Ben Brooks
Prologue
07-11-2011

‘Waldeinskameit’ is a German word which means ‘the feeling of being alone in a wood’. Last time I was in Germany, I asked some people about it. They said it didn’t exist. I told them it did. ‘We’re Germans,’ they said. ‘It doesn’t exist.’ I started swearing in my head because I’d used the word in a book and felt stupid about it. The word does exist. It was coined by the romantic poet, Ludwig Tieck. I say it myself sometimes if I can’t sleep. It’s a useful word.
There are a lot of other useful, untranslatable words. ‘Frotteur’ is French for ‘male human who enjoys rubbing his crotch against women in crowds’. I do that all the time. I rub up against their bottoms and if they turn around then I turn around too and shout at the person behind me ‘stop pushing’. I have never been arrested.
And ‘Mamihlapinatapai’ is a Yagan word which describes what happens ‘when two people look at each other in a meaningful way and both want to have a conversation but neither of them wants to initiate it’. That’s a nice one. Very romantic. Sometimes that happens between me and sexy women when I am being a Frotteur to them on the train. That word makes me think how being brave in little ways can make Big Good Things happen. Maybe that is why Big Good Things don’t happen so often.
I’ve also found a team of Old English words which maybe don’t seem madly useful, but at least feel nice to say. ‘Kench’ means ‘laugh loudly’ and ‘Jollux’ means ‘fat human’. Saying them feels like doing carpentry with your mouth. Kench. Jollux. I kenched at the jollux.
But you should be ‘stealth’ if you’re kenching at a jollux, unless the jollux is a ‘bancer’. Those are both from The Instructions, by Adam Levin (who will be at Crossing Border. I urinate a little when I think about seeing him). ‘Stealth’ just means ‘doing something in a concealed way’ (okay, not a new word, but used in a new way), and ‘bancer’ means, I think, ‘dickhead’.
The point of listing all these words is that they are exciting to me and I am going to start using them. I am going to start using them at Crossing Border, if I feel capable of being brave in a little way. There is a reason we don’t just eat lumps of meat and boiled vegetables. It’s boring. Using the same words all the time is boring too. Words are fun and stupid. There are so many. Finding old, lost, or unused ones and using them when you can seems like a positive thing to do. Like adopting a stray kitten or tending a forgotten grave.
I’m re-reading this now. There are a lot of words underlined in red. I’m not sure if it’s cruel or kind to hand something loaded with untranslatable words to a translator. That’s what I’m doing though. I’m sorry. I panicked.

p.s ‘Absenen mistatengwar’ means ‘excuse me for the typos’ in the language of Tolkien’s Quendi Elves. I found it on a roleplaying website. I wonder how many times people say that every day.

Alle verhalen van Ben Brooks
Epilogue
30-11-11

Good morning, it’s Wednesday afternoon. I just woke up. I’m still nudging the sleep out of my eyes. I’ve been reading a Spanish review of my book, after pushing it through Google Translate. One line from it said ‘he believes that being gay is racist’. Being gay is racist. That is a computer translation that I don’t think I can untangle. Only a translator speaking Spanish and English would be able to. I’ve been trying to think of good analogies, to make it seem clearer to myself. The best I can do is:
I’m thinking of a line of small, houses. Each house is a different colour. Each colour is a different language. Each house has been built as a reinterpretation of the first. The first is my house and it is blue. Come inside, it’s warm here and I have a dog. The dog is called Edwardo. Edwardo is of little significance to the analogy but he is good company so be nice to him.
A long basement runs under all of the houses. On each side of each house there is a door in the basement. In the basement space between each house there are a thousand tangled balls of string. All of the houses are built of string.
That didn’t go very well. I think I’m more confused. I was just trying to think about the parts of writing that only translators get to know about. The female human who wrote the Spanish review doesn’t know it says ‘being gay is racist’ to me and I don’t know what she originally meant by it.
It’s scary to not know what people originally mean. That could make bad things happen. Maybe the rapey man in the kebab shop just meant ‘there is dirt on your face and I am going to get it off’. If that was the case, then I’m sorry. (It definitely wasn’t).
I’m back in London now. People are still protesting about things. People are angry at things. People believe in things. People tweet about hating the government while they are eating breakfast. I don’t think I hate anyone. I’m warm and I’m not hungry and I’m listening to Eminem. Everything’s fine. I’d like to be back in Den Haag though. Here are my tips to the organisers:
-make it one month long
-make the deadline for these columns be ‘when the sky has
turned black’
Everything was fun and everyone was nice to everyone else.
Bye humans.

p.s after my last column a nice man that I met on my first night sent me a tweet saying ‘the story about marihuana on that island is true…;)’. So I guess I got that wrong.

Column 4
20-11-11

I couldn’t sleep last night because I felt like several humans were dancing flamenco in my stomach. When me and Anne went up to read and answer questions, I was shaking a bit and asking myself ‘please please don’t vomit’. It is 8am. I have been lying in bed and staring at my hands. They are tiny. The fog outside is thick enough to hide buildings. Bye bye, buildings. I am playing The At Least Game to try and make myself feel better. It isn’t working. Here:

-at least none of my limbs have been amputated

-at least I am not dead (I might be)

-at least Michael Cera exists

-at least my job isn’t ‘dog thief’

I decide to go outside and try to find fruit. Nowhere is open and I get upset until I realise that it’s only because it’s Sunday. The fog is everywhere. I am walking through clouds and I am not cold because I am pretending to be an oven. Please fill me full of potatoes and meat.

There is a very wet white bench by the fake lake outside the houses of parliament. I wipe it with my tshirt and sit down. Teams of black birds bounce up and under the waterline. I put up my hood and sigh and shiver. Den Haag was fun. My body feels like a large, empty, human shaped bag. I imagine folding myself up until I disappear. I imagine falling into the water and drowning and then my body being slowly eaten by the biggest birds until I’m just a skeleton who someone finds and uses to decorate their new house.

The night before, someone told me a story about the fake island in the middle of the fake lake. He said that once, a man got drunk and rowed out to it and planted a bunch of marijuana plants. And then the plants all started to grow and no one could reach them so they just grew taller and taller. Eventually, they burned all the plants on the island in a large fire. Now it is home to a few sad looking trees.

I’m not sure if that story is true at all.

I think that probably it is not true at all.

That’s okay. I like made up ones.

Column 3
19-11-11

Hello humans, it’s the morning. My head feels like people are playing tennis in it. Stop playing tennis please. Go and play tennis somewhere else. Go and fight each other until you turn blue and die.

That is fighting. Yesterday, a man told me he’d been in prison for ten years because of fighting. I thought, I can’t tell if what you are saying is real. He smiled a lot. I thought, I hope it isn’t real. I thought, I want you to be whoever I want you to be. How often do people think that? How often do people listen to other people and then just pick out the bits they want to believe? Here are some things that I have tried to believe but failed to:

-that man is not trying to rape me

-I don’t need the toilet

-these humans don’t think I am terrible

-these humans are not going to run onto the stage and mercilessly beat me until I stop reading from my book

None of them worked. It doesn’t stop you thinking them though. Whenever I want a cigarette I think ‘you don’t want a cigarette’ even as I am walking outside to have one. I am lying to myself. Drama, baby.

Oh, and I haven’t held out my arms and shouted ‘Den Haag, baby’ as often as I’d like. Maybe I will try that today. Okay, wait. I’m going to open my window and lean out and shout that. I am daring myself.

I did it. Winner. There are a lot of people outside skateboarding. I have been watching them since I got here. They sit on the steps and talk to each other and laugh a lot. Just now, someone looked at me when I shouted. We were very far away but our eyes were touching. Here is a thought I had: you are never going to be an important part of my life and I am never going to be an important part of yours but right now we are both here so let’s look at each other and try to understand something about how we both exist separately as human beings in this world where people eat burgers and sing hymns and get jobs like ‘policeman’.

I wish that every time I looked at someone, I instantly knew everything about their life. I wish that we didn’t have to explain things like ‘I am from Bulgaria and I studied sociology at university’. Let’s all live in each other’s hearts.

Someone said ‘manatee’ yesterday and it was funny.

Manatee.

We went to the ‘afterparty’ and the DJ was very bad and the only drinks you could order were ‘wine’ and ‘beer’ and ‘bacardi and coke already mixed in a can’. It was fun. I smiled at people and walked around. I talked to Adam Levin a lot and he is one of my favourite authors in the world and I think the way I talked was similar to the way a twelve year old girl would talk to Justin Bieber. Sorry, Adam. It is exciting and cold here. Everyone is everyone.

Column 2
18-11-11

Haruki Murakami is probably my favourite author. When I think about people translating his books I feel like a calm, warm ocean. Translating someone that you feel strongly about would mean that you are giving other humans a present. Merry Christmas, other humans. But it made me think about being made to translate things that you don’t have any strong feelings about, maybe even actively dislike. Does the ‘joy spring’ from the reinterpretation of a good text because the text is good, or is it because the act of translating that makes translation fulfilling. I’m not sure how much sense that made. It’s hard to talk about. Is cooking, or eating the most fun. You have to eat, but you don’t have to cook. And someone else can always cook for you, but they can’t do your eating.

Last night I kept saying things and then people would say ‘what?’ and I would say ‘nothing’ because I didn’t feel it was worth their time. I didn’t want them to make a special effort to hear me say something stupid. Don’t cook this food I am giving you, it will taste bad. It is a cabbage. If you know that someone is going to translate you, then I think you really have to say something which is worth them translating. This is a human person’s life you are eating up. You should only do it if you have good reason to.

But I can’t tell. Maybe, for some people, translating is fulfilling regardless of the text. Now it is making me think about people who say things like ‘it’s the journey, not the destination’. Hi, people who say that. I don’t believe you. What if you know that the destination is terrible? What if you are journeying inside of a large, rusted iron container? What if it smells of urine? What if you are having to listen to a child wildly sob the whole time?

Get out of the iron container. Journeys aren’t always fun and you don’t always have to do them. I would run away quickly. As quickly as my tiny feet would let me. I guess that means I would be a terrible translator. I would be picky. Sometimes, you just want to use hand gestures and loud, meaningless sounds. Last night, at about 4, I went out to try and find some food. The kind man at hotel reception pointed me in a direction. At the food place, a man who worked there started coming very close to me and rubbing my jaw. I said no and moved his hand. He said some words I couldn’t understand. He grabbed my shoulders and moved his face very close to mine. I shouted and pushed him backwards and ran away. The whole time, he was saying words I couldn’t understand. Maybe he was explaining why he was doing what he was doing. I was too scared to listen. Bye bye, iron container.

Prologue
07-11-11

‘Waldeinskameit’ is a German word which means ‘the feeling of being alone in a wood’. Last time I was in Germany, I asked some people about it. They said it didn’t exist. I told them it did. ‘We’re Germans,’ they said. ‘It doesn’t exist.’ I started swearing in my head because I’d used the word in a book and felt stupid about it. The word does exist. It was coined by the romantic poet, Ludwig Tieck. I say it myself sometimes if I can’t sleep. It’s a useful word.
There are a lot of other useful, untranslatable words. ‘Frotteur’ is French for ‘male human who enjoys rubbing his crotch against women in crowds’. I do that all the time. I rub up against their bottoms and if they turn around then I turn around too and shout at the person behind me ‘stop pushing’. I have never been arrested.
And ‘Mamihlapinatapai’ is a Yagan word which describes what happens ‘when two people look at each other in a meaningful way and both want to have a conversation but neither of them wants to initiate it’. That’s a nice one. Very romantic. Sometimes that happens between me and sexy women when I am being a Frotteur to them on the train. That word makes me think how being brave in little ways can make Big Good Things happen. Maybe that is why Big Good Things don’t happen so often.
I’ve also found a team of Old English words which maybe don’t seem madly useful, but at least feel nice to say. ‘Kench’ means ‘laugh loudly’ and ‘Jollux’ means ‘fat human’. Saying them feels like doing carpentry with your mouth. Kench. Jollux. I kenched at the jollux.
But you should be ‘stealth’ if you’re kenching at a jollux, unless the jollux is a ‘bancer’. Those are both from The Instructions, by Adam Levin (who will be at Crossing Border. I urinate a little when I think about seeing him). ‘Stealth’ just means ‘doing something in a concealed way’ (okay, not a new word, but used in a new way), and ‘bancer’ means, I think, ‘dickhead’.
The point of listing all these words is that they are exciting to me and I am going to start using them. I am going to start using them at Crossing Border, if I feel capable of being brave in a little way. There is a reason we don’t just eat lumps of meat and boiled vegetables. It’s boring. Using the same words all the time is boring too. Words are fun and stupid. There are so many. Finding old, lost, or unused ones and using them when you can seems like a positive thing to do. Like adopting a stray kitten or tending a forgotten grave.
I’m re-reading this now. There are a lot of words underlined in red. I’m not sure if it’s cruel or kind to hand something loaded with untranslatable words to a translator. That’s what I’m doing though. I’m sorry. I panicked.

p.s ‘Absenen mistatengwar’ means ‘excuse me for the typos’ in the language of Tolkien’s Quendi Elves. I found it on a roleplaying website. I wonder how many times people say that every day.