Journeying into the heart of Europe's darkness, The Language of Thieves uncovers a mysterious set of traces connecting Luther to Hitler and three generations of the Puchner family. What emerges is a unique story about the promise and perils of citizenship, the resilience and resourcefulness of state-evading communities, and the uses and abuses of history. As questions about the exercise of state power gain a new urgency across the world, it is hard to imagine a more vital and compelling book for our turbulent times
Peter D. McDonald, author of, Artefacts of Writing: Ideas of the State and Communities of Letters from Matthew Arnold to Xu Bing (2017).
The Language of Thieves is a revelation: in telling the story of an underground language, Martin Puchner exposes a hidden corner of Europe's-and his own family's-surprising past. Entirely original, infectiously curious, by turns playful and poignant, it offers at once a fresh, fascinating insight into history and a thoughtful meditation on identity and belonging. The book sings with Puchner's pleasure in the power of words to move, delight, deceive, and connect us
Maya Jasanoff, author of, The Dawn Watch
A rare find. A journey through language and family, revealing lives lived on the margins and on the wrong side of history
Rachel Seiffert, author of, A Boy in Winter
From the Same Author
The Written World
From clay tablets to the printing press.
From the pencil to the internet.
From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter.
This is the true story of literature — of how great texts and technologies have shaped cultures and civilizations and altered human history.
The inventions of paper, the printing press and the world wide web are usually considered the major influences on the way we share stories. Less well known is the influence of Greek generals, Japanese court ladies, Spanish adventurers, Malian singers and American astronauts, and yet all of them played a crucial role in shaping and spreading literature as we know it today.
The Written World tells the captivating story of the development of literature, where stories intersect with writing technologies like clay, stone, parchment, paper, printing presses and computers. Central to the development of religions, political movements and even nations, texts spread useful truths and frightening disinformation, and have the power to change lives. Through vivid storytelling and across a huge sweep of time, The Written World offers a new and enticing perspective on human history.
Martin Puchner on Granta.com
Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition
Murasaki’s Paper Trail
Martin Puchner on how Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting at the Japanese court, manage to write the first great novel of world literature.