Saw and Knew
That part of Serbia is full of the writer’s footsteps, just as his entire work is full of that land. Scattered footprints, images taken to the world. Villages, inns, crossroads, church sites, fairgrounds, mills, inscriptions, legends and folk songs. His literary heroes lived there, around him. He didn’t hide their names or nicknames. Today, Glišić has a monument in Valjevo, street, bridge, room at the museum, a school is named after him. He used to have a memorial-home, the location of his house is known. If you set off to Glišić’s Valjevo, start from the First Furrow Street

By: Bojana Nikolić
Photo: Bojana Nikolić and NR Archive

Born in the village of Gradac, today part of Valjevo, Milovan Glišić was connected to this city in many aspects. We will talk about the places in the Valjevo area present in the life and literary work of Milovan Glišić, known among young writers at the time as Čiča or Ča.
Any Valjevo citizen with an average education knows today that Glišić was born and raised by the river Gradac, but doesn’t know where his house is. The area is grown in grass, there are no marks, so only the closest neighbors know the exact place. His house and estate used to be above the first mill up the left bank of the Gradac. ”There was a garden behind the house, with various vegetables. [...] There was a smaller garden in front of the house where she [his mother] raised a peach orchard.” This is how Stanka, Milovan’s sister, described the area around their house in her book My Memories.
Everyone in Valjevo passed by the Monument to Milovan Glišić numerous times when heading to the city’s favorite promenade, the Gradac river canyon. The author is sculptor Miodrag Živković and it was made of white marble. It was ceremonially opened in 1968, before an audience of about 10.000 people.
If a Valjevo citizen or guest decides to walk down the left side of the canyon, they will enter the First Furrow Street, which follows the river. They will pass by the Two Zwanzigs, named after the kafana which used to be located there. Walking the First Burrow Street or the Gradac canyon, you will reach the Bridge of Milovan Glišić. Young Milovan walked that same canyon many years ago and gained his first impressions about the world, often horrible and dangerous, about various evil forces, mills, vampires and all kinds of beings. A person from Valjevo, as well as any other visitor, will come upon several ”mushrooms” with quotes from Glišić’s works, such The First Furrow, Rare Beast, Sugar Loaf.
Our average Valjevo citizen knows the Street of Milovan Glišić in the city center, elementary school named after him, one of those that hadn’t changed its name. They might think that Milovan’s house was near his monument, at the beginning of Užice Street. They will be wrong. It used to be the Memorial Home of Milovan Glišić, where ”Glišić’s Meetings” were held for years on the day of Epiphany.
The city institutions have always been aware of the importance of this great man and invested efforts to keep the memory of him. The ”Milovan Glišić” literary award was given only once, in 1972, to former Serbian and later not even his own, unfortunate Mirko Kovač. The ”Ljubomir Nenadović” Central Library founded a Museum of Local Writers in 2016, where it keeps the memory of literary giants of these lands, and Glišić also found its place in it.


What is Glišić’s Valjevo like, or what is Valjevo like for Milovan Glišić?
He was born two kilometers from the city, on a large and wealthy estate. His family – father Đorđe, mother Jevrosima, sister Stanka, brother Milivoje and he – inherited the estate from his grandfather, famous hayduk commander Gliša, after whom they got their surname. Gliša got the estate from Jajić Bay. Milovan’s father, similar to naïve peasants from his son’s novels, gambled away the entire estate. He died soon afterwards, leaving his hardworking and capable wife and three children without anything in the world. As Stanka writes in her book, her mother was too proud to be a stranger on the land that previously belonged to her, so she rejected the suggestion of new owners to continue living there. Mother and sister moved to Valjevo, where they lived in poverty. Brothers Milivoje and Milovan were already in school in Belgrade. Milovan didn’t like to write about it, but his sister Stanka was more open for discussion.
Young Milovan was attracted to books and hungry for knowledge. His education led him to Belgrade, the city of possibilities. This is where he became famous and made an important name in Serbian culture. Thus, it is no wonder that he didn’t have too much contact with Valjevo after leaving the place of his birth in 1864. Branko Lukić spoke about that in his show Trace, in the episode ”Milovan Glišić – The Secret of the Eagle’s Feather” created by Tatjana Manojlović.
He mentions the name Valjevo in two novels from his hometown (Invitation and In Trouble), in the Night on the Bridge he writes ”V. where the fairground is”, while he doesn’t even mention the town in his novel Vuja’s Proposal. In his comedy Prank, he never mentions the city name, he just says ”the town”. The beginning of the comedy Two Zwanzigs goes: ”It happened, nobody knows when, in a small town and a nearby village.” We notice that he often mentions the villages between Valjevo and Mionica and states their names – Petnjica (present Petnica), Klinci, Beloševac; even toponyms – Mačine (forest), Beleg (from which the hunt for robbers is supposed to begin in Two Zwanzigs)… Glišić was a realist writer in that aspect as well: he described the places precisely and in detail. Today, after so much time, we can easily recognize them by those descriptions. He betrayed his recognizable approach when he chose to have the plot of Two Zwanzigs take place at the fair on St. Luke’s Day. Valjevo had three fairs, on Palm Sunday, St. Elijah’s Day and St. Michael’s Day. We don’t know why he decided for St. Luke’s Day, but we know that at the time, the Petnica church kept a relic, a hand believed to belong to apostle Luke.


It is known that Glišić took his contemporaries for prototypes of his literary heroes. Vule Pupavac, the loan shark from Prank, really existed. Jovan Skerlić believed that it was Vukosav Vule Đorđević, famous Valjevo merchant from Nemenikuće. He had a shop in Kamenica, the same place where Vule’s shop is in the comedy. His widow Marija claimed that Glišić unjustly depicted him as a loan shark. Widow Nera and Petko from the comedy with the same name also really existed. In his book Kafanas in Valjevo,Dragutin M. Bajić reveals the following: ”When you cross the upper bridge near ’Grand’ and turn left to Prince Mihailo’s Street [...] immediately at the very corner is the ’Orijent’ kafana, whose owner in the 19+870s was a woman named Nera. It is the same Nera eternalized by Milovan Glišić in his comedy Prank. Nera became a widow very early, with many children. She had a good cuisine in her kafana, and many administrative officials and low-rank officers, Milovan Glišić’s contemporaries, used to visit it. One of the most impressive among numerous guests was Petko, a coppersmith, whom Glišić took for one of the characters in the Prank. Although the building was old and worn, the kafana was open until World War II; there was a brothel on the upper floor [...].”
The fairground, where most part of the Two Zwanzigs comedy takes place, is well known both to Glišić’s and our contemporaries. It is in the city center. Today it is the paved promenade along the Kolubara river on one side and park on the other. Next to it is the ”Valjevo” Cultural Center. When we read Glišić and visit this area, we see that the spirit of the city hasn’t changed. Every day, especially when the weather is nice, a myriad of people of all generations come here, like fairs in the past. The so-called Pork-Rind Festival has been organized there since 2006. Everything is the same as in Glišić’s time – crowds of people, merchants, smoke, smell of meat, loud music.
Not far from the official borders of the city of Valjevo is the place which Glišić obviously loved. It is the village of Petnica, or, as it was called then, Petnjica. They were related to the local priest’s family. Stanka writes in her book that academician and minister Ljubomir Kovačević was their cousin. Ljuba was son of the Petnica priest and teacher Mihailo. This is where he grew up and went to school. Stanka also says in her book that Milovan and she were in a very difficult financial situation during their stay in Belgrade, and had to survive the upcoming winter. Good Ljuba gave them some money, so they bought winter boots and enough wood for the entire winter. Ljubomir was there for them throughout their life. A role-model, a real cousin, just like anyone should be!
With everything we have previously said, the beginning of the novel Vuja’s Proposal is no wonder, full of unhidden love and gentleness for this village, especially its priest and his wife: ”Good God gave Petnjica many wonderful things… He gave her the beautiful Osoje and caves, the good priest Mića and his hardworking and smart wife Mara and a house under Osoje – full of everything, a grandiose linden tree in front of the house. [...]” It is amazing how well Milovan knew and described Petnica. He knew about its toponyms unknown even to locals from surrounding villages! They appear as coordinates in his works, especially in Two Zwanzigs. Those are Mačine (forest), where Kića from the mentioned drama goes to collect wood, the Osoje hill, where the house of the priest from Vuja’s Proposal was, the cave… The road to Lajkovce (present Upper Lajkovac), starts near the Banja river, and priest Mića and clumsy Vuja take it trying to find a girl for Vuja.
While passing through Petnica, the writer was probably often in the place where the small Milovana Glišića Street is today.


Čiča was literally a realist. Following the paths he describes in his works, we get the real picture of how it all looked like before. Matavulj’s sentence from the Notes of a Writer: ”I hate lies, even in stories” is absolutely valid for him. Our conclusion is the same. We followed and researched the road which the main character of the novel In Trouble, Miladin Malešević, passes while traveling from Valjevo to Lajkovce, present Upper Lajkovac, Mionica Municipality, and visited the locations described in Glišić’s work and important for the plot.
Miladin fell in trouble on that road, and we were enlightened. He dropped by his friends’ house in Valjevo. Valjevo at the time consisted of its present city center: Tešnjar Street, Kneza Miloša Street, Karađorđeva. His friend’s wife fell ill. As her husband explains, she fell in trouble when she stepped on a spell. It was a bad sign, a warning. Malešević returns home during the night and falls in trouble on the way back.
He came out of the city. Crossed the Gradac. Passed present Knez Mihailova Street. It now belongs to the city and is very busy, uncommon for Valjevo. We imagine Glišić’s peasant on a semi-desolate dark pavement riding a horse. Knez Mihailova Street crosses the river Gradac with a little metal bridge. Our hero goes ”up the road along to the Gradac cemetery”. It is located in present Užička Street. Tombs are still standing there. A little before returning from the cemetery, Miladin passed by the place where the Memorial Home of Milovan Glišić used to be. We also recognized the creek above the village of Bujačić.
In an attempt to recuperate him, Miladin was brought to spend the night on the Churchland in Lajkovci in the eve of young Sunday, and wash his face with water from the nearby spring in the morning. Glišić says that the mentioned Churchland was a ”plain, with foundations of an old church visible in its center”. A legend says that commanders from Mačva received communion in that old church before the Battle of Kosovo. A church dedicated to St. Spyridon the Miracle-Worker was raised on its foundations in 1928. ”A little above the [then] Churchland, there is a little cave, so small that one could barely turn in it”, tells Glišić. ”There was a simple cross in the stone above the door”, and today there is a large, wooden cross in the cave interior. There are icons next to it. ”People believe that hermit Spyridon lived there.” Today it is next to the Church of St. Spyridon.
Our hero’s ”house was somehow in the center of the village”. The village has changed a lot since those times. Certain parts were urbanized, others abandoned, such as the one between the church and the road sign towards it. We visited the present center of the village. Crossroad, elementary school. Monument to the fallen fighters in the 1912‒1918 wars; everything is nice and neat. Houses in clean yards.
The writer’s descriptions of Mr. Malešević’s estate bring nostalgia for those times, perhaps not more beautiful, but certainly healthier and cleaner. And they are long gone, older than us. We are talking about the part of the novel in which Glišić says that from one part of the estate ”on a clear day, you can see the entire Sava Valley and even Sava winding and glittering in the blueness, as if you had spread a canvas”.


When speaking about the relation of this area and Milovan Glišić, we mustn’t omit that Valjevo gave a reputable expert in Glišić’s literary works, Ostoja Prodanović. This region also gave one of the greatest Serbian writers, Radovan Beli Marković (1947–2022) from nearby Lajkovac, whose literary role model was Milovan Glišić. In the mentioned episode Trace, Beli Marković says:
”You can feel the pulse of the Valjevo hinterland in Milovan Glišić’s novels, of Valjevo mountains and hills, whereas I always include, regardless of current territorial divisions, the mythical Zarožje from his famous novel Ninety Years Later. He was born in Gradac and saw and knew all that. We think of it as a beyond-reality literary creation, just like readers of A Hundred Years of Solitude experience Macondo. The crucial thing is that he had it within himself. It is the geography of his soul [...] It existed in his soul, in his literary imagination. And he did it excellently. Thus, we now, his readers, want to find in reality what Milovan Glišić told in stories.”
As a boy, Glišić followed the path of Vuk Karadžić. He wrote down folk poems and noted who he heard them from or what area they were from. So, we have saved poems: from Fočanka, from Valjevo, Gradac, under Maljen. One from Valjevo depicts the motif of a mother child-killer, particularly rare in Serbian literature. A woman who gave birth to nine daughters gives birth to her tenth child. When she discovers it is a girl again, she curses her and promises her to the devils. She gives her the name Ana Devilana and gives her to the devils twice, at birth and baptizing. Ana grows up and becomes better than her sisters in every aspect: more beautiful, taller, more obedient. Her mother falls ill, adders are multiplying in her hair and sucking her eyes. The devils came to take what has been promised them, Ana. Her mother hides her under nine caskets and tenth lead tower. Unsuccessfully. It’s impossible to hide from them. The girl dies a horrible death, horses tear her apart. A church appears in the place she fell. The mother walks to the church, asking Ana’s church for forgiveness. The church closes its doors to her, and a voice is heard from it saying: ”Go away, Ana’s villain!”


Sugar, Pine Tree, Bench
We learned from Dragan Jakovljević, longtime priest in Petnica, that Glišić wrote Sugar Loaf under the pine tree in the Petnica churchyard. That tree is still standing in front of the church. If only it could speak and tell us in detail how one of the most appreciated Glišić’s works was created. What kind of emotions were changing on the writer’s face, did he make pauses, did he overwrite his words? Did he cry over the fate of unfortunate Serbian peasant Radan Radanović?!...


Amending Glišić
Glišić’s unfortunate hero Miladin Malešević looked for help in the village of Krčmar church on Maljen, immediately next to Divčibare. Glišić doesn’t say it, but we will. The church was painted by chieftain Petar Moler before the First Serbian Uprising, in 1802. His paintings are preserved in the dome. The church is a cultural monument. The legend Ča tells us is still alive today. According to it, Marko Kraljević in that place killed the Janissaries, who held the chopped head of his brother Andrija. He then buried his brother and raised a church.

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