Book of Friendship

Aleksa Đukanović
(Book of Friendship, Žarko Radaković / Scott Abbott, Laguna 2022.)

Review in Belgrade’s daily newspaper POLITIKA

Translation by the well-known wizard: google translate

A book about friendship: a joint prose achievement written in two voices – by Žarko Radaković and Scott Abbott. It was recently published by Laguna Press. It is a classic autobiographical novel according to most general genre literary criteria. But, when we see in detail and more closely all the artistic elements built into this complex prose work and when we interpret and recognize them in detail, we realize that it is undoubtedly Radaković’s well-known multi-genre (or “non-genre”) prose. Thus, the mixture of memoir-biographical and narrative-novelistic thread that harmoniously and constantly, even “hereditarily” continues his earlier prose works: Emigration (1997), Pogled (2002), Fear of Emigration (2010), Kafana (2016), Krečenje (2018), Travel (2021) and which is qualitatively the most extensive in this case.

This time, readers can see a kind of phenomenon in the co-author: Scott Abbott, writer, translator and professor of German studies at the University of Utah Valley, USA. Abbott, painting (pseudo) biographical fragments from the life of his friend Z. Radaković, uses an impressive literary-documentary technique which, with its descriptive exuberance and “memoir” ambiguity, is almost indistinguishable from the mentioned vision and the well-known literary technique of Ž. Radaković, which is, therefore, an additional curiosity. So, we have here an excellent prose book, written by two authors, and with the undoubted impression that it was written by one! This skillful mix of conceptual literary art and very clearly recognizable features of the postmodern, extends to two hundred pages and in six long chapters whose authors, with the quantity of texts, are almost equal, Abbott and Radaković. A. Caldiero writes a short epistolary piece and Nina Pops finishes the book with her masterful portraits of “Žarko Radaković and Scott Abbott”.

The book contains an almost Proustian gallery of approximately fifty literary and “real” characters: starting with John Zorn, Bob Abbott, Andrić, Era Milivojević, David Albahari, poet Alex Caldiero, Julije Knifer, through Krleža, Svetislav Basara, Matija Bećković, Novak Djokovic, Momo Kapor, Goethe, Schiller, Marina Abramovic, including Dragan Velikic, Rasa Livada, Zlatko Bocokic, Jacques Tati and unnamed “waiters”, “cooks”, “students”, “hairdressers”, “taxi drivers”, etc. and finally, of course: Peter Handke. Handke, who is the central theme but also one of the main reasons for the creation of this book, is in a way, in fact, the “fourth” and “unnamed” co-author of this multiple novelized biography (besides Abbott, Radaković and Caldiero).

The book is written in a very suggestive, emotional, sentimental and sensitive style, which gives the work an undoubted stamp of novelized biographical and memoir prose. By inserting a short correspondence between Schiller and Goethe, the authors skillfully give symbolism to their book, creating a special historical impression on readers, a line of clear connection and uninterrupted continuity of a single human literature, no matter in which languages ​​it was created in world history.

The book fittingly, symbolically, ends with portraits by the artist Nina Pops, as a seal of multi-genre definition of this great prose that resembles former adventure novels – and which is certainly masterfully “adventurous,” adapted to today’s moment of reading, understanding, thinking and living. The book about friendship is not only a mere history of personal friendship and biographical fragments from the lives of Abbott, Radaković and Handke, but it is also the most realistic story about Yugoslavia as a spiritual and cultural space, a story full of shocking, interesting but sentimental realities, memories and projections. The authors are creating here a suggestive lyrical ode to a now, non-existent world. The book about friendship is in a special way a kind of “reincarnation” or resurrection of a sentimental novel that completely died out in Europe in the nineteenth century.

Finally, the Book of Friendship is a faithful testimony of many social and historical realities in the last forty years, which include and closely touch our literature and social realities in the Balkans and Serbia, because every personal life, including the life of a writer, is inseparable from society. and reality. If there is a purely literary work derived and created on the basis of absolute realism – it is, in fact, Radaković’s and Abbott’s mixture of biographical-novelistic and postmodern elements.

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
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