Once again, 10am finds this narrative ninja having achieved the day’s shopping and meanwhile slurped up a podcast, this time from the New Yorker’s Books and Blades, wherein Turkish Nobel Prize for Lit winner, Orhan Pamuk reads Nabokov’s My Russian Education from the New Yorker archive.
Oh boy is this ninja out of her depth. No probs navigating the supermarket in a foreign language, no sir. Just a frightening lack of words when it comes to having anything to say about a Nobel Prize winner talking about a guy who wrote his first nine (count ’em) novels in Russian and then progressed to English for the next eight, with the odd smattering of French translation thrown in for good measure.
So instead of talking about content I’m going to use a clever distraction and talk about form (read: I’m going to whinge), and ask how in the heck did he get time to write 17 novels? And how in the heck did he get time to become fluent in so many languages? It takes so much talking to get a language to that level. I’m having difficulty with German Level B1, never mind Level Z.
Then again, maybe there is no Z. Perhaps the trick is to work with what you’ve got when you’ve got it and not wait around for when you might be just a bit better, or a bit less clumsy.
A prize-winning Australian novelist wrote in an email to this narrative ninja that his use of German language in his first novel, which was written in English, was mostly ‘smoke and mirrors’. In other words, he was able to discern which bits would work in German, and which could do without to give a seamless effect.
I’d say that’s a pretty good example of diving in and having a go, even if you don’t have fluency. Maybe that’s part of what it takes to communicate a good story. And if you happen to be fluent in another language, then lucky you.