Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bad Metaphor Day

You do come across odd metaphors sometimes:

The hounds of scepticism, criticism and fearless enquiry which Erasmus and the humanists had unleashed had begun to sink their teeth into the more vulnerable parts of western Christendom's anatomy.
Derek Wilson, Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Man (London, 1996): 66.

Did they now? Whatever was Derek Wilson thinking when he wrote that sentence? And what was the editor at Weidenfeld & Nicolson thinking, when he or she read it - and decided not to delete it? Sloppy stuff like this really spoils what otherwise is a rather good book.

I hate to say it, but this is almost as bad as something I came across during my Christmas reading of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's La Princesse et le Président - a sordid little fantasy about the amorous affair between a (fictional) French head of state and a (fictional) English princess (Patricia of Cardiff - of course you get the gist). Because in that novel, the princess gets to say the following during the protracted negotiations that precede her love affair with the president:
Et surtout, surtout, comme je vous l'ai dit, j'ai besoin qu'on m'aime. Pas d'eau tiède. Qu'on m'aime vraiment, comme une algue agrippée à un rocher.

[And especially, especially, as I have told you, I need to be loved. Nothing half-hearted. That one really loves me, like an alga gripping a rock.]

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, La Princesse et le Président (Paris, 2009): 92
Savour it: "Comme une algue agrippée à un rocher."

Maybe this is what Giscard d'Estaing considers erotic symbolism. I can hear sucking noises and faintly smell a fishy tang.

When the novel flopped, the publishing house immediately suggested that this was down to Giscard announcing (before publication) that the plot was entirely fictitious: "Public curiosity has been extinguished," editor Bernard de Fallois explained.

That, of course, was mere flattery. Because, really, as the above quote documents, the former president of La République Francaise is simply not a very good writer.


Mr. Joyboy said...

Oh great, now I'm stuck with a mental image of Erasmus chewing the Pope's testicles. Oh wait, it's actually his 'hound'. Doesn't really help things....

Jürgen Neubauer said...

In meiner Zeit bei Campus war einer meiner Lieblingssprüche in Leserbriefen oder Amazonrezensionen "diesem Buch hätte ein Lektor gut getan". Was der Leser nicht ahnt: Vermutlich hatte der Autor vorher auf jeder Seite zwei dieser Metaphern, und der Lektor hat sie erst alle entsorgt und dann stundenlang mit dem Autor am Telefon über jede einzelne Änderung diskutiert. Der hound war aber die Lieblingsmetapher des Autors, und der Preis, den der Lektor zahlen musste, um all die anderen streichen zu dürfen. So, oder so ähnlich.