menu
essay about authorbibliographyartist's influences
RASTKO PETROVIĆ
country
Ex Yugoslavia
period
1915-1946

Rastko Petrovic (Belgrade, 1898 - Washington, 1949) was a poet, writer, playwright, essayist, translator, journalist and diplomat. He was raised in family of artists. His sister Nadezda was a famous painter, and his other sisters introduced him to music. After attending primary school in Belgrade, his high school education was interrupted by WW I. In 1915, Petrovic experienced  the horrors of the army's and peoples' retreat through Albania. Together with with other Serbian students he was sent to France, where he completed his secondary education and earned his bachelors degree. His first poems were traditional in form and patriotic in content.

In Paris, Petrovic enrolled at the Faculty of Law (1922), and at the same time studied literature and art history. During his short stay in Belgrade (1919 -1920) he socialized with young painters and writers. Upon his return to Paris, Petrovic entered the local arts community, made friendships with French poets and artists, and met writers gathered around the French magazines "Action" and "L'Esprit Nouveau". He devoted himself to the study of medieval Serbian art, mentored by Professor Gabriel Millet. He wrote poetry, fiction, and art criticism and published his work in French as well as Yugoslav magazines (Belgrade and Zagreb).

In 1921, his multi-genre book Burlesque of Mr. Perun God of Thunder was published as the third volume in Albatros Editions. The novel had the structure of a collage, with a shift in the organization of its time sequences. Its subject reflects the process of cosmic genesis: from initial chaos, reminiscent of the futuristic emphasis on power of will and instincts (On Wantonness  of Gods), to the return of civilization, related to the themes of art and war.

In 1922 Petrovic left Paris permanently and became actively involved in the literary life of Belgrade, through his travelogues, essays, and poetry. In his poems and the collection Revelations, Petrovic revealed the secret of sensuality, physicality, metaphorical closeness of the motif of eating with the motif of poetic inspiration ("All the Bowls Are Empty"), an apocalypse that shows itself only during special moments of travel, and liberation of constraints, etc. His essays focused on modern French poetry, the dominance of the archaic and the primitive in folklore, customs, beliefs, and the renewal of poetic language through language disorders, cosmism, creation and articulation of spoken phrases (Heliotherapy of Aphasia). His travelogues expressed his inner thoughts during travel to Dalmatia and Southern Serbia, mostly to areas related to the culture of medieval Serbs, met and seen in monasteries, ancient castles, old houses and cities.

Since 1923 Petrovic built a diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Until the break of relations between the Belgrade group of writers and "Zenit", R. Petrović was collaborated with Zenit from Paris, writing poetry, essays on art, and acted for a short period as the Parisian representative of the magazine's board. Some of his poems were  based on his interest in the crossover between folk and primitive cultures emanating demonic forces (The Most Sentimental Legend of Satiety). His other interest was poetic travelogue.

 V. Golubovic