Famous polyglot authors who wrote in English

Yann Martel (licensed under Creative Commons)

Yann Martel (licensed under Creative Commons)

Many of you will have seen the award-winning movie Life of Pi. Many may have read the book on which it is based. You might not know, however, that English is not the first language of its Canadian author Yann Martel; French is. “English is the language in which I best express the subtlety of life,” he has said. “But I must say that French is the language closest to my heart. And for this same reason, English gives me a sufficient distance to write.”

Martel is not the only writer to have chosen to write in their second (or even third) language. The Czech author Milan Kundera often writes in French, as did Irish playwright Samuel Becket. Sholem Aleichem, whose story Tevye and His Daughters became the basis for the musical Fiddler on the Roof, wrote initially in Russian and Hebrew but later in Yiddish. Anna Kazumi-Stahl, born to a Japanese mother and an American-German father, writes predominantly in Spanish. Some other well-known authors who have written in English as their second language are Joseph Conrad, Vladimir Nabokov and Jack Kerouac. Continue reading