Monday, 4 August 2014

Linguistic Impossibilities

A while back, I had the following thought:
I have a vague memory of having read somewhere that Franz Kafka had an identity crisis of sorts that stemmed from what he called "linguistic impossibilities". I was reminded of this the other day when I spoke about the art of writing with some friends: sometimes it is so extremely difficult to express oneself in a language that one is supposed to know inside and out. For example, even though I know a language at native level, I still feel limited and "rootless", not being able to express myself the way I would like to. Other people think it sounds good, though.
Indeed, I managed to find one article on Kafka's linguistic impossibilities (here). Living in Prague at the beginning of the 19th century, German-speaking Jewish writers faced a problem related to language and writing:

"[Jewish writers] exist among three impossibilities, which I just happen to call linguistic impossibilities.... These are: The impossibility of not writing, the impossibility of writing German, the impossibility of writing differently." (F. Kafka)
 I have always wanted to write. I have written letters, e-mails, blogs. But I also always had a feeling that my language was too weak, that I had not the right skills to perfect the tool and to use it as it should be used in the contexts I want to use it. I know languages, sure I do, but I cannot turn a single one of them into poetry. In a way, I find this issue to be related to Kafka's linguistic impossibilities. When I was young, I was taught to express myself in Swedish - a language that I hated, now I only dislike it. I remember how I used to say that I'd love to write but the stories don't come to me. Now I think that the stories have been there all along, but I did not know how to express them properly. Swedish is a language that is not me, it is not my essence. However, I know it better than any other, and it's the only language I know how to play in.

Writing does fill me with joy, and this summer I have been writing. This blog has not been my focus this summer, instead my attention has drifted toward an old-fashioned notebook. I think I have solved my linguistic dilemma: I write different texts in different languages. The main story - the big one - is written in English. Only the draft, though. I will translate it myself and add the poetry and the life to it in Swedish.


Natalie K. said...

I am fascinated by people who say they hate (or dislike) a language they learned when they were young. I'd love to hear more about you and Swedish, if you'd be willing to share. :)

Also, writing in notebooks is awesome! I do it, too, mainly to plan out fiction that I'm working on. I plan it in the notebook and then type it on my computer.

PorkStar said...

I can somewhat relate to what you say about languages. I can express many more things in English and certainly more poetically in Spanish, for example.