h1

November 22, 2003

Hans started it — in Lyskom — and several people followed his example and I thought it was a really fun idea so this is me being a lemming.

Anyway.

Below are four short excerpts from books. They may be translations (not by myself) or original English works. Can you identify them? (Caveat: I really have no idea how difficult these are to guess! Perhaps all of them are ridiculously simple, in which case I’ll try to make it more difficult next time.)

1.

“‘Christ,’ he said at last. ‘Another day.’ With this his face grew more composed. He stood up, beat the white dust from his breeches and took off his coat to shake it. With intense mortification he saw that the piece of meat he had hidden at yesterday’s dinner had oozed grease through his handkerchief and his pocket. ‘How wonderfully strange,’ he thought, ‘to be upset by this trifle; yet I am upset.’ He sat down and ate the piece of meat (the eye of a mutton chop); and for a moment his mind dwelt on the theory of counter-irritants, Paracelsus, Cardan, Rhazes. He was sitting in the ruined apse of St Damian’s chapel high above Port Mahon on the north side, looking down upon the great winding inlet of the harbour and far out beyond it over a vast expanse of sea, a variegated blue with wandering lanes; the flawless sun, a hand’s breadth high, rising from the side of Africa. He had taken refuge there some days before, as soon as his landlord began to grow a shade uncivil; he had not waited for a scene, for he was too emotionally worn out to put up with any such thing.”

2.

“‘After the test starts,’ he read, ‘a score of “1” will result each time you press the lefthand button except as otherwise provided here below. Press the lefthand button whenever the red light appears provided the green light is not lighted as well except that no button should be pressed when the righthand gate is open unless all lights are out. If the righthand gate is open and the lefthand gate is closed, no score will result from pressing any button, but the lefthand button must nevertheless be pressed under these circumstances if all other conditions permit a button to be pressed pbefore any score may be made in succeeding phases of the test. To put out the green light, press the righthand button. If the lefthand gate is not closed, no button may be pressed. if the lefthand gate is closed while the red light is lighted, do not press the lefthand button if the green light is out unless the righthand gate is open. To start the test move the starting lever from neutral all the way to the right. The test runs for two minutes, from the time you move the starting lever to the right. Study these instructions, then select your own time for commencing the test. You are not permitted to ask questions of the examiner, so be sure that you understand the instructions. Make as high a score as possible.’

‘Whew!’ said Matt.”

3.

“WHAT KIND OF A PEPYS’ DIARY DO YOU CALL THIS?

this is not pepys’ diary, this is some busybody editor’s miserable collection of EXCERPTS from pepys’ diary may he rot.

i could just spit.

where is jan. 12, 1668, where his wife chased him out of bed and round the bedroom with a red-hot poker?

where is sir w. pen’s son that was giving everybody so much trouble with his Quaker notions? ONE mention does he get in this whole pseudo-book. and me from philadelphia.

i enclose two limp singles, i will make do with this thing until you find me a real pepys. THEN i will rip up this ersatz book, page by page, AND WRAP THINGS IN IT.”

4.

“Punctual to five o’clock came the stranger, and shortly afterwards the dinner. He had divested himself of his brown paper parcel, but had made no alteration in his attire; and was, if possible, more loquacious than ever.

‘What’s that?’ he inquired, as the waiter removed one of the covers.

‘Soles, sir.’

‘Soles—ah!—capital fish—all come from London—stage-coach proprietors get up political dinners—carriage of soles—dozens of baskets—cunning fellows. Glass of wine, sir.'”

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