My laptop screen now shows the title of this piece as “Draft5EditedFeb.22.” I wrote it in one breath and then scrapped it...Four times.
This is what I do – I nit-pick every word, question every phrase, meticulously deconstruct then reconstruct every sentence. I am an academic, but my field of expertise is not law – it’s literary modernism. This all means that I am simultaneously overeducated and undereducated, depending on whether we are talking about Anglo-American modernism, or English and Welsh law. At this stage of my career, I can recount in detail how the demise of the League of Nations led to the creation of the UN, but I may struggle to recite the particulars of the Human Rights Act 1998.
I have devoted a decade of my life researching and writing about Ezra Pound, an American modernist poet who was on the “wrong side of history” during and after the Second World War. This is an insipid description. The focus of my hard-earned PhD dissertation was a brilliant writer but also a man whose views on race and politics were harmful and destructive. Think of it as spending years reading and writing about some of the worst human-made tragedies in recent history.
I was born in a poverty-stricken country in the bellicose Balkans right before the Yugoslav wars took away any remaining shreds of peace for its people. Unsurprisingly, one of my earliest childhood memories is of family and friends sharing UNICEF’s food cans. I distinctly remember (or at least I think I do) the light blue colour of the words on those cans and the promise of hope that came with them. Much has changed since I was a child, but the sense of responsibility towards those who are not as privileged as I am now still lives with me; it is the realisation that whenever there are wars, people inevitably flee, even if that means leaving everything behind regardless of whether “everything” means little or almost nothing.
Most of us will agree that reading the news nowadays implies learning about a new armed conflict and the human tragedies that inevitably follow or hearing about yet another horrific instance of a capsized dinghy (and to my own detriment, I keep up with the news religiously). Perhaps there is not much I can do to counter injustice on a global scale now, as an academic, or in the future, after I have fully qualified as a solicitor. Perhaps my road to qualification will prove to be different from what I imagine. What I do know for certain is that I will be a driven and empathetic advocate for those in need. And perhaps that is all one could ask for.
Svetlana is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of New Brunswick; her most recent academic publication is “‘[E]s die höchste Zeit ist' to Re-consider Ideology: Ezra Pound and Nazi Germany” in Bloomsbury Academic’s Historicizing Modernists: Approaches to ‘Archivalism.’
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