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In the past i often wondered, what are semicolons for.

They looked strange but kind of tempting to me. At the same time, they can seperate and combine two parts of a sentence. Or are the words separated/combined by semicolons two sentences? Anyway, i learned to like them, to use them and to like to use them.

Concerning semicolons i have something in common with Yann Martel.

Martel learned to love and use semicolons from somebody else s novel. So did i. In my case it was Tom Robbins "Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates". In Martel s case it was Joseph Conrad s Almayer s Folly. In his story "The Time I Heard The Private Donald J. Ranking String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton" (ja, that IS a long title for a short story; but a good one) Martel quotes a part from Conrad s story, in which there is a brilliant use of semicolons.

Since i don t need to describe again, what Martel describes so beautifully, i ll just quote the quote with some of its surroundings:

Almayer is devasted. He has lost it all. His ceaseless efforts have yielded nothing but failure and ruin. Yet it didn t have to be this way. Almayer feels that time and again he nearly made it. Fortune, successs, glory - nearly achieved, nearly, but for some misfortune, some small error:

He looked at his daughter’s attentive face and jumped
to his feet upsetting the chair.
"Do you hear? I had it all there; so; within reach of my hand."

What a brilliant use of semicolons. Admire the construction: five words fore and aft balanced upon a fulcrum of a single word that carries all the weight and tension of the sentence. An ordinary writer would have used commas to surround that fulcrum. Dashes would have done the job. But semicolons, by isolating the "so" without making it parenthetical, give the word a real impact.

Time will show, whether i will really use them, even in my own german stories. And time will show whether Martel and i will have someday something more in common: A book in the shelf of a bookstore.

polilla may5