Switching languages to overcome trauma?

stationeleven

Viola had a harrowing story about riding a bicycle west out of the burnt-out ruins of a Connecticut suburb, aged fifteen, harboring vague notions of California but set upon by passersby long before she got there, grievously harmed, joining up with other half feral teenagers in a marauding gang and then slipping away from them, walking alone for a hundred miles, whispering French to herself because all the horror in her life had transpired in English and she thought switching languages might save her, wandering into a town through which the Symphony passed five years later.
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

I read this book recently because it has been proposed for a Sci-Fi reading group I’m attending to next week. I’m currently writing a Sci-Fi novella – it’s in very early stages, shitty draft, as we call it – and because it’s my first time doing such thing I feel the need of surrounding myself of much ‘Sci-Fi-ness’ as possible. I admit I haven’t read that much Sci-Fi anyways – the Foundation series are a favourite of mine though, and films like Sunshine and Interstellar have inspired me a lot. Thing is, I always thought you had to know about science to write it – but apparently not, if you try ‘Soft Sci-Fi’. So there we go!

Station Eleven turned out to be a really addictive book that I devoured in a few days. The writing is very fluid and cinematographic. My previous readings had been Breakfast on Pluto – quite experimental – and Reading in the Dark – I found it very dramatic – so I must say that Emily’s prose felt kind of a relief.

The story starts when the Georgian Flu – why illnesess always come from places like Eastern Europe? I’m actually surprised it doesn’t come from Spain… – ends with almost the whole Earth population. I’m – slightly? – hypochondriac so reading about how the pandemia’s spread scared me quite a bit.

The characters are alright but I didn’t feel particullarly interested in Arthur Leander, the character who serves as a link to all the stories in the plot. I found the female character of Miranda – a Graphic Novels illustrator whose work gives name to the novel – way more fascinating.

The end felt a bit sudden but yet reasonably satisfactory for me. I felt the story didn’t focus as much in the post-acpocalyptic world as I would have liked to though – the plot has the potential to be much more longer, I think.

What I found really fascinating is what happened to Viola, a secondary character with a minor role in the end. If you were to suffer an extreme trauma, would you switch languages to overcome it? I associate Spanish with the country were I was born, with my family, with my childhood memories… If I wanted to forget all this things for whatever the reason, would the language have to go as well? Until what extreme are words connected to feelings the same way senses – as hearing or smelling – can trigger memories?

I tried to do a bit of research about this online and found about the Foreign Accent Syndrome, which is not at all the same thing but still is also very interesting.

What are your thoughts about this?

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2 comments

  1. […] (and technology) behind. It could also be a nice training considering that we may end up like in Station Eleven (but because of climate change instead of a deadly virus). Also, if you’ve ever thought about […]

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