NJEGOS: Poet, Prince, Bishop by Milovan Djilas

NJEGOS: Poet, Prince, Bishop

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This is the third of Milovan Djilas' ""prison books,"" written during the incarceration (1956-1961) which followed his expulsion from the top ranks of the Yugoslav government. The present work-- which, if current reports are to be believed, may well be the last that we shall have from Djilas' pen--is a biography of Rade Njegos, prince-bishop of Cetinje, ruler of Montenegro, and probably the only Serbo-Croatian poet whose work deserves to rank among the masterpieces of Western literature. The book is conventional in approach, being a chronological narrative, which, after an introductory chapter on Njegos' antecedents, recites the events of his early life, his elevation to the episcopal dignity at seventeen, and his career as ruler -- under the name of Peter II -- of Montenegro from 1830 until 1851. There's a detailed critique of Njegos' major poetic works (Ray of the Microcosm, Mountain Wreath, Stephan the Small). To a remarkable extent, this works suffers the same liabilities and enjoys the same qualities as the preceding volumes, Montenegro and The Leper and Other Stories. There are passages that burn with the fire with which Djilas is able to endow human passions, and there are moments of almost sublime evocation of an unhappy country and its people. Yet for all its occasional genius, the work lacks both the spontaneity of expression which distinguished this author's Land Without Justice and the sense of historical criticism which is necessary if a work is to transcend the realm of the regional. Despite the author's eminence, the market will be limited, although a certain succes d'estime may be presupposed.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1966
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World