I’m reading Marie-Claire Blais’ American Notebooks (Linda Gaboriau’s English translation). She has a few sentences in there about writing in a language which makes no sense; she is referring to English. The woman must have spoken a fair amount of English at the time, as she had won a Guggenheim Fellowship.
I am dumbfounded by the thought. Blais is one of those people I put up on Literary Mount Olympus, with all the other gods of language. What the hell can she mean by “express myself awkwardly in a language I hardly speak”? This doesn’t bode well for me, who gets so absolutely defeated by the English language (mother tongue and sole means of communication) that Roget’s thesaurus gets yet another flying lesson.
Sometimes my ESL students will growl in frustration when they can’t find a word. I do laugh at them but it’s in empathy. While all communication is certainly a large boulder in the path of my life, language is the most aggravating. Humans invented language to make communication easier; you may ask my poor Roget’s how effective that’s been.
At least Blais seems comfortable writing in French. Why have I chosen (wait, did I choose it or does some Fate have a sick sense of humour?) to make my living through language?
As a teenager, I made money by cleaning houses. There is a certain appeal…