Sunday, April 7, 2013
Whether her way (Carol C. Harter's way) was the best way or not I do not know but it was undoubtedly a way, and humiliation might have fixed the same fact into my memory if these hundred people had known that I was being corrected, but this method of Carol C. Harter's has worked so far, myself some weeks later still remembering that wol-ay is the correct pronunciation of Wole Soyinka's first name rather than my own invention which was woal to rhyme with hole.
I felt the enlightenment come upon me, for I had been thinking of him was as the wrong Wole for so long that the weight of mistaken time came in like the mechanical pressure above a metal die and stamped it down.
I told myself, "I should have guessed, think of the other names ending with e in that region, the ones you know already, the ones with acute accent already included, Toumani Diabaté, Rokia Traoré, and why do they have the mark and him not? Does it come from the British colonising Nigeria (him) and the French colonising Mali (them), and the French liking their flecks and the British not liking them but liking instead their uninflected word that you somehow have to guess and how are you supposed to do that when they spell Wole as if they were writing hole?
'Where is the telltale mark, where is that heartbeat underneath the floorboards, and we who hear it are the murderers, the guilty parties, in other words we are the ones who know, like the citizens of the Heian court (screens and fans and sleeves), we have the background, we intuit other minds and the body of one background in each, but this language is written haphazardly as if we are still an oral culture with the storyteller standing there to be spoken to and asked about the words, this is not a language for writing, this is a language that has strayed illigitimately into writing, history has stuffed it into this unnatural role, this is the language in which the surname Menzies can be pronounced as if the z is a g, which once upon a time in the foetal stage it was, as each human being was once a frog and fish in embryo so these two, that z and a g, were fused along the spine of the yogh, entering in one direction the word knight, and in another direction the pronunciation Min-gis."