Book about Music: Radakovic and Albahari

David Albahari / Žarko Radaković

knjiga-o-muziciDas Buch über MusikSchreibheft 83


Zwei Serben, der eine in Calgary,
der andere in Köln, korrespondieren
über Musik

The Book about Music


Two Serbs, the one in Calgary, the other in Köln, correspond about music

The current issue of the literary journal Schreibheft includes an excerpt from the book, translated into German by Mirjana and Klaus Wittmann.

I’ll translate a couple of passages from their German  to give a taste of what I think is an extraordinary exchange between two remarkable writers.

For a long time I have wanted to be several people. One of them is Žarko Radaković. . . .

Every writing project is simultaneously a reading project. As I read Žarko, I also read myself; while I wrote about myself, I wrote simultaneously about Žarko. . . .

In fact I always write new pages spasmodically, in a desperate attempt to hold back the writing down of thoughts, ideas, and messages. I am actually a machine of destruction, a poisoner of language, a conspirator who wants to thrust a dagger into his own breast. (Why dagger, someone asks, why not a sword? Because the dagger, I answer, forces on to approach the victim very closely and, if one dares, to look into his eyes.)

(David Albahari)

Although I prefer to hear music alone, for listening with someone else is always part of a complicated plan or experiment, today there was no problem as we listened to the CDs of “Combustication.” (…)

Stillness. Just pure listening. Even without tapping a foot in simple, even rhythm. That is (Handke’s) “pure feeling.” To paint oneself in the face of the other; or the painting of the other in one’s own face; or all that at once. . . .

(Žarko Radaković)

For Žarko, moments in common, common experiences are extraordinarily important because they can be a foundation or inspiration or stimulus for new events, for new confrontations with oneself and with one’s own artistic work, with everything, then, what one is or is not. Especially with what one is not. . . .

(David Albahari)

Since David Albahari and I have given in to the “adventure” of writing about the experience of music, the “logic” of writing as the transfer of “experience” into a text has become more clear to me: the recognition that writing is a balancing act between the direct and the artificial experience of the world. . . .

(Žarko Radaković)

But Žarko couldn’t come!

I put off the conversation about marijuana and its influence on health for another time. In the club where the reggae band “Groundation” was appearing, there was a distinct scent of grass, although smoking was forbidden. . . .

Put simply, she said, she felt like another person, as if she were reborn, as if she were seeing the world with better eyes and a more discerning eye. And I though, who knows what Žarko would have experienced in her place.

But Žarko couldn’t come!

Unfortunate, oh, how unfortunate!

(David Albahari)

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
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Book about Music: Radakovic and Albahari

  1. flowerville says:

    every writing project is simultaneously a reading project, – this is it. thought this often too, how they are closely related, reading and writing. such a lot to say and think about it, very complicated and hard to grasp, but i think that’s something really important, really important insight….


  2. Pingback: Award for Zarko Radakovic and David Albahari’s “Book about Photography” | THE GOALIE'S ANXIETY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s