Month: December 2014

George Szirtes’s Observations on Multilingualism

The poet George Szirtes‘s writing on multilingualism – struck a chord in me as it very accurately reflected my own feeling observing what was going on in Malaysia re: Sedition Act earlier this year.

The disadvantage of being (relatively) bilingual is that you are neither this nor that. You don’t fully belong. We spent nine months in Hungary in 1989 watching the state collapse around us and, under those circumstances, it became clear that I wasn’t truly Hungarian, but an observer – a visitor with privileges, who could be useful but not of the language or its poetry. In England, the rest of the time, a foreign-born poet is of the language until he isn’t; the point at which he hits the thick glass of English Words, where he will be deemed never quite to understand cricket or, say, John Betjeman, because these things are not in his DNA.