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Stjepan M. Ljubisa is, without any doubt one of the most famous citizens of Budva. According to the critics, he is one of the best narrators in Serbian language. This opinion has been set during his life and it is still on today.
Ljubisa's first prose works aroused great interest among readers and critics. The unusual themes and subjects, the artistic quality and especially the rich, expressive language indicated a gifted, original story-teller. A powerful source seemed to be rising in the very midst of folk creativity and linguistic imagination. Every succeeding work confirmed the initial impression and gradually guided the author into the circle of leading writers of the second half of the 19th century. Ljubisa's prose was inspiring for a whole generation of Serbian writers, particularly Sima Matavulj.


In all likelihood Ljubisa was born in Budva on March 6, 1822 as a son of Mitar and Katarina Brdareva from Grbalj. It is true that in his Autobiography he claimed that he was born "on the last day in the month of February 1824, but recent research indicates that the earlier date is more probable. At the age of sixteen his father died, and he took the post of scribe in the Budva municipality, being appointed secretary in 1843. His schooling was not extensive (he probably attended a private school run by Antun Kojovic and then completed three grades of elementary school in Budva and Kotor) but through self-teaching he acquired an impressive education. This allowed him to advance his political career: in 1861 he was elected delegate to the Dalmatian Council, and then member of the Imperial Council. After 1870 when he became president of the Dalmatian Council, he resided in Zadar, busy with his political activity. During next few decades Ljubisa was a major political figure in the south. Despite political intrigue and dramatic conflicts in the parliamentary bodies to which he belonged, and also certain misunderstandings over the uprising in the Bay of Kotor in 1869, Ljubisa retained his dignity and as such was liked and appreciated by his constituents. He died of pneumonia in Vienna on November 23, 1878.


As a young man Ljubisa showed great affinity for literature. His reading consisted of works in Italian and Serbian. Of the Italian romantics he especially appreciated Manzoni, whose novel Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) had a distinctive influence on some of Ljubisa's later prose. He also read the classics. He was much influenced by folk epics, and here his models were Vuk Karadzic and Vuk Vrcevic. Still, the most powerful influence came from Njegos, whose themes and greatness Ljubisa respected until the end of his life.
His first work, his historical-ethnographical account Opstestvo pastrovsko u Okruzju kotorskom (The Pastrovic Community in Kotor District) with some of the subjects encountered in his later stories, was published in 1845. His translation of Sallust's Conspiracy of Cataline was published in 1857, and translations of some of Ariosto's satires and Horace's Praise of peasant Life in 1862 in a periodical (Narodni list). The same year he published a translation of the Death of Ugolin from Dante's Divine Corned)) in another periodical (Zabavnik dubrovacki).
What earned Ljubisa literary repute are two collections of short stories: Pripovesti crnogorske i primorske (Stories of Montenegro and the Littoral) and Pricanja Vuka Dojcevica (The Tales of Vuk Dojcevic) (1877-1879). His literar career was interrupted while writing this second collection. Remaining incomplete were his plans not only for a Serbian Decameron (100 tales were planned, and only 37 were published), but also a second book of short stories and a novel, the theme of which would be the same Christmas Eve which served Njegos for his Gorski Vjenac (Mountain Wreath).
Though incomplete, Ljubisa's work is characteristic of the development of Serbian literary prose in the last century. With linguistic freshness and thematic diversity his stories convey a folk spirit, a sense of history and national identity.
The Stories of Montenegro and the Littoral, in their final form, contain eight stories. Most are relatively long, the composition fairly incoherent. The themes are historical, but the historical material is interwoven with legend and the writer's imagination. Typical are Prokleti kam (Cursed Stone),
Skocidjevojka, Pop Androvic novi Obilic (Father Androvic, Another Obilic), Prodaja patrijara Brkica (Sale of Patriarch Brkic), Scepan Mali (Scepan the Small), and perhaps Gorde ili kako Crnogorka ljubi (Gorde, or How a Montenegrin Maiden Loves). The two other stories Kanjos Macedonovic and Krada i prekrada zvona (Stealing One's Own Bells) are more compact, the composition more balanced, and definitely rank among Ljubisa's finest works, fit for an anthology of short stories.



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