The Written World is not only an expansive, exuberant survey of the central importance of literature in human culture, but it is also a great adventure story - a story of letters and paper and rocket ships, of ruthless conquerors and elegant court ladies and middle-class entrepreneurs, of the will to power and the dream of freedom... Puchner brings home to us how much we have been formed over the millennia by the tales we have invented and recorded'
Stephen Greenblatt, author, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
A unique and spellbinding book. Martin Puchner's dramatic storytelling leads us through the mazes and underworlds of civilization at key moments when it is being built or unbuilt. The Written World shows the way 'great books' - and the alphabets, clay tablets, and printing presses by which they were spread - provided both the rudder and the sails for humanity's voyage across vast oceans of time
Elaine Scarry, author, Naming Thy Name: Cross Talk in Shakespeare's Sonnets
From Mesopotamia to the moon! The Written World is an imaginative, informative, and ingenious history of civilization in the form of narrative of what people have written and read over the last 4,000 years. It's an exhilarating feat of intellectual athleticism. The big picture doesn't get much bigger
Louis Menand, author, The Metaphysical Club: A Stoy of Ideas in America
From the Same Author
The Language of Thieves
You might have heard the saying ‘you’re in a pickle’ meaning you’re in a difficult situation. This is just one example of Rotwelsch, an ancient language of the road influenced by Yiddish and written in rudimentary signs, and spoken by vagrants and refugees, merchants and thieves since the European Middle Ages.
Martin Puchner grew up knowing that Rotwelsch was of unusual interest to his family. When he inherited a family achive, it led him on a journey not only into the history of this extraordinary language but also into his family’s connections to the Nazi Party, for whom Rotwelsch held a particular significance.
The Language of Thieves is a compelling story of the mindset and milieu of Central Europe and of the way language can be used to evade oppression. It is also a deeply moving reckoning with a family’s buried past.
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.