Monday, February 08, 2010

Drops of water

From Denis Diderot, Jacques the Fatalist and his Master, trans. David Coward (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999):
Jacques. Me, sir, drink water! Jacques on holy water! I’d rather have a thousand legions of devils take up permanent residence in my insides than touch a drop of water, holy or unholy. Haven’t you ever noticed that I’m hydrophobic?

Just a moment! ‘Hydrophobic’? Jacques said ‘hydrophobic’?
No, reader, he didn’t. I confess the word wasn’t his. But if you want to apply such high critical standards, I challenge you to read any scene from a comedy or a tragedy, one dialogue, however well-written, and not detect the voice of the author in the mouth of his characters. What Jacques actually said was: ‘Haven’t you ever noticed, sir, that the mere sight of water makes me jump backwards like a mad dog?…’ There it is. In expressing it differently from him, I was true but more succinct.

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