Dreaming the Southern Slavs

He lay in bed thinking about the new book by Zarko Radakovic and David Albahari, Knjiga o muzici, the “Book about Music.” He couldn’t read it because it was in Serbian. He thought about Albahari’s novel Ludwig, which he had just read in German translation. He thought about Radakovic’s Strah od Emigracije, frustrated at his inability to read the Serbian “Fear of Emigration.” He lay there thinking about Svetislav Basara’s The Cyclist Conspiracy, newly translated from Serbian into English by Randall Major. He couldn’t sleep because Dragan Velikic and Danilo Kis and Aleksandar Tisma and Miljenko Jergovic and Dragan Aleksic and Ranko Marinkovic and Aleksandar Hemon and other Serbo-Croatian-Bosnian wizards mocked him from their books. He counted critical but unfamiliar diacritical marks until he found himself floating down the Drina River toward the Visegrad bridge where Ivo Andric stood waiting for him.

And then he was in a large plane, forced to take over the controls for reasons he could not understand. His first slight pressure against the stick made the plane pitch suddenly toward the ground. They would all die. He experimented with the stick while watching out of a side window behind him where he got glimpses of the ground to guide his adjustments and finally they were flying again, after a fashion. Eventually the fuel gage reached empty and he landed the big plane, somehow, on the short dark runway of a tiny airport somewhere in Yugoslavia.

He tried to figure out how to refuel but couldn’t make sense of the hose connections on what he took to be the pump. While he went through the possibilities a man approached him and said he would fill up the fuel tanks if he would go in and sign the proper papers. He knew that was impossible. He was not the authorized pilot. Someone from the plane explained something to the man who had offered to help and he agreed to sign the papers himself. What was the explanation, he wondered? Had the man been told he was an American? Wouldn’t that have been more problematic than helpful?

The plane was eventually fueled up, but he could not make out the runway in the darkness. Telephone poles and a high building and thick trees crowded into what should be open space. He followed tracks through the trees, tracks that looked like they had been made by planes. There was, however, no room for the wings to have passed. He thought that his plane might be disassembled so it could be pushed along the trail. He emerged from the trees and watched a plane take off from a little field. It lifted off the ground at the last second and then pulled straight up, just missing the tall building.

He wondered whether he could make the large plane do that. He tried to calculate the necessary speed. He checked the wind direction. He wished he knew the weight of the plane. Could the passengers throw out their luggage. What if they dispensed with all diacritical marks?

About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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5 Responses to Dreaming the Southern Slavs

  1. Mike Roloff says:

    I copied this out and will give the dream some thought and get back to you if something comes up. x . m,.r

    Like

    • Scott Abbott says:

      I thought this might interest you and will rely on your expertise.

      Like

      • Mike Roloff says:

        well, if you were here i’d ask you to lie down somewhere and free associate to certain elements. i get the sense of a wish to be in Serbia with your friends , but also the sense of obstacles in the way of your desire. such as understanding the language and what other understandings might come from that. the initial successful dream flight while manipulating the stick shift, the good doctor would presume at the standard erection that accompanies all dreams, somehow a second wind is lacking and the obstacles increase, no matter that the intelligence looks for practical and fantastical ways to accomplish the wish. frustration i imagine might have been the feeling on awakening? but free associate your self. element by element. x michael r.

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      • Scott Abbott says:

        thanks for the reading. i’m such a foreigner, so distant, so american in that serbian context. a different person would learn the language and visit often and live himself into the place and the culture. but i remain a foreigner, as does zarko for the most part in my english-language world. and that, perhaps, is the ongoing context of our writing in tandem (not really together, as i was about to write). i like the frustrations of the dream, because, perhaps, they signal that i’m unsure in those ways that open up new experience (and not arrogant or certain in ways that close off learning). except for that original fall to what seemed a certain death, none of the dream events is threatening, more like a series of things to figure out — or not.

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      • Mike Roloff says:

        evidently there is a stretch of confidence, of the kind that accompanies an erection!, or vice versa,,
        that eventuates in problemas. it seems chiefly the dream of an intellectual. and indeed not of an arrogant one. however, problematic as arroance may be, on ought to reserve for oneself certain instance for it.

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