It is commonly perceived that a person can best communicate in his mother tongue. Is it really so? Well, we all know of Indian authors, who write bestselling English novels and literature, but English has been imbibed as a second language in most of the Indian states. But, a German writing in English and an Iraqi writing in German…whew…the world is shrinking and language is no longer a bar. Here, Varsha Verma brings an account of two such authors, for whom their language of writing is not what they learnt as a toddler…but which they imbibed later in life.
One look at Abbas Khider and you will mistake him for an Indian…but he is from Iraq and he is a bestselling author in Germany. His first book Der falsche Inder (in German) has recently been translated into Hindi with the title Galat Hindustani, and is also available in English as False Indian. The author was recently in India at the German book Office (GBO) stand at the New Delhi World Book Fair, where in conversation with S Anand from Navayana Publishing, he talked about his journey through life as a political prisoner, how he moved from country to country as a refugee, his studies in philosophy and literature in Germany and how it all culminated in the extraordinary story in his book. So fluent is he in German that you cannot believe that when he landed in Germany, he just knew three words, of which one ofcourse, was Hitler!
Abbas learnt German through reading second-hand books he bought from the market and he says that his inspiration was a Jewish poetess who wrote amazing poetry which was not only romantic but also wild.
Another interesting author we met was Roswitha Joshi, who is a German, married to an Indian, and writing interesting novels in English. But, Roswitha has honed her linguistic skills with a translation diploma for English from Hamburg and has translated numerous research papers and lectures on political, economic and environmental issues for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Friedrich Naumann Foundation as well as a travel guide on the Himalayas for an Indian publishing house. Before plunging as a full-time author, she wrote colourful travelogues, essays on controversial topics, humorous anecdotes and poems. Today, she has five published books to her credit - Life is Peculiar; On the Rocks and Other Stories; Once More!; Fool‘s Paradise and Indian Dreams.
Both these authors have proved that when it comes to expressing oneself, language is no bar. As Roswitha puts it, “When I approached my publisher UBSPD, Delhi, they were surprised to see that my English language was not only good, but very good. They liked my writing style and I have published five books with them. What appealed them more was the fact that I was writing on Indian subjects with a new German perspective.”
But, isn’t expressing in German a little difficult for Abbas? “No,” came a quick reply from Abbas, “German is a very strict language and you can say a lot in a very few words while Arabic is a very colourful and dramatic language.” No doubt then, Abbas writes poetry in Arabic and novel in German!
What really helped them to write better is the fact that they have extensively travelled across countries. Abbas hopped on foot from country to country until he found a secure place in Germany. “I had no passport as I was arrested for being anti-Saddam and I left my country to find a quiet place to live. Before becoming an author, I did many odd jobs for survival. Thankfully, today I am doing what I always wanted to do – write,” he told.
Similarly, Roswitha has travelled a lot not only abroad but in India as well. Her book Indian Dreams is set in India and she has shared her travel experiences across the country.
Abbas and Roswitha are both avid readers and they have read books, not just for pleasure but for also learning the styles of writing and improving their linguistic skills. “When I read a book, I try to focus not only on its content but also on its writing style. I want to know what the latest trends in this field are. Reading is a part of my life, it is very important for me to understand how a book is written,” she expressed.
Writing is something that is close to heart…words express the feelings of the author…language is not the limiting factor…it just means to convey your thoughts to others…there are indeed numerous facets of publishing industry!
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