Two nights ago, during my odyssey to Basel, I spent the night in London at the St. Paul's youth hostel. As usual, I got in too late and had to leave too early to do anything. So for me London still remains the world's largest pit stop, a place I go en route to somewhere else.
In the hallways of the hostel are various maps of nations once in the British Empire. I found this to be a striking choice of decor. No posters of the Queen's guard or of Parliament or double-decker buses. Rather, maps of Canada and Australia figured prominently on my floor. The Australian map was one of those promotional cartoonish tourist maps, the kind that signify major cities by their famous buildings or favorite sporting events. There were smatterings of sheep and surfers, palm trees and kangaroos, the occasional penguin and opera house dotting the coastline. The Canadian map was more conventional, the kind you'd have on display in a classroom.
As I stood in the hallway, drying my hair after a midnight shower to wash away the airline grime and pondering these maps, it dawned on me how Babel is really a about Empire, the only force capable of unifying the globe under one language and thereby destined to fall.