Fran Levstik was a Slovenian poet, playwright, novelist, political activist and a critic. He was one of the most acclaimed writers of the 19th century. He was inclined towards literature from a young age and wrote his first poem at the age of 16. After completing his education from Vienna, he returned to his homeland and started working as a teacher. He also started publishing poems, dramatic writings as well as prose works alongside carrying out his regular office duties. He worked on several positions such as, the secretary of a library and the editor of a newspaper in his career. But his first and true love was writing which earned him much appreciation and respect f around the world. His poems were marked with sadness and melancholy, expressing his feelings about love which was the central theme in many of his poetry collections. At the same time, he also composed satirical poems, criticism and children’s works such as, fairy tales. His prose works touched the subjects of love, art, life, and destiny, and it is mainly for his short stories that he is most celebrated in the literary world. Known for his self-esteem, criticism, and consistency among his contemporaries, Fran Levstik was truly a leading figure of Slovenian literature
Childhood & Early Life
Fran Levstik was born on September 28, 1831, in Dolnje Retje at Velike Lašče. From an early age he was inclined towards literature and wrote his first poem at the age of 16.
He received his early education in Ljubljana and finished high school in 1854. Then he went to Vienna where he studied theology in Olomouc between 1854 and 1855.
Subsequently, he was enrolled in a seminary in Germany. In 1858, he returned home and started working as a teacher.
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In 1853, he published his first prose work titled ‘Bučelstvo’. The following year, his first poetry collection was printed under the title ‘Poems’. In 1855, he presented his first dramatic work titled ‘Human Resource Management’.
In 1858, Fran Levstik published one of his most well-crafted works titled ‘Martin Krpan z Vrha’ (Martin Krpan from Vrh). It tells the story of a Slovenian man, and deals with the tradition and culture of Slovenian people.
In 1858, he also published a travelogue titled ‘Popotovanje od Litije do Čateža’ (A Journey from Litija to Čatež). This work is considered to be of significant importance because of the literary techniques he used in his description of the journey between Litija and Čatež.
In 1859, he published a collection of poems titled ‘Tona's Poems’, the first cycle of his love poetry. The songs mostly celebrated individual moments and happiness at the end of ill-fated love affairs.
In 1861, he was appointed the secretary of Slavyansk reading room in Trieste, where he served for two years. In 1863, he became the editor of Vilharjeva political newspaper, ‘Next’.
In 1864, he was appointed the secretary at Slovenian nuts in Ljubljana and four years later, in 1868, he became an editor of Wolf Slovene-German dictionary.
In 1870, he wrote ‘Franja's Poems’, the second cycle of love songs. It was dedicated to Franja Košir, whom he met in 1868 at the camp under Šmarno mountain. The songs depicted love disappointments, jealousy and the internal conflicts which are experienced in love. In the same year, he also published a satirical grotesque tiled ‘Saint Doctor Bežanec in Tožbanja Vas’.
Between 1871 and 1872, he worked as editor of the Slovenian translation of the National Code. In 1872, with the help of the head of the Lyceum library, Gottfried Muys and Fran Miklošič, he became a scriptor in a library in Ljubljana, where he served until his death in 1887.
He published several other poetry collections such as ‘Reflections’, ‘Satire’, and ‘Songs for Youth’ in his later years. He also wrote satirical songs and elegies.
One of his later prose works was ‘Kdo je napravil Vidku srajčico’ (Who Made Videk's Shirt), a fairy tale, published in 1877.
He was a literary critic and also wrote ballads, romances and narrative poems. Some of his imperative works were the ballad, ‘Escape the King’, and romantic poem, ‘Živopisec and Mary’.
One of Fran Levstik’s most acclaimed works is the1858 prose ‘Martin Krpan z Vrha’ (Martin Krpan from Vrh), a short story about the fictional character Martin Krpan which received so much recognition that it became a part of Slovene folklore and made its lead character a folk hero.
His other classic literary works include the literary travelogue titled ‘Popotovanje od Litije do Čateža’( A Journey from Litija to Čatež, 1858), and youth work ‘Kdo je napravilVidkusrajčico’ (Who Made Videk's Shirt,1877).
Personal Life & Legacy
Fran Levstik died on November 16, 1887, after a long period of serious mental illness, which included delusions of religious nature. He was buried in the Navje cemetery in the Bežigrad district of Ljubljana.
‘The Levstik Award’ presented for achievements in the field of children's literature is named after him.