Re: Much watch, American, Hogg, Khayyam
One remembers a philological anecdote from one's student days:
A person on a New York street asks a stranger:
"How much watch?"
This joke, or one very similar, received perhaps its widest currency from
its occurrence in the film Casablanca, 1942, recently voted the 2nd greatest
movie of all time by the AFI.
IF you insist that “American” means or subsumes “product of American
cultural values and educational systems” we are locked in a typical semantic loop!
Well, if “American” means anything I would have thought that that is what
it means. Otherwise “American” might as well mean anything that happens to
be in America, flora and fauna from elsewhere (noisy starlings?), or any human
passing through for a longer or shorter period. I don’t quite follow the “
semantic loop” concept ? Incidentally, since "walnut" was on the discussion
table a while ago, it occurred to me that, etymologically, it actually means
"foreign nut". Kinbote, perhaps? Is "nut" current for "barmy" in the US?
Carolyn wrote, re my post Fri, 24 Apr 1998:
Odd that you didn't notice my references recently to the possibility that VN
may have owned the 1947 Cresset edition of Hogg's "Memoirs"
Dear Carolyn, I much regret that these days I find it easier to remember
what I said in 1948 than in 1998, and that post had been cleanly wiped from my
memory. Odd, possibly, but not an uncommon fellow-passenger in the merciless
march of time.
It is of course preposterous to claim that FitzGerald is superior to
Khayyam, one's preference is purely subjective and depends on what one is looking
I don’t know if A.Bouazza was referring to the remark made by my Iranian
student in 1964, that FitzGerald was “better” than Khayyam, but he was young
and probably did not appreciate that “good, better and best” are completely
useless comparatives when it comes to evaluating art of any sort. What is the
purpose of art, and by what yardstick is its excellence to be measured? It is
of course extremely valuable to have an informed and judicious opinion from
someone who has a fluent mastery of both Persian and English: my student’s
English was not exactly fluent, and my Persian hovers between rudimentary and
non-existent, although I did pick up a soupçon in my two years in Tehran. I
don't really know how Persian may have changed since the days of Khayyam. Less
than English, I suspect.
There are other measurements besides “good/better/best”, however. Just for
fun, I put Omar Khayyam into abebooks’ keyword, and the site came up with
over 8300 items. I can’t help surmising that but for FitzGerald there would have
been less than 100. This seems to demonstrate something, but it is less
easy to say exactly what. I amused myself with preparing a primitive
bibliography of Khayyam references, as a supplement to my present collection of
approximately 25 editions of the Rubaiyat (apologies for being incapable of supplying
a definitive transliteration) in various languages, and would be happy to
forward it to anyone interested. FitzGerald converted his material into a
shaped poem, starting with dawn and ending with night, which is quite alien to
the 1000 or so scattered quatrains which are very loosely ascribed to Khayyam
(En effet, la tradition attribue plus de 1000 quatrains à Khayyam -
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