“Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says ‘We’re the same.’ A language barrier says ‘We’re different.’ The architects of apartheid understood this. Part of the effort to divide black people was to make sure we were separated not just physically but by language as well…The great thing about language is that you can just as easily do the opposite: convince people that they are the same.”

Trevor Noah, Born a Crime

The beauty of art, and the way that it connects with people, is that it often transcends language. Or, even better, it seems like it was written in my language: the song that describes just how I feel; the painting that helps me see something familiar in a new way.

Even with a novel: in a good one, I find myself thinking like the narrator. I use the same language. The novelist has so successfully cleared the language barrier that I have identified with the story by using the same words as the narrator.

Art, then, attempts to transcend language. The artist is attempting to reverse that mythological Tower of Babel, when differing languages spread people all over the earth, and we have sought for an answer since.

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