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Ivan Lalić

[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Ivan V. Lalić (born June 8, 1931, Belgrade - died July 28, 1996, Belgrade) was a Serbian poet with a reputation as one of the finest European poets of his time.


Lalić was born into a cultured family in Belgrade; his father, Vlajko, was a journalist, and his grandfather Isidor Bajić was a celebrated composer. As a child he experienced the trauma of seeing many of his school-friends perish in an air-raid. When in 1983, a BBC interviewer asked Lalic how he had found his poetic voice, Lalić replied "My childhood and boyhood in the war marked everything I ever wrote as a poem or poetry“. 

Lalić studied law in Zagreb, where he first began to publish poetry, and worked for the publishers Nolit in Belgrade. He was also a distinguished critic and translator, especially of English poetry. He lived in both Zagreb and Belgrade, and spent the summers with his family in the Istrian town of Rovinj. He was survived by his Croatian wife, Branka, and his younger son.


Lalić was awarded with the most prestigious literary prizes in Yugoslavia. He was admired abroad and books of his poems have been translated into six languages (English, French, Italian, Polish, Hungarian and Macedonian). Individual poems have appeared in more than 20 languages. 

Indeed, Lalić’s poetic quest into the nature of time, culture, and human perception combines a startling clarity of images and a thoughtful, highly crafted, lucid diction that places him firmly in the tradition of European and American modernism, in which he is acknowledged to be one of Europe's masters. 

The Works of Love (1981) was the first of several English translations of his poetry by Francis R. Jones: Last Quarter (1987), The Passionate Measure (European Poetry Translation Prize, 1989) , A Rusty Needle (Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation, 1996) and Fading Contact (1997).

In her obituary of him, Celia Hawkesworth spoke of "the central place in his work of memory: fragile in the face of the collapse of civilisations, but all we have. Memory allows the poet to recreate brief instants of personal joy as well as to conjure up a sense of the distant past. It allows each of us, as individuals condemned to solitude, to connect with a shared inheritance and feel, for a moment, part of a larger whole."

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