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  • Writer's picturemichaelkjarvie7


Updated: Feb 2

In the future, I am seriously thinking of writing in a language that is not my mother tongue. Mother tongue is itself an interesting concept apropos my own situation. Technically, the mother tongue of my mother was German. But what about me? When I look back at my childhood, I’m not even sure that English was my mother tongue. It’s quite conceivable it could have been German, the language towards which I intend to migrate.

Examples of writers who wrote in a language which was not their primary one are, of course, legion. One might include from the last century such major figures as Joseph Conrad, Samuel Beckett and Vladimir Nabokov. The reasons a writer might opt to express himself in another language are varied. In my case, it is overwhelmingly due to a lack of readers in the English-speaking world, and the belief that my work would be better understood and appreciated by a German-speaking audience.

Germany is renowned because of its enthusiasm for the arts in general – whether that be literature, music or the fine arts. In this sense, it is far superior to the more parochial and class-dominated culture one encounters in England, where working-class writers like myself are effectively excluded and silenced by the middle-class gatekeepers.

It may help my case to point out that my writing has been compared, from a purely stylistic perspective, with that of the German writer W. G. Sebald. Max himself made the journey from German to English, albeit via the translations of Michael Hulse and Anthea Bell, so why should I not make the trip in the opposite direction?

Migrating to writing in German would be a form of self-exile, the kind of exile that James Joyce willingly embraced. Effectively, it would be a form of abnegation. It would also represent a technical hurdle: to create something aesthetically satisfying in another medium. I'm already relishing the challenge.

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