09 September 2013

Review: Donal McLaughlin's 'Naw much of a talker', a Scottish-Swiss novel.

by Pedro Lenz, translated by Donal McLaughlin
Freight Books, 153 pp., £8.99, August 2013, 978 1 908754 22 6

As the title suggests, Donal McLaughlin's book is written in West-of-Scotland vernacular, a translation of Pedro Lenz's first Swiss-German novel, Der Goalie bin ig. Pedro Lenz himself, on his own website, describes the language he wrote the original novel in as Mundart, i.e. vernacular. In doing so he avoids using the word Dialekt to describe the language he writes in, just as McLaughlin has avoided the word 'dialect' to describe the language of the translation.
The question of whether we call McLaughlin's language dialect or vernacular will hopefully not interest most of his readers in the slightest; they might well just be hooked on and running through an understated, charming, stoical story. The question will continue to bother the minority of McLaughlin's readers who can speak -- and who occasionally write -- a language which one person will term dialect, another The Scots Language and a third 'demotic urban speech'. McLaughlin seems to have a savvy strategy, in the interviews he's given about the book: he's not limiting himself to a single, dominant concept when discussing the book's language. In one online interview however, he did distance himself from the word Scots, saying that he never learnt Scots at school, and implying that it's a concept that has little to do with him.