Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Crossing the Rubicon

Author: David Poulson
Published on:August 7, 1998

At the end of 1886 a young lady named Klara Silbernik who lived in Kaunas visited her married sister in Warsaw and, by chance, made the acquaintance of Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof. She has been described as "witty, spirited and self-confident." The bond of affection between the young couple must have been immediate and it did not take very long before Klara persuaded Zamenhof to reveal two carefully concealed secrets.

The first secret, his hope to serve the cause of humanity by creating an easy-to-learn second language for all mankind, we already know. And the second secret I am sure you have guessed: he had fallen deeply in love with Klara. And Zamenhof was doubly fortunate in that, not only did Klara return his love but he found support and encouragement from Klara's father who owned a soap factory and was fairly well-to-do.

Ludovic and Klara were married on August 9th, much less than a year after they had met, and Alexander Silbernik had promised to underwrite the publication costs of a book describing his son-in-law's International Language. (All attempts to find a publisher willing to publish the book as a commercial venture had predictably failed.)

The next obstacle was to obtain permission from the censor. It is hard for us to imagine today the degree of repression practised in the 19th-century Russian Empire but all books were regarded with great suspicion. Again, Zamenhof was fortunate. He decided that the first edition of his work would be published in the Russian language, not Polish, because it was somewhat easier to get work published in the language of the oppressor. And it is pleasant to be able to tell that Zamenhof's father Marcus, whose earlier act of destruction was so shocking, now made amends by persuading the censor for Russian books in Warsaw (whom he knew quite well), that a book describing a projected International Language could be dismissed as a curiosity which posed no threat to the security of the Russian Empire!

Permission to print was granted in June after the proofs had been in the censor's office for two months. Then, having received permission to print, further permission to publish was required (unbelievable isn't it?). But that was granted fairly quickly, on July 26th, just in time to be a very welcome wedding present for Ludovic and Klara who were married on August 9th. How did Zamenhof feel at this time, when the years of silence, solitude and sadness had ended?

"All this greatly excited me," he wrote in later years, "I felt that I was standing before the Rubicon, and that after the day when my book appeared I should have no possibility of return; I knew the fate of a doctor, who depends on the public, if this same public should regard him as a crank...I felt I was staking my whole peace of mind and the existence of myself and my family on the turn of the cards. Nevertheless, I could not give up the idea which possessed me body and soul and...I crossed the Rubicon." (1)

Ludovic and Klara began to post out copies of the book to individuals and newspapers. They arranged for advertisements to appear in the press, and they forged ahead with a Polish translation of what all Esperantists now know as "La Unua Libro" - "The First Book."

I have a facsimile edition of this Polish version, which also appeared in 1887, and what an unattractive and unimpressive object it is! A small, drab, 40-page pamphlet printed on cheap paper.

Who would think, at first glance, that it contained the potential to create a world-wide movement, to inspire the creation of a new literature, to change people's lives irrevocably...or to end them!

Footnote:

(1) In the year 49 AD Julius Caesar ordered his troops to cross a small river known as the Rubicon which divided Cisalpine Gaul (Caesar's legitimate sphere of influence) from Italy. This was regarded as an invasion by the Roman Senate and Pompey and the rest of the story, as they say, is history. Here is a link to a great reference work to help you tease out the meanings of those old proverbial phrases and allusions. I've had a copy of this work for years and I wouldn't be without it.

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PRI TUTKOMUNA LINGVO
PRI RUSA LINGVO
PRI ANGLA LINGVO
PRI ALIAJ NACIAJ LINGVOJ
BATALO DE LINGVOJ
ARTIKOLOJ PRI ESPERANTO
"" PRI "KONKURENTOJ" DE ESPERANTO
LECIONOJ DE ESPERANTO
.KONSULTOJ DE E-INSTRUISTOJ
ESPERANTOLOGIO KAJ INTERLINGVISTIKO
TRADUKO DE MALSIMPLAJ FRAZOJ
TRADUKOJ DE DIVERSAJ VERKOJ
FRAZEOLOGIO DE ESPERANTO
, . VERKOJ DE ZAMENHOF KAJ PRI LI
, PROKSIMAJ MOVADOJ
ELSTARAJ PERSONOJ KAJ ESPERANTO
PRI ELSTARAJ ESPERANTISTOJ
. EL HISTORIO DE RUSIA E-MOVADO
KION ONI SKRIBAS PRI ESPERANTO
ESPERANTO EN LITERATURO
. KIAL E-MOVADO NE PROGRESAS
HUMURO PRI KAJ EN ESPERANTO
- ESPERANTO POR INFANOJ
DIVERSAJHOJ
INTERESAJHOJ
PERSONAJHOJ
/ DEMANDARO / RESPONDARO
UTILAJ LIGILOJ
IN ENGLISHPAGHOJ EN ANGLA LINGVO
PAGHOJ TUTE EN ESPERANTO
NIA BIBLIOTEKO


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