Laza Kostic
Laza Kostić (1841, Kovilj
Kovilj is a village located in the Novi Sad municipality, in the South Bačka District of Serbia. It is situated in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina...

, Novi Sad
Novi Sad
Novi Sad is the capital of the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, and the administrative centre of the South Bačka District. The city is located in the southern part of Pannonian Plain on the Danube river....

 – Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, 1910) was a Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

n poet, prose writer, lawyer, philosopher, polyglot, publicist, and politician, considered to be one of the greatest minds of Serbian literature
Serbian literature
Serbian literature refers to literature written in Serbian and/or in Serbia.The history of Serbian literature begins with theological works from the 10th- and 11th centuries, developing in the 13th century by Saint Sava and his disciples...



Laza Kostić was born in Kovilj, Vojvodina (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) in 1841, of a military family. In his youth he was converted to the principles of social justice and Serbian independence in particular, and threw himself with great energy into political agitation. In 1864 he graduated from the Law School of the University of Budapest
University of Budapest
The Eötvös Loránd University or ELTE, founded in 1635, is the largest university in Hungary, located in Budapest.-History:The university was founded in 1635 in Nagyszombat by the archbishop and theologian Péter Pázmány. Leadership was given over to the Jesuits...

, and two years later he successfully defended his doctoral thesis in jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

. After completing his studies, he occupied several positions and was very active in cultural and political life in Novi Sad, Belgrade, and Montenegro. He was among the leaders of Ujedinjena omladina srpska (United Serbian Youth) and was elected a Serbian representative to the Hungarian parliament, thanks to Svetozar Miletić
Svetozar Miletic
Svetozar Miletić was an advocate, politician, mayor of Novi Sad, and the political leader of Serbs in Vojvodina. He was the oldest of seven children born to Sima and Teodosija Miletić in the village of Mošorin in Šajkaška, the Serbian Military Frontier, on February 22, 1826...

, his mentor. Because of his liberal and nationalistic views he had to leave that Hungarian-occupied part of Serbia, but after several years in Belgrade and Montenegro he returned home. He died in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 in 1910.

From 1869 to 1872 he was the president of Novi Sad's Court House, and virtually the leader of his party in his county; he was a delegate several times in the clerico-secular Sabor at Sremski Karlovci
Sremski Karlovci
Sremski Karlovci is a town and municipality in Serbia, in the autonomous province of Vojvodina, situated on the bank of the river Danube, 8 km from Novi Sad...

. He was Lord Mayor of Novi Sad twice, and also twice a Sajkasi
Šajkaši were the river troops guarding the Danube and Sava, and especially, the Port of Belgrade, against the Ottoman Empire from the 16th to the 19th century. At the time, the rivers were borders of the Kingdom of Hungary and Habsburg Empire with the Ottoman Empire. They had special military...

 delegate to the Parliament in Budapest.

After Svetozar Miletić and Jovan Jovanović Zmaj
Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj
Jovan Jovanović Zmaj was one of the best-known Serbian poets. He was a physician by profession, like his literary predecessor writer Jovan Stejić ....

, perhaps the most active leader in Novi Sad was Laza Kostić, whose politics were some distance away from those of his associates but who was convinced that his mission to save Serbia through art had been baulked by obscuranist courtiers. In 1867, the Austrian Empire was transformed into Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

, with the Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

 becoming one of two autonomous parts of the new state. This was followed by a policy of Hungarization of the non-Hungarian nationalities, most notably promotion of the Hungarian-language and suppression of Romanian and Slavic languages (including Serbian). As the chief defender of the United Serbian Youth movement, he was especially active in securing the repeal of certain unjust laws imposed on his and other nationalities in the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire. When Mihailo Obrenović III, Prince of Serbia
Mihailo Obrenovic III, Prince of Serbia
Mihailo Obrenović was Prince of Serbia from 1839–1842 and again from 1860–1868. His first reign ended when he was deposed in 1842 and his second when he was assassinated in 1868.-Early life and first reign:...

, was assassinated, the Austro-Hungarian authorities (headed by Kalman Tisza
Kálmán Tisza
Kálmán Tisza de Borosjenő was the Hungarian prime minister between 1875 and 1890. He is credited for the formation of a consolidated Magyar government, the foundation of the new Liberal Party and major economic reforms that would both save and eventually lead to a government with popular...

) sought to falsely implicate Laza, his mentor Miletić, and other Serbian intellectuals in the murder plot. Though arrested and incarcerated, Kostić, like the rest of them, was eventually set free. The new Prince of Serbia was Milan Obrenović, a boy of fourteen who had fallen in love with Laza's most recent work -- Maksim Crnojević -- released that year (1868; though it was written five years earlier). Milan's great mission in life, he had already decided, was to save from a life of misery and suffering the poet whose work he and others adored. In 1872, Milan was declared of age, and he took the government into his own hands. Almost Milan's first act as monarch was to send for Kostić, "that great Serbian poet and activist for Serbian rights in Austria-Hungary." At the time, Laza, back in Novi Sad after making a vitriolic speech against the Habsburgs at Milan's inauguration in Belgrade, was put back in prison by the same authorities as before. The accusations laid against him -- high treason -- came to naught and he was eventually freed. With more false accusations pending against him, Laza decided it was time top seek refuge in Belgrade.

Until 1895 Laza was left to live as best as he could. He was utterly convinced that he was in the world to write verse and prose and defend Serbian rights and that any other activity was a betrayal of his mission. Making his home in Belgrade, he became a popular figure there as a poet, but Serbia had other plans for him. In Belgrade, through Milan's influence Laza obtained the position of editor of Srpsku nezavisnost (Serbian Independence), an influential political and literary magazine. Milan, however, was careful to balance the Austrian and Russian parties in Serbia, with judicious leaning towards Austria-Hungary at first. At the end of the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878, Milan induced the Porte to acknowledge his country's independence at the Treaty of Berlin. Laza, let it be known, that he identified himself with the more moderate and opportunistic section of the Liberal party, decisively dissociating himself from the doctrine of a sudden and violent overthrow of society, and urging his associates to cooperate in bringing about a gradual development towards an independent state. In 1878 Milan chose him to be Jovan Ristić
Jovan Ristic
Jovan Ristić, or Ristitch was a Serbian statesman and diplomat....

's principal assistant at the Congress of Berlin
Congress of Berlin
The Congress of Berlin was a meeting of the European Great Powers' and the Ottoman Empire's leading statesmen in Berlin in 1878. In the wake of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, the meeting's aim was to reorganize the countries of the Balkans...

. In having Ristić as his chief adviser Milan was most fortunate, and but for that statesman's astounding diplomatic genius the liberation of Serbia would have been impossible. And in 1880 Kostić was sent to Petrovgrad as a member of the Serbian Legation there. The following years Milan devoted himself to his duties as a constitutional king with great conscientiousness by restoring the shattered finances of Serbia, reorganizing the army and modernizing the antiquated institutions of the young kingdom. But soon, Belgrade's opposition parties began taking issue with Kostić's writings. Laza Kostić had made Belgrade too hot to hold him. He had boasted of his power over the King in jest, but had disdain to make influential friends at court, so that King Milan in 1883, had to ask him to leave Belgrade for a time. Despite his great exaggerated bizarreness, Laza Kostić was ranked a great poet and writer just the same. Soon after, he took up residence in Cetinje
Cetinje , Цетиње / Cetinje , Italian: Cettigne, Greek: Κετίγνη, Ketígni) is a town and Old Royal Capital of Montenegro. It is also a historical and the secondary capital of Montenegro , with the official residence of the President of Montenegro...

, and the post of editor-in-chief of Glas Crnogoraca (The Montenegrin Voice), where he met like-minded intellectuals, Simo Matavulj
Simo Matavulj
Simo Matavulj was a Serbian novelist, a representative of lyric Realism, especially in short prose. He is best known for employing his skill in holding up to ridicule the peculiar foibles of the Dalmatian folk...

, Pavle Rovinski
Pavle Rovinski
Pavle Rovinski or Pavle Apolonovič Rovinski was Russian historian, Slavist, ethnologist and geographer. Elementary school, built in 1994 in Podgorica, Montenegro is named after him...

, and Valtazar Bogišić. It was to him that was chiefly due the great success of the Liberals in older Serbian provinces. In 1890, Laza came to live in Sombor
Sombor is a city and municipality located in northwest part of Serbian autonomous province of Vojvodina. The city has a total population of 48,749 , while the Sombor municipality has 87,815 inhabitants...

 where he married Julijana Palanački in September 1895, and spent the rest of his life there. It was in Sombor that he wrote the hallucinatory night book, Dnevnik snova (Diary of Dreams), and the ever popular poem Santa Maria della Salute. He died on November 27, 1910 in Vienna while on a visit.

Poet and Playwright

Laza Kostić may be characterized as an eccentric but had a spark of genius all his own. His writings abound in coined words, and in devious turns and twists of expression. He was the first to introduce iambic meter into the dramatic poetry, and the first translator of Shakespeare into Serbian.

Kostić remained a Romantic poet and playwright all his life. At the age of eighteen, in 1859, he undertook the task of translating Shakespeare. In 1860, in conjunction with Dr. Jovan Andrejević, he set on foot an excellent translation of Shakespeare's King Richard III, published in 1864. He himself was responsible for Romeo and Juliette and Hamlet. An erudite and connaisseur of European languages and literatures, he brought into Serbian poetry elements of wider horizons, boldness, and originality. He also translated many foreign authors, including Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, Heinrich Heine
Heinrich Heine
Christian Johann Heinrich Heine was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder by composers such as Robert Schumann...

, Heinrich Dernburg
Heinrich Dernburg
Heinrich Dernburg was a German jurist, professor, and politician. Born in Mainz, Grand Duchy of Hesse, he was the brother of Friedrich Dernburg....

, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC , was an English politician, poet, playwright, and novelist. He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling dime-novels which earned him a considerable fortune...

's The Last Days of Pompeii
The Last Days of Pompeii
The Last Days of Pompeii is a novel written by the baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1834. Once a very widely read book and now relatively neglected, it culminates in the cataclysmic destruction of the city of Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.The novel uses its characters to contrast...

, and Hungarian poet József Kiss's later poetry and verse novel which dealt mainly with urban topics but were noteworthy for its Jewish subject matter, like Jehovah (1887). In his lyric poetry he often touched upon universal themes and human concerns, especially the relationship between man and God, society, and fellow man. Perhaps his most important contributions are stylistic and linguistic innovations; he experimented freely, often at the expense of clarity. Closer to European Romanticism than any other Serbian poet of his time, Kostić attempted unsuccessfully in numerous, unfortunately incomplete theoretical essays to combine the elements of the native folk song with those of European Romanticism. The lack of success can be attributed to the advanced nature of his poetry and the ideas of his time and to his eccentricity. Indeed, his exuberance prevented him from becoming a truly great poet. However, today he is beginning to be reevaluated and appreciated more and more.

Of his plays. Maksim Crnojević (1863) represents the first attempt to dramatize an epic poem, Pera Segedinac (1875) deals with the struggle of the Serbs for their rights in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Gordana (1890).

See also

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.