Svetolik Ranković

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Svetolik Ranković (Serbian Cyrillic: Светолик Ранковић; Velika Moštanica, 7 December 1863-Belgrade 18 March 1899) was a Serbian author most prominent in the period of Realism. As a realist, he was the first Serbian author to take a significant step towards the emancipation of prose from the laws of event-centered narration. He was referred to as the Russian pupil for his elegant style.


Svetolik Ranković was born at Velika Moštanica, near Belgrade, on the seventh of December 1863. Ranković's preparation for writing lay in the precocious and omnivorous reading of his boyhood—perhaps stimulated by the example of his father (who was a teacher at the time before becoming a priest) and the scholarly teachers at school. In grammar school he began reading and studying the works of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gorky, Turgenev, Gogol, Vladimir Korolenko, in fact, all the Russian greats of the nineteenth century, which made a lasting impression on him. After graduating from the Seminary of St. Sava in Belgrade and from the prestigious Kiev Theological Academy in 1888, he returned to Serbia to teach religion, but found a country in flux, economically, socially and most of all, politically. In the Balkans at the time, as in other parts of the world, many people reacted against the authorities and makeshift politics. Agitation for reform was carried on in particular by several intellectuals, among them the most influential were Svetolik Ranković, Milovan Glišić, Janko Veselinović, and Laza Lazarević of Serbia, and Aleko Konstantinov and Tsanko Tserkovski of Bulgaria.

Ranković began publishing his literary works in 1892. In an attempt to debunk the Serbian haiduk myth which reached its apogee with Janko Veselinović's novel Haiduk Stanko (1896). Ranković's novel Gorski Car (The Mountain Tsar) which appeared a year later, and may be seen as a counterpart to it. In 1886 Ranković saw the corpse of his father, a Serbian Orthodox priest, after he was killed during a bandit raid on their home, and he also witnessed the subsequent large-scale trial against bandits. Based on these experiences, Gorski Car eschews Veselinović's melodramatic heroism and represents the outlaw as a violent criminal in a violent society. Ranković's tragic-realist treatment has itself become a classic in Serb literature, but even a 1968 television miniseries based on it was unable to erase the heroic myth in the popular imagination.

He died at Belgrade on the eighteenth of March 1899, of tuberculosis. He was 35.

His Works[edit]

Svetolik Ranković tinged his picaroon romances with the spirit of revolt against established moral and political arrangements, like Janko Veselinović. His Jesenje slike (Images of Fall, 1892) fragmented the composition but used sound repetitions and structured the sentences rhythmically. He was also known for his short stories, Pictures From Life,in particular, which first appeared in 1904. In his three novels, Gorski car (The Mountain Tsar; 1897), Seoska učiteljica(Village Schoolmistress; 1898), and Izgubljeni ideali (Lost Ideals; 1899), Ranković adapted the Russian psychological approach to Serbian realism. A great of his works deal with the life of the Serbian peasantry and intelligensia in the late nineteenth century. The period of Serbian realism actually ended Svetolik Ranković, who was brought up on the Russian novel. He had no connection with the theory of Serbian realism; for all that, however, he was closely in touch with life, and gave a vivid picture of Serbia during the last of the Obrenovićs. The theme of the tragic conflict between man and The Establishment reasonates through all his novels. A prominent Serbian realist despite himself, Ranković was one of the creators of the psychological novel, deliberately seeking to explore the gloomy side of life. He also translated the works of Leo Tolstoy (Sevastopol Sketches), Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Vladimir Korolenko.

His contemporaries were Veljko M. Milićević, Ivo Ćipiko, Borisav Stanković, Janko Veselinović, Petar Kočić, Simo Matavulj, Radoje Domanović, Milorad J. Mitrović (poet), Stevan Sremac, Laza Kostić and others.


  • Gorski car, Beograd, 1897.
  • Porušeni ideali, Beograd, 1900.
  • Slike iz života, Beograd, 1904.
  • Celokupna dela I, II, III „Srpski pisci“, Beograd, 1928.
  • Sabrana dela I, II, Beograd, 1952.


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