29 December 2008

Anthony Gardner's list

In an article entitled "Second-language authors" in a recent issue of the magazine Europe in the UK, Anthony Gardner lists several authors that wrote in other than their mother tongues: Józef Teodor "Joseph Conrad" Konrad Korzienowski (spoke Polish and French, wrote English), Samuel Beckett (spoke English, wrote French), Vladimir Nabokov (spoke Russian and French, wrote English), Oscar Wilde (spoke and wrote English, wrote French), Andrei Makine (spoke Russian, wrote French), Spinoza (spoke Dutch, wrote Latin), Leo Tolstoy (spoke and wrote Russian, wrote sometimes in French). Gardner writes, "Curiously, however, when speaking English Conrad never lost his Polish accent (indeed, according to his wife, it became stronger as he grew older); and the question remains as to how far a writer can assimilate a language other than his or her own. The critic A.C. Ward observed of Conrad that 'he never wrote quite as a born Englishman' (though, he added, 'he wrote the language incomparably better than most educated Englishmen do'); while the French poet Adolphe Retté, who was asked by Wilde for his comments on the manuscript of Salomé, claimed that his main task was to remove 'les anglicismes trop formels.'" It would be very interesting to find out what "native-speaking" British or American critics think of Nick Joaquin (spoke Spanish and Tagalog, wrote English), who is highly regarded as a great English writer by his fellow Filipinos, but by very few outside his own country.

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