Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Mother Tongue

An interesting LitHub post by Swedish American novelist Johannes Lichtman, on the challenges of working in a language you only use to speak to your mother:
The problem hadn’t been with the translation of the second part of my novel—it had been with me. In my novel, Jonas was speaking English like a twenty-eight-year-old American. He was sarcastic at times, as if he were frequently sharing an inside joke with an invisible spectator. He had command of his words, the selection of which he modulated to make someone laugh, listen, or back off. The translator had rendered his English into the Swedish of a twenty-eight-year-old Swede with the same characteristics. But in my head, I heard Jonas in my own Swedish—the language of a twenty-eight-year old who has spent most of his life speaking Swedish only with his mother. The language of a twenty-eight-year old who sounds like an enthusiastic aunt. It was too sweet a language for my novel.

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