Quote of the Week: A Shipwrecked Mother Tongue

For me, linguistic displacement is a mark of origin. When I was five years old, I learned French at the Alliance Française in Santiago; at seven years old, when we moved to California, I learned English and forgot my French. From that moment forward, I have remained sandwiched between Spanish and English, feeling comfortable to a certain point in each of these languages, but also insecure in both. Spanish is my Yiddish, and English is my Esperanto, but I have always lacked the perfect language: the one that names things without distorting them. For me there is not, nor can there be, a language of Paradise such as those possessed by the truly great writers, who make their homes in their language. My mother tongue is a linguistic shipwreck; and it is from there that I write the story of my grandparents.

(Claudio Lomnitz, A Shipwrecked Mother Tongue: On Confronting Linguistic Dispossession)

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