Lazar Kostić 

Portrait of Lazar Kostić

Lazar Kostić was a Serbian poet, lawyer, journalist and politician. He was born on the 12th February 1841 in Kovilj, Serbia and died on 27th November 1910 in Vienna, Austria aged 69.

Major Works

Maksim Crnojević” (1863)
“Pera Segedinac” (1882)  
“Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj” (Book of Zmaj) (1902)
“Poems” (1909)

Biography Timeline

Lazar Kostić was born on the 12th February 1841 in Kovilj, Serbia. His father was Petar Kostić a military officer in the service of Austrians. His mother was Kristina whose family were merchants. He was educated at primary school in Kovilj and then the gymnasium in Pancevo where he was taught in German. His high school was the Serbian Orthoodox Gymnasium in Novi Sad. He began publishing some of his work, whilst still at school, in local magazines such as “Sedmica” (Week) and “Letopis Matice Rrpske” (Chronicle of Matica Rrpska).

1848: He stays with his uncle in Sremski Karlovci to celebrate the founding of the shortlived and self-proclaimed Serbian province of Serbian Vojvodina.

1858: He translates Homer’s “Iliad” into Serbian and publishes his poems Letopis Matice Rrpske” (Dreams I dream, Between Reality and Dream)and Sećanja na Ruvarca” (Memories on Ruvarac) in the literary magazine “Danica”.

1859: He finishes school and goes to the University of Pesta to study law. He begins translating the plays of William Shakespeare which he will continue for much of the rest of his life.

1860: He teaches Latin, German and Hungarian in school and then becomes a lawyer and public notary and becomes the president of Novi Sad’s Court House. He joins the newly founded Serbian People’s Freeminded Party and is active in the United Serbian Youth organisation but is persecuted by the Austrian authorities. He falls in love with the actress Jovanka Kirjaković although she is to die young. He writes the poems “Sahrana” (Funeral) and “Posle Sahrane” (After the Funeral) in her honour. Between now and 1872 he serves as Lord Mayor of Novi Sad twice.

1863: He writes the drama “Maksim Crnojević” as his first attempt to put an epic poem on the stage.

1864: For the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth he adapts two scenes from “Richard the Third” using iambic verse in Serbian for the first time.

1866: He finally graduates from the Law School of the Budapest University with a Doctor of Philosophy in Jurisprudence.

1867: When Mihailo Obrenovic the Third, Prince of Serbia is assassinated the authorities try to implicate him and other Serbian intellectuals in the plot and he is sent to jail but later released.

1868: The new Prince of Serbia is the 14-year-old Milan the Fourth Obrenovic who is a great admirer of “Maksim Crnojević”. With the aid of the Prince he obtains the post of editor of the political and literary magazine “Srpsku Nezavisnost” (Serbian Independence) in Belgrade.,

1872: He is arrested after the police find correspondence in code to the writer Vaso Pelagic calling for the national liberation of Serbs. After his release he is elected as a member of the Hungarian Parliament.

1873: He publishes his first collection of poems and another the following year.

1875: He publishes the play “Pera Segedinac” which deals with the struggle of the Serbs for their rights.

1878: The Prince of Serbia sends him to the Congress of Berlin as the diplomat Jovan Ristic’s assistant.

1880: He is sent to St Petersburg in Russia as part of the Serbian delegation. Belgrade’s opposition parties begin criticising his writing.

1882: He publishes the pay “Pera Segedinac”.

1883: He is asked by the King to leave Belgrade for a while and goes to live in Cetinje where he becomes editor-in-chief of “Glas Crnogoraca” (The Montenegrin Voice), the official paper of the Kingdom of Montenegro.

1884: He writes “Kritički uvod u Opštu Filosofiju” (A Critical Introduction to General Philosophy).

1890: He publishes the pay “Gordana” but it is not successful. He moves to Sombor in September. He writes the book “Dnevnik Snova” (Diary of Dreams) 

1891: He translates Derburg’s ”Pandekti” for the Croatian Government.

1895: He marries the rich heiress, Juliana Palanački, which is arranged by his friend Lazar Dunderski as he won’t allow him to marry his young daughter Jelena Lenka whom he has fallen in love with. He becomes the head of the Serbian National Library. Jelena dies suddenly and some think it to be a suicide.

1902: He publishes Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj” (Book of Zmaj).

1909: He publishes “Poems”.

1910: He finally completes the popular poem “Santa Maria della Salute” which he has been writing for several years about Jelena Lenka Dunderski and which is considered the finest example of his love poetry.

Lazar Kostić died on 27th November 1910 in Vienna, Austria and was buried in the Serbian Orthodox Cemetery in Sombor, Serbia.

Further Information

List of works by Kostić.