On the regional dialogue

2024-03-20 @Literature

After a Schwob short story involving considerable country jargon (La Grande-Brière), I chanced to read Molière’s Dom Juan in the French library the day after. I’ll have to speak more of this play later. But an increasingly recurring epiphany once again struck: the vernacular patois is music to my ears – that is, to my eyes – well, both, really.

You see, when read in the deserving manner, at a running pace, vocally synthesized in the mind (for the most of us not inclined towards loud reading), never mind the native, foreign, adapted or assimilated source language, never mind the bizarre orthography expressing the dialect never before encountered, never mind all that - but read as imagined, approximated the phrasing and the cadence, and the dialogue suddenly acquires life with all kinds of melodic property.

By far not every author is capable of the deed; nor has even acquired (or even has access to) some street jargon for a substantial enough period to wing with the agreeable audacity.

I’ve developed zero such capacity, being a ghost among the international arenas. Perhaps thus allured by the craft all the more. And I strongly suspect most even prolific authors keep the dialogue a tempered brew, forged into a semblance of something generically human.

That’s how I speak. Generically human. Nothing substantially regional, but neutral and rather uninteresting from an ethnographic standpoint.

But come those magic moments, and … I bow in reverence to the author.

Shakespeare’s prose fragments designed to mostly emphasize the vernacular, abound in the charm. But being too distant a period or perhaps too demanding the sheer versatility of language, and I’d yet managed to capture the melody to the same extent.

Not that Molière postdates Shakespeare but by a mere 60-70 years. Although Molière is not the same caliber a playwright either, however sensational; demanding not the same piercing effort. Better avoid direct Shakespeare juxtapositions.

Take Gogol, thinking particularly of the Mirgorod cycle. Now I can’t authenticate nor discredit the dialogue as precisely any regional patois. How could I, being spoken in parts of the rural, 19th-century Ukraine? Nor have I encountered any rugged orthography to emphasize the vulgar. But Gogol’s manifestation of local speech nonetheless produces that intimate musicality I take profound delight in.

A couple of years back I also happened to read a few dozen pages of João Guimaraes Rosa’s Grande Sertão: Veredas. This I distinctly recall struck me as a thunderbolt. Incredible vernacular prowess. Lengthy sections of raw, farmland expression. It helps to have some exposure to the different sectors of Brazilian lexicon.

Then there is Bob Dylan whose unparalleled lyric aptitude I’m still working to reconcile, a passive project to likely consume years should interest not wane (a more likely possibility).

In a world of sterile translations on the one hand, ultra-baroque narrations on the other, verse of all rhythm and taste, metaphysical narratives catering to an indefinite period and setting: in this world, I retain a soft spot in my heart for the raw, unrefined, vernacular gibber.

Questions, comments? Connect.