One of the greats – Ljubomir P. Nenadović, the favorite Serbian travel writer

Ljubini dani


One of the greats – Ljubomir P. Nenadović, the favorite Serbian travel writer

The Local Writers Museum honoring many great Serbian writers was opened towards the end of last year in Valjevo. Ljubomir P. Nenadović found his place among the greats who symbolize and emphasize the lasting value of cultural and historical heritage of Valjevo district.

“Once again, Valjevo tied its destiny to the destiny of its culture. Who knows who else will find their place here. I believe that other cities in Serbia will remember their writers, and that Valjevo perhaps has a lead thanks to archpriest Mateja and his son Ljuba, as well as their fellow countrywoman Desanka Maksimović. It is obviously easier to build on such foundations, and young people from Valjevo will also have a place to start and something to hope for thanks to these foundations formed today”, said the academician Matija Bećković at the opening of the Museum.

I present Ljuba Nenadović, the father of Serbian travelogues and a poet who should not be forgotten.

Ljubomir Nenadović – biography

LJUBA NENADOVIĆ (Brankovina, 14th November 1826 — Valjevo, 21st January1895)

The poet and travel writer Ljubomir Nenadović was born in one of the most respected families in Serbia, in Brankovina near Valjevo on November 14th, 1826. He was the son of the well-known leader form the First Serbian Uprising, Karađorđe’s first diplomat and the writer of Memoirs, archpriest Mateja Nenadović, and the grandson of duke Aleksa, slaughtered by the Turkish soldiers in the beginning of 1804.

Nenadović is often compared with Dositej.  His place is, according to Ljubomir Nedić, “next to Dositej, behind him, right after him”. Nenadović continued Dositej’s tradition by contributing greatly to Serbian education and culture.

He finished high school and the first year of Lyceum in Belgrade, then in the period from 1844 to 1848 he studied philosophy and literature at universities in Prague, Berlin, Heidelberg, Geneva and Paris, travelling all around Europe during school breaks. He belongs to the first generation of young Serbs who were educated abroad.

Having finished his studies, Nenadović returned to Serbia, where he worked as a Lyceum professor in Belgrade. From 1851 to 1857 he worked for the Ministry of Education and Internal Affairs. In 1858 he was appointed the secretary of Serbian legation in Istanbul.

From 1859 to 1868 he was the head of the Ministry of Education. After that he retired and went to live in Brankovina.

In 1850 he founded the literary review Šumadinka which came out intermittently until 1857, because it used to be banned rather often. In this review Nenadović published his first travelogues which were created spontaneously and with no literary ambitions following his trips around Serbia, Germany, Belgium, England and Italy in 1850 and 1851.

Nenadović and Njegoš

During his trip to Italy in 1851 he encountered Njegoš and the two became close; Nenadović wrote about this in his Letters from Italy. Nenadović was fascinated by Montenegro and stayed there on two occasions: in 1853 and for a longer period 1874-1875.

He wrote numerous didactic, reflective and patriotic poems, a few of which are longer and written under the influence of Schiller’s “The Song of the Bell”. He wrote didactic short stories and fables, which is why he is often compared with Dositej. He translated two books from French by A. Dumas père and A. Mignet. 

Following his father Mateja’s death, he published his Memoirs, one of the best works of Serbian memoir prose, as well as a precious historical testimony about the events in Karađorđe’s Serbia in which the Nenadović family had a significant role.

Nenadović started writing poems the same year as Branko Radičević, 1843, and he wrote them almost until his death. And even though he tried his hand at numerous literary genres, he thought of himself as a poet. For him writing poems meant living a full life, being alive meant creating. His poems are his biography and spiritual heritage. He wrote about everything he thought about, everything he wanted or saw. About trivial, little things, but also about important, eternal ones.

Poetry and its influence

His first book of poetry, Poems and canto Slovenska vila, he published in 1849. Nenadović wrote effortlessly, switching between genres and clichés. His best works include the long poem (Slovenska vila) and the short stories in verse (“Dojčinović Vojin” and “Begunci”), then fables in verse, original or paraphrased, as well as humorous and satirical poems and epigrams.

In 1890 he gave an academic speech on poetry and its influence on people in which he emphasized the ethical importance of poetry. As a storyteller, poet, humorist and satirist, a children’s writer and travel writer, Nenadović was indeed one of the most important and the most popular writers of Serbian Romanticism, in many ways similar to Zmaj.

Favorite Serbian travel writer

Even though he considered himself a poet, his most important literary works are travelogues, which was realized only later. His first travelogue, One day from my trip around Serbia in 1845 and Travelling around Prajska and Rügen Island were published in 1850. Follow Letters from Switzerland (written in 1847, published in 1852 and 1855), Letters from Italy (written in 1851, published as Montenegrin Bishop in Italy in 1868 and 1869), Letters from Germany (1870), Letters from Cetinje or On Montenegrins (1889).

The majority of Nenadović’s travelogues are interesting to read, they are witty and light, his style is very nice, and his work also shows a sense of freedom and justice. Letters from Germany are of particular importance regarding both their literary value and a new dimension not characteristic of younger Nenadović.

Letters from Germany reflect a state of mind of an already ill and disappointed man, feeling emptiness, loneliness and absurdity of modern life at the turn of the century. His gloomy feelings must be the consequence of a difficult political situation in Serbia after the assassination of Prince Mihailo and the troubles the Nenadović family ran into.

He died in 1895 in Brankovina where he was born.

Source: Slobodan Rakitić, Serbian Romantic Poetry: An Anthology

Honoring Ljuba, the Valjevo library organizes Ljuba’s days and awards the Ljubomir P. Nenadović Prize for the best travelogue in Serbian published in the previous year.

You can read interesting articles on Ljuba Nenadović here:

Exceptional Mario Liguori also wrote about Ljuba in his Naples in Serbian Travelogues 1851-189 or Vedi Napoli e poi muori.

You can read more about Letters from Italy here:

Author: Rada Sević

Translation: Marija Đurđević