26 December, 2005


Just read a post in the Chopsticks blog that made me remember what it was like to be a foreigner living in a foreign country and wondering whether the foreignness will ever diminish.

Feng-Mei Heberer, who is spending a year in China, wishes that the day-to-day lifwe in her newly adopted country of residence become “selbstverständlich ohne an zu Entdeckendem” (very rough translation: self-evident yet, retain a sense of constant discovery).

About a year after I moved to Germany, I went to a reading of an author (sorry, forget her name) who was born in Poland, eventually moved to Australia via France and then, after many years, to Britian. Her’s was a holocaust survival story, written beautifully and fluidly in her adopted language, English.

After the reading, someone in the audience asked her why she wrote in English, her third language (French was her second), instead of in Polish. She said she did this because it was a challenge to write about her life’s experiences in a language which she spoke fluently but was not her mother tongue. The foreignness of the language rarefied her childhood memories and sharpened her sense of lost without coating it in sentimentality.

She also said that she had come to embrace her foreignness. She liked living in London as a foreigner, simply because she would/could never become complacent. She could never just wander through a day without posing questions, making comparisons, or embracing newness.

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