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Excuses and Noises by Mats (SEFF) Claesson

Jim Barker, last year's SEFF-winner, wrote me a letter from that Scottish anomaly of a city, called Glasgow, and asked me if I had an article or something for him to publish somewhere, in order to prepare the British fans for what is to come. This year's SEFF-winner, that is, which is yours truly, coming to and attending Novacon in Coventry this autumn. I've little doubts that there will be immense crowds of fans meeting me at the entrance with applause and cheers of merriment.

Well no. I don't think you would bother too much with a stupid swede coming over to your convention, but for me, of course, it's quite an adventure. First of all, I've never been to a convention in Britain before, and if I am to judge you all from Jim Barker's appearance during his visit at the Swedish convention Swecon 85, you seem to be a bunch of unpretentious people, finding pleasures in such things as silly games, some occasional serious drinking, and discussions of a wide range of topics, not only the superiority of McEwans Export compared to any other beer in the world, but also the rottenness of all the beers in the world compared to McEwans Export....

No, seriously, it will be very problematic for me to live up to Jim Barker's entertaining and easy style during Swecon 85.

Problem is, this article mentioned above, has to be written in English. The only good thing about writing an article in English is that I don' have to read it aloud. That would be entertaining for you, not for me. But I have to write it down, not only with the intention of making me understood, but also so you won't think I'm a complete fool, turning the English language into a linguistic onion soup. You understand me?

I've been around Britain a bit. For instance, I've been to Scotland, out in the middle of nowhere, the Northwest Highlands, and managed to make myself understood as well as understand what the locals talked about. (Last Swecon I even understood Jim Barker perfectly well after just a few pints of McEwans Export.) I've been to Ireland, and understood the Dubliners as well as the Limericks (pun intended). Weirdest of all the "dialects" of the British Isles must be the utterly incomprehensible newspaper salesmen, shouting headlines at streetcorners in London. For me it would probably be as easy to understand a recital of some ancient Japanese poem backwards. Apart from that, I honestly do think that there's no big difficulties for me regarding the English language.

But then again, that is spoken English, to write English is and entirely different matter. When writing in English, I'm constantly under attack by evil impersonal articles, from ugly and no-good participles, stupid wordorder and deadly morphemes. I'm helpless, can't find no defense against this, I am forced to sit for hours brooding over a pronominal adverb and... unless I decide not to bother at all and rely on my instincts only.

So be it. But that's not all. Correct grammar and so on, that is one thing, another is that not-so-correct grammar and words not to be found in any ordinary dictionary sneak up on me and demand attention. All those words and phrases sound impressive, feel powerful and taste very good. I encounter them in books, comic-mags, rock lyrics and so on. The real problem with this kind of language for me, is, of course, that I don't understand a shit, f'stance, I mean, what the fuck, me, a Swedish brain-damaged, tryin' hard to make sort of heavy impression with language like this, won't work, 'cept making me an asshole and downright laughable in everyone's eyes. So fuck it. This ain't goona work. I've made my point. (Cut the crap).

What I'm trying to say is that as a foreigner I'm absorbing words and catchy phrases all the time, but I do not, since I'm writing this in Sweden from an "intellectual" standpoint, and don't live the language, know the true meaning and value of all these exciting words, when to use them without sounding ridiculous and so on. The same phenomenon occurs if happen to read Shelley or Byron(which of course I do read each and every day, except Tuesdays), I'm absorbing unconsciously there too, and might very well greet my dearest friend after a pint or twelve at the pub with "Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary, thou must be real pissed, asshole".

Maybe a little exaggeration there, but I hope the meaning comes through. Another difficulty with English for me as a Swede, is the English vocabulary, which is a lot richer than the Swedish. Sometimes I condemn my destiny for not letting me be born an Englishman. For a person who has reading and writing as main interests, it's frustrating to be left to read in a sort of second-hand manner. I mean, I do read Shelley and Byron in English, though it's hard work, not to mention Joyce or whatever, even modern literature, but I do also know that since I have another mother language, I'm bound to lack total understanding, the total appreciation of the style and language, all the shades and distinctions. For me English has a different kind of flavour compared to Swedish, it tastes different, it feels and smells different. I wish I was the reincarnation of Joseph Conrad, but unfortunately that's not the case.

Oh well, there are stupidities in English as well: for instance, to be once and for all sure of which to choose; shall or will, some or any, not to mention all your prepositions, et cetera et cetera.

Be that as it might, now when you've read all my excuses and noises, I think I'll write that article.


This page updated on 09 July 1999