I just received the most delightful present in my mailbox. A little memoir written in French by a former student. I taught him French and now he writes poignant stories, all the more touching for their occasional grammatical hiccups. I’m humbled and awed by what writing can render. Writing to ourselves can stop time or throw it into a vast black universe where ancestral voices groan and vibrate.
I write in my notebooks several times a week with people close to me and far away. I write in French and in English and occasionally, very slowly, in Spanish. My dream, sort of like the solipsistic fantasy of leading myself in a tango so I could really feel what kind of follow I am, my dream is something like this…. when my students, even in French 1, write little stories they are incredible. So direct, inadvertently poetic, often funny and just stripped bare of all the extra language dross in which we adults coat ourselves. But by the time their French is good enough to understand how delightful their baby French was then they aren’t writing the simple sentences any more.
I would love to inhabit those two sides: the hard work of getting out what I really want to say in a foreign language I do not master and the deep knowledge of the language to appreciate how great the simple sentences are.
So I encourage you, in the interest of self care, to set a timer, grab any old paper and a pen you like and finish this sentence. What I really want to say is… and when you run out of steam just write it again, what I REALLY want to say is…
And if you have a bored or lonely or tolerant friend, call them up and ask them if you can read your rant, your meanderings or your nonsense. It’s surely more intriguing than Netflix.
And can someone please rewrite Sartre’s No Exit in a Zoom breakout room? Thank you.
Take good care of yourselves and your stories. Merci Elias!!