Living in a foreign tongue

Claire Armitstead on the challenges encountered in Babel-on-Thames

The World Today
3 minute READ

Claire Armitstead

Presenter, Guardian Books podcast

Tales of Two Londons: Stories from a Fractured City

Edited by Claire Armitstead, Arcadia Books, £9.99

One of the most powerful sentences I have ever read is written by a young Londoner who regarded English as a prison. ‘Did you know the word hate does not exist in the Kurdish language?’ asked Memed Aksoy at the end of a scorching fable about the danger of denying people the right to speak in their own tongue.

Aksoy was a writer, filmmaker and activist whose Story in Three Languages was one of the reasons I agreed to edit an anthology of writing about London. I had heard him read it as part of a Kurdish medley several years earlier, and among the very first challenges I set myself was to track him down.

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