Land and Identity

The British press has been full of stories about immigration, recently. Depending on the newspaper you read, you may have discovered that immigrants threaten the social fabric of the UK or that they bring nothing but economic and cultural benefits. However, you would have struggled to find much about the way in which moving from one culture to another can have on the immigrant.

This song by Gilles Servat captures this side of things wonderfully. It is written from the perspective of a Breton going to live in Paris, but its significance is far wider than that. As someone who is interested in minority languages, I find verse four particularly moving.

I apologise in advance that my translation doesn’t really capture the power of the song. Feel free to correct it in the comments!

Est-ce par espérance
Ou est-ce par désespoir
Tu as quitté ta terre
Pour travailler ici

Maintenant tu découvres
Dans tes soirs de solitude
Sous le regard des autres
Que tu es différent

Refrain
Il est là, là, il est en toi, en toi, le pays
Et tu dis, c´est sur, je reviendrai,
Là-bas, si je peux,
Oui

Tu écoutes des musiques
Et des chansons de là-bas
Coeur serré tu les chantes
Sur ton lit dans le noir

La langue de ta mère
Elle ne t´intéressait pas
Maintenant tu veux l´apprendre
Tu n´as plus honte de toi

Refrain

Dans un bar tu retrouves
D´autres enfants de là-bas
Vous faites dans vos rêves
Un pays plus beau qu´il n´est.

Refrain

Was it hope, or was it despair, that made you leave your homeland, to come and find work here?

And now, in the lonely evenings and the glances of others, you discover that you are different.

Chorus: It is there, there inside you; there is your land. And you tell yourself that one day, you will go back if you can. Yes.

You listen to your music, the songs from back home. Lying on your bed, a lump in your throat, you sing them to yourself.

The language your mother taught you; you didn’t care about it. Now you want to learn to speak it; no longer ashamed of who you are.

Chorus

In a bar you meet up with some folks from back there. In conversation you recreate a land better than reality.

Chorus

If the video doesn’t show up, you can find the link here. If you liked the song, it comes from the album Zenith, which is ridiculously expensive on Amazon.

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