I feel I am doing a disservice to the author by my rating. The book is well-written by an author who enjoys depth and detail. Yes, the point she wanted to make could have been said with far less words on far less pages. But, this is a memoir, not a cold, facts-only history. I think many of us were led into believing this book was something it isn’t and that’s not necessarily the author’s fault. The descriptive blurb on the back cover of the Advanced Reader’s Edition, which is what I read, makes it seem like this work will be “the first full history of a constructed language … from its invention, through its … golden age, to its suppression … and its resurgence … [and] dedicated following to this day.”
The work does address all these things, but the way it does it is in the form of a memoir, complete with abundance of conversations, personal information, observations of people and surroundings, feelings, opinions, and in that way it is like a documentary film and is more focused on how Esperantists have learned, developed, and struggled with the language since its inception than anything else. This focus is clearly stated in the Preface: “I wanted to … find out why real people choose this language, over others … I wrote this book to discover why Esperanto has, unbelievably, beaten all the odds … this book is a biography of Esperanto’s collective.creators, the Esperanto community, and a report from the trenches.”
So, it isn’t nearly what I thought or assumed it would be and what it was, for me, was too much opinion and discussion (which probably makes me a bad candidate for becoming an Esperantist) and not enough fact and history about Zamenhof’s vision. I have one or two other, much smaller, books on Esperanto tbat do a better job of that. And, of course, any online search will tell me as much. This work by Schor is literally a bridge of words – she bridges the why/how of the unchanging past history of Esperanto with the immanent, immediate realities of current usage. She has honored the intent, while I, unfortunately, did not value it because I’m not that invested in it.
Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Co.
[Library Thing Early Reviewers Advanced Reader Edition, provided for free by the publisher, in exchange for my honest reveiw.]