"The Linguist and the Emperor," by Daniel Meyerson, tells us about Jean-Francois Champollion, a French boy who becomes obsessed with -- and adept at -- ancient languages. His brother provides him with the opportunity to get an education; he learns Greek and Latin and also Arabic, Chaldean, Hebrew, Persian and even Coptic, an old Egyptian language. This is the time of Napoleon. When the general and his army invade Egypt, the French soldiers find a rock with text written in Greek and hieroglyphics.
No one as yet had been able to decipher hieroglyphics. It is Champollion, the student and conqueror of ancient languages, who solves the mystery of that pink and gray chunk of rock. It was the Rosetta Stone, and it was he who was able, finally, to translate it into modern language. The writing style takes some getting used to. But watching this genius perform his great work is a rewarding experience.
Saturday, May 22, 2004
BOOK NOTE: A brief review by Betty E. Stein in the Fort Wayne News Sentinel: