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Memory Suitcase: The Virtue of Lists

One of Željka's many lists.

Have you ever considered a list a valuable item on a desert island? No?! Željka from Serbia shares her personal lists with you and most importantly; the reason why making lists is of value to future generations.

Finding Inspiration in Mundane Details

Literature teachers tend to say perfectly formulated thoughts. Funny anecdotes connected to the topic, which simply stick in your mind. That is how I will never forget the swans at the beginning of a South Slavic ballad, Hasanaginica, or that Ivo Andrić wrote The Damned yard in Prizrenska Street, his wartime abode.

In that category fits the answer the Serbian novelist, Danilo Kiš, gave to the cheesiest question since the beginning of civilization: ‘What would you bring to a desert island?’ He replied: ‘A phonebook.’ To an interested reader a phonebook gives lists of names behind which you can imagine faces, storylines, lists of numbers you can try to remember and interpret…

I like to think that my passion towards list is my personal legacy, handed down by Danilo Kiš. Favorite movies list (Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants, Copie conforme, Persona, Eagles, Paris, Texas…) /least favorite toppings in Thai restaurant list. Remember the things you look forward to in Belgrade list /Forget list (e.g. how many days until the thesis submission). Go back to list (Sarajevo, Temska, Pécs, The Hague) /Don’t look back to list (e.g. summers you won’t spend at the sea).

My Desert Island List of Lists

My own preliminary, desert island list of lists:

  • Theoretical approaches I never found useful
  • People my grandma used to buy cheese from
  • Smellscapes of the dorm’s cafeteria…
  • All the people I never managed to stay in touch with
  • Term papers I enjoyed writing more than my thesis
  • Ambitions I had for people around me
  • Ambitions people around me had for me
  • Authors I was in love with
  • Words I managed to learn in Hungarian

Recently another teacher, now in my MA studies, mentioned how she used to make jokes about/with her colleagues, scholars of Aramaic language. The jokes were on how they can spend a year analyzing a single list written in Aramaic. And all that trouble they have to go through to get a list like: a sword, an armor, a helmet… This made me think about another funny list, that of: Humanities of which historians do have right to joke about.

Lists are actually great sources. That is why they are worth of a memory suitcase.