Review by Madeleine LaRue
. . . The second letter comes many years later. Estranged from the person closest to him by the compassionless god, Josef devotes the end of his life to “foolishly” trying “to express affection and love.” His efforts culminate in the novel’s eponymous love letter, painstakingly printed in the language of the Hittites. Proust claimed that all great literature is written in a kind of foreign language, and perhaps the same could be said of all love letters. That Josef takes this literally only emphasizes that every declaration of love represents an imperfect translation. Language is slippage; none know this better than writers and lovers, who so rarely manage to say what they mean. Josef, however, has chosen his foreign language well: in resurrecting a dead tongue, he resurrects a love that he himself had once thought to be extinguished. The unexpected vitality of cuneiform reflects the unexpected intensity of Josef’s feelings, so that, by excavating a language of the past, he proves that nothing is lost, but only temporarily concealed. . . .