Milovan Glišić

Portrait of Milovan Glisić

Milovan Glišić (6 January 1847 – 20 January 1908) was a Serbian writer, dramatist, translator, and literary theorist. He is sometimes referred to as the Serbian Gogol.


Glišić was born in the farming community of Gradac, near Valjevo, Serbia. He was educated at Belgrade's Grande École (now the University of Belgrade), 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 beginning of his career as a journalist and translator. From 1881 to 1898 he was the dramaturge of the National Theatre in Belgrade (founded in 1868 by Jovan Đorđević). Under his leadership the theatre offered 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.

Literary Career

Glišić began his literary translations in satirical newspapers, and then went on to write original short stories. His original work includes two theater pieces, Two Coins and Spoofing and two collections of short stories. They include, among others, his most popular humorous and satirical stories: Roga, Not About What, Pricker for Fire, Walk After Death, An Ominous Number. His best stories, however, are: Glava secera (A Lump of Sugar); Redak zver (A Rare Animal); and Prva brazda (The First Furrow).

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 Goncharov, and other works by Alexander Ostrovsky, Ignatii Nikolaevich Potapenko, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Alexander Pushkin, Marija Markov (also known as Marko Vovčuk), 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 Allen 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 story the main character is Strahinya, a poor lad in the 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 when the village boss, the priest and a few village elders see an opportunity for Strahinya. The village is plagued by a vampire attacking 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, and manages to survive the night hiding in the attic. After some troubles, the villagers 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 butterfly escapes from the coffin before it is sprinkled by the Holy water. It represents the soul of the vampire which remains undestroyed. Everybody thinks it's all over now, but in the end – the real horrors await Strahinya during his wedding night. Based on After Ninety Years (1880) was a Serbian horror TV movie called Leptirica (The She-Butterfly), made in 1973.Leptirica is now considered a classic in the Serbian and former Yugoslav horror film genre.


Jovan Skerlić, Istorija Nove Srpske Književnosti / A History of New Serbian Literature (Belgrade, 1914, 1921), pages 373-378.

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