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Writing a Book in a Foreign Language
Contributor
Written by
Nino Gugunishvili
November 2018
Contributor
Written by
Nino Gugunishvili
November 2018

I wrote my debut novel Friday Evening, Eight O’Clock in Russian, and the truth is, I don’t have an explanation why. Russian is not my native language, nor is English, to which I then translated and published it. The words, and phrases, the paragraphs, the characters, their surroundings and the whole story that I was writing about were born that way. Unconsciously, almost intuitively I chose first Russian and then English to be the language in which the book would be born. I wrote without much of the thinking or analyzing, why. I was just following my gut and putting to the paper what came to my mind. It seemed natural, and the more so, it felt the only way possible to express myself.

I’m finding it inexplicable, how and why our mind functions when we’re writing, choosing some words over others, and most importantly, choosing another language, not our native one to write in. Why do we feel more comfortable writing in a foreign language, which, no matter how good we’re at, still remains foreign, and sometimes adds a bit of a challenge to the writing process.

 It’s probably one of the most mysterious things about writing, choosing the language, in which you’re writing your book, when your mind, your vocabulary, your phrasing switches instantly,and often you start  remembering words, that were stored somewhere far, far away in your memory until that very moment when you sit down and actually write. It’s as if you’re living in several multi - lingual, different and often opposite worlds, each with their own realities, and you’re able to explore them only if you use another language, that’s when those imaginative doors or passages open, letting you in, a little like Alice in Wonderland. It’s like being an actor, diving into another person’s life and living it for a given moment as your own, transforming into something new, unknown, unexpected and mystifying.

 I’m currently working on my second novel , and again, I’m writing it in English and again, I don’t have a single right answer why. Halfway through, I understood that the story has to be written in English, that the way characters live, or speak, is most naturally expressed in English, it’s their life, and choice, so, I just simply obey and follow,  I observe where all of it is going.  Do you know what I wonder? I wonder, what my former English teachers would say. I hope they’d be happy.

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