited mats.

His word was universally listened to and accepted in the marketplace, though it was known that he was often hasty and personal in his judgements. When Avdaga came down from Velje Lug and sat before his shop he was rarely alone, for men liked to listen to his talk and wanted to hear his opinion. He was always open and lively, ready to speak out and defend what others considered was best passed over in silence.

Avdaga had five married sons and an only daughter, who was the youngest of his children and just ripe for marriage. She was called Fata and it was known of her that she was exceptionally beautiful and the very image of her father.

The whole town and to some extent even the whole district discussed the question of her marriage. It has always been the case with us that at least one girl in every generation passes into legend and song because of her beauty, her qualities and her nobility. So she was in those few years the goal of all desires and the inaccessible example; imagination flared up at mention of her name and she was surrounded by the enthusiasm of the men and the envy of the women. She was one of those outstanding persons set apart by nature and raised to dangerous heights.

This daughter of Avdaga resembled her father not only in face and appearance, but also in quickness of wit and the gift of words. The youths who, at weddings or meetings, sought to win her by cheap flattery or embarrass her by daring jests knew this well. Her wit was no less than her beauty. Therefore, in the song about Fata the daughter of Avdaga (songs about such exceptional beings spring up of themselves spontaneously) it was sung:

Thou art wise as thou art lovely, lovely Fata Avdagina..."

So they sang and spoke in the town but there were very few who had the courage to ask for the hand of the girl from Velje Lug. And when they had one and all been rejected, a sort of vacuum was created about Fata, an enchanted ciurcle, made of hatred and envy, of unacknowledged desires and malicious expectation, such a circle as always surrounds beings exceptional gifts and an exceptional destiny. Such persons, of whom much is said and sung, are rapidly born away by that especial destiny of theirs and leave behind them, instead of a life fulfilled, a song or a story.

Thus it often happens amongst us that a girl who is much spoken of remains for that very reason without suitors and "sits out", whereas girls who in no way measure up to her marry quickly and easily. This was not destined for Fata, for a suitor was found who had the audacity to desire her and the skill and endurance to attain his goals.

Mustajbeg Hamzic had four daughters and one son, Nail. This Nailbeg of Nezuke, the only son of a noble family, was among the first to cast an eye on Fata of Velje Lug. He had admired her beauty at some wedding or other through a half-opened door, outside which a group of young men had been hanging like a bunch of grapes. When he next had the chance of seeing her, surrounded by a group of her friends, he essayed a daring jest.

"May God and Mustajbeg give you the name of young bride!"

Fata gave a stifled giggle.

"Do not laugh!" said the excited youth through the narrow opening od the door, "Even that marvel will take place one day!"

"It will indeed, when Velje Lug comes down to Nezuke!" replied the girl with another laugh and a proud movement of her body, such as only women like her and of her age can make, and which said more than her words or her laugh.

It is thus that those beings especially gifted by nature often provoke their destiny - boldly and thoughtlessly. Her reply to young Hamzic was repeated from mouth to mouth, as was everything else that she said or did.

But the Hamzic's were not men to be put off or discouraged at the first difficulty. Mustajbeg Hamzic took into his own hands the matter of his son's marriage. He had always had common business dealings with Osmanagic. Avdaga had recently had some serious losses, due to his explosive and proud character, and Mustajbeg had helped him and supported him as only good merchants can help and support one another in difficult moments; simply, naturally and without unnecessary words.

In these cool half-lit shops and on the smooth stone benches before them were settled not only matters of commercial honor but also human destinies. What happened there between Avdaga and Mustajbeg, how did Mustajbeg come to ask for the hand of Fata for his only son Nail, and why did the proud and upright Avdaga "give" the girl? No one will ever know. No one will ever know either exactly how the matter was thrashed out up there between the father his lovely only daughter.

There could, naturally, be no question of the opposition on her part. One look filled with pained surprise and that proud and inborn movement of her whole body, and then mute submission to her father's wishes, as it was and still is everywhere and always amongst us. As if in a dream, she began to air, to complete, and to arrange her trousseau.

Nor did a single word from Nezuke filter out to the outer world. The prudent Hamzics did not ask other men to confirm their successes in empty words. They had achieved their wish and, as always, were content with their success. There was no need for anyone else to share in their satisfaction, even as they had never asked for sympathy in their failures and their misfortunes.

But none the less people talked of this widely and unthinkingly, as is the habit of men. It was told throughout the town and the country around that the Hamzic's had got what they wanted, and that the lovely proud and clever daughter of Avdaga, for whom no suitor good enough had been found in all of Bosnia, had been outplayed and tamed; that none the less Velje Lug would come to Nezuke, even though Fata had publicly proclaimed that it would not.

For a month the people savored the event and drank in tales of Fata's humiliation like sweet water. For a month they made preparations at Nezuke and Velje Lug.

For a month Fata worked with her friends, her relations, and her serfs on her trousseau. The girls sang. She too sang. She even found strength to do that. And she heard herself singing, though she still thought her own thoughts. For with every stroke of her needle she told herself that neither she nor her needlework would ever see Nezuke. She never forgot this for an instant.

Only, thus working and thus singing, it seemed to her that it was a long way from Velje Lug to Nezuke and that a month was a long time. At night it was the same. At night when, with the excuse that she had some work to finish, she remained alone there opened before her a world rich and full of light, of joyful and unlimited change.

In truth it had been her fathers mouth that said yes even as her own said no. But she was at one with him in everything, even in this. That yes of his she felt as if it were her own. Therefore her fate was cruel, unusual, immediate, and therefore she saw no escape from it and could see none, for none existed. But one thing she knew.

Because of her Father's yes, which bound her as much as her own no, she would have to appear before the kadi with Mustajbeg's son, for it was inconcievable to think that Avdaga Osmanagic did not keep his word. But she knew too, equally well, that after the ceremony her feet would never take her to Nezuke, for that would mean that she had not kept her own word. That too was inconcievable, for that too was the word of an Osmanagic. There, on that point of no return, between her no and her father's yes, between Velje Lug and Nezuke, somewhere in that most inescapable impasse, she must find a way out.

That was all she thought of now. No longer the expanses of the great rich world, not even the whole route from Velje Lug to Nezuke, but only that short and pitiful little scrap of road which led from the courthouse in which the kadi would marry her to Mustajbeg's son, as far as the end of the bridge, where the stony slope led down to the narrow track which led to Nezuke and on which, she knew for a certainty, she would never set foot.

Her thoughts flew incessantly up and down that little scrap of road, from one end to the other, like a shuttle through the weave. They would fly from the courthouse, across the marketplace, to the end of the bdige, to halt there as before an impassable abyss, and then back across the bridge, across the marketplace, to the courthouse. Always thus: back and forward, forward and back. There her destiny was woven.

And those thoughts which could neither remain still nor were able to find a way out, more and more often halted on the center of the bridge, on that lovely and shining bench, where the townspeople sat in conversation and the young men sang, and beneath which roared the deep swift green waters of the river.

Then, horrified at such a way of escape, they would fly once again, as if under a curse, from one end of the journey to the other and, without finding any other solution, would stop there once again on the bridge. Every night her thoughts more and more often halted there and for longer.

The days passed, neither fast nor slow, but regular and fateful and with them came at last the day of the wedding.

On that last Thursday in August the Hamzics came on horseback for the girl. Covered with a heavy new black veil, as if under a suit of armor, Fata was seated on a horse and led into the town. Meanwhile, in the courtyard, horses were loaded with the chests containing her trousseau. The marriage was announced in the courthouse before the kadi. So was kept the word by which Avdaga gave his daughter to Mustajbeg's son. Then the little procession set out on the way to Nezuke where the formal wedding ceremonies had been prepared.

They passed through the marketplace, a part of the road without escape which Fata had covered so often in her thoughts. It was firm, real and everyday, almost easier to traverse than in her imagination.

No stars, no expanse, no desire for time to go more quickly or more slowly. When they reached the bridge, the girl felt once more, as in the summer nights before her window, every part of her body strongly and separately. The party arrived at the center of the bridge. They stopped, first Fata and a little farther on all the other wedding guests. There was nothing unusual in this. It was not the first nor would it be the last time that a wedding procession halted on the bridge.

The girl edged her horse to the very edge of the bridge, put her right foot on the stone parapet, and threw herself into the roaring river below the bridge. Nail's brother rushed after her and threw himself at full length on the parapet, managing to touch with his hand the flying veil but was unable to hold it. The rest of the wedding guests leapt from their horses with the most extraordinary cries and remained along the stong parapet in strange attitudes as if they too had been turned to stone.

That same day rain fell before evening, abundant and exceptionally cold for the time of year. The Drina rose and grew angry. Next day the yellowish flood waters threw Fata's corpse onto a shoal near Kalata. There it was seen by a fisherman who went at once to notify the police chief. A little later the police chief himself arrived with the muktar, the fisherman and Salko Corkan. For without Salko nothing of this sort could ever take place.

The corpse was lying in soft and wet sand. The waves moved it to and fro and from time to time their cloudy waters washed over it. The new black veil which the waters had not succeeded in pulling off had been turned back and thrown over her head, mingled with her long thick hair it formed a strange black mass beside the white lovely body of the young girl from which the current had torn away the thin wedding garments.

Frowning and with set jaws, Salko and the fisherman waded out onto the shoal, caught hold of the naked girl, and embarrassed and carefuly - as if she were still alive - took her to the bank from the wet sand into which she already begun to sink and there at once covered her with the wet and muddy veil.

That same day the drowned girl was burried in the nearest Muslim graveyard, on the steep slope below the hill on which Velje Lug was built. And, before evening, the ne'er-do-wells of the town had collected in the inn around Salko and the fisherman with that unhealthy and prurient curiousity which is especially developed among those whose life is empty, deprived of every beauty and lacking in excitement and events.

They toasted with in plum brandy and offered them tobacco in order to hear some detail about the corpse and the burial but nothing helped. Even Salko said nothing. Only those two, Salko and the fisherman, looked at one another from time to time, lifted their little flasks in silence as if pledging something invisible and drained them at a gulp.

Thus it was that unusual and unheard of event took place on the bridge. Velje Lug did not go down to Nezuke and Avdaga's Fata never became the wife of a Hamzic.

Avdaga Osmanagic never again went down into the town. He died that same winter, suffocated by his cough, without speaking a word to anyone of the sorrow that had really killed him.

The next Spring Mustajbeg Hamzic married his son to another girl, from Brankovici.

For some time the townspeople talked about the incident and then began to forget it. All that remained was a song about a girl whose beauty and wisdom shone above the world as if it were immortal."
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