Recently, a Czech linguist named Jakob Murian came up with an estimate of the number of languages your average European speaks. The study is complicated, however, by the question of how much you need to know to really understand a given language. At the LRB’s blog, Glen Newey asks: are you fluent when you can order a beer, or when you can translate Virgil? Pair with: Abigail Rasminsky on learning to speak German.
You’ve probably heard it before: never end a story with the phrase “it was all a dream.” Unfortunately for the person who taught you this rule, many classic stories (including Anna Karenina) take place at least partially in dreams. In the NYRB, Francine Prose investigates the trope in fiction.
Monologuist Mike Daisey was once devoted to Apple products. Then, one day, he "started to think, and that's always a problem for any religion." He began to question how his favorite products were put together, so he traveled to China with hopes of finding out. What he saw was shocking. If you own an Apple device (which I'm betting you do), you need to listen to this episode of This American Life.
Nicole Krauss has taken her family to deserts in Chile, a lice-infested nursery in Tel Aviv, Sarajevo, Capri, and even the Arctic, but she’s never been on a beach vacation. She tries to relax and searches for the meaning of paradise in Turks and Caicos in her essay for Condé Nast Traveler.
Did our interview with Hilary Mantel yesterday pique your interest in her latest book? The Times has an excerpt you can read. Elsewhere, Damian Barr (who conducted the interview) pens a response to Lord Bell, who recently suggested that Scotland Yard should investigate Mantel for criminal intent.
The New Yorker has published the chapter of Salman Rushdie's forthcoming memoir, Joseph Anton, that describes the circumstances of his life immediately after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's spiritual leader in 1989, called for his execution by proclaiming a fatwā on the writer, after the controversial treatment of Islamic history and the Prophet Muhammad in The Satanic Verses. PEN American, by the way, accepts donations online.