Lost in Translation # 5

Lost in Translation # 5

I love the weird dissonance that can happen during  translation – the way in which two languages collide and send words glancing off in unexpected directions. Here’s something I saw in Venice last autumn… On the contrary, I think historical pasta might be...

Language As a Precision Tool

Good writing is the living, breathing heart of a great book, and by good writing I don’t necessarily mean  soaring arias of prose, although they have their place.  I mean using the fewest number of words to convey the most meaning: every phrase should carry its...

The Bare Essentials

It can be incredibly easy, when you are writing, to fall in love with the language you are using (guilty as charged!) For me, finessing the perfect sentence so that it conveys meaning, trips the reader’s imagination, sounds as elegant and and unexpected as...
Going with the Grain

Going with the Grain

On our recent travels my eye was caught by a small carving of a face on a mediaeval building in a Burgundy backwater. The colour is visible, in spite of all the years which have passed, and the features and character are clearly discernible.  What I like about it is...
The Power of Words

The Power of Words

It’s a literary thought and it’s written on a door — two of the things I like best in all the world.  Roughly translated – very roughly – it means Words are arrows for the Indians, which is a wonderfully vivid metaphor for the power of...

A Thin Veneer

Amos Oz talks about, “the pollution of language, making something sound clean and decent, when it should have been peace and violent.” Well, there’s something to get your teeth into, first thing on a Monday morning.  As a writer, I’m fascinated...

Stuff and Nonsense

Following on from my hymn of praise to Roget, of Thesaurus fame, I thought it would be good to have a little Lewis Carroll moment, because I think it was that nonpareil of the nonsensical who made the following remark: “Take care of the sounds and the sense will...

Mind Your Language!

I’ve been reading quite a lot of poetry lately, boning up for World Book Night and my great giveaway of Carol Ann Duffy’s book The World’s Wife and reading prose as well (Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter is top of the pile beside...