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Exophonic Writers


Over the last century many authors have chosen to write in another language that is not their own. They are called ‘exophonic writers’. Historically, that language has often been English – although that is changing. Polish-born Joseph Conrad learned English while working on ships. Novels such as Heart of Darkness delighted readers with their ‘foreignness’.
Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian author of Lolita, was trilingual. He once said: “My head speaks English, my heart speaks Russian and my ear speaks French.” Iosif Brodsky was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his poems and writings in Russian and English.

Some have found liberation in another tongue. The Irish writer Samuel Beckett abandoned English because it felt ‘cluttered’ and evasive, and wrote in French instead.

Contemporary Chinese author Yiyin Li described writing in English as her “private salvation.”
Some authors are victims of circumstance. Bosnian-born Aleksandar Hemon was on holiday in America in the 1990s when war broke out in his native country. He became an award-winner writer and professor of creative writing at Princeton. The most recent exophonic sensation, however, is Eugen Chirovici, a Romanian author who moved to Britain five years ago. His first murder mystery novel in English, The Book of Mirrors, is one of the most translated literary works in the world!