Speaking in Tongues

As is well known, James Joyce moved from Ireland to Switzerland, then Italy, back to Switzerland, then finally France. His daughter, Lucia, was famously described as being "illiterate in three languages." It was actually four: Italian, her native tongue, spoken at home, English, German and French. With more people displaced than ever, many living in their third or fourth country, the world is full of Lucia Joyces, those who are not quite at home in any language, but have a loose command of three or four. If they decided to write, what sort of literature would they produce? Composing with a borrowed tongue, they could become hyper-conscious and write in an ultra-correct, conservative style. Or they could let go and act like a drunk tourist, an intoxicated interloper. Such seems to be the case of Nguyen Ducmanh. Born in Vietnam, he came to France as a teenager, traipsed around Europe, married a Finnish woman, then moved to New York. His English prose, always manic, reckless, often ungrammatical, sprinkled with serendipitous malapropisms, mixes the truly awful with sudden brilliances. (His poetry I find not as satisfying. Forced into linebreaks, conscious of forms, he's neutered.) There are only two examples of Nguyen Ducmanh's prose online, here and here. At its best, it does sing like poetry. Some excerpts:

Walking through the petrified forest called life beside the women, I did some metiers to enhance my status: street vendor, typographer, bar-boy, busboy, very good waiter, very snob maitre d', remnants baler lost 25 pounds in no time... ouch for my hernia, barkeeper make good money sending son to Lycee Francais but every medal has 2 faces: John Barley corn got hold of my finance, body, soul and spirit! ...taxi driver, yellow cab (holder of a world record never equal in earth life time: 5 summons issued in one day) ... artist in residence, designer of the Gaelic alphabet (15 letters) in calligraphy and in the tree language, art teacher, gigolo, 3 cushions billiard shooter, nom de guerre "chinito pollo" and do art 4000 year backward.

she is late, as Mohammed said : If the Mount Chauve don't come to me, I come to the mountain. Her chambre de bonne was all dark few candles, all veils, incenses. I had a twinge inside, spooky feeling that my head is on the block for the guillotine or I am a lamb sacrify for the black mass; but when I gave a leer to her kimono ajar, then I know I am for a voyage with no return to the moon! Her complexion scented of saffron and almond, her boobies: 2 tangerines, a bony corps like a young boy. Her name is Dagmar Webb. 32 springs, father Gaelic, mother walkyrie and...here I go ompahpah for the souper du roi! Mouth to mouth, I am into her lips as 2 ripped Corinthian raisins, her Pandora box flesh smells a faint air of gorgonzola mama mia, c'est si bon then I gave my life in her petit trou. The battle lasts all night, I was not quite free through and...

You do something in Paris: jalousie they hate it then you do nada they call you a schmuck so the alternative is suppuku... n'est-ce-pas!

I think big but I paint petit because manqué of space; the most largest I could produce is 2' x 3' here at the land of abbondanza

fluid of her pisseuse stacked it to my hair, ears all over my fuck face. I am late for work, can not fresh up myself just a giggle of brandy; then I jumped to the bus cross-town. While try find a big lie to say where I was last night, the woman sat next to me beheaded me with her look, then I realize that my BO stinks oozed out odor of copulation, or Roucoulous cheese; but the girl standing in front of me: see me with an accomplice eye, the way she sways her hips like she dumps her steak tartar at my kisser!

1 comment:

Murat Nemet-Nejat said...


We must write like drunken sailors -willy nilly.