“All my best is dressing old words new,” writes William Shakespeare in one of his sonnets. Let’s consider an expression – “to kiss away” – from the play Antony and Cleopatra – “We have kissed away kingdoms and provinces.” (Act 3, scene 10).
Picture the world map six decades ago. Were all the countries and their flags the same as we know them today? How about traveling a couple of millennia back? What were the Seven Wonders of the ancient world and where did they reside?
Picture a book that can gracefully endure the trials of the centuries – the water, the fire, the sword. What will this book be about? In what language will it be? There is an old legend about an artist-scribe who was being burned along with a precious manuscript.
Imagine receiving a letter from a remote island. Imagine the journey it has ventured to reach the shores of here and now. In what language is the letter? Who is it from? How many years has it been awandering and what adventures has it encountered on its way to us?
Imagine traveling around the world in thirty seconds, while looking at thirty books – each in a different language. That’s one book per second. Imagine the treasures to be discovered in this short amount of time. Is this possible? Yes, indeed, if we have the knowledge of deciphering a letter code.
The postage stamp may fit in the palm of the hand, but the information it may visually convey may extend far and wide, as it is the case with Stamps around the World, a month-long exhibition in the International Languages department. Here’s a closer look at some of the stamps.
When in the second half of the last century Isaac Bashevich Singer was awarded a Noble Prize for Literature, he raised an interesting question: “People ask me often, ‘Why do you write in a dying language?’” And he tried to explain: “There is a quiet humor in Yiddish and a gratitude for every day of life… e