Two Tongues

I’m French.

My first experience with words was with “our” classics. Public libraries. School stories.  A lot of poetry. I was playing around. Words were precise, rough, and did magic to me. I needed to tell my own stories. So I tailored my own words, I worked around them to make them pretty.

It’s a long work, writing in French. It’s a lot of trial & error. It takes time: Time to appreciate the rhythm, the strength behind a sentence. Time to fully discover what your own words mean. Pain feels like ice, sometimes.

I discovered English in my early teens. Love at first sight. The way the words stretch, roll, fall into lines and pages. The music they make. Pain sounds like a pop song.  Instant prose!  Everything, right here, right now!

English words help me to define the way I write. French words help me to discover who I am. Paper Ghosts couldn’t have been written in French: The sense of emergency, the urge to tell these stories close to my heart wouldn’t have been the same. Revenants (The Returned-nothing to do with the TV show), on the other hand, is perfect in French, because there’s space for pain, loss, greys and blacks, and there’s space for tiny moments of hope. That’s who I was at the time when I wrote it, in my mid-twenties.

There are stories screaming to be written in a language or another. Heaven Tonight has to be written in English, because the culture of the story and the character is very rock&roll, to say the least, and so are the references. Some horror story I wrote last year (Chambre 101), was better in French, to catch the main character’s loneliness.

The process is very different, too. When I write in English, I pay attention to the rhythm. A lot. Everything is very spontaneous, I rarely edit (shame on me!) except for grammar and spelling errors.

Strangely enough, writing in my native tongue requires more effort. When I write in French, every word is carefully placed next to another. It takes ages just to set-up an intro. It has to flow!

But there’s no way I stop being in-between languages. English is my punk-rock playground, my way of telling people about how I feel. French is my black mirror, my reflection, my way of looking back to fully understand who I am, who I was, and hopefully, who I’m going to be.



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