Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zarko Radakovic, Writing/Painting a Life

In the mid-1980's I worked for a semester at the University of Tubingen in southwest Germany. While there I met a writer from Yugoslavia, living in Germanybecause his wife, a theoretical physicist, had a position at the University.

Over the years we have exchanged visits, have traveled together, and most important for me, have written together. Like no one I have ever met (with the sole exception of Alex Caldiero), Zarko is alive with ideas.

He knows jazz and writes about it.

He knows contemporary painting, and has, for instance, a book about his friend Julije Knifer. It's no biography in the sense we're used to, but an exploration of ideas that come bubbling up in Knifer's presence. With Zarko, I visited Knifer in his Paris apartment and came away with my head spinning. He paints only one thing: what he calls meanders. Black on white or white on black. Like the one at the bottom.

Zarko is a master of travel narrative. Together we once followed Filip Kobal, a character in Peter Handke's novel Repetition, from Austria into Slovenia, and later published our joint accounts as Ponavljanje (Repetitions).

He's a prolific translator, with more than a dozen translations of Peter Handke's work into Serbo-Croatian.

He's a former performance artist, I just learned this week. Belgrade about 1973.

He's a photographer (the photo at the top of this blog, of the goalie on a rural Austrian soccer field, is his).

He's a fine novelist, with six or seven works to his credit.

To my mind, each of these activities informs each of the others. He's a good novelist because he's a translator and jazz critic. He's a thoughtful travel writer because he knows art. Even when he's focused on one activity, interdisciplinary work is the result.

When Zarko last visited me in Utah, he gave an autobiographical lecture, part of which I'll include here:

Approximately fifteen years ago I left my country. Back then, in 1978, it called itself the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. . . . I didn’t have the least suspicion that in fifteen years, that is, now, my country would no longer exist. . . .
My ancestors were Serbian refuges. After the defeat on the Kosovo Polje, the Field of Blackbirds, they served as guards on the southern borders in the Dalmatian, Croatian, and what was then Austro-Hungarian hinterland. From there they moved as nomads to the fertile and sparsely inhabited plains of Pannonia, to Vojvodina – between Hungary and Romania. Several centuries later I was born there. I grew up in Belgrade. And since the late seventies I have lived in Germany.
Haven’t I always had something of the nomadic spirit of my ancestors in me? Haven’t I shunned every uniformity and every emphasis on a center? To be Serbian and not simultaneously some second or third thing on this always complex (unintelligible) Balkan peninsula – that seems to me today an impossible thought. . . .
Now the country has split into warring ethnic groups, of free movement in Yugoslavia there remain nothing but memories.
The war turned out badly for everyone involved; but even though political events may have made him "Serbian," he is very much still a second and third and fourth "thing."

Recently, a friend of Zarko's, Nina Pops ( has been painting Zarko's work, painting his life. Like Knifer's meanders, her complex, compartmentalized, connected and intricately related warrens or paths or lifelines represent the six decades of Zarko's rich life.

I can't wait to see painting number 7 in this series.



you never told me you had a blog scott!!! what if i had called the damn thing something less colloquial as might easily have happened at a different hand. cheers michael roloff

here are some handke links for your readers:

and 12 sub-sites [the drama lecture]
[pertaining to scriptmania matters]

[dem handke auf die schliche/ prosa, a book of mine about Handke] [the current American Scholar caused controversy about Handke, reviews, detailed of Coury/Pilipp's THE WORKS OF PETER HANDKE] [some handke material, too, the Milosevic controversy summarized]


Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society
this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS:


"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]



abbott, what is the name of that publishing company that did alex's most recent little poetry book the red one?

michael morrow said...

michael morrow said...

I think Zarko and Peter Handke would have been mighty proud and equally entertained today had they been in our class.
This is a response I wrote to Brent's post on the Language Scraps blog. Check out Brent's observation, it's good stuff.

Well I'm here to tell you Brent that (I think you missed class, because I didnt see you today) you may have missed one of the latest, greatest, most outstanding performances of just what I think you are talking about in your post. Torbin, Travis, Alex,and Scott plumbed the depths of what it means to communicate with/in the multi-strata world we live in today. All they needed was a few screeching tires, some crazy taxi drivers screaming at one another, and maybe a big screen tv with bush-man addressing introducing a presidential debate while their "people" powdered the candidates noses and that cool motor scooter-dude from Alex's home state of Idaho reassuring everyone every thing is going to be A-OK.

It was Like one of those plate jugglers on the Ed Sullivan show, (eerrr oops,,well maybe... well what the hell, you guys will get it)you've seen those guys who get 4900 separate plates spinning with chop sticks between each one and the whole lot spinning simultaneously on the tip of a 25 foot long wobbly fiberglass fishing pole which is perched on the tip of one guys nose. Well thats the juggling act these four dudes pulled off today. They had four different languages spinning at the same time: Scott was speaking German, Alex was reading Zen poetry (in english), Torbin was doing his very cool rap thing (again with English overtones) and Travis was quoting some of the awesome comments that were made during the course of our class, throughout the semester. It was nothing short of genus. They really captured the spirit of "Danger...Language Xing"...we have been talking about all semester. KUDOS FRIENDS, BRAVO

December 5, 2007 8:53 PM