How does one justify the telling (in English) of a modern saga about dying in Vienna, featuring a somewhat nonchalant Grim Reaper in an invisible leading role? At first glance the endeavour seems grotesque enough, particularly when undertaken by a non-native speaker such as myself – and I am someone who, in all other respects, valiantly seeks to defend the English language from its maltreatment as a lingua franca in global usage, for no reason other than that I love languages. And I am also utterly convinced that all texts are fundamentally untranslatable. All one can hope to achieve in another language is to permeate the very mindset of being itself, to seek a new way of reaching the same destination.
And so the Viennese spoken by the undertaker remained untranslated as I sought to tell the saga indirectly, with little in the way of language and the dialogues as voice vectors, using universal emotions as a response to the film images. Two experiences sustained me along the way. Carol Reed’s The Third Man (up until that point the most Viennese film bar none) and William Faulkner. But what if one has to leave one’s own language entirely to be able to describe its sociotope? And when I read Faulkner, I forget what language I am in; it is my own, and I breathe and live in an absolute language, free of any regionality, and I am at the centre.