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Glišić was born in the farming community of Gradac, near Valjevo in the Kolubara District, Serbia, to Đorđe and Jevrosima Glišić. He had to begin work at an early age to support himself and the family, but he still managed to have a good education. Glišić was educated at Belgrade's Grandes Écoles, from which he graduated in 1875. During the Serbo-Turkish War of 1875 Glišić worked in the Press Bureau of the Foreign Ministry at Belgrade. After the death of poet-painter Đura Jakšić in 1878 he succeeded Jakšić as editor of the National Printing Press. He was also managing editor of Srpskih Novina (Serbian Newspapers) on two occasions. One of the many younger writers to whom as editor and critic Glišić gave encouragement was Laza Lazarević. While still in college, he met literary critic Svetozar Marković, who exerted an influence on him at the very beginning of his career as a journalist and translator. From 1881 to 1898 Glišić was the dramaturge of the National Theatre in Belgrade (founded in 1868 by Jovan Đorđević), then under the direction of Milorad Popović Šapčanin. Both Glišić and Šapčanin got along extremely well. In fact, under their leadership the National Theatre began to thrive for the first time, offering quality performances at popular prices and convenient times for the general public. In 1898, Milovan Glišić's increasing popularity, as an author and translator par excellence enabled him to retire from public service. Two years later (1900), however, he returned to take the post of director of Belgrade's National Library of Serbia. For health reasons he went to Dubrovnik, where he died, aged 61.
The era of romantic patriotic enthusiasm gave way in the seventies to a period of realism in both literature and art. Glišić was the first Serbian prose realist who dealt with rural themes and the patriarchal milieu. He was also the first distinctive writer from Serbia who joined Svetozar Marković's movement in literature as well as politics, criticizing the establishment. Soon other men of letters became fervent exponenets of these new trends and ideas. Some prominent Serbian realists, Janko Veselinović, Laza Lazarević, Svetolik Ranković and Milovan Glišić, influenced by Marković's ideas, wrote short stories often based on village settings, reflecting traditional patriarchal values contrary to the dehumanizing effect of rapid urbanization and early industrialization.
Glišić began his literary translations in satirical newspapers, and then went on to write original short stories. His original work includes two theater pieces about village life in Serbia, Two Farthings (Dva cvancika, 1882) and The Hoax (Podvala, 1885). Though both plays are treated as comedies, they contain a great deal of social criticism of corruption, bureaucracy, and exploitation of peasants by city dwellers. And, two collections of short stories. They include, among others, his most popular humorous and satirical stories: Roga, Not About What, Pricker for Fire, One Good Turn Deserves Another, The Musician, Walk After Death, An Ominous Number. His best stories, however, are: Glava secera (Sugarloaf); Redak zver (A Rare Animal); and Prva brazda (The First Furrow). Based on peasant life and often built upon popular legend, his stories accurately depict the life of the down-trodden and poor in the Balkans, exposing the usurers, and the insincere love of the ruling class for the common folk. The acridity of his criticism is far more muted in his later works.
Glišić specialized in translating from Russian and French literatures and in the 1880s he was looked upon as the best of the foreign language translators in Serbia, along with Ljubomir Miljković, his collaborator. Their collaboration followed by a series of editions of Russian classics and of books and articles on the history of Russian literature, which made him the most prominent Serbian authority on the subject. His studies in French contemporary literature were no less comprehensive, and included the valuable revisions of certain editions. As a conscientious and talented translator, and also a great connoisseur of living languages, he enabled writers in these languages, especially the Russians and Ukrainians, to exert a considerable influence on Serbian writers and poets (the same way he was influenced by Gogol). Due credit, indeed, must be given to him for familiarizing the Serbian reading audience with the great 19th Century Russian authors, and significantly influencing the development of his translations of literary language and style. The best and most important of his translations from Russian and Ukrainian are: Dead Souls and Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol, The Kreutzer Sonata and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, and other works by Alexander Ostrovsky, Ignaty Potapenko, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Alexander Pushkin, Mariya Vilinska (better known as Marko Vovchok, her nom de plumme), Nikolai Schedrin, Vsevolod Garshin, Anton Chekhov, Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Maksim Gorky and writer-painter Nikolai Leykin. From the French he had translated some of the works of Balzac, Prosper Mérimée's Colomba, Jules Verne's Une Fantaisie du Docteur Ox (Doktor Oks i njegova posla), Ludovic Halévy, Victorien Sardou, Maurice Maeterlinck (Princess Maleine), Alphonse Daudet (Tartarin de Tarascon and Le Nabab), Erckmann-Chatrian (Hugues-le-loup, Les Deux Frères, and L'Invasion ou le Fou Yégof), Émile Augier (Le Fils de Giboyer and La pierre de touche), Jules Sandeau, Eugène Scribe, Edouard Foussier, Eugène Marin Labiche, Henri Meilhac, Georges Feydeau and others. He also translated the works of American authors, particularly Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe. For the Serbian theater he had translated more than thirty-one plays from Russian, French, and German literatures.
Milovan Glišić was known mostly for his realist stories, but he also had a few which included horror motifs of Serbian folklore and superstition. The most famous one is "After ninety years" (1880), published some 17 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula.
In Glišić's story the main character is Strahinja, a poor lad in 19th-century rural Serbia, who falls in love with a lovely daughter of a wealthy but ill-tempered Živan. He is almost driven from the village Ž when the village boss, the priest and a few village elders see an opportunity for Strahinja. The village is plagued by a vampire attacking the millers in an old mill: since no one dares to stay the night over there, the people are on the verge of famine. Strahinya agrees to do the job. Within the mill, he sets a trap for the vampire. On the cot on which the person caring for the mill sleeps, Strahinja places a log and covers it with blankets to give an appearance of a sleeping man, whilst he himself hides on the attic, armed with two rifles. Each is loaded with iron and stuffed silver coin, and thus he waits in ambush. As expected, the vampire does appear, and after discovering the ruse he loudly protests about being fooled (for the first time in 90 years, thus giving the story its title), revealing along with it his name – Sava Savanović – after which Strahinja shoots both of his rifles at him, yet when the smoke clears, no one is to be seen. The villagers are awed at the courage and cunning that Strahinja employed in dealing with the menace, yet the vampire is still alive, for the only way to kill him is to find the place he was buried and pierce his heart with a hawthorn stake. After some troubles, the villagers both determine who this Sava Savanović was (a horse thief) and manage to discover the vampire's grave. They pierce the (unopened) coffin with a stake, but due to clumsiness and fright of one of the company, a moth escapes from the coffin before it is drowned by pouring holy water. It is a being that coexists with the vampire, but whilst harmless to the grown-ups, it can cause disease amongst the children. The story ends on a happy note, with Živan finally giving consent to his daughter to marry Strahinja. The butterfly, though, for years following the slaying of Sava Savanović, caused disease and death of small children in the area where the story is set. Based on After Ninety Years (1880) was a Serbian horror TV movie called Leptirica (The She-Moth), made in 1973. Leptirica is now considered a classic in the Serbian and former Yugoslav horror film genre.
- Adapted from Serbian Wikipedia
- Translated and adapted from Jovan Skerlić's Istorija Nove Srpske Književnosti / History of Modern Serbian Literature (Belgrade, 1921), pp. 373–378
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