Finally, I would like to speculate on three (almost) non-polemical (non-partisan) thoughts:
1.) There have always been writers who work in a lingua franca. The most famous of them and the names most frequently mentioned are Joseph Conrad, Vladimir Nabokov and Samuel Beckett.
It is less well known that writers from Greenland almost exclusively write in Danish. So what happens, if Greenland seeks (total) independence? Are these writers then migrant literati? After all, they’re not writing in their native language and mostly don’t live in their native country (though most, if not all of them would presumably say Danish is their native language, and Denmark is their homeland. However, as I know from personal experience, biology outdoes culture).
2.) My husband is American and he’s lived for three years in Berlin. An American friend, a so-called Asian American, recently said: he wasn’t a migrant, but she and I were.
Refugees, asylum seekers, people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are migrants. In some newspapers the Balkans have become migrant countries. Europeans are not migrants, they are EU citizens and Americans are in any case Americans.
That probably answers why the works of Conrad, Nabokov and Beckett do not count as part of migrant literature.
3.) In the current debate about integration, there is growing criticism of the behaviour of migrants who do not integrate, that is: those who don’t want to learn the language of their host country, who are not interested in foreign customs and who only make friends with ‘their own kind’. I understand the criticism, and in my view it’s also justified.
So why does the literature business operate on the basis of disintegration? The writers who are supposedly writing in a foreign language – and I’d also like to dispute that; it may not be their native language, yet it doesn’t mean by a long shot that it’s a foreign language! – have fully integrated in their ‘host country’. But if they publish a book, they are ‘disintegrated’, along with their book.
By Anna Kim
Translated by Suzanne Kirkbright
This blog was originally published on ELit Literature House Europe on 14 September 2015.
You can read the first part of Anna Kim’s blog here and the second part here.