As a warm up for a post planned for tomorrow, this is the beginning of an unfinished sample column intended for an academic online journal that would actually offer symbolic pay for them, the working title was:
a choice of language
Writing in your mother tongue is for wimps. Unless you’re dyslectic, then just writing readably is a challenge. My first conscious literary (well, musical) experience of a person writing (singing) in his second language was of Cornelis Vreeswijk, a man who, twelve years old had persuaded his family to migrate from Holland to Sweden and later studied to become a journalist. Instead he found a guitar and a typewriter and began writing songs and poems. He ended up being, well deservedly, a modern swedish classic. He recorded one album in English (rumoured to be horrible), a few in Dutch (which are supposedly good) and about two dozen in swedish. In addition to that he authored a handful of poetry collections, wrote lyrics for others, translated songs and poems, acted a little, offended those who should be offended, won the hearts of almost everybody else and, in effect, drank himself to death in 1987, at age 50. More interesting, however, is how he treated his adopted language. At first he was frustrated about neither understanding nor being able to make himself understood. The solution? He studied like mad, crammed himself full of words hoping they would make sense to him some time, read – lots of comics – and talked constantly. So what was the result? By the time he recorded his first album he had a command of swedish like no one (except for Kjell Alinge, a radio-host who made strange Sunday morning shows during the second half of the eighties) else I have heard or read before or since. His vocabulary stretched in all directions of time, place and class. And he had relaxed into the language so thoroughly that he could, and did, use it with complete freedom.