Literary award for Zarko Radakovic

Major literary award for Zarko’s novel Kafana / Tavern. Congratulations, my friend!

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Zarko Radakovic is the winner of the literary award “Biljana Jovanovic” awarded by the Serbian Literary Society. Radakovic has received recognition for his book “Tavern”.

 

In our cultural circles, Zarko Radakovic is known as a translator of Peter Handke, and, more essentially, as an authentic and provocative prose writer whose poetics the novel “Tavern” has brought to perfection. A walk through the story of avant-garde art in the second half of the XX century takes place, apparently and really, in the pub: the “holy city” of European culture and cult site of the local life. In this walk Radakovic consistently undermines conventions and canons of literature, and in terms of subject, style, the relationship between art and reality, between the writer and literary hero, the writer and the reader.

 

Žarko Radaković dobitnik je književne nagrade „Biljana Jovanović” koju dodeljuje Srpsko književno društvo. Radaković je priznanje dobio za knjigu „Kafana”.

Odluku o dodeli nagrade jednoglasno je doneo žiri u sastavu Ljiljana Šop (predsednik), Srđan Srdić i Marjan Čakarević.

Žarko Radaković je našoj kulturnoj javnosti poznatiji kao prevodilac Petera Handkea, nego kao autentičan i provokativan prozni pisac samosvojne poetike koju je u romanu „Kafana” doveo do mogućnog savršenstva. Šetnja kroz priču o avangardi u našoj umetnosti druge polovine XX veka odvija se, prividno i stvarno, u kafani, „svetom mestu” evropske kulture i kultnom mestu ovdašnjeg života. U toj šetnji Radaković dosledno podriva konvencije i kanone književnosti, i kada je reč o tematici, stilu, odnosu između umetnosti i stvarnosti, između pisca i književnog junaka, pisca i čitaoca. (Tanjug)

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Keynote Address for the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters

On Friday, April 7, 2017, I’ll have the honor of speaking at the annual conference of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. They are meeting this year on the UVU Campus.

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.

O.C. Tanner Lecture

Enlightenment in Dark Times: Literary Responses to Unsettling Events in Historical Germany

Dr. Scott Abbott, Utah Valley University
Ragan Theatre, Sorenson Center

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Käthe Kollwitz

Scott Abbott is Professor of Integrated Studies, Humanities, and Philosophy at Utah Valley University. His Ph.D. in German Studies is from Princeton University. Books include Fictions of Freemasonry: Freemasonry and the German Novel, two books with Serbian novelist Žarko Radaković—Repetitions and Vampires & A Reasonable Dictionary, and a book with botanist Sam Rushforth—Wild Rides and Wildflowers: Philosophy and Botany with Bikes. A book of fraternal meditations after the death of his brother John of AIDS, Immortal for Quite Some Time, was published by the University of Utah Press in 2016. A book about the construction of meaning of barbed wire, written with his wife, historian Lyn Bennett, will appear in the fall of 2017 with Texas A&M University Press. He has translated several works by the contemporary Austrian writer Peter Handke, and with geneticist Daniel Fairbanks he recently published a Darwinized translation of Gregor Mendel’s article “Experiments on Plant Hybrids.

2017 Annual Conference Program FINAL[1]

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sittin’ on the dock of the bay

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The 3 Million Majority March Band: NYC

From The New Yorker, 20 March 2017

When the song was over, a guitarist named Barry Komitor asked Tom Abbott, a clarinettist, about his plans for after the demonstration. “I’m gonna go eat some soup. And then I’m going to take off my overcoat and wear this tux,” Abbott said, revealing the outfit underneath. “I’m playing a party for a rich person in SoHo.”

. . .

By 3:30 P.M., the assemblage had made it to Central Park. The marchers were continuing west to Columbus Circle, but the musicians were ready to call it quits. Spit had frozen in some instruments — “You see the ice?” Abbott said, pointing to frozen rivulets inside the bell of his clarinet.

…see the whole piece in the New Yorker here:http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/20/a-marching-band-at-the-march

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NYRB, my response to a defamatory review

The letter appeared in the latest issue and the response just repeated the reviewer’s initial inanities.

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Scott Abbott, reply by Adam Kirsch MARCH 23, 2017 ISSUE of the New York Review of Books
In response to:

The Stranger in Love from the February 9, 2017 issue

To the Editors:

Adam Kirsch’s review of Peter Handke’s The Moravian Night [NYR, February 9], like Joshua Cohen’s review of the novel in The New York Times, rightfully relates it to Handke’s previous work set in the former Yugoslavia, but (like Cohen) Kirsch is so obsessed with reading through that lens that he pays scant attention to other aspects of the novel at hand.

Kirsch’s case against an author he describes as a self-righteous, obstinate, proud nationalist and as an anti-Semitic Serb lover leads him to misread a scene at a world convention of Jew’s harp players during which each musician plays his or her national anthem. Because he wants to brand Handke as a nationalist, Kirsch doesn’t quote the rest of the section in which the performances of national anthems raise the protagonist’s ire: “abusing the jew’s harp to play mendacious harmonies: that was impermissible”; the national anthems are a kind of “melodic demagoguery.”

With a defamatory purpose that veils other aspects of the text, Kirsch ignores the language of a novel that is about language (Handke describes his work, all of his work, as “a slow, inquiring narration; every paragraph dealing with and narrating a problem, of representation, of form, of grammar—of aesthetic veracity”). Let me give just one example of Kirsch’s blindness in this regard. When describing the work’s search for narrative experience that manifests itself in seconds rather than in minutes or hours, Kirsch quotes this sentence from the translation: “The seconds that mean both what comes after something, what follows it, as well as the primary thing, the thing that precedes it, that combines what precedes and what follows.” The translation makes little sense as it misses the fact that it is the seconds that combine (unify) the before and after, not the singular “thing that precedes.” Kirsch quotes the mistake without batting an eye. The translation, as a matter of fact, is riddled with mistakes and awkward phrasing, but that is uninteresting to a reviewer intent on castigating a writer for attending the funeral of Slobodan Milošević. (For specific examples of problems with the translation, see my review of the translation in the December Open Letters Monthly.)

Kirsch marshals his case with great certainty, claiming that Handke defends Austrians and Germans and Serbs as “great peoples” scorned by others for their war crimes. Because Handke works dialectically, critics like Kirsch easily find objectionable statements in his work. That they settle on the problematic statements without the dialectical context marks them as ideologues rather than readers. “Austria,” Handke once wrote, “the lard that chokes me.” Critics who don’t have the patience or capacity to read give me that same feeling.

Scott Abbott
Professor of Integrated Studies,
Philosophy, and Humanities
Utah Valley University
Woodland Hills, Utah

Adam Kirsch replies:

Scott Abbott criticizes my reading of The Moravian Night as ideological, but it seems to me that the novel demands to be read in such terms. It is hardly possible to understand Handke’s book, which is primarily set in Serbia and advances an unmistakable critique of liberal European modern life, without reference to Handke’s past interventions in Yugoslav politics. If Mr. Abbott and other admirers of Handke object to a reading that attends to the ideological dimension of the book, perhaps that is not because the ideology isn’t there, but because they would be hard put to defend it?

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Feature article on Immortal for Quite Some Time

For the Salt Lake Tribune, Ellen Weist read my book in conjunction with Brooke Williams’ new book and, I think, they make a good pairing.

Maybe it’s part of the work of a writer to dance with those who have passed on.

If you turn over the dirt at a place where something has happened, you’re stirring up history, as the poet Joy Harjo wrote.

Or maybe literary inspiration can be captured by that famously quoted idea of writer William Faulkner, about how history isn’t really dead, or even really past.

That’s the metaphorical link between two recent memoirs by Utah writers Brooke Williams and Scott Abbott, whose lives are shadowed by dead relatives.

Williams’ ghost is his great-great-grandfather William Williams, who died in Wyoming along the Mormon Trail. In contrast, Abbott is haunted by someone he once knew well, his younger brother, John, who died at 40 in 1991 of complications from AIDS.

For the rest of the piece, click HERE

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Cloudy Morning

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The World’s Most Perfect Obituary

Brooke Williams has just reviewed my Immortal for Quite Some Time for Salt Lake’s 15 Bytes. The review begins with these paragraphs:

The first thing I read on opening Scott Abbott’s Immortal for Quite Some Time was that “This is not a memoir.” I agree. This book is, in my opinion, the world’s most perfect obituary. I’ve been reading them in the newspaper since my mother’s death in 1994, when I realized that most of the people at her funeral had learned that she’d passed by reading her obituary.

Obituaries come in many forms. The long-winded list of an old person’s accomplishments along with his/her progeny; the death notice, spare and sparse with a funeral invitation; the personal note, written by the deceased prior to being deceased; and what I call “the treasure hunt,” a frustrating communique full of carefully crafted clues to a much larger story, intended to help those still living.

I say “treasure” because I believe that everyone has a unique story, which when told well becomes a universal story from which anyone can learn. I say “hunt” because to find the story the reader must fill in the vast and empty spaces between the clues.

And then, there are those obituaries suggesting that the deceased has unfinished business. These days the quantum physicists say that we don’t “end” when we die but go on to occupy another, possibly parallel universe. We can either believe that this is possible or not. I happen to believe it, based on personal experiences for which no other reasonable explanation exists.

Scott Abbott’s obituary for his brother John, who died of AIDS on July 21, 1991, may fall into the “treasure hunt” category except that the number of clues contained in its 256 pages leave, at least for this reader, little unfilled space. It is not frustrating. It is beautiful.

The whole review HERE.

Reviewing is a difficult task, which makes me doubly grateful for Brooke’s thoughtfulness.

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Clouds

A sequence of photos taken yesterday give a sense for the changing sky.

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When Non-Readers Review

They did, in fact, publish it. Good for them. The reviewer, who responded, didn’t engage with any of my points.

After the New York Review of Books published an aggressively idiotic review of The Moravian Night, I sent a letter to the editor. It has been ignored.

moravian-night

So I publish it here.

 

29 January 2017

Dear Editor,

Adam Kirsch’s review of Peter Handke’s “The Moravian Night” (like Joshua Cohen’s review of the novel in The New York Times) rightfully relates it to Handke’s previous work set in the former Yugoslavia, but (like Cohen) Kirsch is so obsessed with reading through that lens that he pays scant attention to other aspects of the novel at hand.

 

Kirsch’s case against an author he describes as a self-righteous, obstinate, proud nationalist and as an anti-Semitic Serb lover leads him to misread a scene at a world convention of Jew’s harp players during which each musician plays his or her national anthem. Because he wants to brand Handke as a nationalist, Kirsch doesn’t quote the rest of section in which the performances of national anthems raise the protagonist’s ire: “abusing the jew’s-harp to play mendacious harmonies: that was impermissible”; the national anthems are a kind of “melodic demagoguery.”

 

Kirsch marshals his case with great certainty, claiming that Handke defends Austrians and Germans and Serbs as “great peoples” scorned by others for their war crimes. Because Handke works dialectically, critics like Kirsch easily find objectionable statements in his work. That they settle on the problematic statements without the dialectical context marks them as ideologues rather than readers. “Austria,” Handke once wrote of the land Kirsch claims he promotes at all costs, “the lard that chokes me.” Critics who don’t have the patience or capacity to read give me that same feeling.

 

Scott Abbott

Translator of Peter Handke’s Journey to the Rivers, Voyage by Dugout, and To Duration

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