I have written three novels so far, a fourth is in the doldrums and may yet be rescued. (Then again, there are many projects and ideas, so it may well stay where it is.) Anyway, here is what I have done so far:
- Der Südgipfel (South Summit); Ullstein Verlag, Berlin 2001
- Die Glocken von Lhasa (The Bells of Lhasa); not yet published
- Life Sentence; work in progress, has reached third (and final, I hope) draft
By the way, this third novel is my first attempt to write something longer in English. It was (is) an interesting experience, not least because English is easier to deal with than German: it's less formal, more given to accepting new (or unusual) constructs, quite flexible… and of course the words are shorter: no 25-letter monsters to lug around anymore. It is definitely a language to get things done, a practical thing. However, English does lack some of the finer nuances of control, if compared to German. Unfortunately this difference is really hard to pinpoint: either one speaks both languages well, then there's not much need for an explanation, or one doesn't and then it is nearly impossible to explain. Vladimir Nabokov once wrote that he still hankers after Russian and the possibilities his native tongue gave him as compared to English — I know exactly what he means.
But then why write in English in the first place? Well, as I wrote, it's a mixed picture: some things are easier in English, some are more difficult. This was an experiment, something I simply wanted to try — a challenge, if you will. And of course there is the commercial aspect: there are simply many more millions of English readers than German readers. Novels are, at least as a general rule and Günter Grass notwithstanding, translated from the English to the German, not the other way. (Even getting my computer titles translated proved nearly impossible, despite good sales and good reviews: I only ever succeeded once and that was hard enough.)
And there is one thing about English that will never cease to surprise and to fascinate me: the sheer number of words the language has acquired over the centuries. The English have an endearing way of appropriating all and sundry when it comes to other people's languages: Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Indian… This ability to absorb words and concepts may be a strength and a weakness at the same time — but it is certainly something that makes English unique: an interesting, ever changing kaleidoscope of words and idioms. (And one that's nearly impossible to master without the help of The Oxford English Dictionary — in itself a marvel, a wonder of words.)
Finally, there's of course Wittgenstein. (Whenever a philosopher — or a writer — gets stuck, he or she cries out and there comes old Wittgenstein riding to the rescue:-).) Mr W produced lots of, hm, well, interesting theories but in one respect he was spot on: how the structure of one's language mirrors that of one's world (hang on a sec… wasn't it the other way round?). Anyway, living in Britain means hearing, speaking, dreaming, thinking, breathing all things English… all the time. That total immersion forms one's way of writing, there's no denying it: nowadays there are many things I can express easier or better in English than in German. Time, then, to move back to Germany?
Go back to My Computer Books.
$updated from: My Fiction.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:14:22 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$