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Stephen Potter’s Guide to Reading

25 July 2007

8:50 PM

25 July 2007

8:50 PM

Megan links to the now almost famous Not Reading post and recalls a conversation we had:

Me:  I’ve never read Camus in English.
Alex:  That’s brilliant!  I’m going to use that.
Me:  "I’ve never read Camus in English?"
Alex:  No, like this:  "I’ve never read Camus in English" . . .   That way I don’t have to tell them I’ve never read Camus in French, either.

Grand stuff. My recollection, however, is subtly different:

Megan:  I’ve never read Camus in English.
Alex:  That’s brilliant!  I’m going to use that.
Megan:  "I’ve never read Camus in English?"
Alex:  No, like this:  saying "I’ve never read Camus in English" carries the implication that you have read Camus in French.

This is, you’ll understand, classic One-upmanship. It can be adjusted, naturally, to other languages – eg, "In my experience Lampedusa/Rilke/Turgenev loses too much in translation to be worth reading outside the original language." Due care and attention should of course be taken not to risk such a gambit in conversation with native speakers of said languages, who might be in a position to call your otherwise impeccable bluff.


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