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Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, psaltery, bag‐ pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” (Daniel 3:4–5)
The Book of Daniel has a motif of the ‘peoples every language.’ In this case, they are called by a din of wind and string instruments. When Daniel later dreams of the Fourth Beast, clothed in white upon a flaming throne, he tells us that ‘all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him.’ Was the Beast’s appearance enough to inspire this nonverbal conversion? In Chapter 4, Nebudchadnezzar calls to the ‘peoples of every language’ and wishes them to ‘prosper greatly,’ though it is left vacant whether and how he achieves this; if he spoke to them in Akkadian, Hebrew, or did something else entirely.
This linguistic categorisation of humanity may as well substitute for tribal or national ones. So the “peoples of every language” becomes a phrase for all the diversity of our kind. For instance, the strange Revelations of John of Patmos (5:9) tells us
four creatures ‘full of eyes in front and behind’ and twenty‐four elders ‘sang a new song, saying, “Wor‐ thy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”’
But does humanity understand this song, or just the beasts and elders? Do they know what the herald of Nebudchadnezzar is instructing them to do? If so, as John seems to, the people of every language, in these moments, become exactly the opposite: partic‐ ipants, through their shared understanding, in some new and spectacular language. So we infer their na‐ tionality and tribes cease to divide them as they re‐ unite in a universal tongue.
Yet it also seems clear that we, while we can un‐ derstand, cannot address the people of every lan‐ guage as these angels do. But could such a nonre‐ cipricol and unambiguous a power be a language at all, or more of a conjuring trick of sound and feeling? Though intelligible by all, the creatures can only command. Can language only become univer‐ sal by being reduced to Nebudchadnezzar’s orches‐ tra of zithers and bagpipes: something that cannot be answered or responded to, becoming just the sim‐ plest convention of signal and action? In the dürren Klang der strengen Sonnentage, as we are this Au‐ gust, we honour this possibility.
Munich, August 2023
Congratulations to Roy Duffield, who has just released a collection of poetry, 'Bacchus Against the Wall'. Click here to see it on Amazon. We featured Roy’s poem ‘fading out’ in issue #4.
Klang! is an independent magazine on the use and abuse of language, publishing bi‐monthly in Munich. This edition contains poetry in translation, a short story, essays on cinema, graffiti writing, and original poetry, all for your enjoyment. Everyone is welcome to submit to us, in any language, through our website klangmagazinemunich.de.
We extend our thanks to all that submitted contributions to Klang!, and an especial thanks to those featured in this edition. We’d also to express our gratitude to Andrew, Clare, Michael Bundscherer, Noarvara, Philipp Potocki, Sergey Kochergan, Jessica Dionne‐Wright & Chiara Zucchelli. A final special thanks to Edoardo, who’s regular Klang! contributions are sadly ending with this issue.
Also thank you to Jack Verschoyle, for whom this is his last issue as editor. Jack says, "It has been a pleasure to help run and contribute to Klang the past year and a half. Thankfully it will still be going in the hands of the remaining editors. I’m sure you can look forward to lots more, lots more odd, and sooner than you’d like. But I'm very superstitious and won't do anything more than 7 times. So I'm off."