In the light of the awful xenophobia breaking out after the Brexit vote, I was thinking of some of the brilliant authors writing in English for whom English was a second or even a third language. They weren’t constructing barriers between nations and languages; they were tearing them down. They were taking their influences from every culture and language and distilling their findings into English. Their imagination knew no borders. I’m listing the writers who’ve inspired me.
There’s Joseph Conrad whose dissection of colonialism in Heart of Darkness is a searingly brilliant piece of literature. His ‘Secret Agent’ seems as relevant now as when he wrote it. There’s Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, one of the great English language stylists and also one of the funniest, especially in Pnin. There’s Milan Kundera and his unpeeling of the human soul in The Unbelievable Lightness of Being. There’s Eva Hoffman, a native Polish speaker and her wonderful Lost in Translation. There’s Amos Tutuola from a poor Yoruba family and his glorious The Palm Wine Drinker, a poetic fairy story set in rural Nigeria
. Yann Martel, who wrote Life of Pi, had French as a first language, as did Jack Kerouac, author of the classic 60’s On the Road.
There are many others and I’d love you to add to the list.