Branko Ćopić (pronounced [brǎːnkɔ t͡ɕɔ̂pit͡ɕ]; Serbian Cyrillic: Бранко Ћопић; 1 January 1915 – 26 March 1984) was a Bosnian Serb and Yugoslav writer. He is today remembered as a favorite writer of children stories from the school books, but also as a dissident and "heretic" who had to explain himself to the party bureaucracy because of his criticism of the revolution and post-war life, corrupted by the materialism of the "comrades", blossomed bureaucracy and sycophancy, which he despised. Ćopić was one of the rare novelists who lived solely from his writings as, due to his popularity, his books were sold in millions of copies, both in Yugoslavia and abroad.
|Born||1 January 1915|
Hašani, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria-Hungary
|Died||26 March 1984 (aged 69)|
Belgrade, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia
|Resting place||Alley of Distinguished Citizens, Belgrade New Cemetery|
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer|
Ćopić was a Bosnian Serb born in the village of Hašani near Bosanska Krupa, on 1 January 1915. He attended the junior gymnasium in Bihać, and teacher's colleges in Banja Luka, Sarajevo and Karlovac before moving to Belgrade to study at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy until his graduation in 1940.
Upon the uprising in the Bosnian Krajina in 1941, he joined the Partisans and remained in their ranks until the end of World War II. He was a detachment's political commissar, war correspondent for the Borba newspaper and a cultural proletarian. That period of his life influenced much of his literary work as can be seen by the themes he would go on to write about. At the end of the war he returned to Belgrade where he worked as an editor in several magazins until 1949, including the children's magazine Pionir ("Pioneer"). From 1951 until his death he was a professional writer.
His books have been translated into Albanian, Czech, English, Dutch, Italian, Macedonian, Chinese, Polish, Romanian, Turkish, Slovak, German, French, and Russian, and some of them have been turned into TV series. He was featured on the 0.50 Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark bill, which has been withdrawn from circulation and replaced with coins.
On 26 March 1984 he committed suicide, jumping off the Branko's Bridge in central Belgrade. The bridge in general gained an infamous reputation as the suicide bridge as some 40 people try to commit suicide jumping from it every year. As the bridge is an extension of the Brankova street, named after Branko Radičević, a Serbian romanticist poet, it was named after the street. However, an urban myth developed since then that the bridge was named after Ćopić's jump.
His first published short story was Smrtno ruvo Soje Čubrilove ("Death robe of Soja Čubrilova"), printed in 1936 in the Belgrade daily Politika. Politika's editor, Žika Milićević, was known for his strictness and he initially rejected many other Ćopić stories, but he continued to write them and to send them to Milićević until he decided to print them in the newspapers. He promised to Ćopić that he will publish two of his stories each month, if they are good. Before 1941 and outbreak of the World War II in Yugoslavia, Politika published 125 of his stories. Ćopić considered this collaboration with Politika as a "great stimulus" and the "beginning of the serious literary affirmation". He published his first short stories compendium in 1938, and continued to write throughout the war.
Already his first collection of short stories, Pod Grmečom ("Under the Grmeč"), demonstrated his gift for storytelling. Soon, other compendiums followed, including Planinci ("Mountain men"; 1940). He was editor of the "Pioneer" magazine, from 1944 to 1949, and member of the editorial board of Savremenik ("Contemporary"). Regional mark of his prose can be recognized in the characters, locations, themes and language of his home region, Bosnian Krajina. His pre-war prose was predominantly lyrical (collections like Rosa na bajonetima ("Dew on the bayonets"; 1946), Sveti magarac i druge priče ("Holy donkey and other stories"), Surova škola ("Cruel school"; 1948)) but after the war, he subordinated the lyrical to the ideological and socially engaged. His short stories were often described as the "stories of a dreamer boy".
He published collections of poems Ognjeno rađanje domovine ("Fiery birth of a homeland"; 1944) and Ratnikovo proljeće ("Warrior's spring"; 1947). Other short story collections include Borci i bjegunci ("Fighters and runaways"; 1939) and Ljubav i smrt ("Love and death"; 1953). Ćopić enriched the war short stories with humor and comical elements while in the novels Prolom ("The break-out"; 1952) and Gluvi barut ("Silent gunpowder"; 1957), he gave a broad prose fresco of the first war years in Bosnian Krajina. The turning point in his post-war development was Doživljaji Nikoletine Bursaća ("The adventures of Nikoletina Bursać"). Novels Ne tuguj, bronzana stražo ("Bronze guards, don't mourn"; 1958) and Osma ofanziva ("The eight offensive"; 1966) deal with the state organized colonization of the Krajina's population into the province of Vojvodina.
The collection Bašta sljezove boje ("The marshmallow color garden"; 1970) opens with a letter which Ćopić wrote to his late friend Zija Dizdarević (1916–42). In it, Ćopić sets the frame of the writing as a salvation from death and dark visions of the horsemen of the apocalypse. He perceives the world from the off-perspective of the good "fools", but despite the quixotic fervor and humor, the sense of sorrow, anxiety, disappointment and anti-utopian situations breaks through. In the follow up, Dani crvenog sljeza ("Days of red marshmallow"), it all evolves into the collapse of the social ideals as expensively paid illusions.
He was also writing children's poetry and prose. Best known works include Priče partizanke ("Partisan stories"), Nasmejana sveska ("Smiley notebook"), U carstvu leptirova i medveda ("In the realm of butterflies and bears"), Vratolomne priče ("Daredevil stories"), Ježeva kućica ("Hedgehog's house"), Doživljaji mačka Toše ("Adventures of Toscho the Cat"), Orlovi rano lete ("Eagles fly early"; 1957).
Using humor and satire, Ćopić targeted what he perceived to be social ills of the fledgling Yugoslav communist society. In 1950, he published Jeretička priča ("Heretic Story"), mocking the new phenomena he observed around him such as state-owned company managers, Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) generals, government ministers, as well as their families and in-laws, misusing publicly funded resources including specific instances of government-provided luxurious cars being used by individuals form the above groups in order to be chauffeured to university lectures at faculties they recently enrolled in.
He then published another critical work, Ko s đavolom priče piše ("He Who Writes Stories with the Devil"). He was reprimanded by the Yugoslav Communist Party (KPJ), while the country's leader Josip Broz Tito publicly criticized the writer in 1950: "He [Ćopić] presented our entire society, top to bottom, as a negative one, thus advocating its termination. Such satire we will not allow and we won't let this go without an answer. He deserves a public response and to say, once for all, that we will not allow enemy satire that works towards breaking our unity. It is up to him personally to own up to his mistakes and to follow the road of our other socialist writers".
Because of the story Izbor druga Sokrata ("The Election of Comrade Socrates"), published in the NIN magazine, and the novel Gluvi barut ("Silent Gunpowder") printed in 1957, he was denounced again. Defending himself in front of the party commission, he stated: "I showed some of our people who were a bit dehumanized under the harsh conditions of the [war] battles, living in belief that they do what's best for the revolution." Though he said he will "fight to stay in the party, cause its nice to be there", he was expelled from it. He opposed the writing of the foreign and right-wing press, which used his criticism of the new system in "Silent gunpowder".
His contemporary comedy Odumiranje medveda ("Bear's Dying Out") from 1958 caused him further problems with the political establishment. After only several rehearsals, it was banned from the Belgrade Drama Theatre. During all this time when he was criticized and ignored by the authorities, he was regularly visited by author Ivo Andrić.
He explained what he was writing in his defense when he was interrogated by the party apparatchiks: "Before you start writing, imagine that 50 years has passed already, that you and those who interrogate you today are not alive anymore, and someone starts to dig in their archives. Write in such a manner that you don't feel ashamed in front of that unknown man from the future."
His brother and sister were both killed in World War II. Brother Rajko was killed in 1942 and sister Smiljka in 1943. Ćopić dedicated a poem to her, Grob u žitu ("Grave in the grains").
Ćopić was an avid reader, a painting lover and praised film and theatre, even penning several screenplays. He liked Italian neorealism, movies like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Wages of Fear and Disney's animated movies. He admired Cervantes, Maxim Gorky, Miloš Crnjanski, Ivan Cankar, Miroslav Krleža, Isidora Sekulić, Oskar Davičo, Mihailo Lalić and called himself Lički Bosanac ("Lika Bosnian"). Ćopić said that the loneliness is hard and that life is short so it should be spent in love, concord and understanding.
He received numerous awards from his early writing days: Academy of seven arts award (1938), Rakić award (1939), Serbian Royal Academy award (1940), Culture and arts committee award (1947, 1948), FNRJ government award (1949), Trade unions award (1953), Award for the children literature (1956), City of Belgrade October award (1956). In 1958 he received a NIN award for the best novel for "Bronze guards, don't mourn".
He received Order of Merits for the People with Golden Star (I rank), Order of Merits for the People with Silver Rays (II rank), Order of Brotherhood and Unity with Golden Wreath (I rank) and the Commemorative Medal of the Partisans of 1941.
Many of the characters he created were based on the real persons from his home region, on the slopes of the Grmeč mountain. Ćopić himself considered that his life works are three novels: "The marshmallow color garden", "The adventures of Nikoletina Bursać" and "The eight offensive".
- Prolom – The Break-out (1952)
- Gluvi barut – Silent Gunpowder (1957)
- Ne tuguj, bronzana stražo – Bronze Guards, Don't Mourn (1958)
- Osma ofanziva – The Eighth Offensive (1966)
Novels for childrenEdit
- Orlovi rano lete – Eagles Fly Early (1957),
- Slavno vojevanje – Glorious Combat (1960) and
- Bitka u Zlatnoj dolini – The Battle of Golden Valley
– these three are known as „Pionirska trilogija“ – The Pioneer Trilogy,
- Magareće godine – "Donkey" Years (meaning: The Tough Teens);
- Balada o ribaru i mačku – Ballad of the Fisherman and the Cat
- Glava u klancu noge na vrancu – Head in the Col Legs on the Horse
- Ježeva kućica – Hedgehog's House (1949)
- Doživljaji mačka Toše – Adventures of Toscho the Cat
- Bašta sljezove boje – The Marshmallow Color Garden
Films and television series made after Ćopić's writingsEdit
- "Živjeće ovaj narod" (1947)
- "Major Bauk" (1951)
- "Grob u žitu" (1951)
- "Nikoletina Bursać (1964)
- Eagles Fly Early (1966)
- "Četrdeset prva" (1971)
- "Hajdučka vremena" (1977)
- "Mala moja iz Bosanske Krupe" (1978)
- "Osma ofanziva", TV-series (1979)
- "Bježaćemo čak u Liku" (1979)
- "Odumiranje međeda" (1982)
- "Smiješne i druge priče" TV-series (1986)
- "Razgovori stari" (1986)
- Silent Gunpowder (1990)
- "Magareće godine" (1994)
- Ježeva kućica (2017)
- "IZDAVAČKI CENTAR MATICE SRPSKE". icms.rs. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
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- hr:Branko Ćopić. Branko Ćopić
- Бранко Ћопић Archived 8 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine. srpskoblago.rs
- Branko Ćopić. nasa-jugoslavija.org
- Mirjana Vulićević (10 December 2017), "Ćopić, od omiljenog do anatemisanog pisca" [Ćopić, from a favorite writer to the anathemized one], Politika (in Serbian)
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- Nikola Krsmanović; et al., eds. (1957). Ko je ko u Jugoslaviji, page 159 [Who's who in Yugoslavia]. Sedma sila, Belgrade.
- M.Luković (8 July 2010), ""Gazelini regent" preuzimaju dužnost", Politika (in Serbian)
- Dejan Aleksić (3 May 2007). "Kad kreneš u Srpskih vladara, a prijatelj te čeka u Maršala Tita" (in Serbian). Politika.
- Z.Nikolić (9 October 2013). "Beogradske priče: Bezimeni Brankov most" (in Serbian). Večernje novosti.
- "Sporno ime mosta" (in Serbian). 21 February 2000.
- Jovan Dedić (2011). Miloljub Albijanić; et al. (eds.). Ljudi intelektualne vrline – 170 godina SANU, pages 258-259. Zavod za udžbenike. ISBN 978-86-17-17795-7.
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