“Take it back. If she couldn’t hear it, surely she must be able to see it – the words running like ticker tape through the whites of my eyes.”
George is a brilliant linguist who spends his days cataloguing and studying dying languages. Meanwhile, his marriage is crumbling and his wife Mary is leaving him. Yet despite being fluent in Greek, Latin, French, Cantonese, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and Esperanto, he doesn’t have the words to ask her to stay.
Alta and Resten claim to have fallen out of love, despite being the last speakers of Elloway, they barely converse and only in English – ‘the language of anger’. Emma is madly in love with George, she has been for a while now. For them, language is both excessive and inadequate.
As each character navigates the fault lines between communication and connection, we discover that love like language, must be learned and practiced, or else it too will falter and expire. But unlike language, it carries a universal and unspoken quotient.
Julia Cho’s ‘The Language Archive’ is a poignant meditation on love, loss and all that gets lost in translation.