In my next book, BABEL, the world will be my linguistic oyster. I will relate remarkable stories about the world’s twenty largest languages, from Vietnamese (which I’m learning to speak and read) to English. Some other protagonists include Tamil, passionately defended by its speakers; Russian, more intimately related to English than a casual observer might believe; Japanese, whose complex Chinese characters were complemented with additional intricacies; Javanese (mind the v!), whose code of politeness became its downfall, and German, which turns out to be the most exotic of the bunch.

BABEL is due out in October 2018.