Radoje Domanović (1873–1908) is considered the best satirist in all Serbian literature during the turn of the 20th century. A gifted writer interested in politics, Domanović wielded his implacable pen against the injustices of a democracy in the making.
Domanović was born in a village Ovsište which is located in Topola municipality. He attended a gymnasium in Kragujevac. From 1890 to 1894, Domanović studied history and philology at Belgrade’s Grande École. He read some of his first works to the members of a student organization Pobratimstvo. Domanović was among the first writers to begin to produce an independent expression of their own urban experience in their new works.
In 1893, Domanović wrote and published his first work, a short story In the Moonlight, in a popular magazine for intellectuals called Javor. Two years later, he got his first tenure as a lecturer in a gymnasium in Pirot. At that time, Domanović joined the Republican Party, and got married to Natalija Raketić. He took an active part to maintain the doctrine of republicanism during the time of the monarchy. After nine months, he was transferred, as a punishment on request of his political rivals, to a gymnasium in Vranje. On the same count, after a year in Vranje, he was transferred to Leskovac. Following a critical speech on the position of teachers in 1898, he was dismissed from his post, along with his wife. As a response, he wrote a short story Abolishing Passions.
In 1899, he published two collections of short stories and his famous story Danga (Stigma), perhaps an inspiration for Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. The following year, he got a well-paying, government job as a clerk in the State’s Archive. In 1902, after he published Stradija, he was again dismissed from his post. In the mythical land of “Stradija” Domanović shows how police spared voters from troubling themselves to cast votes in free elections while government ministers played musical chairs. (Even at the end of the twentieth century there is nothing to add to the criticism of the mentality of slavery, of political deceit, and of the propaganda that always succeeds).
Domanović started writing editorials for magazine Odjek (Echo). After the coup in 1903, Domanović returned to his post, and soon got a stipend to work on his stories. It was rumoured that the coup saved his life, since he was on a list for liquidation of the old government. In 1904, he started a magazine Stradija, that had 35 editions. The following year, he was appointed to the State Press, and has also for some time continued writing, unsatisfied with the lack of any substantial change in society. He died in poverty in 1908 of tuberculosis, and was survived by his wife, son Zoran and daughter Danica.
Very few of Domanović’s works have been translated to English, as far as the editors are aware, and none of them on-line. So far, we have located only two translations, but we will keep looking:
- Koljević, Svetozar, Yugoslav Short Stories, Oxford University Press, London 1966.
- Vučković, Tihomir (ed.), A Millenium of Serbian Literature, Centre of Emigrants of Serbia, Belgrade 1999, 127–135. Translated by W. M. Lineker.