Now, one of the effects of language is to efface itself to the extent that its expression comes across. As I become engrossed in a book, I no longer see the letters on the page or recall turning each page. […] When someone – an author or friend – succeeds in expressing himself, the signs are immediately forgotten; all that remains is the meaning. The perfection of language lies in its capacity to pass unnoticed.

      – The Prose of the World, Maurice Merleau–Ponty

 

When you were a child, when you didn’t understand a word in a story, you normally read on with the subconscious hope that you would absorb its meaning through context, like an illustration of a big red balloon above the word balloon in the sentence Charlie is holding a big red balloon.

Or you’d gather its meaning from the surrounding words in Charlie blew up the balloon and tied it in a knot.

Or you looked up from your book and asked someone else in the room, What’s a lumberjack? An aubergine? Bison?

Or there were those times when you flicked through your pocket dictionary for the meaning, like when you discovered that the word resin meant a highly viscous, sticky, flammable, typically aromatic substance secreted by trees. You proceeded to look up what viscous, flammable and secreted meant, but you worked out aromatic for yourself because aroma meant a smell, usually a nice one you’d come to understand.

Things have changed. Now you are an adult. At some time or other, you decided you’d come to understand enough, like you were full to the brim and in danger of overflowing. Now you have Google.

 

حتى الآن يمكنك الاستعانة بمصادر خارجية لجهاز كمبيوتر. دع الروبوتات تقوم بالتفكير نيابة عنك.

 

I’m affa sorry. I’m being richt coorse.

 

Ma vraie voix semble plus proche de celle qui se trouve directement au-dessus, mais je suis devenue un personnage de fiction lorsque j’ai commencé à écrire puis à parler en anglais standard, et maintenant je suis pris au piège d’une histoire que quelqu’un d’autre a écrite pour moi. J’aurais aimé ne pas avoir utilisé Google pour traduire cela, mais pendant cinq ans, j’ai eu du mal à créer un personnage français et j’ai échoué. J’aurais dû étudier l’allemand. C’est plus adapté à ma vraie voix.

 

Countermacious, some micht say.

 

Nuair a bha mi nam bhalach, chuala mi an truc de reòiteag aon oidhche blàth samhraidh – ciùil a’ seòladh tron adhair. Ruith mi a-mach às an taigh agam agus suas chun a ‘bhhan le na caractaran cartùn a chaidh a pheantadh gu dona agus MIND THAT CHILD. Dh’òrdaich mi còn 99p bhon t-seann duine agus nuair a thug e dhomh e, thuirt e,

 

Aye, I ken fa you are.

 

Thill mi dhachaigh le mo reòiteag fuar. Mar a dh’ith mi e, smaoinich mi cò dh ‘fhaodadh an coigreach seo a bhith. Ciamar a bhiodh e eòlach orm? Ach cha robh fios agam air? Mu dheireadh, dh ‘iarr mi air mo mhàthair mu dheidhinn an duine. Dh’innis i dhomh gur e bràthair mo sheanmhair an duine a bh ‘ann. Leanabh dìolain. Bha an reòiteag a ‘ruith sìos mo chorragan air an làr. Aye, I ken fa you are. Dè eile a bha fios aig an duine seo? Is dòcha gun robh e eòlach orm nas fheàrr na bha mi eòlach orm fhèin. Cha mi a-riamh a ‘tadhal air an truca reòiteag a-rithist.

 

I canna help masel.

 

Las definiciones son proporcionadas por el lenguaje en el otro lado de la pared. Todo significado existe en el otro lado. Me siento aquí arriba en la pared y hablo tonterías. Una mezcla de sentido y la falta de significado.

 

I usually dinna write like this.

 

Я не разговаривал, пока мне не исполнилось два года, в отличие от моей сестры, которая сказала «привет» в шесть месяцев. Я думал, что мое первое воспоминание было с этого времени молчаливого протеста, когда я играл с моей кошкой Коко, но нет – позже я обнаружил, что только что создал эту память из фотографии меня и моего бело-красного кошачьего друга. Я не помню время, прежде чем я говорил. Я не гений. Я редко протестовал в своей жизни. Теперь я бы хотел молчать чаще.

 

Honest tae God, I far prefer a mair linear, objective style.

 

我一直在寫關於過去的文故事。

那時還有更多的話。

Glink. Mirligoes. Skyrie. Racklin. Gley.

特別是關於自然。

Caul iron. Watergaw. Pewlie.

每天都很多詞死。

有時我會嘗試將舊詞典中的單詞帶回生活,但後來我沒有反映真實的語言。

語變得一。

很快,我們都將使用相同的詞語來講述同一個故事。

機器人最終將最好地講述我們的故事。

 

The oneness of everything.

 

Коко была раздавлена грузовиком с мороженым. Мои родители сказали мне, что она ушла в отпуск.

 

Well done you. You made it. You recognised yourself or something like you in the first li(n)es. Dear Reader, you are (not) a figment of my imagination (after all). You are (not) my ideal reader. Your knowledge knows (no) limits. Sorry I (ever) doubt(ed) you. All is (not) lost.

 

I’ll stop spikkin pan loaf noo. Fa do I think I am?

 


Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, The Prose of the World (London: Heinemann, 1969) ed. by Claude Lefort, trans. by John O’Neill, pp.9-10

 


Shane Strachan is a writer based in Aberdeen, Scotland. Much of his work is inspired by the Northeast of Scotland and its relationship with the wider world. His most recent work for both page and stage is concerned with using real-life material as a source for creative experimentation including: The Shelter, a verbatim theatre project with the National Theatre of Scotland; Nevertheless (amaBooks), a series of short stories inspired by the National Library of Scotland’s Muriel Spark archives; and current works-in-progress focused on the life of fashion designer Bill Gibb. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Aberdeen and was a 2018 Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow (Scottish Book Trust).

 

This text was commissioned as a response to Looking Across the Fields, a screening curated by Iain Irving that took place at the Belmont Filmhouse, Aberdeen on Sunday 17 February 2019. Both text and screening are part of LUX Scotland’s pilot programme of events in Aberdeen, supported by Aberdeen City Council’s Creative Funding Programme.