The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible is meant as a cautionary tale, telling us that if we build our metaphorical or even physical structures too tall, they will eventually crumble to the ground. THE UNFINISHED TOWER OF BABEL ties this story into several empires and eras of history and weaves a fascinating timeline of cyclical rebirth and eventual failure of ideas.
The first thing that Bonn, a sociologist, establishes is that the story of the Tower of Babel is just that: a myth. It’s a myth that, Bonn points out, has never been proven as fact (even though he likes to flip back and forth between treating it as myth and treating is as if it had hypothetically happened) and, as such, has taken on different identities and has adapted its way through time. What hasn’t changed, however, are the basics. The people of a land crafted a tower that was to link the earth and the heavens, along with the attempt to create one language used by all people. A divine power (Bonn goes into great detail as to how that divinity changes with which peoples are telling the story) destroys the tower, claiming that if the builders had been able to build the tower and create this one language, then they would be able to accomplish too much and that would put them on the same plane as the divine.
If one knows the history of this tale, or has heard the story in many iterations previously, the first few chapters of THE UNFINISHED TOWER OF BABEL can be a bit of a slog. Bonn is meticulous in his research and detail but the early telling of the story and connections to the Roman Empire can be a bit repetitive. However, as Bonn moves through history he makes a clear, fascinating link between the myth and the empire-hungry world that existed during the World Wars. This is where the book excels and it becomes intriguing to read about all the connections between the two.
As Bonn moves into more modern history, things fall apart slightly as he attempts a tenuous connection between the Cold War, a war predominantly based on speech and oration, and the Tower of Babel myth’s one language across a land. Despite this, he carries the connection of the myth through the fall of the Berlin Wall and beyond to our modern days, when we are connected in so many ways that we are establishing a social media-based common language.
THE UNFINISHED TOWER OF BABEL is a read that will stay with the readers of all walks of life for years to come as we continue to evolve as a society.