Northern Macedonian literature first and foremost emerged after World War II, when Macedonian was recognized as a written language in Northern Macedonia. Admittedly, literature was written in Macedonian vernacular as early as the 19th century, in part related to the fight against the introduction of Greek as a church and school language in Northern Macedonia.
Konstantin Miladinov (c. 1830-1862) studied Slavic languages and in 1864 published a large collection of folk songs from Northern Macedonia entitled Bulgarian folk songs. As a lyricist, he is best known for the poem Longing to the South. Lyricists were also Rajko Žinzifov (1839-1877) and Grigor Prličev (1830-1893). The latter wrote in both Greek and Slavic mixed language. Krste P. Misirkov (1875-1926) was a political activist and was the first to justify the need for a Macedonian writing language, different from Bulgarian, in the book On the Macedonian Cases (1903).
In the interwar period, Northern Macedonia was subjected to Serbian language oppression, and Macedonian was banned. During this period, however, Northern Macedonia received its first significant poet, Kočo Racin (1908-1943), a revolutionary lyricist who lost his life as a partisan. He only managed to publish one poem collection, White Morning Dawn (1939), which had to be printed illegally.
With the establishment of the Macedonian written language in 1944, the road was open to a flourishing of Northern Macedonian literature, with poets such as Aco Šopov (1923–1982), Slavko Janevski (1920–2000), Blaže Koneski (1921–1991) and Gogo Ivanovski ( born 1925). It was the poetry that prevailed, and in the first post-war Macedonian literature was characterized by enthusiasm in the reconstruction of the country. A number of significant lyricists emerged in the 1950s, including Srbo Ivanovski (1928–2014), Gane Todorovski (1929–2010), Mateja Matevski (1929–2018; Ballad of Time ), Cane Andreevski (born 1930) and Ante Popovski (1931–2003).
While Northern Macedonian lyricism is modern in form, it is strongly linked to Northern Macedonian nature, traditions and popular life. Also among the lyricists of the 1960s are a number of significant names: Vlada Urošević (born 1934), Petre Andreevski (1923–2006), Jovan Koteski (1935–2001), Radovan Pavlovski (born 1937), Bogomil Djuzel (born 1939) and Atanas Vangelov (born 1946).
The prose started later than poetry. The foremost prose writer was Vlado Maleski (1919–1984), who wrote short stories and novels with motifs from partisan struggles. Slavko Janevski also became very famous for his many novels. Blaže Koneski, who, besides being a lyricist, was a well-known philologist and founder of the Macedonian writing language, also wrote short stories of considerable artistic quality. Other prose writers include Jovan Boškovski (1920–1968), Kole Čašule (1921–2009), Stale Popov (1903–1965), and Jordan Leov (1920–1998).
Many prose writers also derive material from Northern Macedonia’s rich folklore and give it a modern, existentialist content, such as Simon Drakul (1930–1999), Dmitar Solev (1930–2003) and Živko Čingo (1935–1987). Čingo is the most original of modern Macedonian writers. His two short stories about life in the village of Paskvelija depict in a naivistic and humorous way the social upheaval in the Macedonian countryside.