Language and Brittany
  Pierrette Kermoal

Lavar Breizh

The builders of modern Breton literature did not comply with any tradition while not ignoring any of them. One of their most determining achievements, albeit rarely noticed, is the invention of a new language. After centuries of silence, it expresses the Breton looking at the world in the very sense Kazantzaki told of the Cretan looking at the world.

Roparz Hemon, the pre-eminent figure of the movement, in a story published in Gwalarn* in 1925-1926, portrays the tour that Professor Bimbochet, a French visitor, is making in year 2125 in a sovereign Brittany. Looking 200 years back, Donalda, a female character, voices the amazement the young artist experienced himself at his unprecedented undertaking to create a literature to Brittany: “What a miracle had it been, seeing a brand new language springing up, being shaped, so to speak, between one's own fingers, a new instrument to carve their thoughts.”

Strange to his readers and to himself, the new language he creates is the token of a genuine artist. Every writer in the world faces this difficult and urgent issue. It is neither harder —nor easier— for Bretons but only more urgent, for the only strength that we have holds in the language we are able to breed. We have no State to rely upon; our recent and distant history is distorted and falsified; Breton people are not familiar with their own language in spite of the increasing number of initiatives for its reappropriation.

There is no other motive for Aber**. The journal will publish contemporary fiction, poetry and critical reviews on artistic achievements from Brittany and overseas. One of its ambitions is to draw the attention and to foster cooperation between Breton, as well as other, readers and writers. To that aim each issue will contain a brief summary or an excerpt in English of the Breton articles.

In addition Aber intends to promote exchanges of literary writings with journals abroad. The present issue includes a translation of Cogadh —War— a short story by Daithí Ó Muirí that appeared in Comhar*** in December 1999. In exchange, Comhar will publish an Irish version of Ar marc’hadour bihan sardin —The little sardinemonger—, by Pierrette Kermoal.

* Gwalarn —North-West— points the direction to Ireland, was created in 1925 as a literary supplement to Breiz Atao —Brittany for ever—, the monthly journal of the nationalist movement. From 1927 until 1944, Gwalarn came out as an independent publication.

** Aber —fiord—. The three abers of Brittany are on the NorthWest coast facing Ireland.

*** Comhar Teoranta, 5 Rae Mhuirfean, BÁC 2, Eire.

ABER 1, spring 2000