Simo Matavulj was born on 12 September 1852 in Šibenik. After completing the second grade at the Šibenik grammar school, he travelled to Krupa monastery, where his uncle Serafim served as the abbot. He soon left the monastery and in 1872 finished a Teacher Training School in Zadar. He then worked as a teacher in several Dalmatian villages and in Islam Grčki he befriended prominent Ilija Janković, grandfather of the author Vladan Desnica.
Matavulj published his first literary works in the Zadar Narodni list (People’s gazette). He spent eight years working as an Italian language teacher in Herceg Novi, and during the Nevesinj uprising in 1875; he was a volunteer in Mićo Ljubibratić’s company, and later a volunteer-paramedic in the Russian hospital in Nikšić. Because of his participation in the second Boka uprising, Austrian authorities expelled Matavulj, who then fled to Cetinje. He started to publish his novel Uskoci (Rebels), in chapters, in Cetinje newspapers in 1885.
In 1889 he moved to Belgrade where he became a teacher at a Lower gymnasium. In 1892 he published his collections of storybooks Sa Jadrana (From the Adriatic) and Iz beogradskog života (From Belgrade Life) as well as his novels Bakonja fra Brne and Uskok.
He wrote some 70 short stories and novellas, mostly published in separate collections such as Iz Crne Gore i Primorja (From Montenegro and the Seacoast), Iz primorskog života (From Coastal Life), Iz beogradskog života (From Life in Belgrade), Iz raznijeh krajeva (From Different Cantons), S mora is planine (From Sea and Mountain), Sa Jadrana (From the Adriatic), Primorska obličja (Coastal Shapes), Beogradske priče (Belgrade stories) and Život i nemirneduše (Life and Restless Souls). His best known short stories were Pilipenda which describes unition of Serbs form Petrovopolje in Dalmatia and Povareta, which many consider to be one of the best psychological novellas of domestic literature.
Apart from this, Matavulj left behind several volumes of travelogues, memoirs and literary articles. Matavulj also wrote two dramas: Savjet and Na slavi. He translated works from foreign languages, mostly from French. Matavulj translated On the River by Guy de Maupassant, Dream by Emile Zola and Moliere’s The Bourgeois Gentleman and Misanthrope.
He was employed at the Ministry of foreign Affairs in the then Kingdom of Serbia during the first years of the 20th century. He was president of the vocational writers’ association and at the beginning of 1904 he was elected a full member of the Serbian Royal Academy. He died in Belgrade on 20 February 1908.