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  • My writing to Cowbird reminds me about Greek philosopher Plato’s allegory of the cave.

    The story is in Plato’s The Republic and it is written as a dialogue between Socrates and Plato’s brother Glaucon.

    Socrates tells about people who have been chained to the wall of the cave all their lives. All they can ever see about outer world are moving shadows projected to back wall of the cave. These shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. They try to describe reality by giving forms to these shadows.

    The dialogue continues. Socrates tells that a philosopher is a prisoner who has freed himself from chains and sees outer world, real world, as it exists. Not just as fluttering, flittering, unclear shadows.

    My writing to Cowbird reminds me continuously and painfully and frustratingly what a prisoner I am in my cave of language.

    My mother tongue is Finnish. Only in Finnish I can achieve all the nuances and details and hues what I want to achieve in my stories. My writing of dialogue in English embarrasses me, in Finnish I can write dialogue in dozen different dialects and combine different registers of language (for example biblical, lyrical, formal, slang, langue of advertising, intimate, technical, associative) quite easily, as I were a dolphin playing in sea.

    In English I’m not a dolphin. I’m a drowning sailor trying to reach the nearest shore.

    I like different languages a lot. I can speak more or less English, Swedish, French, Spanish and Italian. And there are half a dozen more languages which I can survive with.

    But never can I achieve such multi-layered versatility, such mastery of timing, such sensitivity of touch or such raw power in any language than I have in Finnish. Finnish for me is my philosopher’s language, with Finnish I’m freed from the cave.

    That’s the shadow of me there waving to you. And that another shadow beside me is this story waving to you. From downstairs.

    Real me and real story are here in my head unable to reach you fully. I could write it in so much subtler nuanced way in Finnish.

    For you, my dear Cowbirders, I can share just shadows of my daily thoughts. I am apologizing for that. From my cave. From my Shadowland.
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