What is 'proper English'?

From The Hay Festival, Man Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James talks about patois, ‘proper English’ and how his parents feel about the graphic sex and violence in his books.

“When I sent the book [my second] out, the first publisher asked me to rewrite it in a sort of Jane Austen English”.

The Jamaican author Marlon James, who won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings, was speaking to Martha Kearney at The Hay Festival about how the novel – written in Jamaican patois – was received in his home country, and the different perceptions of patois and what is thought of as “proper English” .

“Our proper English is a very dead form of English. When I listen to it I still hear Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, he joked.

And James explained how his parents feel about A Brief History, which contains graphic passages of violence and sex.

“It’s a running joke I have with my mum – each acknowledgement says whether she can read the book or not,” he revealed. “So this one says, ‘to my mother, who can read all but chapter four of this book’.”

Talking Books at Hay Festival: Marlon James screens on BBC World News on 4,5 and 7 June 2016.

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