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Insight into the Process of Writing the Same Memoir in Two Languages: Different Languages, Different Personalities?

Author: Dr Jasna Levinger-Goy


The experience of a civil war is always traumatic, as is refugee status and settling down in a new environment. Writing about such traumatic events takes a great deal of processing and a lot of time. Almost 30 years after the events, I set out to write a memoir describing them. One surprising fact was that the language in which the book was first rendered was English. Although I have near native proficiency in English, it is not my mother tongue. It was only after the book was completed that the idea of translating/rewriting it in Serbo-Croat started to emerge.
The link between language and identity is well-known, but some aspects might seem rather strange. In this essay, I analyse various psychological processes that accompanied my writing. I note the differences in emotions and reactions, as well as something I would refer to as a change of personality traits, depending on the language I was writing in. Completing both versions of the memoir helped me process my trauma and bring together previously fragmented pieces of self.

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