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  • Storia della cultura e della letteratura serba by Bojan Mitrović and Marija Mitrović
  • Radmila Gorup
Bojan Mitrović and Marija Mitrović. Storia della cultura e della letteratura serba. Lecce, Italy: Argo, 2015. pp. 248, with five appendices. ISBN: 978-8-88234-133-6.

Storia della cultura e della letteratura serba (History of Serbian Culture and Literature) is written by a son and mother team, Bojan Mitrović and Marija Mitrović. He holds a Ph.D in history, and she is a professor of literatures and cultures of the successor states of former Yugoslavia at the University of Trieste, Italy. The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia contributed to the publication of this book.

The two authors divided the task commensurate with their expertise. All historical topics (sections) were written by Dr. B. Mitrović, while most cultural and all literary units were contributed by Professor M. Mitrović.

The volume is divided into six chapters: "Middle Ages," "Serbs Under the Ottomans," "From Baroque to Enlightenment," "Nineteenth Century," "Twentieth Century," and "The Dissolution of Yugoslavia." Chapters are further divided into subchapters and smaller units. Each chapter begins with the historical background and the cultural climate of the period, something that teachers of literature and culture can find useful. They can assign these sections as readings to their classes and not spend class time on them. The historical backdrop is followed by discussions of major literary trends and their representatives. Texts on individual writers contain a short biography, their most important works, and a brief critical evaluation. Information on art and, in later chapters, on theater and cinema, is introduced at the end. All of the sections are informative and quite detailed for a book of its size. They reveal the authors' deep knowledge of Serbia and its culture.

The chapters become progressively longer as we approach modern times. The shortest chapter is "The Serbs Under the Ottomans," consisting of only four pages. That is understandable given that during the Ottoman occupation cultural life was affected. It was reduced to copying of religious texts of the high Middle Ages. By contrast, the oral literature flourished during the Ottoman period. [End Page 171]

The last chapter, on the dissolution of the common state of Yugoslavia, dwells on the causes of the country's downfall and its effects on the development of arts and literature in Serbia. While the causes of the dissolution of the federal state are many and are interpreted differently by different parties, they mostly agree on the outcome. The dismembering of Yugoslavia resulted in cultural impoverishment and parochialism, not only in Serbia but in all the successor states of the former Yugoslavia.

What comes as a pleasant surprise is that the authors trace the emergence of feminine voices in Serbian literature and culture, starting with Jelena Balšić and the nun Jefimija of the Middle Ages to the first important modern female authors, Jelena Dimitrijević (1862–1945) and Isidora Sekulić (1877–1958). An informative section on the increase in feminist writing and feminist studies in the post-Yugoslav period is presented in the last chapter.

The rich oral literature, which is usually given a separate chapter in books of similar types, is given a brief treatment in this volume, and is included in the chapter on romanticism.

Texts on individual writers are uneven, reflecting the authors' inclinations. For example, eight times more space is dedicated to the modernist Bora Stanković (1875–1927) than to the world renowned postmodernist Milorad Pavić (1928–2009).

The last chapter provides information on Serbian writers who during the 1990s and later wrote in exile, such as Aleksandar Tišma, David Albahari, Bora Ćosić, Vladimir Pištalo, and others, but also about writers of "double belonging," a new phenomenon, who live abroad and write in languages other than Serbian, such as Nataša Radojičić Kane (1966), Téa Obreht (1985), Vladimir Tasić (1965), Vesna Goldsworthy (1961), and others.

History of Serbian Culture and Literature has five appendices. In addition to geographical maps, chronology of historical events, index of names, and bibliography, this book also has a bibliography of Serbian literary works which have been translated into Italian. This information is very useful, yet not always...


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