Hello lovelies! I’m happy to be hosting a guest post today for the Travelling the Pages feature. Please welcome Norah Una @ Bookish Fever who is talking to us about Serbian Literature!
As a Serbian student of philology, I often think of the position of Serbian literature nowadays. During my high school years I have read many amazing classical books by Serbian & Bosnian authors – “The Bridge on the Drina” (org: Na Drini cuprija) and “The Damned Yard” (org: Prokleta avlija) by Ivo Andric, who won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961, “A Time of Death” (org: Vreme smrti) by Dobrica Cosic, who, besides being a legendary author, used to be the first president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, “Impure Blood” (org: Necista krv) by Borisav Stankovic, Serbian author who wrote female characters better than the female authors of his time, “Satirical short stories” by Radoje Domanovic, who used satire and dark humor to express wrongdoings in the political and social life of Serbia, “Early Sorrows” (org: Rani jadi) by Danilo Kis, whose content mostly has an autobiographical character and many, many more.
Most of these gems of Serbian classical literature talk about the position of Serbs and Yugoslavs in general during different historical periods – Ottoman era, WWI, WWII. They are heartbreaking and raw, they show many destinies and paths that people caught in the war they did not want have to take, they include not only the social element of my country, but the political aura of this area as well. Sometimes I even found them better than the actual historical books because they give us the opportunity to imagine ourselves as one of the characters and become aware of all the things our ancestors had to go through. It wakes you up from the cozy hibernation that you got yourself into and makes you think about the past and life in general. Overall, this tells you that these authors had the absolutely incredible ability to create social, political, historical and psychological novels all in one. They earned a great respect from the readers and critics and are still considered the greatest treasure this region can offer.
Fast-forward to the 2016, you have many Serbian authors who are trying their luck in the literature world in the last, let’s say approximately, ten years. Some of them have gained much respect such as Svetlana Velmar-Jankovic, who usually writes about Belgrade through her own childhood and teenage years, but some of them are still trying to prove themselves. The interesting thing about modern readers in Serbia is that we are quite distanced from our modern literature. You’ve read Andric and it’s like something went off in your head – no one is going to come near him. Unfortunately, many readers won’t even give chance to Serbian authors and will often throw hate on them even though they haven’t read anything by them. There are quite a few Serbian authors who have published more than three books and yet are still tormented by the readers’ prejudice. Jelena Bacic Alimpic, Dragan Velikic and Vanja Bulic, our authors and acclaimed journalists, are still not considered “real authors”, even though they have published many books who’ve been sold in thousands of copies. There are some new authors who have published books in genres who are not so typical for Serbian literature and are on the verge of becoming “famous” in selected circles of readers – Drina Steinberg published a fantasy trilogy based on Slavic mythology called “Purpur Arkone” and is loved by many readers who’ve had enough of reading Serbian autobiographies and thrillers and were ready for something refreshing and new. There are, of course, some “authors” that are publishing sketchbooks and lifestyle books, similar to many Youtubers nowadays, and are not even going to be mentioned in this article. Overall, Serbian modern literature is simply not… classical. And that’s what makes it good in my opinion. Time has changed and so have we, our country, our political and social scene and everything in between. Modern Serbian novels have different themes than the ones we’re used to but that doesn’t mean that those themes are not familiar and interesting. We have to give our new authors support and it all starts with losing our prejudice towards them and stopping the comparison between them and the legendary authors who are still on the throne of the Serbian Kingdom of Literature.