Serbia has a long, often-interrupted literary tradition and continues to produce great works of art in the modern day.
Early Serbian Texts
The earliest writings in Serbian were, like many languages, religious in nature. Religions were historically the first institutions that persisted despite political and military upheavals, as well as the first organisations to see the value in writing down their history and policies. These early religious documents date back to the 10th and 11th centuries. In the 13th century the art form of religious writing was developed aggressively by Saint Sava, who worked to bring about an artistic aspect to these church writings that can still be appreciated today.
In the 15th century, Serbia and the surrounding region was conquered by the swelling Ottoman Empire, who took Constantinople and toppled the Byzantine Empire and kept marching. As a result, for some centuries the literary development in Serbian was halted. Beginning in the 18th century Serbia began a lengthy struggle for independence, and this was mirrored by a renewed interest in Serbian literature. Much of the medieval literature of Serbia was composed of folk songs and other oral traditions, mainly in the form of epic poetry.
Modern Serbian Literature
The 20th Century saw a huge upsurge in both interest in and activity by Serbian authors. One of the most famous is Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić, which has been translated into 24 languages, including English. Other famous Serbian novelists include Ivan "Ivo" Andrić, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961 and whose most notable work is “The Bridge on the Drina”, Borislav Pekić, who wrote in just about every form possible in the 20th century, including novels and television and whose most famous novel is “The Time of Miracles.”
Today, one of the most famous Serbian writers is Vladislav Bajac, whose novel “Hamam Balkania” was translated into English in 2009 and continues to win awards and recognition around the world.
Serbia has long boasted a literary culture, and has produced some of the best minds of the past century. If you’re looking for challenging art, look no further than the novels and poetry coming out of the tiny country in the Balkans.
Image courtesy medievalbookshop.co.uk