Every language has a sound. Try hearing a language you don’t have any clue about and it has a sound. Some sound like music, others like stones rattling in a steel container and some others like the buzzing of bees.

When I first moved to Denmark, that’s how Danish sounded to me, like the buzzing of bees. In Scandinavia, Danish is the hardest language to learn because it’s the hardest language to understand. People speak as if they have a hot potato in their mouth. They randomly shorten words and make four words into one sound. Now that I understand some Danish, the buzzing has lessened, but it’s still there when people speak too quickly or they’re speaking with a heavy Northern Jylland accent.

The Sound of Language is my first book set in Denmark and is the story of an Afghan refugee Raihana, who has recently come to Denmark, just a few months before 9/11. But this is not a 9/11 novel.

In Denmark, refugees get monetary support from the government and in return, they are obligated to take Danish classes and participate in what is called praktik. They have to work 20 hours a week in some place where the use Danish at the workplace. This is done so that they get integrated into Danish society quickly and efficiently.

Usually refugees cluster together and speak in their native language as they clean supermarkets or do other jobs of the same nature for their praktik. But Raihana finds a praktik with a beekeeper, Gunnar.

Recently widowed, Gunnar is an unhappy man. He and his wife had loved their bees and now Gunnar ignores them, uncaring that they’ll die if he doesn’t pay them attention. He’s resistant to have Raihana work for him at first, but slowly she worms his way into his life and helps resurrects his love for bees and life. Gunnar in return makes Raihana leave her past behind and embrace her future.

This is not a love story. I had thought it would be but it didn’t work out that way. This is a story about a unique friendship between two people who cannot communicate clearly with each other because they don’t speak the same language. This is a story about immigrant life in Denmark. And most importantly, this is a story of courage and of stepping beyond the confines laid down by society and culture and finding something precious and important – happiness.

There is so much fiction out there about the Taliban and the people who suffered under them, I just wanted to see what happened to an Afghan who escaped and came to a Western country as a refugee. This was a wonderful journey for me and I hope that you’ll enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Amulya Malladi