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Rajarasa & (not) not‐​English

By Donal McLaughlin – Rajarasa: in Sanskrit poe­tics, the supre­me, intui­ti­ve under­stan­ding of a poem (from: Suhayl Saadi, Psychoraag)

  1. A Papal Memory

The Pope is com­ing to Bern this month, if God spa­res him. God wil­ling, he’ll address the Catholic youth. He’s not in the best of health, & a wee nun, God love her, is giving up her bed that he might have sui­ta­ble accom­mo­da­ti­on. She’ll get her reward in Heaven, as my Granny would’ve said.

The Pope & I have coin­ci­ded once befo­re. In wha­te­ver year it was he visi­ted Ireland, I was holi­day­ing the­re too. All the CÉAD MILE FAILTEs were out & my Granny took me to Knock to see him. The Free Staters were making a mint. Every field or gar­den beca­me a car­park, & the pri­ces they were char­ging made Switzerland look cheap. The land­la­dy even char­ged for me to sleep in our car. – No, I tell a lie, Ita & Bernie slept in the car, but your woman char­ged for a blow‐​up mat­tress for me. It was a new bun­ga­low, I remem­ber, and it wasn’t a bit of won­der they could afford a new bun­ga­low, the pri­ces they were char­gin. Cup‐​a‐​soup, sold out through livin­g­room win­dows, cost a quid. The Free Staters – my Granny cur­sed them; swo­re she was never going back.

The Pope was late for the Mass he cele­bra­ted – two hours late – and I was real­ly sho­cked. If the­re was one thing you never were, it was late for Mass. We stood & stood & wai­ted & wai­ted. We’d pas­sed on the Cup‐​a‐​Soup, but when we saw folk in the con­gre­ga­ti­on round about us having lovely fish & chips, my Granny sent my Auntie Ita (I don’t have an Auntie Ita; don’t have an Auntie Bernie, eit­her) off to get some for us. To afford them, she took out a mortga­ge. The Pope, need­less to say, tur­ned up befo­re she got back, and it was like a sin on Ita’s soul, mis­sing the start of Mass. By the time he star­ted his ser­mon, in his hea­vi­ly accen­ted English, we were fair­ly tuck­ing in. I was just a teen­ager, but I mind thin­king this was a form of Catholicism I wouldn’t have expec­ted. It was kin­da fun. The chips were awright too.

Eventually, the Mass was ended, but we didn’t go in peace – not imme­dia­te­ly, any­way. The Pope’d to dri­ve round in his pope­mo­bi­le first. We could see the wee roof & the bub­ble under­ne­ath working its way round, and were despe­ra­te for him to get to whe­re we were. This was histo­ry, someo­ne kept insis­ting (with an Irish accent, of cour­se), and we were the­re. Bernie, I remem­ber, gave me a Papal Visit penant which would go up besi­de the St Mir‐ ren one, above my bunk bed. Finally, the Pope dro­ve past us. It should’ve felt holy, but all I could think of was how it was an anti‐​climax: he was late, he’d kept us wai­ting, & now all you saw of him was this.

Just two years later, of cour­se, someo­ne took a pot‐​shot at him. The boy in ques­ti­on hit his tar­get & the who­le world wat­ched, stun­ned, as his Holiness crum­bled on TV. Il papa sur­vi­ved. God is good, as the Charismatics say. Right enough, at least that day in Ireland, I didn’t have to won­der which mem­ber of the con­gre­ga­ti­on round about me could may­be try the same. Their hands were too full, sure, wi fish & chip wrap­pers, for any o that non­sen­se.

Evening then fell, I remem­ber, & John Paul moved on – to Dundalk, or Galway, or whe­re­ver he was hea­ding next. We spent the night in that extor­tio­na­te B&B. The next morning, you could walk onto the altar whe­re he’d stood. Unusual thing was: they didn’t think to char­ge for it. The car­pet was indigoey‐​blue, I remem­ber. You stood the­re & it was almost as if he hadn’t been at all. All that exci­te­ment, and alrea­dy it was over and done with.

Before we left, my Granny show­ed me the spot whe­re the Blessed Virgin had appeared; whe­re the Pope’d knelt down to pray to her. You couldn’t see anything. After that, we squa­red up at the B&B & hea­ded back to the bor­der. God knows how many flags in Vatican colours British sol­di­ers got waved at them that day.

But I dig­ress: I wasn’t plan­ning to wri­te about the Pope at all – raja­ra­sa & (not) not‐​English, my the­me was due to be.

  1. Translated Accounts

The gre­at James Kelman has a new novel out this month – You Have To Be Careful In The Land Of The Free (Hamish Hamilton) – and I’m in Bern & can’t get my hands on it.

Jim’s a wri­ter I wouldn’t be wit­hout; a wri­ter I wouldn’t be a wri­ter wit­hout. His last book, the critic‐ defea­ting Translated Accounts, came back to mind recent­ly. In the novel befo­re that, the Booker Prize win­ner, How Late It Was, How Late, he’d writ­ten from the per­spec­tive of a new­ly blind man: a tech­ni­cal chal­len­ge, for sure, if done honest­ly. Translated Accounts upped the sta­kes in terms of degree of dif­fi­cul­ty. For this book, Jim ima­gi­ned life under an uniden­ti­fied repres­si­ve régime & pro­du­ced fifty‐​odd accounts, trans­la­ted (sup­po­sed­ly) into English by non‐​native speakers & smugg­led out of the coun­try. In one chap­ter, the text is garbled & spe­wed out amidst much code by a com­pu­ter pro­gram­me gone wild. What might have appeared arbi­tra­ry or gim­mi­cky in les­ser hands ins­tead reflec­ts the skills of a mas­ter story‐​teller. These fic­tio­n­al accounts, writ­ten in the voice of non‐​native speakers, reach parts other nove­lists don’t begin to reach. We access the very breat­hing pat­terns of tho­se per­se­cu­t­ed. And – once again – are left to mar­vel at whe­re this aut­hor goes, at what he achie­ves, tech­ni­cal­ly.

I was remin­ded of Jim’s book in March. On 11‐​M, I was in Switzerland, working on some­thing set in Latvia, a pro­ject I star­ted in France befo­re Christmas. The geo­gra­phy of wri­ters’ resi­den­ci­es can real­ly scram­ble the brain, even at the level of try­ing to remem­ber which lan­guage, which cur­ren­cy, you’re ope­ra­ting in each time you clo­se down & pre­pa­re to step out­si­de. What you’re invol­ved in seems more sur­re­al still when an inco­m­ing email alerts you to major explo­si­ons in Madrid, but assu­mes you alrea­dy know. One of my best fri­ends, as it hap­pens, is from Madrid. And just last Septem‐ ber in Slovenia, I befri­en­ded two poets – Victor Sunyol & Kirmen Uribe, from Catalonia & the Basque coun­try, respec­tively. Three nicer guys, as they say, you couldn’t hope to meet. Continuing sim­ply to work, wit­hout kno­wing they were okay, wasn’t an opti­on.

With Victor’s generous per­mis­si­on – “you asks me for publish my let­ter? my let­ters are of you. make all you whis­hes” – I repro­du­ce below four emails recei­ved in the days that fol­lo­wed. Even in Slovenia last year, Victor was apo­lo­gi­sing for his “hor­ri­ble” English. In his most recent email, he refers to it as “not‐​English”. For me, it is not hor­ri­ble; not not‐ English at all. Look at the heart & soul & pas­si­on & poli­tics which come across! Mach’s na! Go on, try to match it! For me, the­se real‐​life emails were eeri­ly remi­nis­cent of Jim’s fic­tion. It’s salutary to read them again now, as perhaps, alrea­dy, – and as we always do – we begin to for­get.


Date: Sat, 13 Mar 2004 11:30:10 MET
Subject: re: you ok?
yes ok
i wish writ­te well eng­lish for exp­lai­ned you ever­ythings in spain.

only a few words: the spain gou­ver­ne­ment actu­es as a true fascist government: mani­pu­la­ti­on and ocultación of infor­ma­ti­on, .. Sunday the­re are elec­tions and if is con­fir­med that the attack is work of the isla­mist ter­ro­rism the government will be seen dama­ged, becau­se is the fruit of its poli­tics of war. But if is work of the ter­ro­rism bas­co, its poli­ti­ca of hard hand will have jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­on. Therefore hid­den the infor­ma­ti­on.

On sunday the­re are elec­tions. After the mas­sa­cre the par­ty of the government deci­ded to sus­pend the elec­to­ral acts.The other par­ties also did that. And now does nobo­dy it speak, No poli­ti­ci­an can accu­se al government of every loque does. And that is the silence more accom­pli­ce.

Everyone knows the com­mu­ni­qué́ of the ter­orism isla­mic that is attri­bu­t­ed the acts, and the com­mu­ni­qué́ of the ter­ro­rism basc, that denies it. Everyone gives them credi­bi­li­ty, except the Spanish government.

The Tv of the gover­ne­ment, and the pri­va­te TV that con­trols, hide data, are liars…

The atti­tu­de of government is arro­gant, pre­po­ten­te, does not lis­ten anyo­ne. does not accept aids, as for examp­le, that of the government of Is‐ rael, that offers it spe­cia­lists in Arabian attacks..

In the popu­lar demons­tra­ti­ons of yes­ter­day (Friday) the peop­le asked respon­si­bi­li­ties al government and accu­sed of it to be the cau­se of all. In Barcelona the rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ve of the par­ty of government, atthe ending of the demons­tra­ti­on, to lea­ve among shouts, accu­sa­ti­ons and boo­ings..

is that. (by the moment)

thank you for you let­ter

Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2004 00:16:41 MET
Subject: re: you okj?

thank you for your words.

Now 11’30 p.m.
Has 8 hours after­noon the government minis­ter spo­ke, but it did not say all. it said that one took 5 or 7 per­so­nes (mar­ro­quins, hin­dus and Spanish hin­dus), but it has not say that eta is not the aut­hor of the slaugh­ters, and iln’a does not say a word about al qua­e­da.

Has the fine all popu­la­ti­on has gone out has the street. in madrid and bar­ce­lo­na mili­ards of per­sons are again to the forehead of the houses on the par­ty government while screa­ming, and in the exac­ting one the who­le truth and the dimis­si­on. And also in all the big citys of the coun­try.

Some mem­bers of par­tys of the opo­si­ti­on say that they had the news that the government did not do public, and one says also as high mem­bers of the intel­li­gence ser­vices of Spain not his hap­py becau­se the government don’t says has the popu­la­ti­on all that its ser­vices says to the government.

Has madrid e has bar­ce­lo­na, espe­ci­al­ly, every time several and several of per­sons are has the street. 7.000 or 8.000 has bar­ce­lo­na, and as that has madrid and has besi­des quo­ted. the gent does noi­se with coo­king instru­ments (as has bue­nos aires, has the argen­ti­na, or as xile) and screams:

”Before going has the elec­tions we want the truth”. “The deaths his ours; the war has is your” “we said it befo­re: not war!” “you, the Fascist, you are the ter­ro­rists” mur­de­rous, liars, suf­fices alrea­dy, mani­pu­la­tors

The peop­le does not obeys the orders of a par­ty. the assem­bly has done him­s­elf by sms and by and‐ mails.

The government has denoun­ced the­se demons­tra­ti­ons al coun­sel of the elec­tions becau­se today is day of reflec­tion of the elec­tions of tomor­row, and them­sel­ves not poli­ti­cal opi­ni­ons can be given. The demons­tra­ti­on is Pacific, and is a hap­py demonts­ra­ti­on. But if the elec­to­ral coun­sel says that it is ille­gal, what will do the poli­ce?

And the par­ties of the opo­si­ti­on one does only small words but no have said not­hing important with respect to what does the peop­le or what should do.

In spain the­re is again a lot of peop­le, a lot, that would be hap­py with a Fascist régime, and the par­ty of the government did big ser­vices has this per­sons for 12 years. the elec­tions of tomor­row are important but very dan­ge­rous. and with the popu­la­ti­on in rage, more dan­ge­rous again.

This is not simp­le. I remem­ber a lot of the years of the Fascist sys­tem of Franco. and very peop­le think that can they not one finis­hed.

With a government that it occu­pied the judi­ci­al power (jud­ges, fis­cal, lawy­ers of sta­te. ..) (strength and that orders on him), a government that domi­na­tes the media of com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on , a government that put the Spanish popu­la­ti­on against the Basque coun­try and against the Catalonia, a government that buy with money the votes of the poor clas­ses.. that is that one can do?

And what can be done tomor­row if win in the elec­tions?

(now, 23:55)

to soon

Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2004 21:33:36 MET
Subject: thank you

thank you for your words.
now, to the 21:27, seems that the results of the elec­tions have punis­hed al par­ty of the gou­ver­ne­ment and pos­si­b­ly we have it thrown out of the power the par­ty of the government. and the cata­lo­ni­an poli­ti­cal groups have enlar­ged its votes. but never is sure in this coun­try. we will have to wait for tomor­row but the hope is gre­at.

thank you again.

Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2004 23:23:07 MET
Subject: thanks
dear donal:

for the time being seems that the things go to chan­ge. Really, the par­ty of the left socia­list Spanish and Catalonian has con­que­red in the elec­tions. you can see at: http://www.elec_gen04.mir.es/congreso/ DCG999999.htm

(psoe : socia­list
pp: aznar & bush
ciu : the cata­lo­ni­an natio­na­list (right)
erc : a small par­ty cata­lo­ni­an natio­na­list & repu­bli­can (left)
pnv : natio­na­list bas­que (right)
iu : spa­nish comu­nists
cc : cana­ri­an par­ty (right)
bng : gali­ci­an (left)

The hope is that chan­ge the for­eign poli­tics, the eco­no­mic poli­tics, the soci­al poli­tics, the poli­tics respect to Europe and America, the poli­tic respect to bas­que coun­try and cata­lo­nia..

that chan­ge all, plea­se

Tomorrow is day to reflect, of pac­ts, of poli­tics..

Perhaps is day of future.
that thus be
thanks for your atten­ti­on


Suhayl Saadi’s ano­t­her wri­ter who knows what he’s doing with lan­guage – lan­guage & its dif­fe­rent forms. His short sto­ry collec­tion the bur­ning mir­ror appeared in 2001, but I‘d been fol­lo­wing his work avid­ly long befo­re that. At a time when, in my own sto­ries, I was com­bi­ning Northern Irish & Scottish English, up pop­ped Suhayl, using English & Urdu & urban Scots & Gaelic. This man dou­bled my double‐ palet­te & it was thril­ling to see.

The publi­ca­ti­on of his debut novel, Psychoraag (Black & White Publishing), is rea­son to cele­bra­te, grand‐​style. The cen­tral cha­rac­ter – a radio DJ cal­led Zaf – is easi­ly the most intri­guing I’ve encoun­te­red in a while. Suhayl appeals to all the sen­ses as he depic­ts this Asian‐​Scot. Alone, for the most part, in his booth, Zaf broad­casts through the night. The six hours on air – for some rea­son, Zaf’s last six & Radio Chaandnii’s last six – are sure to suck you in. Zaf refu­ses to take requests, his pro­gram­me isn’t plan­ned. We read what he broad­casts. And the memo­ries which return as his music selec­tions play. His past, his rela­ti­ons­hips, & his hopes & fears sur­face as we get to ima­gi­ne a Glasgow, a P‐​A‐​K‐​I‐​S‐ T‐​A‐​N (quo­te), & a Scots‐​Asian com­mu­ni­ty I, for one, haven’t read about befo­re. With orga­nis­ed crime in the back­ground, there’s a sca­ry sen­se of menace. This, reader, is a novel with a raga‐​rock sound­track (a play­list & dis­co­gra­phy clo­se the volu­me). The wri­ting – the inti­ma­cy – the rhythm – the pace – the voices – the mix – are breath‐​taking. Right now, I’m one‐​third through – but by the time you read this, I’ll have finis­hed. 438 pages have rare­ly see­med so short. Already, I’m pre­dic­ting inclu­si­on in the Booker short­list. The Whitbread First Novel while they’re at it. If Suhayl’d retai­ned his pen‐​name, he could even have gone for the Orange. Swiss readers & publishers, take note. This is one not to miss out on. I’d get trans­la­ting into German, French, Italian, if I were you, – now.

Rajarasa – it’s gre­at there’s a word for it, even if it’s not English, eh no?

© Donal McLaughlin
Bild: Martin Zelmenis, Riga
ensui­te, Juni 2004

Artikel online veröffentlicht: 16. Juni 2017