Friday, February 27, 2009

In what language

In what language to write?
That's a question that's been haunting me for a while now.
I know three languages fairly well, Arabic, my native language, my mother tongue and the language that comes out easiest, there's always some english inserted in between when I speak, but I believe its the language I can speak best, at least the colloquial one.
Then there's german, a language I've been taught in school for 13 years, I'm supposed to be good at it, since I've been taught all sciences, maths, history, geography and all the other subjects in that language. But I'm not good at it and have a deep disliking to the language, maybe it has a link to my disliking to my school. I try to read german literature in german, but this task is always excrutiating. It feels more like a chore than pleasure, and it's a shame to know the lanuage of Thomass Mann and Kafka and read them in english instead of German. I read German very slowly. I used to be good at german, and I was one of the good ones in class but that was back then, in my primary and secondary years of school.
Then comes English, a language, I've been taught since grade 5, and its quite ironic that it's the language I can best express myself with in writing.
I don't think that I mastered any of those languages, and it makes me wonder, if I ever intend to publish a novel or any sort of literary work, in what language would it be?
If I write it in English, a language that I usually write in lately, since I'm studying Journalism in English and practiced my writing skills in that language, I don't think it would sound truthful, since my daily life is not usually in English.
So should I write in arabic then?
When I was a kid I wrote one page stories in arabic, I found a few of them some time ago, I also had attempts in German and I even remember that I once gave a teacher a short story in German to correct, she corrected it gramattically but never commetented on the fact that I attempted writing a story, and she also hated me until the day I graduated, the reason for that is beyond me, but that's not the issue here.
So I wrote in arabic as a kid, but that was a long time ago. The problem with arabic, and this is a problem I know many are facing is the split between the colloquial and fusha, we speak one language, but then read and write in another. Would writing in fusha capture our daily lives and who we are and our identities? To some extent it would but not entirely, since we never speak that way, sometimes when I use fusha words people make fun of me. We have become alienated from that language, the language that holds layers of our history is not relatable to the contempoary Egyptian anymore.
So should I write in colloquial arabic?
I am totally against that. I personally think that colloquial arabic in writing looks cheap and is not beautiful nor poetic. I wrote for a magaizne in colloquial arabic some years ago, but I stopped writing for it for what I wrote was never my writing, and never captured my essense and it always, at least to me, felt cheap.
For instance I would never want to use words as neek or bedan in my works even if they are commonly used, the way they sound is unappealing, and I'm not only talking about swear words, the way people talk in general or better said how youths talk. Using words like 'fakes' for instance, I don't have other words on top of my head, but the usage of these words repells me a bit, even if I sometimes use such words, it just grows on you in a way. Even if it writing them captures reality I would rather not.
Colloquial arabic would not have a lasting literary value and I know it's easier and more relatable but I don't think that works written in colloquial are timeless.
I've noticed, however, that many contemporary arabic works are written in fusha and have dialogues written in our common language. I believe that's the best approach but it's easier said than done.
First of all, internal monlogues have to be taken into consideration, in what language should they be written?
Let's say the author decides to write the internal monlogues in colloquial, so what if a novel is written in a first person narrative, would the whole work be written in colloquial? And if it would then we're back where we started. So many questions arise.
Secondly, in our daily lives, and I'm talking here about the upper class in society, english is mingled with arabic, like an entagled thread and it's hard to disconnect the languages from one another. Actually, sometimes English is spoken more than arabic. Some parents only talk to their children in English, Frensh or, though rarely, German, depending on the education they're receiving.
I was at a press conference about a month ago and I met a British guy who was learning arabic. He was learning fusha, and told me that he can never communicate with Egyptians, since they never use that language. He also commented that English is everywhere to be seen on street signs, in daily conversations, in commercials, magazines, and the list goes on.
He asked me why I think that is, I told him it might be due to the british collonialism that lasted for a hundred years. He told me it was a long time ago. I don't really agree with him, since I believe that everything that happens has a lasting impact, not only in history. If you take the life of a person, every encounter the person faces impacts the person in a way, even if its done unconciously, my reactions to incidents I'm subjected to are related to my history and what I've encountered so far, and though I'm mostly unconcious of it, if I sit back and analyze it, I realize that my encounters and experiences in life have a huge significance on these reactions.
But though I disagreed with his argument, he still said something that I think does make a lot of sense and could also be another reason for the spread of the english language.
He said that maybe Egyptian youths relate more to that lifestyle, or better said appeal more to the American or Eurpean lifestyle, since it has less constraits (at least that's how it appears to be). This might be a big part of it, and another reason why there is an identity crisis among youths. He also pointed out that maybe due to the tourism, English is widely used, to act as a bridge, since its also a universal language, but I don't really agree since you don't find english in many cities that have many tourists. I remember in Praque, the Chechzs didn't know any other language, and I also hear that the Japanese don't talk to English and whoever wants to live in Japan has to learn the language first.
A language is a carrier of culture, as said by Ngugi wa Thiong'o in his essay 'decolonising the mind'. But what if, you are against many of the cultural norms surrounding you, and what if you don't relate to your culture? Do you write in another language?
I know that many Egyptians appeal to western cultures because it's 'cooler', but I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about people who are born in a culture and do not conform to its norms, a person who questions the base of these thoughts, a person who questions religion, which is one of the most dominant factors of culture, a person who doesn't believe that a girl's chasitity is the most valuable thing a girl could have.
But then again, putting that in mind, these cultural norms, do affect a person living there one way or another, even if someone questions these norms one has to deal with the culture one is surrounded by it. Even if one doesn't conform, the mere fact of non conforming creates an inner struggle and thus makes the person living inside that culture affected; being an outsider still makes you part of a culture, an outsider of a culture, but there is a direct affect, so basically what I'm trying to say is to live somewhere, its roots will be embedded inside of you.
So back to language and its relation to culture.
Ngugi says: "The choice of language and the use to which language is put is central to a people's definition of themselves in relation to their natural and social enviroment, indeed in relation to the entire universe."
He also says: "Unforunately writers who should have been mapping paths out of that linguistic encirclement of their continent also came to be defined and to define themselves in terms of the languages of imperialist imposition. Even at their most radical and pro-African position in their sentiments and articulation of problems they still took it as axiomatic that the renaissance of African cultures lay in the languages of Europe."
So are African languages being eradicated?
and would it be our choice to eradicate our language?
Is it done conciously?
and I'm talking about Arabic here in specific, do we conciously let go of the lanuage.
Now to be more specific, Arabic in Egypt, why do I sometimes feel that the language is looked down upon in the upper class, and why are the best schools in Egypt international and foreign schools.
I remember this one time I was discussing with friends of mine the languages we read in.
We were all Egyptians but all of them either attended international schools or lived abroad their whole lives. I was the only one who could read in Arabic.
Though I do consider my fusha arabic better than many others I deal with, I know for sure its not good at all and to some, it might actually sound childish.
But do we blame ourselves for not mastering our language?
It is hard and not used in our daily lives, and also, education wise, I don't think I received the best education in that language, yes, we did get the syllaby of the public schools' arabic, but we only had to pass it in school, no great emphasis was put on it.
And another point is also that the way it was taught was very unappealing compared to how other subjects were taught, not that any subject was appealing to me, but at least, in German class for instance, we analyzed works, we wrote essays and most importantly we thought. In arabic we had to memorize everything which led to our indifference and dislike to the languge, it was for us, the boring thing that we wanted to run away from and another thing, I do remember liking some of the poetry and short stories taught in the curriculum, especially in high school, but they were taught in a manner, where any sane person can quite want to learn it. We were told what the metaphors meant and we were told what to write, there were model answers for everything and whoever strays from that model answer is wrong, just how this society functions.
So still, even if the way we were taught our language wasn't appealing, would writing in another language make up for the lack of our own education in our language?
While writing in English I always feel that I'm cheating myself, that this is not really me. When I write about my utmost feelings I feel that its sincere even if its written in English, but when I try to write a story with social interaction I always feel that it's supposed to be written in arabic, though like I said there is a lot of English in social interactions.
Ngugi quotes Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian author:
"Is it right that a man should abandon his mother tongue for someone else's? It looks like a dreadful betrayal and produces a guilty feeling. But for me there is no ther choice. I have been given the language and I intend to use it."
Another reason why in words I could express myself better in English is due to the fact that I mostly read in English, even translated works.
The only arabic I read are the works orginally written in arabic.
Reading makes writing progress and that is a fact.
So should I read any translated work in arabic, and how about works orginally written in frensh or spansih? English would express them a lot better, since they're all Euopean.
So how about Japanese? Since I've been reading Japanese literature lately?
Anyway, whether I want to read them in arabic or not is not a question, it's a matter of availibility, and most of the time, English translations are the ones available, but even if the arabic ones were available, I would still get the English translations.
A last point that I want to consider is that. What does literature say about a culture?
And should literature express the social and political problems of a certain time? And if it does, and it surely does, I personally don't it when a story takes place somewhere different than where the author resides or is subjected to, or when an author writes about a different time in history, but that's only my opinion since I believe there is literature for every region to express the sentimetns pf this region and for every time, so that the literature for each era or century can say something about that time. However, I still believe that they should contain timeless concepts about human nature that could be related to in any time, which is one reason why I belive many of the contemporary authors' work will not be timeless, because they write about the problems of our age and the hear and now, without digging in the charachters' psychology, but that is only my opinion.
So if I do belive that literature should somehow mirror the culture, how can I define the culture I'm living in. How can I define Egypt?
There seems to be two Egyptians. The upper class, who are taught in foreign languages and somehow look down upon their mother tongue and the lower class Egyptians who do not receive such education and therefore only know arabic.
And both of them are intermingled daily and both of them are Egyptians, but which of them express Egypt more?
In European countries, the gap between poor and rich never cause any gap in the way one thinks, one's culture. But in Egypt there seems to be more than one culture and as much as I am for diversity, there has to be some unity between Egyptians and this could never be realized except through a common education and it is a far off dream, so if nothing can be changed, thinking about me as an Egyptian and where I stand in society, what is my culture and in what language should I write to express it best?
I still don't know
it's a hard question

Monday, February 16, 2009

I always listen to sad songs
even when I'm happy
I always listen to sad songs

"When I first met you I felt that we'd get to know each other better."
"I felt the same way."

"when you start slashing your wrist, don't come crying to me. I'll only tell you I told you so."
"but I'm happy."
"which is the more reason you should end it."

"it's really hard to find someone compatible to you"
"I know"
"there's the intellectual compatibility"
"the emtional compatibility"
"the physical compatibility"
"and there's the social compatibility"
"it really sucks"

"I just want to see you for once in a normal relationship"

"you know you're very stupid. You don't know how to enjoy things. You could just enjoy it and not look back when it ends, but you like to dwell. You always dwell. I get over people in two weeks."
"well, we're different people and we're made differently."

it's funny how, I always give out the sad impression
I think for an outsider, I'd really look sad
since I tend to prefer keeping to myself
since I'm still somehow silent
and always always walk looking on the floor
I wear lots of blacks,
not all the time but most of the time
except for my occasional cheerful hyper moments
i'm still the quiet person i've become

noone will notice that I really am happy with my life in general
why do I give out this sad vibe?
I think it goes back to my contemplative mood I'm always in
my friend today thought I was down everytime I got lost in thoughts
but I always get lost in thoughts, that's what he doesn't understand

I think. Many years from now I'll look back at this time in my life and smile
I'll think of how young and free (well not really) I was
and how things were spontanous in a way
I'll remember the exctiement of moments I have
and my youtful spirit
I'll smile
I know I would

memories become rusty by time
many details are lost on the way
sometimes I get scared of losing all these memories

summer 2001 was one of the best summers of my life
I always remember it with a smile
and always remember how young and careless I was
I look back, and see how many of us, drifted apart and changed
how many life changing events happened to our lives
how some people are not here anymore
it feels so distant
like a shing star far away
but I wasn't really happy in summer 2001
I was obssessed about my one sided love
and was convinced that this is the harshed pain I could experience
now I laugh at myself
and sometimes smile
at that innonce
sometimes I yearn for such innocence

it gets lots somewhere

I still listen to sad songs
but I'm happy

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's funny how every single person sees me in a completly different light
there are so many 'me's out there
or at least ideas of me
it's funny how you think you're just you
and realize that there are actually thousands of you in people's heads
so many version versions of you
maybe some people notice one detail about me and overlook another
or maybe some people gather my reactions n differnt situations they saw and accordingly put together an idea of me
what's really humiliating about embarassing moments is the fact that this moment would be registered in the minds of its witnesses
it's intimidating knowing there are so many ideas of me out there
but then again I ask myself so which is really me?
since they're all half truths
is it my perception of me?
but it still can't be accurate
since self perceptions are always skwed and distorted
or maybe the me that I know is there lurking within but am scared to make peace with it
or accept its excitence
or maybe its the me that I like and enjoy talking to
or maybe it's in the whole combination