Laza Lazarevic
Laza K. Lazarević 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 writer, psychiatrist
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. All psychiatrists are trained in diagnostic evaluation and in psychotherapy...

, and neurologist
A neurologist is a physician who specializes in neurology, and is trained to investigate, or diagnose and treat neurological disorders.Neurology is the medical specialty related to the human nervous system. The nervous system encompasses the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. A specialist...

. The primary interest of Lazarević throughout his short life was the science of medicine. In that field he was one of the greatest figures of his time, preeminently distinguished and useful as a doctor, teacher, and both a writer on medical issues and literary themes. To him literature was an avocation; yet he was very good at it and thought of himself as a man of letters. These facts are fundamental, as all literary critics past and present will agree, in arriving at a fair appraisal of his work.

Few writers have achieved fame with such a small opus as Laza Kuzmanović Lazarević, for it rests on nine stories, each of them, it is true, fraught with meaning and emotion to have been keenly read and widely appreciated. He is considered one of the best Serbian writers of the 19th Century. He was often referred to as the Serbian Turgeniev. During his brief life, "the less than prolific opus" enshrined him in Serbian literature as a writer who introduced the psychological story genre.


Born in Šabac
Šabac is a city and municipality in western Serbia, along the Sava river, in the historic region of Mačva. It is the administrative center of the Mačva District. The city has a population of 52,822 , while population of the municipality is 115,347...

 in 1831, to Kuzman Lazarević, a small trader, and his wife Jelka, Lazar Lazarević was brought up in the close atmosphere of a typical Serbian provincial, patriarchal family. When he was eleven years old his father (Kuzman) died and Jelka immediately took over the care of the family, which consisted of Lazarević and three sisters. His mother fostered a deep feeling of family unity and affection, which influenced Lazarević all his life, however short. Lazarević's sister Milka married the Serbian writer and poet, Milorad Popović Šapčanin, and settled in Belgrade, where Lazarević stayed as a student from 1866 until 1871, before going abroad to study. In Belgrade he attended high school and in 1867 he entered the law faculty of Belgrade's Grande École, but soon decided that medicine was his true calling.

The period of Lazarević's life as a student in Belgrade (1866–1871) was one of considerable intellectual activity. In 1867 the second meeting of the Ujedinjena Omladina Srpska (United Serb Youth) was held there. This organization, which spun out the Serbian romantic movement, sought to unite all Serbs, whether of the Serbian principality, the Vojvodina
Vojvodina, officially called Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is an autonomous province of Serbia. Its capital and largest city is Novi Sad...

 or the European Turkish-controlled territories, in order to raise national consciousness and culture as a means of achieving the liberation of all Serbian-speaking peoples into a greater, cosmopolitan Serbia (after all Serbian territories in the hands of the Habsburg and Ottomans are redeemable to their rightful inhabitants and landowners according to law). The general development of Serbian intellectual life in the 1860s led to an increased interest in European culture, especially literature, and the literary periodicals Danica (1860) and Matica (1866) in 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....

 and Stojan Novaković's Vila (1863) in Belgrade contained many translations from French, German, Russian, and English literatures. Lazarević, absorbed by the prospective literary and political challenges that came out of these activities, undertook the task to translate Gogol's "Diary of a Madman", Nikolay Chernyshevsky's What Is To Be Done? (1863), a work that eventually had profound influence on Svetozar Marković
Svetozar Markovic
Svetozar Marković was an influential Serbian political activist and literary critic. He developed an activistic anthropological philosophy with a definite program of social change.-Early life:...

 and other members of Omladina, the United Serb Youth.

Lazarević died at Belgrade on 28 December 1890 (Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

) or January 10, 1891 (Gregorian calendar). He was 39, another author to fall victim to tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...


Medical career

Laza Lazarević's road to the title of doctor of medicine was thorny and complicated, to say the least. He chose medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 as his profession, only after completing his law studies in Belgrade, and made his way to Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 in 1872. There he had as his instructors, famous men such as Emil du Bois-Reymond
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Emil du Bois-Reymond was a German physician and physiologist, the discoverer of nerve action potential, and the father of experimental electrophysiology.-Life:...

 (1818–1896), Rudolf Virchow
Rudolf Virchow
Rudolph Carl Virchow was a German doctor, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist and politician, known for his advancement of public health...

 (1821–1902), Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal
Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal
Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal was a German neurologist and psychiatrist from Berlin. He was the son of Otto Carl Friedrich Westphal and Karoline Friederike Heine and the father of Alexander Carl Otto Westphal...

 (1833–1890), and Hermann von Helmholtz
Hermann von Helmholtz
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz was a German physician and physicist who made significant contributions to several widely varied areas of modern science...

 (1821–1894). In 1879 he received his doctorate, based partially on his thesis, Experimentelle Beiträge zur Wirkung Qecksibers and the excellent research work he did in the laboratory and the work on the battlefield as an assistant-surgeon with the Dinara and Timok divisions during the Serbo-Turkish War of 1876. After graduating, the post of "specialist doctor" at the General State Hospital in Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

 awaited him. From then on until his premature death, Lazarević worked on reforming Serbian medicine as a primarius. He was a member of several Serbian Learned Societies, including SANU; and participated as a field doctor in the Serbo-Turkish War of 1876 and 1878. Also, he was a major organizer of the Great Reserve Hospital in Niš
Niš is the largest city of southern Serbia and third-largest city in Serbia . According to the data from 2011, the city of Niš has a population of 177,972 inhabitants, while the city municipality has a population of 257,867. The city covers an area of about 597 km2, including the urban area,...

 during the Serbo-Bulgarian War
Serbo-Bulgarian War
The Serbo-Bulgarian War was a war between Serbia and Bulgaria that erupted on 14 November 1885 and lasted until 28 November the same year. Final peace was signed on 19 February 1886 in Bucharest...

 of 1885; vice-colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

, writer and translator and medicine scientist (published 72 works in local and foreign magazines). He founded the first modern geriatric hospital in Belgrade in 1881. His works were translated in numerous languages. Later he became doctor appointed to the Royal Court by King Milan Obrenović IV
Milan Obrenovic IV
Milan Obrenović was a Serbian monarch reigning as Prince Milan IV of Serbia from 1868 to 1882 and King Milan I of Serbia from 1882 to 1889.-Early years:...


Early in his practice Lazarević became especially interested in the relations between body and the mind and in treatment of diseases. He was a pioneer in psychiatry and what would be called today psychosomatic medicine. He came to hold, as a major conviction of his professional life, the view that the mind plays a far greater role in health and illness than his contemporaries realized. He had seventy-two professional and scientific medical papers published, a great number of which referring to nervous diseases, such as paralysis agitans, sclerosis
Sclerosis or sclerotization is a hardening of tissue and other anatomical features; it may refer to:* in medicine, Sclerosis...

 of Medulla spinalis, aphasia
Aphasia is an impairment of language ability. This class of language disorder ranges from having difficulty remembering words to being completely unable to speak, read, or write....

 and others. It can be rightly argued that Dr. Laza Lazarević was the first Serbian neurologist
A neurologist is a physician who specializes in neurology, and is trained to investigate, or diagnose and treat neurological disorders.Neurology is the medical specialty related to the human nervous system. The nervous system encompasses the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. A specialist...

. The very first cataract
A cataract is a clouding that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope, varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light...

 operation in Serbia was performed by Lazarević in aseptic conditions, when cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 was applied to anasthesia. He was also the first doctor to be sent by Serbia to Vienna in 1884 to learn how to prepare animal lymph
Lymph is considered a part of the interstitial fluid, the fluid which lies in the interstices of all body tissues. Interstitial fluid becomes lymph when it enters a lymph capillary...


In 1880, he described, in the Serbian Archives, a sign that is now called after him and Dr. Lasèque in neurology, The Lazarević/Lasèque sign (Straight leg raise
Straight leg raise
The Straight leg raise, also called Lasègue's sign, Lasègue test or Lazarević's sign, is a test done during the physical examination to determine whether a patient with low back pain has an underlying herniated disk, mostly located at L5 , S1 or S2 .-Technique:With the patient...


Short Stories

To Laza Lazarević literature was an avocation for which he had more flair for than most writers of his day. Though he spoke and thought of himself as an amateur in letters, others thought otherwise, especially the literary critics who immediately recognized his genius.

More directly in the main current of our national literary development were the writers who undertook to apply the methods of critical realism, as these had been practiced by Russian and French masters, to the Serbian scene. Foremost among these were the Serbian Gogol (Milovan Glisić), the Serbian Turgenev (Laza Lazarević) and the Russian pupil (Svetolik Ranković), the youngest of the three. Foremost among these was Laza Lazarević. He came very slowely to his his full stature as a short story writer, however through a relatively short period of preparation as though it was instinctive with him. Reading of Turgenev, Gogol and other greats, whose books he devoured, helped Lazarević to formulate his own aims as a short story writer. When finally in "Sve će to narod pozlatiti" (People Will Reward All This), "Verter", and other stories he deals directly with contemporary social and economic problems, though his realism was always tempered and restrained by the literary conventions of his generation, he wrote with broad sympathy and with deep insight.

He saw the greatest danger for Serbian society in the attacks on its patriarchal way of life, as manifested in "Prvi put s ocem na jutrenje" (The First Matins with My Father). His main stories include "Školska ikona" (The School Icon), "Švabica" (The German Girl), "Na bunaru" (At the Well), and his best, "Prvi put s ocem na jutrenje".

Lazarević became a spokesman, in his short stories, of the Serb's struggle with the economic inequities of the times and the ever-present threats and dangers on his nation's culture.

The fiction of psychological analysis was cultivated by Laza Lazarević, who is still finding readers —- after so many years -- mostly because of his originality and impeccable style.

External links

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