From the superb Multiculturalism: translating difference debate, this piece, extracted from Maruf Khwajas as-yet unpublished memoir, was for me a particular highlight. The year is 1947, the event, the partition of India a bewildering time for everybody. In elegant prose, both luscious and immediate, this eye-witness story, recalled from childhood, vividly brings to life an historical moment, and the mood and manners of a country on the hinge of devastating change the echoes of which run right to the heart of the notion of multiculturalism.
So how well do we understand each other, and do we ever, really, speak the same language? Is it true, as Wittgenstein once claimed, that whatever can be said can be said clearly? Or are words more slippery, and more freighted with meaning and hidden dimension than we can ever, really, begin to discover? Loaded questions, to be sure, and what better way to consider the possible answers than by spending a while in the Untranslatable Words series. Launched in July 04, its a glorious compendium of the stories and significance attached to words from around the world if it were only gift-wrapped, itd make an ideal Christmas present!
I confess Im cheating in choosing this piece, but theres a reason for doing so Its something only possible on the web: a single article that is in fact a window opening up a vista the view stretching for miles back over some of the best moments in the long-running Shorelines series. The South China Sea to South Beach, Florida, surfers to sharks, icebergs and underwater adventures the series is full of surprises, visually stunning, and rather like the effects of being at a real beach, both a pleasure and a prompt to contemplation. And to accompany you while you stroll along the strand, there are even some waves, in the form of musician Mike OBriens marine soundscape.