A Complex Linguistic Identity as a Consequence of Migration in the Literary Works of Brina Svit and Eva Hoffman
The article presents a comparative analysis of the literary oeuvre of Brina Švigelj Merat (Brina Svit) and of Eva Hoffman’s novel Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language, with a fundamental emphasis on linguistic identity, which very often appears in their works and is associated with the autobiographical experience of migration of both female authors and their linguistic, cultural and social adaptations to their new environments. Both authors also present issues of the construction of the personal identity of their literary protagonists in a new living environment after the experience of migration.
KEY WORDS: Brina Švigelj Merat (Brina Svit), Eva Hoffman, linguistic identity, the experience of migration, identity construction, autobiography
The experience of migration and life in a new geographical area inevitably leads to a reconsideration of the language identity and, consequently, of the personal identity of migrants. The adaptation to the new linguistic code in fact goes much deeper than (just) learning a new vocabulary, the formation of phrases and sentences in the language of the new environment. Shaking up the language issues, dilemmas and understanding the language that is according to some theorists a “fundamental and universal component design of human identity” (cf. Luckmann 1991: 796) also causes the shaking up of the entire identity positions of migrants and their relationships toward the primary and secondary culture. Questions of linguistic identity affect the very structure of human personality, its mode of operation and confrontation with the external world.
The article focuses on two women writers who in their autobiographic literary works explore their experience of migration. In the literary works of Brina Svit and Eva Hoffman the experience of migration leads to the changing of the language code and the awareness of the connection of language with identity and its construction. Their identities are fluid and changing according to the change of the geographic position and linguistic identities. Despite the difficulties and dilemmas concerning their bilingualism, both authors perceive it positively. With the experience of duality and of life between the two languages they have developed an awareness that it is precisely this intermediate position which provides them an insight into the complexity and multiplicity of life and its experiences. The situation of being caught between languages, often in the range of the untranslatable, of destabilization and loss of anchorage in the analysed literary works represents the possibility of developing an openness to the position of the other and the development of intercultural awareness. Both authors emphasize that with the experience of migration and the situation of living between two languages they became personally hybrid, the sum of different identity positions that are correlated to the change of geographical areas and languages, a kind of collage, which in itself involves complexity and multiplicity.