Book Review: Esperanto At A Glance

Esperanto At A Glance:  The International Language: History, Grammar, and Vocabulary, by Edmond Privat

This is an easy book to appreciate, especially if one is fond of the larger genre of Esperanto writing [1].  This is a short book and one that does its job very well in exposing beginners in Esperanto to the larger context of the language.  One does not necessarily get a large sense of the author’s views about languages, except implicitly.  After all, everyone who presents a defense of a global interlanguage and provides examples of poetry (most notably Zamenhof’s “La Himno Espero,” Esperantujo’s national anthem of sorts) as well as more practical language aids.  From all of this, even without knowing anything about the author personally, it is obvious that he has a strong sense of identity in a larger, more peaceful community than the nation-state.  Indeed, the motto of this book can be found on the inside cover, where this facsimile printing gives the motto:  “To each nation its national language, and to humanity its international language.”  This motto gives at least some hint of the goal of many more internationally minded people, namely the goal of preserving local identity as well as global harmony, a trick that requires an effective global government, a matter not discussed by this book and long a subject of interest to me with regards to the relationship between politics and prophecy.  But that is a subject for another time.

The contents of this particular book are very straightforward and take up just under 100 pages of material. Beginning with the aforementioned “La Himno Espero,” the author then discusses the benefit of having an international language, briefly discussing the history of invented languages and also the structure of Esperanto, its progress and its Congresses, and its actual use as part of a quirky culture.  The author then moves into the alphabet, grammar (including the ever-helpful table of correlatives), the formation of words via compounding, preffixes, and suffixes, before providing an intriguing “rakonto” in Esperanto to demonstrate the ease of reading in the language.  The rest of the book is taken up by an Esperanto-English and English-Esperanto dictionary that contains all of and only  the words of the Universala Vortaro (Universal Dictionary) of Dr. Zamenhof with the exception of only a few obscure biological words and a small number of words important in what appears to be the early 20th century.  Overall, the collection is an effective and basic one, and a demonstration of the variety of useful material for beginning speakers of Esperanto.

There is a lot to like about this book, and it manages to combine a strong urge for idealism as well as a strong streak of pragmatism.  Although other parts of the world have been a bit faster than the English speaking countries in adopting this language, there is a solid mass of material for those who not only think it is a wise idea to have a neutral language in communicating with people around the world but also appreciate the work that it takes to sustain a viable culture in a language without any nation to defend the nation with laws and protections, simply because of an ideal to communicate with others.  That is something I can understand on a deeply personal level, and the book’s blend of soaring ideals and deeply practical appeals is one that I also find to be worthy of interest and worthy of respect.  I must admit that I know next to nothing about this author aside from this book, but even if it a short book, this is a volume that does credit to the humanity as well as to the insight of the author, and makes for a worthwhile case study in both defending a language’s legitimacy and then turning immediately to instructing one in how to read and understand it in a thoughtful and worthwhile way.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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12 Responses to Book Review: Esperanto At A Glance

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