Who Are You?

Who are you? I asked him, sitting on the bank of the Rhine, again upriver from the city center.

Cologne is a good place to ask me that question, he answered. It is a city that has repeatedly stretched my sense for who I am. Zarko once asked me to compose a one-sentence answer to that question for a book of such sentences by Serbian writers.

You’re no Serbian writer, I told him.

No one knows that better than I do, he said. But Zarko insisted. You’re the co-author of two books with me, he argued, and they have been published in Serbia, in Serbian.

So I wrote this sentence:

After Ljubica Radakovic fed me chicken soup and taught me to say Srbi su dobri ljudi, after our Belgrade publisher realized I was not a figment of Zarko’s fertile imagination, after translating Peter Handke’s Justice for Serbia, after traveling up the Drina River between the wars, after the man in Bajina Bašta said he had read our book and I said “so you’re the one,” after the cruise missile bought with my tax dollars shook the stove that cooked the chicken soup, after I left the homophobic Mormon Church (which I still loved) and denounced my xenophobic country (which I still loved as well), after my hair turned silver and the divorce was final and my children grew up and Lyn taught me her vegetarian ways, after fifty-five years I still wanted, with an only partially embarrassing adolescent intensity, to be a writer.

That’s still true, he said, especially the part about adolescent intensity, even at the age of 63.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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