for babel


In the context of a linguistic diversity that has been restored as if to reverse the old myth of Babel, it is not about sanctioning those who may have broken some taboo decreed for some unknown reason by a deity who has since lost his mind or his nerve – certainly never his problem in the past. On the contrary: the same deity, proud of the audacity of his creation, pays tribute to humanity by endowing it with the gift of linguistic diversity, a happy device for its encounters with others and the cause of misunderstanding. For this ancient deity knows full well that it is misunderstanding that prompts people to draw closer to one another, that arouses their curiosity and fuels their desires to the point of madness, and sparks their creative frustration. Misunderstanding is what makes mankind an inventive and fragile, yet comical and ridiculous species. While contemporary political powers are coming unstuck as they pursue their grandiose visions of human unity, tongues, too, are, quite literally, being loosed and set free by their now powerless censors. In the nooks and crannies of the run-down, neglected sink estates, they are rediscovering their unfettered inventiveness. Here, distanced from the posturings of certain imperial languages chasing recognition within international organisations and in school textbooks, other forms of linguistic expression are surrendering to the delights of interpretative doubt, yielding to the sirens of misunderstanding. In these estates, the multiplicity fostered by a real enjoyment of diversity can be seen at work; it is here that misunderstanding provides a framework for people to approach one another and strangeness becomes the basis for them to get to know one another.

more from Eurozine here.