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Who are diplomats’ by Ivo Andric (diplomat and/or writer)

Published on 02 December 2011
Updated on 19 March 2024

More than 50 years ago Ivo Andric tried to describe diplomats in his text “Who are Diplomats?” Is there a need to update Andric’s ToR for diplomats? Here is an excerpt from the Andric’s text:


They are people of sound but straightforward intelligence, people of simplified and limited sensitivity and a cool heart, but not without heart or any sensitivity; capable of deception, but not closed and mysterious, still less underhand; strong, but not rough; quick and decisive, but not hasty or impulsive; realistic, sober, but not dry and dull.

They need to know a certain amount, but there should be no trace of erudition or pedantry in what they know, and their knowledge should agreeably surprise and perhaps impress those with whom they are speaking, but never embarrass, offend or shame them.

It is the same with their courage: they need to have it, and it should be sound and reliable, but they should display it only in extreme circumstances and bear it as they bear arms which everyone knows they have, but are never seen.

They must also have imagination, but only in a certain degree, enough for a man to see every issue from every point of view and with all its possibilities and immediate consequences; anything more than that is both dangerous for them and damaging to the work they are doing.

Who could confirm and list everything that those who wish to devote themselves to this service ought to be?

  • They should be versatile and straightforward.
  • Not arrogant, but naturally self-assured, even at times proud.
  • they should not despise small details (never, in any circumstances!) but they should know how to stay somewhere on the borderline of pettiness and pedantry.
  • They should be conscientious in everything, but without excessive zeal.
  • They should value the moment and always make use of it, but also know how to leave time to have its effect.
  • They should have many, varied interests in people, objects, art, games and entertainments, but not surrender themselves to passion or the intimacy in which a man completely forgets himself.
  • They should be a bit human, and never inhuman; ready for everything and capable of anything, but not heartless or monsters.

That means, in effect: living constantly on two levels, the personal, human one and the official, inhuman one, but never in any way showing or betraying to anyone on which level you are at any given moment, or better still: not yourself being completely aware of it, which is the surest way of not betraying yourself.

In a word, you need to be a person of a particular kind without appearing to be, but always and in everything to give the impression of an ordinary, average man. You need to have a hundred abilities, but strictly controlled in many different ways. In general one could say of people of this kind that their ability lies more in a good and proper balance between different qualities than in the value of those qualities themselves. So that, roughly speaking, while each of those qualities is average, the whole that they constitute should be orginal and above average.


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