Vasko Popa

Vasile “Vasko” Popa (1922–1991) was born in a village in the north of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, near the Romanian border in present-day Serbia. In high school, he met Jovanka “Hasha” Singer and became a committed Marxist, then studied medicine and philosophy in Belgrade, Bucharest, and Vienna. During World War II, Popa was a Communist partisan; he was captured by the Germans and sent to a concentration camp in Bečkerek (present-day Zrenjanin). After the war, he married Singer and graduated from the University of Belgrade. He worked as a journalist for Radio Belgrade and then as an editor at the Belgrade publishing house Nolit, a job he held until retiring in 1979. His first major verse collection, Kora (Bark), was published in 1953, and was awarded the inaugural Branko Radičević Award for Poetic Achievement. In 1968, he was given the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, and he was elected to the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972 and to the Parisian Académie Mallarmé in 1977. His work includes eight collections of poetry and three anthologies of Serbian folk literature, and has been translated into dozens of languages. After his death, from lung cancer, the town of Vršac established an annual poetry award in his name. In 2001, a year after her death, Hasha’s ashes were interred alongside Vasko’s remains.

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