Essay on Multilingual
PLAYING WITH THE MULTILINGUAL by Adam Donaldson Powell (Norway)
From "Le Paradis", a tri-lingual novella with bilingual poetry by Adam Donaldson Powell:
"Il fait chaud aujourd'hui. Tu n'as pas soif?" asked Erik.
"Afaitu is in one of his serious moods today. He has been trying to get in touch with his spiritual ancestors, and is therefore staying away from the Devil's brew (you know: pia). But I am certain that he would like some cold water and a joint," said Eperona with a playful snicker.
"Pakalolo? Sorry man, I wish I did have some marijuana. But I do have some bottled water with me and (of course) a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. Will that do?"
Afaitu graciously thanked his Swedish friend for the water and a cigarette, while suggesting: "Hey, why don't we take my boat out to a motu and spend the afternoon just chilling out? We can pick up some sandwiches and fruit, and perhaps even some mahi mahi on the way."
"Mahi mahi sounds good to me," said Eperona in his slightly post-adolescent manner ... grinning, while adding: "and some more beers too!"
Afaitu shot his two-year younger friend a pretend-stern look, and then broke out into laughter.
"What? What did I say that is so funny?" asked Eperona, himself unable to keep from smiling. Erik thought he had been left out of a personal joke, and his eyes quizzically darted from Afaitu to Eperona, finally resting on Afaitu.
"It is nothing, my friend. You have been exactly the same since you were sixteen years old: the joys of your life are so simple. As long as you have fish, women and beer, 'tu es au paradis'!" replied Afaitu, smiling and throwing a pebble at Eperona.
"Hey, cut it out!" retorted Eperona, as he playfully wrestled Afaitu onto his back, pinning him down with his muscular arms and shoulders. "And speaking of women ... should we invite some to join us? What do you think, Erik? I know this hot ..."
"Merde! What a fucking braggart. Don't listen to his crap talk, Erik," said Afaitu while pushing Eperona off of himself. "You would think that Eperona is the biggest stud and womaniser in the whole of French Polynesia."
"Et alors!" joked Eperona, now standing over his two friends and thrusting his hips and groin forward in repeated erotic movements - half dance and half sex simulation.
"Damn, Eperona! You look like a raerae or a mahu impersonating an amateur Polynesian dancer for tourists," shouted Afaitu ... causing Erik to laugh and Eperona to pounce on Afaitu again.
"Amateur? Raerae? My uncle is a raerae, so I take that as a compliment. In fact, you should BE so lucky! Here ... I will show you how a 'raerae' fucks a titoi (a wanker). Roll over ... I've got something for you!" cried Eperona out as they tussled; and all three men laughed uncontrollably.
From "2014", a multilingual and intergalactic novella by Adam Donaldson Powell:
"Ha konwe ilucó Zeta, saj juhe la" ("Greetings our Zetan friends in Spirit, we wish contact") repeated Eonurai telepathically in Vegan (the language used by the Greys), directing her energies toward the constellation that was home to the Zeta Reticulians. "Ha konwe ilucó Zeta, saj juhe la" . "If you can hear this message, then please respond. This is Eonurai from Terra, with an important message to you from the Intergalactic Higher Command."
"Ha konwe Eonurai-at. Saj miile ennwo. Len em Cuezpå. Ken ta sommo ?" ("Greetings she who is Eonurai. We are listening. This is Cuezpå. What is your message ?") replied the Zetan on the receiving end of the telepathic communication directed at the Zetan Central Command Headquarters.
He then added: "Not to be disrespectful, but we speak English quite well here at the headquarters. Perhaps we should continue in English, as it would be more convenient for us. Your accent is a bit difficult to decipher telepathically."
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Authors who write bilingually or multilingually usually employ one or more of the following alternatives:
1) to write and publish a work in one language, and then to adapt the work into another language and then publish it again in the new language;
2) to write sections of a work (usually poems) in one language, and repeat all of them into one or several other languages within the same book;
3) to write sections of a book in different languages, sometimes repeating the same small works and sometimes combining adapted and other works in the different book portions;
4) combining several of the above-mentioned techniques in the same book, and/or over a progression of books.
I employ all four approaches in my literary publications, and public readings - usually writing in English, Spanish, Norwegian and French, but also occasionally using bits of text in Greek, Arabic, Latin and other languages where appropriate.
Why do I find this fascinating ? First of all, we live in a globalized greater society today where many persons speak and understand multiple languages to various degrees, where few speak "the Queen's English" anymore but rather national and local adaptations of English, French, Spanish and other major languages, where several individuals and groups of expatriates, immigrants and persons who have lived in many countries and cultures quite naturally employ several languages in the course of a simple conversation - you can hear it on the streets and busses in major cities all over Europe: persons in dialogue with another, in person, or on the cell phone, switching over from Urdu, West African dialect, French or Spanish to perhaps Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, and then to English, and back again. I enjoy matching this phenomenon together with the adjoining mixtures of culture - both as experienced by natives, by immigrants in their new countries of residence, by tourists who are experiencing and learning about other cultures ... and also in culturally-hybridized forms, just as hybridized language today.
Secondly, by presenting the reader with this new globalized multilingual and multicultural reality, I hope that several persons will find interest in learning new languages (other than British and North American English) and that many will also begin to challenge their local and national perspectives on world culture today ... and tomorrow.
This is not a "new" genre; as many authors throughout history have played with using different languages in dialogues within the same work; and bilingual and multilingual adaptations in all possible forms is as popular today as ever before (especially in the international haiku network). However, the intent to use this literary form to reflect a modern globalized and mixed up cultural and linguistic world is a fairly new concept. We are moving from national literature in translation to multicultural/multilingual literature and "global literature".
The challenges for writing and publication are immense. Writing generally requires much decisionmaking, and when the question of merely choosing one's target audience is suddenly opened up to something greater than primarily the English-speaking, French-speaking or Spanish-speaking world, the writing challenges increase proportionally. No longer is it good enough to find the right translation of Hindu ritual texts in the local dialect as practiced in Kathmandu (as I discovered in my book "Rapture"), but I needed to find a dialect that would be understood and accepted by all Hindus in Asia. In the end I opted to translate some of the special texts back to English, both out of global linguistic and religious-cultural considerations. There are many decisions that have to do with level of language used, grammatical and punctuation rules used (for example, which language's rules should be followed in a manuscript that should show consistency ?), and the complexity of the text and story/poetry, decisions that have to do with whether one wishes to present a culture as a native might or as the outside world peering in (complete with stereotypes that are both promoted and challenged), decisions that have to do with political, religious and cultural values mirrored on all levels and in all perspectives (locally, nationally, internationally, and globally) and the accompanying perceptual differentiations therein, problems with getting language and cultural consultants, editors and colleagues to agree upon the "best" or "most correct" way to translate or adapt a text into another language ... and then to arrive at the best possible compromise for presentation in the final book, finding a publisher who will take a chance on publishing a book where he or she does not understand all of the languages used and does not have staff or finances to check every detail in several foreign languages used ... and the added responsibility this places on the author. There is much research, much reliance upon others, much insecurity and a lot of adrenalin that flows with expectation until the book has been on the market for at least a half year without a major international scandal or crisis having occurred. Words are not merely "words", you see. Words have incredible power.
However, the thrills of doing this kind of global writing are also enormous. One gets the feeling that one is truly both "reaching across the world", and "binding the world together" - contributing meaningfully and intentionally to global communication and understanding through literature. And the mental calisthenics can only be compared to successfully completing a long distance race with hurdles all along the way. It does get confusing sometimes. You need to have a solid base line - as in music - to hold it all together, but the "dance" itself is mesmerizing and offers countless possibilities to both fall on one's face ... and to get up again, and (at times) to soar through space like an eagle - with a view of the world rarely acknowledged in the hub bub of day-to-day situations.
It is my hope that more "global literature" will be written and published in the near future - including the employment of international cyberpunk and international urban dialects as language forms. Language is changing daily, and authors need to keep up ... and stay ahead artistically. This is just the beginning of a whole new world of literature.
-- Adam Donaldson Powell, 2008