Good news spurred me on
I started my second manuscript in January when I opened the Africa letters. I’ve been dragging my hands a bit, but last week, I got a literary agent, Brendan Fredericks, who has taken on my first manuscript - one I wrote about living in Hong Kong. It takes me a step nearer publishing. It's an absolute delight to have Brendan on side and it’s having a galvanising effect. I’m writing like crazy, loving it and cursing too.
It's bloody hard work
This writing is no superficial retiree diversion, it’s as challenging as any physical marathon. Long hours hunched over the keyboard give way to long nights when words play the devil with me. I sleep with a writing pad at my bedside. Not so much to catch my midnight inspirations as to empty my head of words.
Only a million
There are about a million words in the English language and once you take away the chemical, technical and scientific words...
So less than a million. I feel I’ve gone through them all and am still left wanting; I might need more…
Monolinqual or Monoglot?
Then I remembered a young Afghan friend who shook his head when talking to me one day. “It must be awful only to speak one language.”
“I’m embarrassed and I wish I’d learned more,” I said truthfully, “But I get by.”
“I can't imagine it. Isn't it dull? I mean there are words in Farsi that express things that you don’t have in English and words in English that Farsi lacks. Farsi is so poetic.”
It really struck a chord with me. Surosh was only a teenager at the time we had the conversation.
I did feel deprived, but it was entirely my own fault.
Recently I heard about a young American, another teenager. Tim Doner, a well known polyglot. He spoke 23 languages (probably he's added another half-dozen by now) and said Farsi was his favourite.
Both young men can quote Hafez, the 14th century Iranian poet - impressive. Because I know they'd just as easily quote Shakespeare.
Imagine if polyglots had time to write books. Picture them: chewing their pens, rubbing their temples, contemplating which word from which language best to express the required sentiment.
Mind you, they might need to self-publish… Or to start an elite club.
So I'll just have make do, after all others have managed...
Oh well I can take some solace in the historical beginnings of English, it’s a bastard language: German, Norse, Danish, Dutch, French Latin. And I’m too busy writing to take up languages, so one million words will have to do.
I leave you with a line by Hafez
“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”
Now I’m sure a lot gets lost in translation, but I’m glad there was someone there to try.