The Jugoslavs form a national unit and are
ethnologically part of the Slavonic race. Jugoslav literature begins with
translations of the Bible by Cyril and Methodius, the “Slavonic Apostles,”
about the middle of the Ninth Century. During the first period of the nation’s
literary history, from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth Century, several
biographies and chronicles were produced.

Toward the end of the Fourteenth Century
and until the beginning of the Nineteenth Century the Jugoslavs fell under the
domination of the Turks, who practically arrested national life. There were,
however, those who, despite this catastrophe, tried to carry on the traditions
of their literature.

The deliverance from Turkish rule brought
with it a gradual revival. At first, however, little was written in the
Jugoslav languages (Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenian), because the printing
presses throughout the country had been destroyed by the Turks. The books
imported from Russia were printed in Russian, and were not familiar to the mass
of readers. Dositey Obradovich (1739—1811), writing in the vernacular, became
immensely popular, so much so that he was appointed Minister of Public
Education, in which capacity he established the first Serbian college at
Belgrade.

Vuk Karajich (1787—1864) is considered by
many as the father of modern Serbian literature. He collected some ten volumes
of national poetry and songs which served as an inspirational source for other
writers.

The Jugoslavs have as yet no great novelist,
but they have some successful short story writers, among whom Dr. Lazarevich
(1851—1890) takes high rank. Another popular author is Stefan Sremacs, whom
literary critics have dubbed the “Serbian Dickens.” Sima Matavulj, another much
read author, paints vivid pictures of the Dalmatian and Montenegrin Serbians in
his delightful stories.

The division designated as “Jugoslav”
includes the political groups speaking the Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenian
tongues. Certain territories, which were before 1914 under Austrian rule, are
now joined with Serbia, forming Jugoslavia.

The short story is a comparatively recent
development. In the three examples included in the present volume no one can
fail to observe the folk element, which characterizes the work of the best
Jugoslav writers.

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