Elaborated by Zorana Opačić
Grozdana Olujić, a novelist, fairy tales writer, essayer, anthologist, and translator, was born in 1934 in Erdevik (Vojvodina). After graduating from Bečej, she started publishing at Stražilovo and Mlada Kultura already in her high school days. She has printed her first story in 1953 (during the Borba contest for the best story).
After graduating, she earned a master’s degree in English language and literature at the Philology Faculty in Belgrade. The manuscript of her first novel, “An Excursion To Heaven” (“Izlet u nebo”) won the Narodna prosvjeta award of Sarajevo in 1957 and was later printed in 1958. It received a sudden success, but also the critic’s condemnation at a time. The piece was later adapted to the theatre (at the Beogradsko dramsko pozorište – Belgrade Drama Theatre), just to be right after used as a model for the film titled “Strange girl” (“Čudna devojka”, 1962); it was also translated in several languages. Her second novel, “Glasam za ljubav” (“I Am Voting For Love”, 1963) was chosen as the best short novel of the year (by the Zagreb Telegraph) and handed over to cinema (1965). The novels “Don’t Poke Sleeping Dogs” (“Ne budi zaspale pse”, 1964) and “Wild Seed” (“Divlje seme”, 1967) have been published by the “Prosveta” house. In 1969-70, Grozdana Olujić was given a one-year scholarship by the International Writing Program (Iowa, USA). To add on, she also received one of the Fulbright scholarships supplied in the 1982-1984 period, therefore moving again to the USA (both at the Columbia University in New York and the University of Los Angeles). There, she published several papers for Berkley and Stanford Universities’ academic journals. In this period, the author visited India three times, since her works had been previously published there, seizing the opportunity to meet distinguished Indian writers. Her interest in Indian culture and philosophy was indeed born from these experiences.
To add on, Grozdana Olujić’s work as a translator cannot be neglected (the author speaks French, Russian, and English). It comprehended the pieces of Yukio Mishima, Arnold Wesker, Sol Below, Amrita Pritam’s novel “The Skeleton and That Man”), and “Ironweed”, a novel by William Kennedy. Grozdana Olujić has also put together two anthologies, completely different from each other in structure: both the Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry (1980) and the Anthology of World’s Love Fairy Tales (2001; 2019) represent a remarkable translation work that has to be noted.
After a long break, the author published a collection of short stories named “African Violet” (“Afrička ljubičica”, 1985), whose – almost all – stories are included in anthologies around the world. The story “Game” has won the award for the best short story in the Arnsberg contest (Germany).
As an essayer, Grozdana Olujić addresses a wide range of matters. To begin with, she tackled global literature, with themes such as: the issue of time in literature; works on Kafka, Thomas Wolf and Marcel Proust; the study of the Problem of personality identity’s in Virginia Woolf; works on Indian contemporary poetry and prose. Moreover, she addressed tale poetry, and the nature of fiction in children-directed literature and, to a lesser extent, in fine arts, mostly by writing essays on the work of Voja Stanić, Ljubo Popović etc.
In the children’s literature field, she composed several pieces: “Rose Of Mother Of Pearl and other fairy tales” (“Sedefna ruža i druge bajke”, 1979); “Heavenly River and other fairy tales” (“Nebeska reka I druge bajke”, 1984); “The stone that flew” (“Kamen koji je leteo””, 2002); “The Snow Flower” (“Snežni cvet”, 2004) and “The pillow who remembered dreams” (“Jastuk koji je pamtio snove”, 2007); the children novel “Star Wandering” (“Zvezdane lutalice”, 1987). She published moreover a great number of tales.
Grozdana Olujić has been accompanied by music (in the form of a musical, the composed being Ted Dreher) in Albany (New York) in 1983. In Serbia, a record was then recorded, followed by a nine-sequel TV series.
She won several awards for her tales: the Young Generation Awards (1980 and 1984); “Politika’s Entertainer” (1980), “Dragon Children’s Games Charter for Creative Contribution to Contemporary Expression” (1990), “Golden Butterfly Award” (2001), the “Old Olive Charter” (Bar, 2001), the “Lifetime Achievement Charter” coming from the Serbian Writers’ Association, the “Dragon’s Stick” coming from the Dragon’s Children’s Games (Novi Sad, 2005), but also the award of the World Academy for Art and Culture (USA) – the tale “The deceiver and death”(“Varalica I smrt”) being her best tale, in 1994.
She was awarded the Order of the Dannebrog knights, the 31st August 1997, thanks to her literary work. Furthermore, she has been an honorary member of the University of Iowa (USA) since 1970 and an honorary citizen of the city of Oslo. She received the NIN Award for the novel named “Voices in the Wind” (“Glasovi u vetru”) in 2009 and the Bora Stanković Award for the novel named “Survive until tomorrow” (“Preživeti do sutra”) in 2018.