BCLT Summer School – Day 5


The final workshop was given by Sharlene Teo, who delved into psycho-geography, and her own variation: psychic geography. We were asked to describe a room that was familiar to us, lingering on details, even the smallest, if needed.

1. If I sit down at its centre, I can take in all of its corners. The four major ones – the cornerstones, the foundations – and the minor ones, the ones that follow the furniture, the kitchen area, the wardrobe, my eyes. Circling around them, books populate the room, shelves pine for more or for fewer, groan with content. Keep turning and the bed lies down, to one side, covering its own space, in its own time. Turn a little more to find the washing line, clothes hanging, suspended, moisture gently rising as they dry. Lie back, and the ceiling stares at you, blankly.

We were then asked to describe a ‘public’ person, or character, in enough detail for them to be recognisable by other readers. My choice, surprising no one, fell on Eddie Izzard.

2. He has the kind of eyes that show the weird, wonderful, buzzing creativity behind them, rimmed with eye-liner, or eye-shadow, or mascara, calculated and meticulous. He might be wearing lipstick, he might not. That doesn’t really matter. But if he is, it might appear amid a three-day beard, bristled with white and blond and brown – light brown. Or maybe not. He does wear a shirt, and a suit and tailcoats from the jacket, points touching an umbrella as he stands triumphant, ego shining bright, spotlight not needed. Unless he’s wearing a dress, and the sparkles, the glitter, the sequins catch the lights on stage. And that’s when smiles. Mocking. Knowing.

We swapped the result of the first exercise with other participants, and wrote the character into the new setting we now had. Oh dear.

3. …my heels just got stuck. eeeeeeeeeeeh-yes. Anyway: HAMMERS. Let me talk about hammers. You don’t want to talk about hammers? You just want to get hammered? Well whatever floats your boat I suppose. Do you think Noah used hammers when he built his boat? the Ark, I mean? and what if he made it out of perspex, like a see-through boat, to watch all the evil people and animals drown and you can point and laugh and then you’d be evil too, actually… but yes, and god, who is still James Mason, would be up there going craaaaazy:
‘No no, stop laughing or I’ll have to push you off the boat. Noah? Noah, make them stop laughing or just – Jesus?’ ‘ Yes dad?’ ‘I need a holiday.’ ‘ Aren’t all days a holiday for us, dad?’ ‘…yes, well played.’
But yes, anyway – gardening.

BCLT Summer School – Day 4


Eliza Robertson was our leader today, and we focused on voice as ‘an intersection of character and place’. We tried bringing out our own local, personal varieties of English, by adapting a pssage from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. I failed, it became Tuscan very quickly.

1. Maledetti imbecilli in un paese d’imbecilli – diahane. E unn’é miha colpa loro se ci siam fatti invadere dagl’inglesi. Miha li odio, io. Son imbecili, poracci. Noi e un siam nemmanco capaci di piglianne una a modino di gente pe faccelo tirá nicculo. Sie – governati da buhaioli. E noi icch’é si diviene? Merde. Merde zozze, schifose – merdacce proprio – nemmanco merde di hane, iobono. Miha li odio gl’inglesi io. C’hanno le su cose anche loro. A me stanno su icculo I toscani.

Someone close to that speaker decided to mediate the response:
2. What I believe he’s trying to say, really, is that sometimes we feel like – and this is just sometimes of course – like there could be more cooperation between you and us. I mean, we can be difficult to deal with, sometimes, of course, no point in denying that *nervous laughter*
…but maybe a hand in more urgent matters could improve morale? Only if it’s not a burden…

And it continued.

3. ‘OH! A chi, difficult? Noi? Difficult? Mavvacahare vai, te e i’ tu’ nglese perbenino e cicici e risolini e leccaculi.. gnamo su.’
‘Well. I’m sorry, I just think we could be a little less harsh about some of the complaints. We–‘
‘Ma ndoe harsh?! Io le ho dette come lle stanno le hose, diocristo, se un sapehe icche farci son cazzacci vostri.’

BCLT Summer School – Day 3


Workshop led by Cecilia Rossi, looking at internal and external constraints that translators face, and ‘revealing’ how writers are really not that free either. The two exercises, below, are intuitively linked to their predecessors.

1. On the Difficulty of Imagining an Ideal Ice-cream Flavour.
(After George Perec/John Sturrock)
I would like to lick some vol-au-vent but sometimes I wouldn’t
I would love to lick some watermelon but sometimes I wouldn’t
I would like to lick some xigua but sometimes I wouldn’t
I wouldn’t like to lick some yolk but sometimes I would
I would love to like to lick some zest – I really would

2. Stencil
(After Matthew Welton)
Exactly what I’m reading is: – the sentence comes
And, with it, something synonymous butts my brain
The crowd of words wibble-wobbles; the dictionary lies.

Exactly what I’m reading is: – the silence comes
And, with it, something soporific ties my tongue
The gap of words dilly-dallies; the dictionary sighs.

Exactly what I’m reading is: – the seizure comes
And, with it, something stupefying mugs my mind
The clot of words coagulates; the dictionary cries.

BCLT Summer School – Day 2


Day 2 – Workshop led by Henrietta Rose-Innes, with a fascinating discussion on South African English, its relationship to Afrikaans and the multiple official languages of the country, and how South African authors (such as Antjie Krog or Nathan Trantraal) use, bend and crash the rules of all of them combined. We were then prompted to tell a very brief story in the voice of 13 year olds (mine became bilingual Tuscans, somehow..) not wanting to be understood, as by someone who uses English as a lingua franca, in a high-calibre interview setting, and in response to someone being judgemental or snobbish of our own accent or variety.

1. Mate! mate! Oh! OH! CAHAMI! ..iobonino outside mate look -right?! yeah i know right! it’s like mate don’t even – fucking ledge yeah? no don’t look now. that one’s like – and that one’s like – and I mean like checazz. eh. (DU IU ANDERSTEND) Yeah but — no miss sorry miss just two birds outside. Yes miss, sorry.

2. Excuse me I am not very good my English but what is happening outside please? Excuse me there is two birds I think but I can not see what it is happening do you know? Do you able to help understand do you see that is happening outside? The birds? Why is the birds doing? Please?

3. What I do hope the story suggested, if you’ll bear with me for this next slide, is the following: the interaction between the two specimens, i.e. the birds, can easily be interpreted in the metaphor of collaboration between our respective fields of expertise, as was my aim in the presentation. The end result I am suggesting, however, goes a little further, as a variation on the adage ‘two birds with one stone’ – please excuse the wordplay – in which the synergy of our collaboration is, in fact, redirected and channelled into a strong, focused approach, i.e. the stone, effectively attacking that collaboration from a lateral, yet central, perspective, leading to a striking result. Thank you for your time.

4*. Oh I do beg you pAAhdon – are my birds not specific enough for you? Would you rAAther I used a more specific example? A pheasant, or quail, perhaps? Would you rAAther prefer they were on the grAAss or a pAAth, or the grounds of a cAAstle..? Toodle-fucking-loo, you twat.

(*where AA stands for [aː])

BCLT Summer School – Day 1


This year’s edition of the BCLT Summer School includes daily creative writing workshops alongside the usual translation matters. I thought I’d post the results for each day on here. For reasons yet undecided. The first workshop was led by Sarah Bower, and involved comparing how P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler create their voices (and styles) through different uses of English. Then, we were asked to rewrite an extract from one author in the voice of the other, and vice versa. The results below:

1. His tea was impeccable. The kind of impeccable that stands out. It was too good. The cup too clean. Clean like a polished gun. Jeeves was good at what he did. Very good. Never heard him come in or leave. Quiet like a thought. Jeeves’ timing was perfect, always. I’d open my eyes, and there he was. Holding a perfect cup, every time. A simple job, sure, but he made an art of it.

2. Now, wasn’t that a ghastly surprise. She was shocked, utterly shocked, I could tell. Or rather, Jeeves did. He could spot the damnedest of details, that man, and never show it. Most amazing thing.

‘Right oh, Jeeves, what happened then? Don’t keep one waiting by dilly-dallying, will you?

‘No, sir.’

‘What was the – what was it, dame? – wearing? A dash of rouge perhaps? What about her hair? Dark as a raven on a summer eve, but with a tinge of age?’

‘Decidedly, sir.’

‘Marvellous, marvellous! And I suppose she’d be wearing some sort of jewellery, some type of accessory as one might find, if so inclined, in a London – no, Parisian salon of utmost standards?’

‘Indeed, sir. Earrings and a cigarette holder.’

‘What ho, terrific writing this Chandler chap of yours! Carry on Jeeves, keep reading – and spiffing job of it too, if I may say so.’

‘Thank you, sir.’

140story – Summer continued


This is almost a companion piece to Angles.



Yes. Come on! It does, actually. If you just. Try sitting closer. No, not like that. Here, let me show you. There. Yes. Look at it from here. There. Right? It’s almost like home. Almost.

I never thought I’d miss it either. It’s not how I imagined it would be, none of the expected trodden feelings of sweet sorrow or heart clenching or the sickness or the longing. No. Nothing like any of those, is it? It’s more of active motion towards an image I seem to have. I think I have. You know the one I mean? Yeah, something of the sea, something of Greece, something of Italy, the South, something Mediterranean about it. What? Why are you smiling? (Summer looks good on you.)

Yes. Active motion, as in. It’s as if I’m trying to. Attempting to create an image, a feeling, a whole context for this type of moment. I don’t know. I’ve never actually seen been in this type of moment. I think. I think I’m trying to reach something that I want to think I belong to without really. Yeah, I know. No. I’m not making it up. I don’t know. I’m sorry. Why are you smiling again? Just. Look, try thinking of it this try imagining that the wind is the sea as well as the wind. I can describe the smells if you want if it helps the salt

Okay. Close. Look at it from here. Close your eyes. Breathe it. It closes in.

140story – Summeresque edition


Can you hear the waves crushing crashing..?