Academic journal article Chicago Review


Academic journal article Chicago Review


Article excerpt

He went to Krakow for no particular reason.

He had found a flight for five euros; for an additional nine euros one could take a suitcase weighing twenty kilograms, or fourty-four pounds. He packed a small suitcase with books.

He went into a bookstore and began opening books. A sample of randomly encountered words:





Note the frequency of the letters z, w and y. The sample is, in fact, unrepresentative; in a larger sample of Polish words the letters j and k are also common. Couple of sentences:

2yl raz pewien wielki konstruktor-wynalazca, ktôry nie ustaj^c, wymyslal urz^dzenia niezwzk^e i najdziwniejsze stwarzal aparaty.

2yl raz pewien inzynier Kosmogonik, który rozjasnial gwiazdy, zeby pokonac ciemnosc.

He had once read a collection of Robotermärchen, robot tales, in German. A translation of some stories by Stanislaw Lem. One had naturally not grasped that the word "gwiazdy," whatever it might mean, featured in the original. One had not understood that the title of the original was Bajki Robotów.

It was now unexpectedly necessary to purchase a small suitcase and fill it with books replete with the letters z, w, y, j, and k. It was necessary to hire someone to fly with him to Berlin to accompany the suitcase. Slowoslaw was the applicant whose name had the best letters.

His life was quite difficult at this time for reasons we need not discuss. It was often necessary to travel. One never knows how long one will be gone, you see. If it's just an overnight trip one might manage with a couple of old favorites, but once, you see, he went to Bilbao and was unexpectedly kept hanging about for weeks.

He took the precaution for a while of booking a second ticket and hiring someone to bring a second suitcase. It's not just that it was beginning to be complicated to bring an extra bag; it's so much easier, obviously, if the bag is accompanied by someone able to carry it for you.

To all intents and purposes that should have been perfectly adequate for unexpected contingencies, but the fact is, one had to mull over the candidates for the second suitcase. He still needed the whole of the indispensable collection which had filled the first suitcase, but now he had Bajki Robotów to consider, not to mention others too numerous to mention.

He would travel, at any rate, to, as it might be, Istanbul with his first suitcase under his own supervision and the second suitcase in the care of an escort, and on arrival in Istanbul would discover all sorts of books that one simply never sees. Books, you know, with a dotless i. Umlauts up the gazoo. It would be necessary, obviously, to purchase a new suitcase and hire someone locally to fly back with it.

An American need never learn a language to communicate. One should choose a language the way one chooses a dog or a musical instrument.

He went to Copenhagen at one point. The Danish word for island is 0. The common run of visitors do not see the phenomenon as necessitating purchase of a suitcase and hiring of a Dane.

He had seen 0 described as a monophthongal closed mid+front rounded vowel. Reliable sources informed him that this was the sound of the vowel in British "bird" or, in the light form, the vowel of French "bleu." His approach was to sit in a café in Copenhagen and lure one of the natives into recording Odins 0 in Garageband on his MacBook. On a subsequent occasion he sat in a café in Oslo and lured an unsuspecting native into selecting a book from the suitcase and recording a passage.

It's interesting, everyone knows that Perec's La disparition is a book in which the letter e does not appear, but Rabbit, Run is never mentioned as a companion piece in which the letter â does not appear. Angstrom being the correct spelling of the surname of the eponymous protagonist.

It's better to bow to the inevitable. It's really simpler, you know, to purchase the empty suitcase and hire its minder before one sets out. …

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