The one real surprise is a rapturous chapter entitled The Tongues of Eros, which is presumably intended as a serious, inquiring, lyrical and tender outline of a sexual autobiography, but induced uncontrollable fits of laughter in this reader. Steiner’s central argument is that making love “in German” is very different to making love “in Italian”, and that as a polyglot himself (a tetraglot, to be precise), he has had ample scope to confirm this personally.
Ch. “when nearing climax . . . would cry out, though in a muted register, the name ‘Sankt Nepomuk the Lesser.’ ” Another used the euphemism “taking the streetcar to Grinzing” to signify “a gentle, somewhat respectful anal access”.
In bed, in Angers, a French conquest used the rare subjunctive pluperfect, as perfected by Proust, “which arrested me, in, as it were, mid-flow” – something worth remembering if trapped in a lift with the professor. Another rebuked him for taking an unspeakable liberty: “ ‘How dare you address me as tu?’ panted V even as I parted her comely legs.”
Saturday, January 05, 2008
"The newt is among our forefathers"
Hmmm, seems I've got an eye for the scathing ones this evening; at the Sunday Times, Christopher Hart offers a funny redaction of George Steiner's My Unwritten Books: