If you are obsessed with language, collect particularly delicious words in notebooks, or split hairs over nuances in meanings, these 4 books will take you into your own personal heaven. By Paridhi Badgotri
O my language, help me to learn so that I may embrace the universe. Inside me is a balcony, which no one passes to greet me. Outside of me is a world, which does not return my greeting. O my language, am I what you are? Or are you, my language, what I am? O my language, prepare me for the nuptials of the alphabet and my body. ― Mahmoud Darwish, If I Were Another: Poems
Language is a fascination for many: some love the beauty of it, others loathe its limits. But every book reader knows the value of words. They build entire worlds out of nothing. And these worlds prove to be places of escape or refuge for those who choose to inhabit them. Learning a new language is even said to give new shape to your thoughts and dreams. It’s only apt then that there are books centred around words and what they can hold.
At Kunzum, we love books that are virtual love letters to language. Here are four of them that you will definitely fall in love with.
A Logophile’s Reading List
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
Having lost her mother at a young age, Esme spends her childhood under the table where her father, among other lexicographers, works on the first English Oxford Dictionary. Thrust into a world of nuances, Esme soon realises that some words are treated as more important than others and words related to women’s experiences are often overlooked in the dictionary that’s mostly compiled by men. She begins to collect these neglected words and makes her own dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.
Engglishhh by Altaf Tyrewala
Altaf Tyrewala’s satirical anthology is written in an experimental language called ‘Engglishhh’ — a term coined by him for English words that are respelled according to Puranic numerology. Engglishhh is used for narrating the story of a watchman who is counting down to his death, a man who leaves his bench to enter a world of inanimate beings, a love poem, and many more.
The Inheritance of Words by Mamang Dai
One of the most eminent writers of Arunachal Pradesh, Mamang Dai collects enduring oral stories from people speaking different languages in the state. As Hindi is increasingly touted as ‘the national language’, Dai tries to preserve the state’s tribal languages — and hence, the corresponding cultures and identities. This volume brings together new and established voices trying to preserve their inheritance of words.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
In an ode to the Italian language, Jhumpa Lahiri explores the question of belonging to a language with a passion that verges on obsession. As an act of self-reflection, she investigates the process of learning another language and seeking full immersion in a different world. Written in dual-language format, this autobiographical account is an honest quest for reinvention of self through languages.