31 March 1876
Vranje, Kosovo Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
|Died||22 October 1927
Belgrade, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
|Resting place||Belgrade's New Cemetery|
|Occupation||Writer, Tax collector|
|Alma mater||Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade|
|Spouse||Angelina Stanković (nee Milutinović)|
Borisav "Bora" Stanković (Борисав Бора Станковић) (born 31 March 1876 in Vranje – 22 October 1927 in Belgrade) was a Serbian writer belonging to the school of realism. His novels and short stories depict the life of people from South Serbia. He belongs to an exceptional group of storytellers that suddenly appeared at the turn of the 20th century, Ivo Ćipiko, Petar Kočić, Milutin Uskoković, and others. These Serbian prose writers showed many traits in common with the Russians, particularly with Dostoyevsky (Borisav Stanković), and to a certain extent also with Maxim Gorky (Ivo Čipiko and Petar Kočić).
He completed the primary and secondary school in Vranje, and graduated from the University of Belgrade's Law School. It is said that he received some Western education—Paris—but returned unaffected to his native soil and subsequently immortalized it in his work. He worked as a clerk (first customs official then tax official) in Belgrade. During World War I he resided in Niš, then in Montenegro where he was taken captive by the Austrians and incarcerated in a PoW camp in Derventa in Bosnia. After the war he worked in the Department of Arts of the Ministry of Education. He died at Belgrade in 1927.
Borisav Stanković's best work is the 1910 novel entitled Impure Blood (Nečista krv) about the plight of a young woman unable to free herself from the old customs and restrictions. In this story he explored the contradictions of man's spiritual and sensory life. This was the first Serbian novel to receive praise in its foreign translations from international literary critics. At the turn of the 20th century folk musicals became popular and the best play of this genre is Stanković's Koštana, written in 1902. Its bittersweet story of a beautiful Gypsy girl and her amorous conquest of an entire provincial town is intertwined with quasi-philosophical musing about the meaning of life and the passing of youth. Stanković's other play, Tašana, written in 1910, is also about provincial life in southern Serbia, which had just been liberated from the Turks but was still living under the imprint of the centuries-long occupation. In practically all his works Stanković presents strong characters who are at the same time victims of a strange weakness stemming from the realization that their time has irrevocably passed.
It is said that he is the most important late Serbian realist, who interconnected poetic and narrative procedures in a complex manner and departed so significantly from realist canon that his prose is regarded as transitional.
His other main works are: short story collections, Iz starog jevandjelja (From an Old Gospel, 1899), Stari dani (The Old Days, 1902), and Božji ljudi (God's Children, 1902); and a play Tašana (1910).
Literary critic Jovan Skerlić in his 1914 literary history of Serbia (Istorija nove srpske književnosti) wrote the following about him:
Borisav Stanković takes the first place among the modern Serbian writers. ... Before Borisav Stanković Serbian literature was limited to the northern and western Serbian regions. Stanković first introduced in the literature the southeastern Serbian lands, that part of Old Serbia which Serbia liberated in 1877–1878. He is a bard of that new picturesque and interesting exotic world, of his birthplace Vranja where he spent his childhood, that left the strongest and unforgettable memories and from which, in his stories, he cannot be set free. He does not sing about the present Vranja which is modernised but about Vranja of the 'old days', the patriarchal people, with their narrow views but cordial life. He describes what he saw and felt, he usually describes people who really existed and events that really happened. ... There is in his description of Vranja life something very much 'Vranjanian', local, interesting archaic Serbian dialect. Moreover, in all this realistic description of one of the Serbian nooks where many archaic and patriarchal elements are still preserved, there is also something very personal, impressionistic, lyrical ... In all his stories in which a struggle is going on between East and West, between the personality and the masses, passion and moral, dream and reality, poetry and prose of life, in all these things to which he could give magnitude and verse, Stanković always participates with all his open soul.
- Jovan Skerlić, Istorija nove srpske književnosti / History of Modern Serbian Literature (Belgrade 1914, 1921), pages 466–469.
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- Project Rastko (Serbian)