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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Duplicity. By John von Daler

                        "Arrre you speakeeeng Eeeenglish?" asks the voice behind the long number visible on my digital telephone screen.

                I love words. I poke around in them sanctimoniously, like a nun among ripe tomatoes in a cloister garden. They give nurture, beauty, and work to me. So word thieves are unwanted.
                After a moment's thought I answer, "I am speaking English." I find my own sentence stupidly redundant. Of course I know that the man on the phone meant DO you speak English, and his mistake cannot do much harm in the great scheme of things, but I feel a certain irritating tingling in my hair follicles that usually means I am mad.
                Sitting in my wife's office where the WiFi connection is very good, I look out across the wet roofs of Copenhagen. Framed in the slanted window a stone angel muses, hand on chin, perhaps listening in on this non-conversation.
                "My naaame iz Arjuhot Bandabaris ant I aim a representateeve ov thee Microsoft TECHnical Deeveesion...
                I break in before he can say any more false words, "You are not from Microsoft! Find an honest way to make a living! Do not bother me any more with your lies. And stop raping your women!" Then I hang up.
                I notice that the little stone angel has closed eyes, that it does not see or feel the rain behind it on the windowpane. Nor does it have to make a living in a teeming, disorganized, post-colonial hell. Nor is it a bleeding-heart liberal in love with words sitting at an Apple computer in a small, wealthy country.
                Suddenly I want to throw open the window and let the statue feel what it is like to be rained on. But then again, statues have existed for centuries in the rain, frost and sun. I resist the temptation. The whole episode has been an exercise in futility across continents.
                Am I speaking English?

My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!


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