A Digression: Sad but True!
Author: David Poulson
Before I continue with my discussion of Esperanto literature I want to insert here a rather lengthy digression and I hope you will forgive me for it.
The other day, in a book titled You English Words, by John Moore (Collins: 1961), I came across some comments which the author made about Esperanto. I'll reproduce Moore's remarks here, with my commentary, because they are a good - or rather bad! -example of the misrepresentations which are frequently made and published by people who should - and do - know better.
Moore begins by stating that "Esperanto was invented by a Polish Jew in 1887, and consists of French, English and German elements grafted on to Latin roots."
We are off to a bad start! If you have read my previous articles, you know that, although Dr Zamenhof was a Jew and lived for most of his adult life in Warsaw, to call him Polish begs a serious question. I don't think that he regarded himself as being Polish. That may only be a minor point but when Moore goes on to say that Esperanto was "invented" in 1887, well, we all know that's just not true. Zamenhof spent over ten years refining his language before the actual publication of the first book in 1887: Moore makes it sounds like it was the product of a sudden brainwave. As for Moore's claim that Esperanto "consists of French, English and German elements grafted on to Latin roots," it is just plain nonsense. He clearly has no idea about the structure and morphology of the language.
Moore then goes on to say: "But then I cannot see any point or purpose whatever in an artifical language." As I hope we all realise by now, Esperanto is no more an artificial language than any other language which functions perfectly well as a medium of communication for a specific community. And Moore completely misses the main point, which is that linguistic diversity certainly is a very real and expensive problem for many people who are engaged, in one way or another, in international commerce or politics.
Zamenhof's objective was to create an easy-to-learn international language, not an "artifical" language.
Moore goes from bad to worse and continues: "It must surely be a great bore and a most unrewarding labour to learn a language that possesses neither a literature nor any historical associations." The warning light is glowing red with the first words of this sentence. Whenever you come across a phrase such as, "It must surely be�" you are getting a very clear message that the writer has not taken the trouble to verify the truth of the expression of personal prejudice which is going to complete the sentence. In this case we are talking about really culpable laziness which is also a disguised insult to the writer's reading public.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world for this person to learn the size and scope of the library of the British Esperanto Library in London and to satisfy himself of the large number of original, as well as translated works of Esperanto literature. One phone call or visit was all that was required. But no, instead of the truth of the matter, which is that there are over 20,000 books in that library, we are told in a tone of complete certainty that there is no Esperanto literature. The author just wouldn't take the trouble to find out the true facts for his readers.
The claim that Esperanto possesses no historical associations is also completely untrue and is a ridiculous thing to say about any global movement which has been in existence for so long. It is also a disgraceful slur on the memory of the many Esperantists throughout the world who have been persecuted and even killed for their interest in the International Language and their belief in the universality of mankind.
Next Moore goes on to say that, "If an international language were really needed, then we have one ready to hand in Latin, which once served as the lingua franca of almost all the civilised peoples and which is still a means of communication between the doctors and the natural scientists of almost every nation."
Note that Moore is implying that there don't seem to be any "civilised peoples" in four out of the five continents! And I think that you would have a very long search before you found a group of "natural scientists" able to chat happily in Latin.
As Dr. Zamenhof realised even as a boy, well over a hundred years ago, Latin is a "dead" language which has not developed and which no longer has the vocabulary to function as a suitable medium of communication in out time. It wasn't even suitable in the 19th century, let alone today.
Zamenhof understood very well, as my previous articles have tried to show, that Esperanto needed to be able to continuously evolve, through its writers and speakers. And he continually stressed that point, refusing to admit that he was its creator or inventor, and insisting that he was just the one who got it started.
You probably won't be surprised by now to hear that Moore's distorted view of this reads as follows: "�the spread of a living, evolving language throughout the world is exactly the opposite of what the adherents of Esperanto want. For they are dedicated to the idea of a fixed, immutable, universal tongue�"
I hope that all of my readers share my disappointment that a reputable publisher such as Collins exercised such poor editorial control and permitted the publication of such a collection of nonsense and downright untruths.
The only reason I bring it to your attention here is to remind you of what I have already mentioned in the past that, in common with many other progressive and praiseworthy ideas, Esperanto is scurrilously attacked, not from the standpoint of rational argument, supported by incontrovertible facts, but out of pure malice and prejudice. Unfortunately, the practice of publishing incorrect statements is far more common than is generally realised. We all need to be on our guard when confronted by statements (no matter how impressive the source), which claim to be "obviously" true. Quite often, that word "obviously" is there, in the absence of any factual evidence, as an attempt to validate unadulterated balderdash.
In conclusion, let me note that the publishing house of William Collins, Sons & Co. was first "acquired" by the American firm, The News Corporation, a global media company with interests in television, film, and newspapers, and then merged with Harper & Row. For details see HarperCollins
Up to now, no media conglomerate has gobbled up Esperanto. Dr. Zamenhof's legacy remains the property of mankind!