How does one get to write poems in a language that is not one’s mother tongue?
These days lots of people tend to travel and live overseas, in places where their mother tongue may not be spoken at all. Consequently we can see creative writing produced quite extensively in a second language now, considerably more so than earlier in modern culture. While Joseph Conrad, a Pole, earned praise for his style in English (besides his greatness otherwise, of course), that still looked like a rather singular case in his time. The American Jonathan Littell, highly successful as a writer in French, is just one of many recent examples that one can think of. As our world becomes increasingly globalized, writing in a different language than that of one’s birth has become more habitual: the English language seems to be the biggest host for such foreign creative voices nowadays.
I have always wondered why so many of those who happen to be born within the Carpathian arch, in Transylvania, have a sense of coming from a unique, privileged area, why they keep an enduring and unquestioned commitment to it whatever may happen in their lives, whether they stay there forever or only rarely come back. I have written these pages in an attempt to understand some of this through my own experience.
Self-censorship is considered to be the “most corrosive and insidious’ form of censorship. Yet it appears to be inherent in us, part of our nature, whether we are aware of it or not. Self-censorship is a territory of imprecise borders and it comes in various shades and intensities. Its sources are multiple, both internal and external, possibly interrelated: a basic instinct of survival, a sense of belonging (we are social beings), adaptability, the human wish to stay within the comfort zone, assumed principles and/or internalized prejudices (the difference may not always be clear-cut) etc. Self-censorship may be tantamount to self-control, civility or conformism. Conformism also in the sense of political correctness, which is despised by many, but has an impact on all …