This first work of non-fiction by the author of two novels, The Golden Menagerie and The Berlusconi Bonus, has an accessible and conversational tone, which perhaps disguises its enormous ambition. It not only deals with the origins of language to argue its centrality to humanity and the naturalness of bilingualism and multilingualism, but examines how writing and printing built on that centrality to develop the “social mind” – the sum of knowledge within any given society. More recent technological changes have undermined the importance of language in society, and could possibly damage psychological health and society at large.
All the arguments are couched in a sceptical approach, and the author principally wants to initiate a debate rather than give a defining analysis of a complex subject. Each chapter is introduced by a short story that illustrates the argument of that chapter.