Here you are in the yard of the house in which Risto Ratković, the author of the first modern novel in Montenegro and one of the best Montenegrin poets, grew up. The poet who, as early as the third year of elementary school, wrote in his notebook that “reality did not satisfy him, it was not everything’’. This might be because at the beginning of the 20th century in this area reality was extremely difficult and severe. Although he was born in a respectable and prosperous merchant family, Risto Ratković’s childhood was marked by poverty, misery and the horrors of the Balkan Wars and World War I. He spent his student days in Belgrade where he joined the young avant-gardists and participated in creating new cultural movements and initiating literary magazines. As early as 1927 he published his first works: a poetry collection titled “The Dead Gloves” and a shorter epic poem “The Leviathan”.
Risto Ratković lost his loved ones too early. Thus, death is a motif present in his works right from the beginning. The death of the woman he loved in 1931 was the turning point in his life and creative work. It was a blow he did not recover from. Some of his most beautiful verses are dedicated to her: So rarely did I take for her and for myself, So often did we undress as a bright day. And it seems to me there is no place in the world Where we were not together. You are dead, and you are not here. Why do you not come to me… Don’t you know that you promised More often to appear to me… (The Midnight of Me) Two years later, in 1933, Ratković published “Unseen God”, a work which is considered to be the first modern novel in Montenegrin literature. Made up of chapters which had previously been published as separate units, the work contains many autobiographical elements, depicts World War I and describes the region of Bijelo Polje, until then rarely mentioned in literature. At the recommendation of Ivo Andrić he entered the diplomatic service in 1938. Over the next eight years he lived in France, the Soviet Union and Egypt, which fascinated him the most, with its mysterious Nile, and to which he dedicated some poems, posthumously published in the poetry collection titled “From the Orient”. Although he was attracted by world metropolises and the vastness of the desert, he was inextricably linked to his homeland and the river Lim – the river of his childhood. Only through them did he manage to “forget his difficult life“.
“A thought then consumed me, to calm myself a little and the homeland to seek.” The poet who is said to “have had more luck with words than with people“, died in Belgrade in 1954, in poverty, alone and forgotten. The house of Risto Ratković belongs to the most beautiful type of oriental architecture with a preserved yard wall, a gate and accompanying constructions. During its reconstruction in 2005 its authentic architecture was preserved and adapted to the organisation of various cultural events. The most important of those is certainly Ratković’s Evenings of Poetry, which has been held since 1971, and which over time has become the most significant literary festival in Montenegro. Every September in the writer’s hometown poets from home and abroad gather for the handing out of the Risto Ratković International Award for literary work, as well as an award for young poets up to the age of 27.