From Paleolinguistics to Poetry

Into the Seventies and at the midway point of the series on Burgess’s invented languages over at Ponying the Slovos.

What did people speak before Indo-European languages developed?

How many invented languages can you fit into a small novella that’s mostly poems?

I’ve attempted to answer those questions there.

Bonus: if you ever wondered what 19th century Romanescu dialect sonnets sound like when translated into Mid-Ulster Hiberno-English, I got your back there too.

Into what, I hear you ask? Into the actual dialect of the North of Ireland. You may have heard tell of Ulster-Scots. It too is an invented language, created (and not the first either nor the last) for political reasons. One day I’ll tell that tale too.

Anthony Burgess’s Sicily in the Caribbean

The third part of the series on Anthony Burgess’s invented languages is now live over at Ponying the Slovos, featuring what just might be Burgess’s most significant novel, the weird, wonderful and intensely Structuralist riddle that is M/F.

In my book on Anthony Burgess, I pay M/F a lot of attention, because I think it’s a very misunderstood novel and also one that is extremely important in Burgess’s own development as a writer. It’s a novel about riddles, based largely on Claude Levi-Strauss’s Structuralist thinking, especially as applied to early myth such as Oedipus.

M/F by Anthony Burgess

It’s also a novel about what meaning actually means, and how we look for it in vain and what it is that generates it for us.

And, as this article on PtS details, it’s a novel which, like A Clockwork Orange, features its own invented language.

Why the title M/F? Apparently an actor said to Burgess that someone should update Sophocles’s Oedipos Tyrannos with the title “Motherfucker.” Alas, that title wasn’t possible at the time of publication, but the truncated version actually facilitates other interesting dynamics from the novel, such as male/female and the protagonist’s own name, Miles Faber, the soldier-maker.