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At the Well – Laza K. Lazarevich (1851-1890)

After completing his law studies at Belgrade, Lazarevich received a government fellowship in medicine, and in 1872 began studying in Berlin. Seven years later, having received his degree, he returned to Belgrade, where he filled important official positions in his capacity as physician. He died in Belgrade in 1890, probably of tuberculosis. Lazarevich is one of the most gifted and popular of Serbian writers. His literary works were many and varied. 

Of his many stories of the life of his native land, At the Well (first published in 1881) is considered one of the finest. It is here published for the first time in English. The translation is by I. Altaraz, Ph.D., to whom thanks are due for permission to use it.

At the Well

Taense clouds of flakes, like white ghosts, are driven by the howling wind and swept in all directions until they hang like tiny white crystals on man’s whiskers and horse’s mane.—That’s what I always say: If there aren’t any flies to bother you, there is frost. Feet are frozen, eyes water. Not even brandy has the power to warm one’s he-Sand you look about for a hospitable home to offer you welcome.

Well, by God, I know where I’m going! I’ll go to Mathias Jenadich, over yonder, where a jug of brandy hangs at all times on the plum tree in front of his house. Whoso passes by may drink.—So Mathias likes it. Should you happen to cross his threshold, his entire family will treat you like a lord. There is no use talking about it; one has to see it with one s own eyes. What a home! What a communal family—a whole army of people! Come some evening when they expect you, and one of the daughters-in-law will be sure to meet you on the road with a torch in her hand. The second will wait in the orchard, a third in front of the stable, a fourth will chase the dogs, a fifth will welcome you into the kitchen, and a sixth will lead you into the sitting room—just like a wedding, indeed! Everybody is jolly, modest, satisfied. Heaven help you should you start a fight with anyone in that home. There are six sons always ready like soldiers. One of them is a real soldier, serving the flag in Belgrade.

Proud of Arsen

There is no need for harvesters or any other help; they themselves can furnish plenty of hands. The plows are in constant use; and when pork dealers come to examine the hogs, Mathias may well be proud of Arsen when he was only a young fellow. He would sit in front of Burmas’ house and play on his shepherd’s flute. For Burmese naughtier. And what a .wench! People say if she looked at one with her fiery eyes one was apt to be burned. But Arsen became accustomed to her eyes. With his left arm on the gate, he said to her: “I am ashamed., speak to father, and afraid to approach grandfather.

At the Well Part 7

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On the threshold, through the faint light of the early dawn, he noticed a human figure.“Who are you, there?”“It is me, grandpa, Anoka! I want to die. Forgive me, if you can.` Grandpa stopped,...

At the Well Part 6

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Slumber over there. Do you want to be punished by God? She said to Petriya.The moon was overhead. Everything was so quiet. Anoka`s heart was breaking and something was slowly dying within her.She couldn`t...

At the Well Part 5

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The same evening all the men were sitting around the table, for it was supper time. Radoyka was the only woman among them. The other women had their supper in the kitchen. Two or...

At the Well Part 4

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Anoka`s fury grew day by day and she invented all kinds of tricks with which to tease the people in the house. She would chase the dogs into the kitchen, and would allow them...

At the Well Part 3

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Grandfather`s oldest son, Blagoye, Arsen`s father, is the third member of the home council. The rest of the family listens and obeys. The three elders sometimes leave the house intentionally, to give the children...

At the Well Part 2

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That evening Arsen came home in a melancholy mood. Contrary to his habit, he first went into the wine cellar and took a stiff drink, the first time he had ever done so. He...

At the Well Part 1

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Laza K. Lazarevich (1851-1890)After completing his law studies at Belgrade, Lazarevich received a government fellowship in medicine, and in 1872 began studying in Berlin. Seven years later, having received his degree, he returned to...

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