UNESCO Courier

Articles from April

A Four-in-Hand Script
The composite nature of Japanese writing is an aid to flexibility and effectiveness Although scholars still disagree about the origins of the Japanese language, the origins of its notation system are less obscure. The notation system currently used...
An Inspired Invention
Egyptian hieroglyphics may have drawn inspiration from older African traditions Whereas the writing revolution - the linear, visual representation of specific spoken languages - began only 5,000 years ago, the use of graphic symbols to represent objects...
An International Debate on Literature Today and Tomorrow
Between 1988 and 1994, UNESCO and PEN International organized a series of symposia on the theme of literary creation on the eve of the third millennium. At the meetings, held within the framework of the Decade for Cultural Development, writers from South...
An Uphill Task
"A function of a fervour that has waned, of an imbalance that results not from an excess but from a lack of energy, tolerance holds no appeal for the young." So says the Romanian-born philosopher Emil Cioran in "Lettre a un ami lointain" (Letter to a...
A Timeless Moment
Isabelle Leymarie talks to DEVASMITA PATNAYIK Among India's countless forms of traditional dance, Bharata Natyam has experienced a remarkable revival and achieved international renown in the last fifty years. The same period has seen the steadily rising...
Colour-Coded Languages
In pre-Columbian America the Maya, the Toltecs and the Aztecs developed largely figurative writing systems in which colours played an important role Writing has been practised in Central America since very early times. A wide variety of symbols appeared...
Environment-Friendly Oman
Loading up with ice at Sur, a port on the Gulf of Oman, before embarking on a fishing expedition. The Omanis like to claim that after Singapore theirs is the cleanest country in the world. It is certainly spotless. At the airport, the grey marble floor...
Ernest J. Gaines
talks to Bernard Magnier Ernest J. Gaines (born 1933) grew up on a Louisiana plantation where, at the age of nine, he started work as a potato picket, earning 50 cents a day. When he was fifteen he joined his mother in California, where he began to...
From Pictograms to Pinyin
The Chinese still use a form of writing that originated well over 3,000 years ago A very old tradition has it that writing consists of more or less figurative signs which represent beings and objects or evoke natural phenomena. A popular legend tells...
Quito, a City near to Heaven
Perched 3,000 metres up in the high plateaux of the Andes, Ecuador's capital has a remarkable historic centre which in 1978 won it a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Once upon a time a Spanish hidalgo is supposed to have said to his architect:...
Sa'eb of Tabriz: Prince of Poets
Mirza Mohammad-Ali, also known as Sa'eb of Tabriz, is one of the most brilliant post-classical Persian poets. He was born in Isfahan, then the capital of the Persian empire, in 1607 (400 years ago according to the Islamic calendar) into a family of merchants...
The Birth of Writing
In ancient Mesopotamia writing was invented in response to the need to keep accounts and make lists. The earliest recorded calculations were inscribed on tablets of clay, an abundant material in the valleys of the Near East. Writing appeared for the...
The Calligrapher's Art
Calligraphy reached a high degree of perfection in the Islamic world, where representational art was spurned and Arabic script offered rich possibilities for creative fantasy Oral tradition was paramount among the Arabs in pre-Islamic days, and poets...
The Power of the Pen
The written word has always been closely associated with power. But literacy is a stepping stone to intellectual freedom as well as an instrument of authority, and has been a factor in the great revolutions of world history. We may never know what led...
The Press and the Public
In last month's "Archives" column we reprinted the pessimistic views expressed by the Colombian writer Baldomero Sanin Cano in his contribution to a study on the educational role of the press carried out by the International Institute of Intellectual...
The Written Word
Around 35,000 years ago, prehistoric man made the first paintings on cave walls and ceilings. It was not until much later that the earliest writing systems using signs emerged in Mesopotamia and in Egypt. Writing, as a system of symbols representing...