I am fascinated with languages and trying to learn as many as I can. Learning languages is like getting a new life, with a completely new world of meanings and feelings opening up in the front of your eyes and mind. As a translator myself, I know that there are so many words hard to translate and finding locals equivalents is rather an approximation of the meaning than a reproduction of the word.
Therefore, I approached The Happiness Passport by Megan C. Hayes with a lot of curiosity, but also keen to learn new words. Although it makes the world tour in just 50 words, there are enough new insights into languages to win you more than a life. The words chosen are mostly words of yearning, expressing familiarity, intimacy and happiness. Words deeply rooted into the culture telling in just a few letters unique ancient stories full of hidden meanings to the non-native speaker. Take, for instance the Russian prostor which means yearning for wide plains. Or the Innuit unikkaagatigunniq, which reflects 'the power of storytelling and the role of stories in the communal ways of being'. I've also learned on this occasion two English words: petrichor - 'a noun that describes the pleasantly earthy smell of rain after a long period of dry, warm weather' and psithurism - 'the sound of wind whispering through the trees'. And I was reminded of an old Hungarian expression: 'Ugy szép az élet, hazajlik', meaning approximatively: 'Life is beautiful if it is happening'.
Of course there are many more than 50 words to catch the spirit of the world, as the number of spoken languages and dialects in the world is impressively high, but this small level approach open up your eyes to search in your own native language(s) about those words that are impossible to substitute.
The illustrations, the work of Yelena Bryksenova are nostalgic, romantic pastels that inspire to meditate about life, worlds and its making in words.
Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review