October 10th, 2007
A dictionary is among other things a narrative about the epoch in which it is written: a slice of time that aims in vain to be timeless, enduring, eternal. That’s why every dictionary is also a historical record: As a diary of those who compiled it, it reflects their wishes, doubts, successes, and disappointments. A dictionary is also, for better or worse, a political matter: a manifest, an ideological tool and a field of conflict. Albeit temporary, always defeated, and only quasi-authoritative, a dictionary intimates the unattainability of perfection and completion. At the same time, it expresses our fundamental need for structure and borders. A dictionary is an attempt at outlining the space of language, grasping the ungraspable and identifying the extent of our speculative world. It is a family album of every literate culture.
Even though the modern Serbian language and its literature grew out of a radical lexicographic project of Vuk Stefanovic Karadžic (1787-1864), the importance of the dictionary as a cultural tool is hardly evident in Serbia today. Transpoetika is a work in progress. It is an attempt at the non-institutional awakening of Serbian lexicography from its dogmatic slumber: a contemporary online dictionary and an initiative for publishing annotated literary texts for foreign students and heritage speakers of Serbian.
Author: Toma Tasovac. Has a BA summa cum laude in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Harvard. Currently writing a Ph.D. in Russian ornamental prose at Princeton University. Has won several prizes including the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS) Award for the best essay of the year (Tsvetaeva’s Space(s) of Non-Encounter, 2000). Taught seminars at the Alternative Academic Educational Network (AAEN) in Belgrade, Serbia (Translatability of Cultures and Hypertext, Digital Literature and New Media, 2001-2002). Works on the theory of linguistic culture, architectonic discourse in literature and theories of cybernetic space. Lives in Berlin.