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Rastko Petrović

Rastko Petrovic

Rastko Petrovic is one of the most controversial and influential intellectual writers of modern Serbian literature. He reacted early to the new literary trends of post-World War I Europe, distinguishing himself as an original poet searching for new expressive potentials of poetic language. A poet, essayist, art critic, and travel writer, he is interesting as a representative of his time and as the author of works that are valuable contributions to literature in their own right.

Petrovic was born on 16 May 1898 to a middle- class family in Belgrade. His father, Mita Petrovic, director of the bureau of taxation, was a passionate amateur historian. One of the besteducated men of his time, he had considerable talent for drawing, which his children inherited from him. Rastko's mother, Mileva Zoric, a schoolteacher, was a descendant of a well-known family in Titel, Voyvodina.

[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Rastko Petrović (Belgrade, 3 March 1898 – Washington, D.C., 15 August 1949) was a Serbian poet, writer, diplomat, literary and art critic. He is the brother of Serbian painter Nadežda Petrović.


He was born on the 3rd of March 1898 in Belgrade, the ninth child of Dimitrije Petrović, art professor, and his wife Mileva Petrović (née Zorić), teacher. Rastko Petrović's godfather was writer Jaša Tomić. Petrović's house in Belgrade was a gathering place for leading Serbian intellectuals, writers, artists, and historians, and young Rastko had an opportunity to meet many of them, including playwright Ivo Vojnović, fiction writer Ivo Ćipiko, Petar Kočić, and others.

After serving in the Serbian Army in World War I, he went to college in Nice, studied law in Paris and after graduating in 1920 he returned to Serbia. There he joined the diplomatic corps and served in Rome, Chicago and Washington, D.C. as a diplomat of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and he travelled extensively throughout Europe, the Levant, Turkey, Africa, Mexico, Cuba, and Canada. Although he left a travelogue after every journey, there is nothing about his understanding of Europe to be found in his letters from Spain and Italy. There is a letter from Rome, in which he writes about a dinner party during which the works of Marcel Proust are discussed. He wrote for a cosmopolitan folk who had their own memories of Toledo or the Vatican, whose members studied at European schools of higher learning, served in diplomatic corps of its major capitals, reported from Europe as foreign correspondents, or travelled there for their own personal intellectual enrichment. But not everyone, however, would have heard of Proust outside France in the early 1920s; it was something worth writing about from Rome while his novels were being translated. As with others of his generation, Petrović felt at home in Europe, somewhat conceited perhaps.

While travelling through Libya in 1928, Rastko Petrović wrote: "Africa has no end and is bereft of people. One can travel through it for days on end and never meet a single living soul."

Based at the Yugoslav embassy in Washington, D.C. during World War II, he quit the diplomatic service after the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formed, and stayed privately in the United States after the war, like many of his Serbian colleagues who left the service and stayed in the West (Jovan Dučić, Milan Rakić, Miloš Crnjanski, and Ivo Andrić). Petrović died in America on the 15th of August 1949.

In 1986, after official recognition, Petrović's remains were returned to his homeland and buried in Belgrade's Novo Groblje.


Petrović wanted to establish a connection between the old folk tradition and the new literary trends. He turned his attention for a while to lyric poetry, looking for forgotten poetic processes which would enable him to discover new, universal aesthetics. He also studied painting, ethnology and psychology.

His novel Dan šesti (The Sixth Day) written in 1932 and partly set in America ("a setting" described by one critic as "unique in Serbian literature" focuses on the experience of a refugee from the war and his loss rather than the experience of life in the West.

Selected bibliography

  • Burleska gospodina Peruna, boga groma (A Burlesque of Lord Perun: God of Thunder), 1921.
  • Otkrovenje (Revelation), 1922.
  • Afrika, 1930.
  • Ljudi Govore (People Speak), 1931.
  • Dan šesti (The Sixth Day), 1932, 1961.