Language and Confusion

As someone who is very interested in languages, having become (basically) fluent in French and hoping to move on to Italian in the near future, I find myself frustrated and confused with the use of different languages in The Familiar. I was shocked to discover my negative reaction to his use of various languages within the lines of English; usually this is something I would enjoy seeing, something that allows me to jump outside my comfort zone and research to deepen my understanding. However, I feel quite the opposite in this situation. I become irritated and annoyed whenever I come upon foreign characters, wishing there was a translation handed to me immediately so I could understand the text at that moment. I think this is due to the nature of the book; it is a quick read, something I can knock out 200 pages of in a short amount of time, so I am not prepared to stop and put the book down to look something up. Further, this is not the only part that is confusing to me. Nearly every “chapter” contains some sort of reference or image that is unclear, so I had hoped that the language elements would be easy for me (if only they were in French instead of Chinese and Russian). There are a couple of examples of French, but nothing that makes me feel like my language skills are useful.

Confusion has been an overarching sentiment for me throughout the readings, and it has only led to frustration. I enjoy the story, mainly though only that of Xanther, Anwar and Astair, because the rest leads to confusion and disruption to my smooth reading. I am wondering if other readers believe it is necessary to stay confused throughout or if we should all be taking the time to understand every Chinese symbol, every coded message and every Russian phrase to fully “get” the story.

I am hopeful at this point that sometime in the near future the ends will be tied and the stories will intertwine, but what if the clue is within the foreign languages? I am curious about how much they contribute to the book as a whole, since they are so disruptive (at least to me) and cause so much confusion and frustration.

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