Vojnovik, Ivo 1857-1929 (Sergie P.)
VOJNOVIK, Ivo 1857-1929 (Sergie P.)
Born October 9, 1857, in Dubrovnik, Austro-Hungary (now Croatia); died August 30, 1929, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia; son of Konstantin (Kosto) Vojnovik; married Maria Serragli, 1855. Education: Attended law school in Zagreb, 1878-80.
Narodni list (People's Newspaper), Zadar, correspondent; in law practice, 1879-90; civil servant, 1890-1907; Zagreb National Theater, dramaturge, 1907-11.
(As Sergie P.) Perom i olovkom (title means "With Pen and Pencil"), Matica Hrvatska (Zagreb, Croatia), 1884.
Ksanta, Matica Hrvatska, 1886, published as Stari grijesi (title means "Old Sins"), Drustvo Hrvatskih Knjizevnika (Zagreb, Croatia), 1919.
Psyche, Matica Hrvatska (Zagreb, Croatia), 1889.
Ekvinocij (title means "The Equinox"), Matica Hrvatska (Zagreb, Croatia), 1895, published as Ekvinocijo, Srpska Knjizevna Zadruga (Belgrade, Yugoslavia), 1905.
Dubrovacka trilogija, Matica Hrvatska (Zagreb, Croatia), 1903 (includes Suton, translation by Fanny S. Copeland published as "The Dying Republic," in Slavonic Review, 1922-1923, translation by John Batistich and George R. Noyes published as "The Twilight," Occident, 1924), translation by Ada Broch published as A Trilogy of Dubrovnik, Leyham (Graz, Austria), 1921, translation by Batistich and Noyes published as A Trilogy of Dubrovnik, Poet Lore, 1951.
Smrt majke Jugovica, Dionicka Tiskara (Zagreb, Croatia), 1907.
Gospodja sa suncokretom, San mletacke noci, Triptyhon, Matica Hrvatska (Zagreb, Croatia), 1912.
Lazarevo vaskrsenje, Matica Srpska (Dubrovnik, Croatia), 1913, translation by John Batistich and George R. Noyes published as "The Resurrection of Lazarus," in Poet Lore, 1926.
Jakobina, Matica Hrvatska (Zagreb, Croatia), 1914.
Djela, 3 volumes, J. Toskovic (Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia), 1914-1922.
Akordi, Jug (Zagreb, Croatia), 1917.
Imperatrix, Knjizevni Jug (Zagreb, Croatia), 1918.
Maskarate ispodl kuplja, Zabavna biblioteka (Zagreb, Croatia), 1922.
Prolog nenapisane drame, Srpska Knjizevna zadruga (Belgrade, Yugoslavia), 1929.
Sabrana dela, 3 volumes, Geca Kon (Belgrade, Yugoslavia), 1939-1941.
Psyche, produced in Zagreb, Croatia, 1890.
Gundulicev san, produced in Dubrovnik, Croatia, 1893.
Ekvinocij, produced in Zagreb, Croatia, 1895.
Smrt majke Jugovica, produced in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1906.
Gospodja sa suncokretom, 1913.
Ivo Vojnovik was a late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Yugoslav dramatist, short-story writer, and poet who wrote in Croatian. He published fourteen volumes and saw productions of five of his dramatic works. His best work is probably his first published novella, Geranium, which some critics believe began the Croatian realist movement. He is also known for his inventiveness as a playwright, his popularity peaking just before World War I. A contributor to the Encyclopedia of World Literature wrote that, "although his mediocre plays outnumber the truly outstanding ones, the latter secured for him a prominent place in Yugoslav dramatic literature." Thomas Eekman, writing in Dictionary of Literary Biography, noted that Vojnovik was interested in the symbolist movement and admired writers Edmond Rostand, Maurice Mäterlinck, and Henrik Ibsen, but, "on the other hand, in his prose of the mid-1880s a certain influence of the French realists can be established, including Alphonse Daudet, Emile Zola, and especially Gustave Flaubert." Vojnovik's prose, Eekman noted, features "a luxuriant, flamboyant style with an abundance of images, comparisons, metaphors, inversions, and other elegant stylistic features."
Vojnovik's father, Konstantin Vojnovik, a member of an old, noble, Serbian family, converted to Catholicism. His great-grandfather, Djordje, was a Russian army major. Within a year of Vojovik's birth, the family moved to Split and his father started a law practice, but the family continued to spend many summers in Dubrovnik, a city with which Vojnovik bonded. He was especially close to his mother, who taught him French, drawing, and painting. While in Split he attended the Italian high school. When he was seventeen, the family moved to Zagreb, where his father taught law at the new university and eventually became a member of Parliament. Vojnovik attended law school while in Zagreb from 1878 to 1880, and became a law school assistant. While still a student, he worked as a correspondent for the Zadar-based Narodni list, covering Zagreb's cultural life. After graduating, he practiced law.
During a tense political situation in Croatia, Hungarian governor Khuen-Hedevary, believing Vojnovik was a political opponent, exiled him to the town of Krizevci. During his five-year exile, Vojnovik wrote a series of four short stories collectively titled Perom i olovkom, the unfinished novel Ksanta, and his first drama, Psyche, which premiered in Zagreb in 1890. In 1889 he was transferred to Bjelovar and a few months later to Zadar, where he took a position in the governor's office. He was a civil servant, then a full-time writer, until 1914, when the Austro-Hungarian government imprisoned him in Dubrovnik as a Yugoslav nationalist. He transferred to Zagreb the following year due to a serious eye illness. From 1919 to 1922 he lived in France and then settled in Dubrovnik. In 1917 his birthday was nationally celebrated. Eekman wrote, "During the euphoria of 1918 due to the foreseeable end of the war and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vojnonik, as a staunch champion of Serbian-Croatian brotherhood and Yugoslav unity, was elevated to the height of a national hero and martyr." He was admitted to a Belgrade hospital in 1928 for eye treatment and died the following year.
Vojnovik's first published work of fiction, Geranium, appeared in installments in the periodical Vijenac ("Wreath") in 1880. Set in Split and bearing the subtitle "Romance of a Spinster," Geranium was widely popular. Sljivic-Simsic quoted Vojnovik as saying that the work focuses "on the anatomy of the heart of an unattractive woman." It tells of Mare, who lost the secret object of her affection to her beautiful, yet superficial sister. Mare redirects her unrequited love to a handicapped niece, whom she takes into her house, and experiences, for the first time, true happiness. Eekman asserted that the geranium is "a metaphor of the barren, unsatisfactory existence of a good but unattractive poor girl." He added, "The narrative structure is complex; its style shows influences of some of the authors he had read and admired, including George Sand, Alexandré Dumas, Charles Dickens, Alessandro Manzoni, and August Senoa."
In "U Magli" ("In the Fog"), the first of the four stories in Perom i olovkom, Vojnovik reveals his romantic sentimentalism in a story about a poor, blind organ grinder in Zagreb who grieves over his dead son. "Sirena" is a happier story that describes the playfulness of three girls enjoying the beaches of the Adriatic and features Vojnovik's own memories of his summers in Dubrovnik. "Rose Mery," set in Vienna, features the enigmatic title character and her doomed love affair with the young Count Marko Branski. Set in Rome, "Cemu?" ("Why?") involves a mysterious female who shows the demonic nature of love to a young violinist from Dubrovnik. Soon after the popular stories were published, they were translated into German and appeared in the Agramer Zeitung.
Vojnović, in his four-act play, Ekvinocij, attempts to dramatize Ksanta. He relates the story of Jela and her lover, who left her to go to America before their son's birth. He returns many years later, wealthy, and his selfishness endangers their son's happiness. Jela kills her ex-lover and then commits suicide so their son and his fiancée may go to America to enjoy the happy life she could never have. The Encyclopedia of World Literature essayist called this a play "in which realistic, symbolic, and lyrical elements are interlaced to create a moving drama of mother love and violent human passions against the background of rampaging equinoctial winds over the stormy Adriatic." It was made into the film Nevjera ("Infidelity"), and Vojnovik translated the work into Italian. Eekman found similarities to the myth of Oedipus and to Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (1904).
In 1902 Vojnovik joined three short plays together to form the triptych Dubrovacka trilogija. The plays, usually performed and printed together, are: Suton, a one-act play finished in 1889-1890; Allons enfants, a one-act play finished in 1901; and Na taraci, a play finished in 1902. Eekman wrote, "The title 'Twilight' would be appropriate for the whole cycle, as the period of decay of old Dubrovnik is at the core of each drama." The first play, set in 1806, centers on Napoleon's troops entering Dubrovnik. The Encyclopedia of World Literature essayist noted that the other two plays "depict the further deterioration of the old aristocratic social order and the transformation of the proud and independent republic into an ordinary coastal town and a future sea resort. Aware of the inevitability of changes brought about by modern times, [Vojnovik] nevertheless looks with sadness and nostalgia at the decline of Dubrovnik and at the disappearance of his own aristocratic class." Eekman added, "Dubrovacka trilogija has been called the apogee of Vojnovik's dramatic work. There was criticism as well: he was a sentimental-romantic author who constantly looked back at the past of one city and used patriotic rhetoric, decorative melodramatic effects, and a fashionable symbolism but lacked in great, new ideas and personalities."
Vojnovik was a strong contemporary voice for Croatian and Yugoslav literature and politics. His passion for and identification with Dubrovnik led to some literary works depicting the nineteenth-century socioeconomic decline of the city-republic. Eekman wrote, "He has been rightfully called a precursor of the Moderna movement of the early twentieth century, both with his prose, in which the expressive, picturesque element takes precedence over the plot, and his dramatic works, which elevated Croatian drama to a European level." The Encyclopedia of World Literature contributor concluded that Vojnovik's "omnipresent lyricism, his sensitivity to music and color, his theatrical craftsman-ship and readiness to experiment on the stage, his creation of a gallery of three-dimensional female characters, the detailed and explicit instructions for staging his plays (often longer than the actual dramatic text and an integral part of it), the local dialect saturated with Italianisms, and his nostalgic love for Dubrovnik and its patricians" are among the hallmarks of his work.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 147: South Slavic Writers before World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Encyclopedia of World Literature, third edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, Volume 2, 1975.*