1807 year. Residents of a small Bosnian town of Travnik, located on the outskirts of the Turkish empire, are concerned that soon in their city, to which only the obscure echoes of world events were previously heard, two consulates will open – first French and then Austrian, as it became known that Bonaparte already enlisted the consent of the Porte in Istanbul. Residents of the town see this as a sign of the coming changes and they relate to the news received in different ways. The majority of the population are Muslim Turks who hate everything foreign, and any innovation is perceived as an encroachment on their traditions and way of life. On the contrary, Jews and Christians – Catholics and Orthodox – live by the hope of getting rid of the Turkish yoke. They remember about the recent anti-Turkish uprising in Serbia under the leadership of Karageorgiya and believe that,
In February, the French consul, Jean Daville, arrives in Travnik. Behind Daville is a difficult and restless life. In his youth, he was fascinated by the ideas of the revolution, he wrote poems, was a journalist, a volunteer soldier during the war in Spain, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From the very first days of his stay in Bosnia, Daville understands that here he is in for a hard life and an exhausting struggle. In separation from his wife and children, whose arrival he eagerly awaits, cut off from the entire civilized world, Daville feels utterly helpless: there is always a shortage of money that comes with a long delay, while from the main treasury pointless circulars come, and from the ministry – contradictory requirements. Almost all the clerical work the consul has to perform himself, since he has no employees. The Turkish population treats him with undisguised hostility, and Daville at first does not know how to behave. Because of ignorance of the language, he takes on the service of an interpreter and personal physician of the Vizier Mehmed Pasha, Caesar D’Aventa, whom the Turks called Davnoi. a Frenchman by nationality, Davna has long linked his life with the East, but he has adopted from the Turks only the worst in character and behavior: insidiousness, cruelty, hypocrisy, servility to the powers that be, contempt for the weak.
Daville does not like Davna, but he has to resort to his help in the most delicate situations: he serves as his spy, attorney and mediator in negotiations between him and influential Muslim dignitaries.
Daville often visits the Vizier, Mehmed Pasha. He is an intelligent and educated person, he sympathizes with the French and supports their policy of reform, which is carried out by his patron, Sultan Selim III. However, it is for this that he, like the Sultan Selim himself, is hated by the Travnik Muslims, who do not wish to learn anything from the “infidels”. In May of the same year, Daville learns that there was a coup in Istanbul, Sultan Selim III was dethroned and imprisoned in the seraglio, and Sultan Mustafa IV took his place. The French influence in Istanbul has weakened, and this worries Mehmed Pasha, who supports the French.
In summer Travnik arrives the messenger of the new sapitan Kapidji-Bashi with a secret mission: he must lull the Vizier’s vigilance with expensive gifts, present a decree according to which Mehmed Pasha remains in Travnik, and then kill him and publicly read this decree of Mustafa IV about the deposition of the Vizier. However, the vizier bribes the envoy’s suite, learns of his plans and instructs Davny to poison the kapiji-bash. The cause of his death is a sudden illness, and the vizier strengthens his shaky position for a while: the Travnik Muslims, seeing that Mehmed Pasha escaped bias, believe that the new sultan is fond of him. At Daville, these events produce a depressing impression. He understands that if Mehmed Pasha is deposed, he will have to deal with the protege of Sultan Mustafa, who hates the French. However, for some time in Travnik, and all over the world – at least, so it seems to Daville – tranquility reigns. The congress in Erfurt ends, and Napoleon’s interests are concentrated on Spain. For Daville, this means that the whirlpool of events is moving westward.
To the joy of the Consul, Travnik comes to his wife with three sons, and from Paris they send an official who knows the Turkish language. With the efforts of Madame Daville, meek, pious and hard-working, the house and life of the consul is being transformed. Local people gradually become imbued with sympathy for a woman who, through her kindness and humility, knows how to find a common language with everyone. Even the monks of the Catholic monastery, who dislike Daville, the representative of the “godless” Napoleon, respect the Consul’s wife. Des Fosses, a new consular officer, a young and cheerful person, full of hope, yet sober and practical – the exact opposite of Daville. The Consul was tired of the revolutionary storms he experienced, military turmoil and struggle for a place in the sun, he was disappointed in the ideals of his youth, thoughtless and zealous service which brought only self-doubt and a constant readiness to compromise. Daville now wants only one thing: peace and quiet, which, alas, there is not and can not be in this wild country, among people whose true aims and motives can not be understood by a European.
Travnik arrives at the Austrian Consul Colonel von Mitterer with his wife and daughter. Henceforth, Daville and von Mitterer, already elderly, family people who could become friends, for they lived a hard life and know the true value of victories and defeats, are forced to fight each other for influence on the vizier and his closest associates, to spread among the people through trusted persons, false messages and refute enemy reports. Everyone slanders and slanders another, delays his couriers, reveals his mail, bribes the servant.
Mehmed Pasha learns from his friends in Istanbul that he is deposed, and decides to leave Travnik before they learn about it in the city. Daville is distressed: in the face of the Vizier, to whom he had become deeply sympathetic, he loses a reliable ally. In the city, unrest begins: crowds of fanatics from the Muslim lowland gather near Daville’s house and shout out threats. Consul with his family for several days locked and waiting for riots. Finally, a new vizier arrives in Travnik, Ibrahim Pasha, who, as Daville learns, is boundlessly devoted to the overthrown Sultan. However, Ibrahim Pasha is not a supporter of reforms, and he dislikes the French. This cold and withdrawn person is embittered by appointing him to a remote Bosnian province, and Daville at first fears that he will not be able to find a common language with him. However, over time, Daville and the new vizier establish a much deeper and more trusting relationship than with Mehmed Pasha. In Istanbul, a brutal political struggle continues. Ibrahim Pasha, according to an eyewitness, talks about an attempt to free the deposed Sultan and his tragic death. For the Vizier, the murder of Selim III is a real tragedy. He understands that soon his enemies will try to transfer him from Travnik to some remote place, where he will finish his days.
Von Mitterer tells Daville that relations between Turkey and Austria are deteriorating, but Daville knows that the conflict between the Viennese government and Napoleon is actually brewing. Formed the fifth coalition against Napoleon, to which the latter responds with a lightning attack on Vienna. Now it becomes clear to everyone what the consulates in Bosnia were created for and what purpose they should serve. Employees of both consulates, French and Austrians, cease all relations with each other, von Mitterer and Daville, sparing no effort and not fussing by any means, develop vigorous activity, trying to win over the Vizier and his entourage, monks of the Catholic monastery, Orthodox priests, prominent townspeople. The paid agents of the consuls everywhere are subversive, which leads to frequent clashes, and Catholic monks pray for the victory of the Austrian emperor over the Jacobin armies and their godless emperor. In spring, on the order that came from Istanbul, Ibrahim Pasha goes on a campaign against Serbia. In his absence, Travnik again begins unrest and unrest. Crowds of brutal fanatics arrange cruel reprisals over captured Serbs.
In October 1809, Vienna concluded a peace between Napoleon and the Viennese court. Relations between employees of both consulates are restored. But Daville, as before, is tormented by one question: is this the final victory and how long will the world last? His employee, Des Fosses, does not seem to care about these questions. He confidently makes a career. The young man is transferred to the ministry and informed that within a year he will be appointed to the embassy in Istanbul. Desfosse is satisfied that he has met this country, and is glad that he can leave. During his time at the consulate, he wrote a book about Bosnia and does not believe that he spent time in vain.
1810 is peaceful and happy. Equals of all religions get used to consuls and their entourage and stop being afraid and hating foreigners.
In 1811 von Mitterer was transferred to Vienna, and his place was taken by Lieutenant Colonel von Paulic. This handsome but completely dispassionate and cold thirty-five-year-old man neatly performs his duties and has extensive knowledge in many areas, but he becomes extremely unpleasant to Daville, as the new consul reminds him of a faultlessly adjusted mechanism. Any conversation with von Paulich always carries an impersonal, cold and abstract character, this is the exchange of information, but not thoughts and impressions.
Wars have ceased, and the French consulate is engaged in commercial affairs, issue of passports for goods and letters of recommendation. Because of the British blockade, France is forced to conduct trade with the Middle East not through the Mediterranean, but by land, along the old trade routes – from Istanbul to Vienna on the Danube and from Thessaloniki via Bosnia to Trieste on the mainland. Daville is working with enthusiasm, forbidding myself to think that soon peace and peace will come to an end.
In 1812 the French army moved to Russia. Austria, being an ally of Napoleon, also participates in this campaign with a 30,000-strong corps under the command of Prince Schwarzenberg. However, von Paulich, to Daville’s astonishment, behaves as if he wants to show the Vizier and all those around him that this war is entirely a French undertaking. By the end of September, it becomes known that Moscow has been taken, but von Paulich insists with arrogance that he does not have any news of the hostilities, and evades conversations with Daville. Ibrahim Pasha is surprised that Napoleon moves north on the eve of winter, and tells Daville that it is dangerous. Daville is tormented by painful forebodings. Therefore, he is not surprised when he learns of the complete defeat of the French army in Russia. In Travnik, a fierce winter rages, people suffer from hunger and cold, and for several months the consul is cut off from the outside world and receives no news. In March, Daville learns that Ibrahim Pasha is biased. For Daville, this is a heavy blow and an irreparable loss. Ibrahim Pasha cordially bids farewell to Daville, with whom he has grown close over the years.
The new vizier, Ali Pasha, enters the city accompanied by armed Albanians, and fear prevails in Travnik. Ali Pasha, on any occasion, is punishing the brutal massacre, he throws into prisons and executes all people he does not like. Von Paulich is concerned about the arrested monks, Daville decides to put in a word about the Jews who are languishing in prison, since Ali Pasha wants to get a ransom for them.
Consolation information is coming from Paris about the formation of new armies, news of new victories and new orders. Daville understands that the old game continues, and he again becomes its participant in addition to his will. The war between Austria and France is declared. Ali Pasha, who returned from the campaign against Serbia, is cold with Daville, as von Paulich informed him of the defeat of Napoleon, his retreat beyond the Rhine and the irresistible advancement of the Allies. The first months of 1814, Daville did not receive any news or instructions from either Paris or Istanbul. In April, he is handed a written message from von Paulich that the war is over, Napoleon abdicated and his place was taken by the legitimate sovereign. Daville is amazed, although he has long thought about the possibility of such an end. However, remembering that at the head of the new government stood Talleyrand, who eighteen years ago patronized him, Daville sends him a letter and assures his devotion to Louis XVIII. Daville proposes to abolish the consulate and ask for permission to go to Paris. He gets a positive response and is going to the road. However, he has no cash, and then suddenly an old trader, Jew Solomon Atiyas, thanks to Daville, rescued him, for always showing kindness and justice to the Jews. Von Paulic also offers the palace chancellery to abolish the Austrian consulate, as he is convinced that in Bosnia will soon begin unrest because of the brutal tyranny of Ali Pasha, and therefore in the near future, nothing threatens the Austrian borders. Daville’s wife is packing things, and he is in a strange calm: right now, when he is ready to all leave and move into the unknown,