Women, Writing

Contemporary women writers are shaping our concepts of Scottish identity for the twenty-first century.

I was at an event in Scottish Parliament last night. It was the Association for Scottish Literary Studies‘ annual international lecture and Professor Marie-Odile Pittin-Hedon of Aix-Marseille University was demonstrating how contemporary women writers are shaping our concepts of Scottish identity for the twenty-first century. She argues that Scotland is in the midst of political, cultural and imaginative change, and Scottish women writers are prominent on the national and international stage.

The evening was introduced by Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Mike Russell (he was reminded by the Prof to do a good job for Scotland…). He said that when Parliament was formed it was its intention to speak of Scottish culture and its creative communities. There should be more of an effort to do so, he added.

There was in-depth analysis of a number of powerful writers’ work, including Kirstin InnesKirsty Logan, Leila Aboulela, and Jenni Fagan. It was fairly high brow and intellectual but informative and inspiring all the same. It was incredible to learn of the influence our contemporary female writers were exerting on an international scale. That’s prolific and powerful, and in a world of great political and emotional uncertainty, it’s really heartening. 

I’d stab a guess though that in quoting Jenni Fagan, and her use of the word “cunt” in her latest novel, that this was probably the first time it has been used legitimately in the Scottish Parliament Committee room! The event was worth it just for that. More power to you, girls.

 

Professor Pittin-Hedon spoke about paying tribute to the broad mindedness of the Scots, and the capacity for Scottish literature to cross borders in the 21st century. She argued that the prominence of our female writers is reshaping our concept of identity. The art of storytelling, after all, is what gives us a shareable world.

Given our surroundings, and the discussion, it was imperative that Jackie Kay be part of the conversation. A soundbite from Threshold made the room rise and rise.

 

Threshold
Let’s blether about doors.
Revolving doors and sliding doors;

Half-opened, half-closed:
The door with your name on it,

The heavy one - hard to open.
The one you walked out when your heart was broken,

The one you walked in as you came to your profession
(And the tiny door when you made your confession)

The school door at the end of a lesson,
(Yes, Shut the door in Gaelic is duin an doras!)

The wee door on your doll’s House, or
Ibsen’s Nora’s door, or Chekhov’s Three Sisters’

Doors imagined by writers the world over - Proust.
And the chickens coming home to roost! 

Or Chris Guthrie’s open heart at the end of Sunset Song
Or the step left when the house is gone, the haw.

The door to the stable, bolted after the horse left, 
Not Tam O’Shanter’s tail-less horse! 

The one that shut suddenly behind you
Banged by a violent wind,

The painted red door code for asylum seeker,
The X that says Plague or Passover

The one turned into a boat to cross the ever-widening waters.
The North seas and the Aegean, reminders

Of the people cleared off their land, out their crofts
To whom the sea was their threshold - on, off. 

Take the big key and open the door to the living, breathing past
The one you enliven over and over,

To the ship’s port, or the house of the welder;
To the library door of Donald Dewar.

Then picture yourself on the threshold,
The exact moment when you might begin again,

A new sitting, new keys jingle possibilities. 
Hope comes with a tiny Greyfriar’s Bobby key ring.

Then come through the door to this Parliament, new session!
Pass round the revolving door (change in the revolutions,

In 360 degrees) – Take in the mirrored opposites:
The Dutch Gables, the cross step Gables…

Here - rising out of the sloping base of Arthur’s Seat
Straight into this City, a city that must also speak

For the banks and the braes, munros, cairns, bothies
Songs, art, poems, art, stories,

(And don’t forget the ceilidhs – who doesnie love a ceilidh? Heuch!)
A city that remembers the fiddlers of Shetland and Orkney

The folk of Colonsay, Bute, and Tiree
The Inner and Outer Hebrides, the glens and the Bens

The trees and the rivers and the burns and the lochs and the sea lochs
(And Nessie!)

The Granite City and Dumfries and Galloway
The Dear green place and Dundee…

Across the stars and the galaxy,
The night sky’s tiny keys, the hail clanjamfarie!

Find here what you are looking for:
Democracy in its infancy: guard her

Like you would a small daughter
And keep the door wide open, not just ajar,

And say, in any language you please, welcome, welcome 
To the world’s refugees. 

Scotland’s changing faces – look at me!!
Whose birth mother walked through the door

Of a mother and baby home here 
And walked out of Elsie Inglis hospital without me.

My Makar, her daughter, Makar
Of Ferlie Leed and gallus tongues.


And this is my country says the fisherwoman from Jura.
Mine too says the child from Canna and Iona.

Mine too say the Brain family. 
And mine! says the man from the Polish deli

And mine said the brave and beautiful Asid Shah.
Me too said the Black Scots and the red Scots

Said William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots.
Said both the Roberts and Muriel Spark. 

Said Emile Sande and Arthur Wharton. 
Said Ali Smith and Edwin Morgan. 

Said Liz Lochhead, Norman and Sorley
And mine said the Syrian refugee. 


Here we are in this building of pure poetry
On this July morning in front of her Majesty.

Good Day Ma’am, Ma’am Good Day.
Good morning John and Helen Kay - 

Great believers in democracy.
And in gieing it laldy. 

Our strength is our difference.
Dinny fear it. Dinny caw canny. 

歡迎 (Cantonese)

One language is never enough 
Gbegbɔgblɔ ɖeka sese menyo tututu o (Ewe)

Welcome 
Witamy (Polish)

It takes more than one language to tell a story 
एक कहानी सुनाने के लिए, एक से अधिक भाषाएं लगती हैं (Hindi)

Welcome 
ਜੀ ਆਇਆ ਨੂੰ (Punjabi)

One language is never enough 
Une seule langue n’est jamais suffisante (French)

Welcome 
Fàilte (Gaelic)

It takes more than one tongue to tell a story 
It taks mair nor ae tongue tae crack (Doric) 

Welcome 
مرحبا (Syrian)

Welcome 
Nnọọ! (Igbo)

Welcome 
Wilkommen (German)

Welcome 
Benvenuti (Italian)

It takes more than one language to tell a story 
ہانی بتانے کے لئے ایک سے زیادہ زبان لیتا ہے (Urdu)

Lleva màs de un idioma contar una historia,
Bienvenidos
Un idioma nunca es suficiente
Bienvenidos (Spanish)

Eine Geschichte braucht mehr als eine Sprache.
Willkommen
Eine Sprache reicht nicht
Willkommen. (German)

                                                        خوش آمدید۔
                                ایک زبان کبھی کافی نہیں ہوتی۔
کہانی سنانے کے لیے ایک سے ذیادہ زبان چاہیے ہوتی ہے۔ (Urdu)

Ci vuole più di una lingua per raccontare una storia. 
Benvenuto. 
Una sola lingua non è mai abbastanza. 
Benvenuto. (Italian)

Cal més d'un idioma per explicar una història.
Benvingudes.
Un idioma mai no és prou.
Benvingudes. (Catalan)

Ne samo jedan jezik je dovoljno je ispricati pricu.
Dobrodošli.
Jedan jezik nikad nije dovoljno.
Dobrodošli. (Serbian)

Щоб розповісти історію потрібно більше, ніж одна мова
Ласкаво просимо
Однієї мови ніколи не достатньо 
Ласкаво просимо (Ukranian)

Több nyelven mondd el a mesét.
Üdvözlégy.
Egy nyelv sosem elég.
Üdvözlégy. (Hungarian)

Ai nevoie de mai mult de o limbă pentru a spune o poveste.
Bun venit.
O singură limbă nu este niciodată de ajuns.
Bun venit. (Romanian)

Nutamk atelk aq newte situm wjit a'tukwaqan.
Pjila'si.
Newte situn mu tepianuk. 
Pjila'si.

Det behövs mer än ett språk för att berätta en historia.
Välkomna.
Ett språk räcker aldrig.
Välkomna. (Swedish)

Příběh potřebuje více než jeden jazyk 
Vitejte 
Nestačí mít jediný jazyk 
Vitejte (Czech)

Потребни се повеќе јазици за да се раскаже приказна,
Добредојдовте
Еден јазик никогаш не е доволен
Добредојдовте (Macedonian)

Potrebno je više jezika da bi se ispričala priča 
Dobrodošli 
Jedan jezik nikad nije dovoljan 
Dobrodošli (Montenegrin)

ஒரு கதை சொல்ல மேற்பட்ட தாய்மொழி எடுக்கும்
நல்வரவு
ஒரு மொழி போதுமானதாக இருக்காது
நல்வரவு (Tamil)

Več jezikov je potrebnih, da poveš zgodbo 
Dobrodošli 
En sam jezik ni nikoli dovolj 
Dobrodošli (Slovene)

Ганц хэлээр тавтай морил
 гэх нь хэзээ ч хангалтгүй 
бөгөөд олон хэлээр өгүүлэн 
ярилцах нь илүү нээлттэй (Mongolian)

Mae angen mwy nag un tafod i gyfleu stori
Croeso
Mae un iaith byth yn ddigon
Croeso (Welsh)

Een taal is nooit genoeg
Welkom
Er is meer dan een taal nodig om een verhaal te vertellen
Welkom (Dutch)

É preciso mais de uma língua para se contar uma história 
Bem vindo 
Uma língua nunca é o suficiente 
Bem vindo (Brazilian Portuguese)

Inachukua zaidi kuliko lugha moja tu kutoa. 
Karibu. 
Hadithimoja ni kamwe ya kutosha. 
Karibu. (Swahili)

Precísase mais dunha lingua para contar unha historia 
Benvido 
Unha lingua nunca é abondo 
Benvido (Galician)

Go tsaá dipuô tse dintsi go bolela polelô, 
O amogetswe 
Puô ê nnwe ga e nke e lekana, 
O amogetswe. (Tswana)

Potrebno je više od jednog jezika kako bi se ispričala priča.
Dobrodošao
Jedan jezik nikada nije dovoljan
Dobrodošao (Croatian)

Dit vat meer as een taal om ‘n verhaal te vertel 
Welkom 
Een taal is nooit genoeg nie 
Welkom (Africaans)

Tarinan kertomiseen tarvitaan enemmän kuin yksi kieli,
Tervetuloa
Yksi kieli ei ikinä riitä
Tervetuloa (Finnish)

Potrzeba więcej niż jednego języka by opowiedzieć historię 
Witaj 
Jeden język nigdy nie wystarczy 
Witaj (Polish)

Der skal mere end et sprog til at fortælle en historie 
Velkommen 
Et sprog er aldrig nok 
Velkommen (Danish)

Нужен е повече от един език, за да се разкаже една история
Добре дошли
Никога не е достатъчен само един език.
Добре дошли (Bulgarian)

يحتاج الأمر أكثر من لغة واحدة لتحكي قصة
مرحباً
لا تكفي لغة واحدة ابداً
مرحباً (Arabic)

Nuk mjafton vetëm një gjuhë për të rrëfyer një tregim.
Mirësevjen
Një gjuhë nuk mjafton asnjëherë.
Mirësevjen (Albanian)

Il faut plus qu'une langue pour raconter une histoire 
Bienvenue 
Une langue n'est jamais assez 
Bienvenue (French)

                                              צריך יותר משפה אחת כדי לספר סיפור
                                                                                   ברוך הבא
                                                               שפה אחת לעולם אינה די
                                                                              ברוכה הבאה (Hebrew)

Zimatengera chilankhulo choposa chimodzi kuti ufotokoze nkhani.
Takulandirani.
Chilankhulo chimodzi ndi chosakwanila.
Takulandirani. (Chichewa)

Hizkuntza bakarra baino gehiago behar dira istorio bat kontatzeko,
Ongi etorri
Hizkuntza bat inoiz ez da aski
Ongi etorri. (Basque)

物語を伝えるのは複数の言語がいります。
歓迎。
一つの言語は決して十分ではありません。
ようこそ。(Japanese)

Butuh lebih dari satu bahasa untuk menceritakan sebuah kisah
Memakai
Satu bahasa tidak pernah cukup
Memakai (Indonesian)

Чтобы рассказать историю, надо больше одного языка
Добро пожаловать
Одного языка никогда не достаточно
Добро пожаловать (Russian)

Om in ferhaal te fertellen hast mear as ien taal noadich,
Wolkom
Ien taal is noait genôch
Wolkom (Frisian)

Dobra Dosli
Jedan jezik nikad nosta
Dobra Dosli (Bosnian)

Benvegut
Una lenga basta pas jamai
Cal mai d'una lenga per contar una istòria
Benvegut (Occitan)

Tha ea 'toirt barrachd air aon chànan a dh' innseadh sgeulachd 
Fàilte 
'S e aon chànan riamh gu leòr 
Fàilte (Gaelic)

It's ever so ard to tell a story wiv one langwidge
cummin and av a cuppa
One langwidge ain't nuffink like innuf
cummin and av a cuppa (South West London)

It taks mare than wan type o patter tae tell a yarn.
Mak yersel at hame.
Wan patter is naer enough.
Mak yersel at hame. (Glaswegian)

Welcome. 
C’mon ben the living room. 
Come join our brilliant gathering.

 

 

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