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Book: Languages Are Good For Us, by Sophie Hardach

Languages Are Good For Us
Languages Are Good For Us (Head of Zeus, 2021)
Melonie Schmierer-Lee
Thu 6 May 2021
Languages Are Good For Us ● By Sophie Hardach ● Head of Zeus, 2021

Fustat’s multilingual community and the practice of stashing away sacred but worn out manuscripts make an appearance in novelist and former Reuters journalist Sophie Hardach’s new book, Languages Are Good For Us (2021). The book, written for a general audience interested in ‘the strange and wonderful ways in which humans have used languages’ is bursting with fascinating stories, ranging from cuneiform tablets, Linear B, the activities of medieval monks, and trading languages, to fairy tales and language acquisition in children.

Detail of T-S AS 143.26

Hardach’s Cambridge visit in 2019, where she interviewed the GRU’s researchers and examined scorpion amulets, documents of the Maimonides family, and children’s writing exercises, inspired the chapter entitled ‘The Book Cemetery’. She was particularly interested in the amulets and the way in which magical and spiritual practices preserve languages and contribute towards a community’s collective memory, learning that medieval Hebrew, far from being a dead linguistic relic, is revealed in the Genizah to have been a vibrant and flourishing shared language between far flung communities.

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