Branislav Nušić

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Branislav Nušić, 1894
Branislav Nušić on a 2010 Serbian stamp

Branislav Nušić (Serbian Cyrillic: Бранислав Нушић, pronounced [brǎnislav̞ nûʃit͡ɕ]; 20 October 1864 – 19 January 1938) was a Serbian novelist, playwright, satirist, essayist and founder of modern rhetoric in Serbia. He also worked as a journalist and a civil servant.

Early life[edit]

Alkibijad Nuša (Алкибијад Нуша, rendered as Greek: Alcibiades Nousias[1]) was born in Belgrade, Principality of Serbia to a well-off family in a house located in King Petar's Street that has since been demolished (where the National Bank of Serbia is standing). His father Georgije "Đorđe" Nuša was Greek-Aromanian, born in Macedonia, a cereal merchant and freight forwarder,[2] and his mother was Serb.[3] Around 1870, when his father was bankrupt, the family moved to Smederevo, where he was brought up and finished elementary school.[4] He signed his first works, poems in his school years, with his real name.[4]

During his teens, he moved back to Belgrade where he graduated from boarding school. Upon turning 18 years of age, he legally changed his name to Branislav Nušić. In 1884, he graduated from the University of Belgrade's Law School. During his studies, he also spent a year in Graz, Austria-Hungary.

Writing career[edit]

Twenty-one-year-old Nušić fought in the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 while serving in the Serbian Army. After the war, he published a controversial poem, "Two Servants" (Два раба), in Dnevni list for which he spent two years in prison. The poem ridiculed King Milan I of Serbia, namely his decision to attend the funeral of the Serbian general Dragutin Franasović's mother instead of that of the war's hero Captain Mihailo Katanić who died as a result of wounds sustained while saving the regimental flag from the hands of Bulgarians.

At first, Nušić's sentence was only two months, but the King pressured the judges into extending it. Despite harsh prison conditions, Nušić still managed to write the comedy Protection (Протекција). When he first asked the prison intendant, Ilija Vlah, for the permission to write, Vlah told him that it was the writing that got him into prison, and denied his request. Knowing that an intendant read all outgoing mail, Nušić wrote a brief letter to the second husband of his aunt (he was related to her first husband), who served as a Minister of Justice. Nušić addressed Gersić as "uncle" and told him how it would be much easier for him to serve two years if he could write. He noted that he had no interest in writing political texts, and signed the letter "...your nephew". One day later, Vlah allowed him to write literature.

In 1889, Nušić became a civil servant. As an official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he took a clerk job at the newly opened Serbian consulate in Bitola, a town with a large Aromanian population in the Ottoman Empire's Manastir Vilayet. Several years later, in 1893, Nušić got married in Bitola. He spent a decade in southern Serbia and Macedonia. His last position in this region was Vice-consul in Priština.[5]

In 1900, Nušić was appointed as a secretary of Ministry of Education, and shortly afterwards he became a head dramaturgist of the National Theatre in Belgrade. In 1904, he was appointed a head of Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad. In 1905, he left his new post and moved to Belgrade to work as a journalist.

In 1912, Nušić returned to Bitola as a civil servant. During Balkan Wars in February 1913, Nušić, who was the prefect, was regarded as too moderate, and replaced by someone more sympathetic with the views of the military party and of "the Black Hand."[6] In 1913, he founded a theater in Skopje, where he lived until 1915. Due to World War I, Nušić fled the country and lived in Italy, Switzerland and France for its duration.

After the war, Nušić was appointed to be the first head of the Art Department of the Ministry of Education. He remained at this post until 1923. Afterwards, he was appointed head of the National Theater in Sarajevo. In 1927, he returned to Belgrade.

Social criticism[edit]

Nušić is more celebrated as a playwright than as a novelist. His incidental novels and journalistic feuilletons are not always moralistic or polished, but they are lively and amusing sketches of life. He is more prolific in historical drama and comedy. Of his plays, the most popular are comedies The Cabinet Minister's Wife (Госпођа министарка), A Suspect Individual (Сумњиво лице), The Parliamentarian (Народни посланик), Bereaved Family (Ожалошћена породица), The Deceased (Покојник), and Doctor (Др).

Through his plays, Nušić presented Serbian society and the mentality of the middle class in small towns and counties. He brought to the stage not only the retailers, canton captains, semi-educated officers, and current and former ministers' wives, but also formerly distinguished and overly ambitious householders, their decadent sons, failed students, distinguished daughters of marriageable age, and greedy upstarts.[7]

All-in-all he depicted the Serbian middle class and its morality, which managed to survive despite all the political and social reforms, newly formed educational system and cultural institutions. He also paid special attention to the social conditions of their origins, as they started out with unrealizable desires and insatiable appetites, the distorted family and marital relationships, misunderstandings and intolerance between fathers and sons, unfaithful husbands and wives, officers’ ignorance and corruption and unreal political ambitions. Nušić thus became not only a playwright, observer and interpreter of his time, but also an analyst of Serbian society and its mentality at a specific historical period.[7]

Selected works[edit]

Some of Nušić's major works (with English translation of titles):


  • Народни посланик (The Parliamentarian) (1885)
  • Госпођа министарка (The Cabinet Minister's Wife) (1929)
  • Ожалошћена породица (Bereaved Family)
  • Покојник (The Deceased)
  • Пут око света (A Trip Around the World)
  • Сумњиво лице (A Suspect Individual)
  • Др (Doctor)
  • Мистер Долар (Mister Dollar) (1932)
  • Протекција (Protection)
  • Свет (The World)
  • Ујеж
  • Власт (unfinished) (authority)
  • Ђоле кермит (unfinished)


  • Тако је морало бити (It Had to Be This Way)
  • Јесења киша (Autumn Rain)
  • Иза Божјих леђа (Behind God's Back)
  • Пучина (Offing)
  • Кирија (Rental Fee)


  • Општинско дете (County's Child), published in Sarajevo as Опћинско дијете (1902)
  • Хајдуци (Hajduks)
  • Деветстопетнаеста (915th)
  • Аутобиографија (Autobiography) (1924)

Short stories[edit]

  • Политички противник (Political Rival)
  • Посмртно слово (Eulogy)
  • Класа (Class)
  • Приповетке једног каплара (Tales Of A Corporal)


  • Кнез Иво од Семберије (Knez Ivo of Semberija)
  • Хаџи-Лоја
  • Наход (Foundling)


  • Рамазанске вечери (1898)
  • Реторика (a discourse on rhetoric) (1934)


Nicknamed Aga by family and close friends, Nušić married 17-year-old Darinka Đorđević in May 1893 at the Lisolaj monastery near Bitola. A merchant's daughter, Darinka met Branislav, a clerk at the Serbian consulate in Bitola, during a fall 1891 visit to her maternal uncle Dimitrije Bodi who was the Serbian consul. The couple had three children — daughter Margita nicknamed Gita, son Strahinja nicknamed Ban (named after the Banović Strahinja poem, which Branislav Nušić was very fond of), and another daughter Olivera who died in infancy.

Their son Strahinja "Ban" Nušić died in World War I fighting the Austro-Hungarians in December 1915 during Battle of Kolubara as part of the Serbian Army's Skopje Student Battalion (Skopski đački bataljon).

Nušić's daughter Gita later married novelist and journalist Milivoje "Mima" Predić. She ran her father's endowment after his death.


  1. ^ Apostolos Euangelou Vakalopoulos (1973). History of Macedonia, 1354-1833. Institute for Balkan Studies. p. 490. 
  2. ^ Narodni muzej Smederevo (1969). Posebno izdanje (6). Narodni muzej Smederevo. p. 126. 
  3. ^ Nušić & Đurić 1978, p. 49.
  4. ^ a b Velibor Gligorić (1965). Srpski realisti. Prosveta. p. 398. 
  5. ^ Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren: Letters of Serbian Consuls from Kosovo and Metohija, XIX and XX century
  6. ^ Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars, Washington, D.C.: The Endowment, 1914, p. 175
  7. ^ a b Maksimović, Goran (2005). Sabrane komedije / Branislav Nušić. Jedan tom. p. 623. ISBN 86-17-12756-2. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Jovan Skerlić, Istorija nove srpske književnosti / A History of Modern Serbian Literature (Belgrade, 1921) pages 424–426

External links[edit]