Songs of the Serbian People: From the Collections of Vuk Karadzicby Milne Holton; Vasa D. Mihailovich

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


  • American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages

    Songs of the Serbian People: From the Collections of Vuk Karadzic by Milne Holton; Vasa D.MihailovichReview by: Christine D. TomeiThe Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 395-396Published by: American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European LanguagesStable URL: .Accessed: 16/06/2014 14:43

    Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

    .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


    American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages is collaborating with JSTOR todigitize, preserve and extend access to The Slavic and East European Journal.

    This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:43:00 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • Reviews 395

    Songs of the Serbian People: From the Collections of Vuk Karadzic. Milne Holton and Vasa D. Mihailovich, Trans. and Eds. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1997. 360 pp., $50.00 (cloth), $19.95 (paper).

    The pleasure of reading a new translation relates universally to those who share literature. Holton and Mihailovich have done a great service bringing the epics gathered by Serbia's best- known collector of folk literature, Vuk Stefanovic Karad&ic, into an annotated English transla- tion, with an explanatory introduction of the work and the history of its development. Other collections of Karadzic's translated into English, John Adlard's Nine Magic Peahens and Other Serbian Folktales Collected by Vuk Stefanovich Karadzic and Red Knights: Serbian Women's Songs for Vuk Stefanovich Karadzic, translated and edited by Daniel Weissbort and Tomislav Longinovic, complement this collection and could be added to the bibliography appended to this work. Holton and Mihailovich have chosen to represent one segment of the multitude of Karadzic's collected poems, the heroic (junacki) poems.

    Like the Russian byliny, these poems hold a special place in literature since combining elements of history in a unique style of oral presentation has no parallel in belles-lettres, other than in imitation, of course. Heroic deeds mesh with tragedy and perseverance, the narration is beautiful both in form and structure, and the Southern Slavs are represented as a national identity and consciousness. These works should be read by everyone and, thanks to their availability, this may happen.

    Coming about eight years after the publication of Holton and Mihailovich's previous collec- tion, Serbian Poetry from the Beginnings to the Present (1989), this book brings with it expecta- tions of a maturation in style and presentation. Presenting epic poems, due to their inherent interest, seems well motivated. However, it is a real disappointment to find that the first section of this book, "Songs before History," is republished from the former collection almost entirely. The introductions to the individual poems are virtually unchanged as well, using the same number of sentences with the same basic statement in each one, which in no way offers a new reading to the interested. In fact, only about two-thirds of the material presented in this book is original to this book, leaving this critic wondering at the intention of the authors.

    As in their previous book, Holton and Mihailovich seem quite absorbed in the history surrounding these works, and less concerned about the poems' literary nature. However, even their presentation of the history does not always proceed clearly. For example, they explain the title of Karadzic's first collection of folksongs, Mala prostonarodna slaveno-serbska pjesnarica--which they mistakenly translate as A Simple Little Slaveno-Serbian Songbook, not A Little Slavo-Serb Book of Folk Poems (as opposed to the translation of Antun Barac in History of Yugoslav Literature, 87)- but neglect to explain that the language of the elite in Serbian society had absorbed so many Russianisms that it was then called Slavo-Serb. There was a vague, previous reference to a need to "protect" the South Slavs from Russia's influence (2) and "turning Serbian loyalties away from Russia" (2), but the nationality and religion issue are quite muddled and may not be easily understood to the uninitiated reader. The Orthodox South Slavs had turned to Russia for protection against the Catholics, which they achieved in large measure through the largesse of the Russian Orthodox Church, but then saturated their language with Russianisms, producing an odd Slavo-Serbian dialect. Turning back "against" the Russians while maintaining an Orthodox identity was the new task. It is this fact that makes Karadzic's use of vernacular Serbian revolutionary, since it negates the authority of the contemporary Church and State. Without reference to this dichotomy, it is difficult to per- ceive why using the vernacular would, in itself, be considered radical, since other nations were collecting folktales at the same time, without the same political proscription vis-a-vis the vernacular.

    The greatest disappointment for this reader, though, comes from the expectation that these

    This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:43:00 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • 396 Slavic and East European Journal

    literary works will be treated as works of literature, not just documents of a historic nature. Their importance as history is not being disputed, but while the authors say they are aware that KaradZic's corpus has a fundamental role in Serbian literature, and Croatian as well, since it was the Croats who principally spoke the ijekavski dialect used by Karadzic, they do nothing to illustrate this role. The abundance of other literary criticism discussing themes, motifs, influence and sources, as well as the value of these writings to literary history testifies to the critical focal point which Karad2ic's corpus represents. A complete typology is not indicated (indeed, such work has already been done), but it could be mentioned that certain motifs reoccur or that there is a connection between these epic poems and others. Barac, for exam- ple, eloquently and concisely describes how the works of Karadzic enabled a generation of writers, who had been striving to create a style by imitating Horace and the pseudo-classics, to emulate a simple but profound national expression. This is not to castigate the authors for not being all things to all people, but to remind them that orienting literary works must, due to the medium, be addressed to a literary audience by the means whereby this makes sense, in this case, by trying to place these works in the framework of Serbian literature, not just history.

    All of this notwithstanding, to take this book on its own merit and use it by itself in a translation course, or to read for its own sake, is highly recommended. The book emphasizes caesura by leaving a space in the middle of the line, but this does not detract too much from the reading, and the poems themselves really are works of art. As Barac claimed, Karadzic published only poems that exhibited high artistic quality. This is indisputable and clearly reflected in the poems presented here.

    Christine D. Tomei, The Slavic Seminar Columbia University

    Petr Kropotkin. The Conquest of Bread and Other Writings. Ed. Marshall Shatz. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. Xxxiv + 259 pp., index. $59.95 (cloth), $18.95 (paper).

    Anarchistes en exil. Correspondance inedite de Pierre Kropotkine a Marie Goldsmith 1897- 1917. Ed. Michael Confino. Paris: Institut D'Etudes Slaves, 1995. Introduction, notes, 70 pp., 543 pp.

    It is a welcome coincidence that two handsomely produced and meticulously edited volumes of Petr Kropotkin's writings have both appeared recently. In the first book under review, Marshall Shatz has provided a very useful introduction to a reissue of Kropotkin's classic exposition of the anarchist project, The Conquest of Bread. Other writings included in the volume are a previously untranslated chapter on "Western Europe" from Zapisiki Revoliu- tsionera, the Russian version of Kropotkin's famous Memoirs of a Revolutionist; addresses to Lenin and others Kropotkin wrote assessing the Russian Revolution in the last years of his life; and his entry on "Anarchism" for the 1910 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. The latter still stands as the clearest and most intellectually compelling summary of the historical and theoretical foundations of anarchist thought.

    The last bout of scholarly and popular Kropotkiana in the United States coincided with the questioning of social and political structures that revolutionized (or tried to) American culture in the nineteen-sixties. Critical biographers of Kropotkin, notably Martin Miller and Paul Avrich, remarked on the unexpected relevance of their subject, whose power to inspire current social movements was suddenly and dramatically evident. A generation later, for different reasons, it would seem that a perennial resurgence of interest in the Russian anar- chist's practical and theoretical legacy is once again at hand. Shatz's introduction is a careful but sympathetic explanation of how the type of social organization Kropotkin espoused,

    This content downloaded from on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:43:00 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

    Article Contentsp. 395p. 396

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 265-437Front Matter [pp. 370-432]Thematic and Generic Medievalism in the Polish Neo-Latin Drama of the Renaissance and Baroque [pp. 265-298]The Illegal Staging of Sumarokov's Sinav I Truvor in 1770 and the Problem of Authorial Status in Eighteenth-Century Russia [pp. 299-323]An Elegy for Russia: Anna Akhmatova's Requiem [pp. 324-346]The Mythic Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita and Arthur Drews's The Christ Myth [pp. 347-360]NotesUnknown Figure in a Wintry Landscape: Reid Grachev and Leningrad Literature of the Sixties [pp. 361-369]

    Response [pp. 371-372]Correction: Slovo. Znak. Diskurs. Antologiia svitovoi literaturno-kritichnoi dumki xx st [pp. 372]ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 373-374]Review: untitled [pp. 374-375]Review: untitled [pp. 375-377]Review: untitled [pp. 377-378]Review: untitled [pp. 378-379]Review: untitled [pp. 380-381]Review: untitled [pp. 381-382]Review: untitled [pp. 382-384]Review: untitled [pp. 384-385]Review: untitled [pp. 385-387]Review: untitled [pp. 387-388]Review: untitled [pp. 388-390]Review: untitled [pp. 390-392]Review: untitled [pp. 392-393]Review: untitled [pp. 393-394]Review: untitled [pp. 395-396]Review: untitled [pp. 396-398]Review: untitled [pp. 398-399]Review: untitled [pp. 399-401]Review: untitled [pp. 401-402]Review: untitled [pp. 402-404]Review: untitled [pp. 404-405]Review: untitled [pp. 406-409]Review: untitled [pp. 409-410]Review: untitled [pp. 410-411]Review: untitled [pp. 412-413]Review: untitled [pp. 414-415]Review: untitled [pp. 415-416]Review: untitled [pp. 417-418]Review: untitled [pp. 418-419]

    In Memoriam: Vsevolod Mikhailovich Setchkarev [pp. 433-435]In Memoriam: Irwin Robert "Tye" Titunik, 1929-1998 [pp. 435-437]Back Matter


View more >