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How Language Interacts With The Reader

I’ve been intrigued by the use of language. Cantonese and Russian in jingjing’s chapters are clearly used to provide context for the characters background and the setting. What’s more interesting, though, are the seemingly arbitrary translations. In jingjing’s first chapter (pg 101-113) the translations are sparse and unclear when it is a translation or just the next thought. For example, the Cantonese/Russian/[some other language?] combination in the middle of page 105 is left without any translation; in fact, the sentence is treated as if it never changed languages at all from English (if that’s what you can call the language in this chapter). On the other hand, the Russian in jingjing’s second chapter is clearly translated (pg 274), but it is done by the text within brail (which has become more active throughout the novel and seems to be omniscient). This character’s (?) willing explanations have seemed helpful, especially with something as frustrating as trying to read something in a language you don’t understand. But I can’t help but feel a little manipulated by it, like this is a part of it’s attempt to earn my trust by helping me see the book through it’s eyes (metafiction, right?) while it doesn’t have it’s own chapters and has never identified itself. On the other hand, the etymology of vocabulary (like on pg 380) is given by Anwar, a character I instinctively trust since I see how he relates to (and is loved by) his family and coworkers and who has his own chapters to give me deeper insight into his mind. Furthermore, he uses his own language with Xanther (albeit not foreign); this use of language shows a depth of relationship that none of the other characters seem to share. Their own language includes Xanther calling Anwar by his first name and him calling her “daughter” (opposed to what would usually be the other way around “dad” and “Xanther”), which reveals a bit of playful intimacy the two have, which Xanther describes as “their little code” (pg 54). So the distinction between the explanations/translations provided by Xanther and Anwar and the distant braille speaking character is a level of trust that the reader has with the character.

Also, just a side-note with language: French has kind of shown up in two places. Firstly, how Xanther refers to Astair and Anwar collectively as Les Parents (instead of the parents or my parents). She attributes this to one of her friends, Josh (pg 182) and then it’s consistent. I’m not really sure if that has any significance at all, but I’m going to keep watching for it. Secondly (and this might be a stretch) the French use << and >> instead of quotation marks, so every time these are used in place of parenthesis, I automatically read them as if someone is speaking. It has made those side thoughts seem more significant or as if the book is speaking directly to the reader. For some reason, I can’t help but think this is attached to the braille commentary, but again, I’m not really sure if this is of any significance.