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Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj (1833-1904).

Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj was born into a distinguished middle-class family in Novi Sad. He studied law and medicine in Budapest, Prague, and Vienna. Upon completion of his education, he practiced medicine in various cities. He also served as an administrator, theater director, and journal editor (one of his satirical journals was entitled Zmaj--a name that later became a part of his own name). He expressed his happiness in married life in the collection of poems Dulici (Rosebuds, 1864); however, his happiness turned into tragedy when his wife and all their children died. He dwelt on this shattering experience in another collection, Dulici uveoci (Rosebuds Withered, 1888). After he had lost his own children, Zmaj turned increasingly toward writing juvenile literature; today, he is considered perhaps the foremost Serbian author of children's literature. He spent his last years practicing medicine, editing journals, participating in political affairs, and writing copiously. He died in Sremska Kamenica in 1904, as a celebrated author and public servant.

Zmaj's opus is considerable. He was most prolific in poetry and in literature for children, but he also wrote short stories, plays, and journalistic essays. In addition, he translated widely from German, Russian, and Hungarian literatures. His best poems are on the themes of love and patriotism. Here he combined sincerity and purity of heart with a gentle humor. His poetic idiom is direct and highly emotional. Beloved by children of all generations, he tried to teach them through understanding, unobtrusive but firm adherence to morality, and, at times, hilarious humor.
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Publication:Serbian Studies
Article Type:Brief biography
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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