This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt asks, "who else might I have been"? Last year, I attended a lecture by Nicole Brossard, author of Hier (Yesterday at the Hotel Clarendon), and posted about her musings on what it might be like to live and breathe in another language, an excerpt of which I am reproducing here:
Nicole's work has been translated into several languages. While she writes in French and is a native French speaker, she read to us in English from a text that had been translated by someone else. She spoke to us about the idea that you are a different person if you grow up in another language. Who, she asks, would she be, what kind of a woman would she be, if she had grown up in English, Italian, Spanish? Each language has a different way of breathing, and of being...
I have grown up sandwiched in between Canada's two solitudes - French, and English. Never completely at home in French while surrounded by a culture that is predominantly English, and where my mother tongue (the language first spoken to me by my mother) always felt like an uncomfortably big sweater where the sleeves had been rolled up. And at the same time, I am never completely whole in English alone - I feel as though a part of me is missing somehow when I live my life entirely in that language. So how do I then construct my subjectivism, in the spaces between these two languages? How do I breathe in this space between two silences?
Who would I have been if I'd grown up entirely francophone, or entirely anglophone? Would I have felt more at home in Toronto, or Quebedc? My bilingualism is a core part of who I am. Sometimes it serves as an extension of my thoughts, if one or the other language happens to fail me momentarily. If I'd been Spanish or Italian, would I have been more hot-blooded? Who would Christina have been, rather than the quiet Christine of half British roots who often has extreme moments of extroversion tied to her Quebecois roots?