AUTHOR'S NOTES; Tony Bianchi Has Just Published a Novel, Bumping, and a Collection of Short Stories, Cyffesion Geordie Oddi Cartref. Both Draw on His Tyneside Upbringing but One Is in English, the Other inWelsh. He Writes Here about How the Two Languages Allow Him to Say Different Things

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 17, 2010 | Go to article overview

AUTHOR'S NOTES; Tony Bianchi Has Just Published a Novel, Bumping, and a Collection of Short Stories, Cyffesion Geordie Oddi Cartref. Both Draw on His Tyneside Upbringing but One Is in English, the Other inWelsh. He Writes Here about How the Two Languages Allow Him to Say Different Things


Byline: TONY BIANCHI

I'M A Geordie born and bred, umbilically tied to the Leazes End at St James' Park. But I've been in Wales twice as long as I ever lived on Tyneside.

And for most of that time I've spoken both Welsh and English. My children and grandchildren are all Welsh-speaking and Cardiff is unambiguously my home.

They tell writers to start with what they know best.

I took up writing fiction late in life. I was over 50 when my first novel was published, so this advice left me in a quandary. What did I know best? In the event, I chose to write in Welsh and about Wales. Pretentious poser, you might think. But there was a reason for this choice, even though I wasn't fully aware of it at the time. Every novelist needs to create a persona, to wear a mask. Sometimes he will wear several. This is how he gets into the skin of his characters.

It's how he creates a narrator who is more than just a ventriloquist's dummy. I soon discovered that it was easier to create such a mask in my second language. And the reason for this, of course, was that Welsh was itself a mask.

Everyone who has learned a language in adulthood knows that they have to act a part, they have to 'perform', to pretend they are someone they have never been before.

This can be excruciating. The up-side, however, is that it allows you to experiment with other identities. This is exactly what happens when I write in Welsh.

It's technically more difficult than writing in English, of course it is, but it allows the imagination freer rein. It tells you: "Come on, play with me, imagine different worlds".

The Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, said that he started writing in French "to escape from style", that is, to free himself from the weight of his own culture, to step out of its deep grooves.

French, for him, was a liberation. But he was still an Irishman underneath it all, and an Irish writer to boot.

Welsh has given me something else, too. It has allowed me to tackle personal subjects which would, I think, have felt very raw if I'd written about them in English.

A mask again, of course: one that you can hide behind. My novel, Pryfeta, which won the 2007 Daniel Owen Prize at the National Eisteddfod, drew on my late mother's memory disorder.

A translation will appear next year.

I'm nervous. In my latest book, a collection of partly autobiographical short stories entitled Cyffesion Geordie Oddi Cartref (roughly. …

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AUTHOR'S NOTES; Tony Bianchi Has Just Published a Novel, Bumping, and a Collection of Short Stories, Cyffesion Geordie Oddi Cartref. Both Draw on His Tyneside Upbringing but One Is in English, the Other inWelsh. He Writes Here about How the Two Languages Allow Him to Say Different Things
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