The Language of Thieves
Chair: Natasha Lehrer
As a child The Written Word author Martin Puchner was told by his father about the secret code of Rotwelsch. A hybrid language associated with Jews and travellers, it blended Yiddish, Hebrew, Czech and other European languages, giving us expressions like ‘being in a pickle’. Unsettling many in power, no-one tried more vehemently to stamp it out than the Nazis – and Puchner discovered as an adult this included his own grandfather. The Harvard professor discusses his adventurous foray into the mysteries of language and personal journey with writer and translator Natasha Lehrer.
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Martin Puchner holds the Byron and Anita Wien Chair in Drama, English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He has published over a dozen books, collections, and anthologies, including The Written World (Granta, 2017) and is the general editor of the six volume Norton Anthology of World Literature, used by students worldwide.
Natasha Lehrer is a literary critic, editor and translator of fiction and non-fiction from French to English. She writes for the TLS, the Guardian, the Nation, and Ha’aretz, among others.