Thog's Masterclass

Some Longer Selections

Faddei Bulgarin, Ivan Vyzhigin, translator unknown; Philadelphia, 1832

For Thog's Translation Masterclass, eagle-eyed Vicki Rosenzweig sent this haunting anglicization of a Tsarist pop-fiction novel. All strictly [sic]; random use of "y" for "th" is a recurring and unexplained feature of the translation:

Grunya ... was just sitting down to dinner, supposing that I would not come. She received me tenderly but with a melancholy countenance. "You knowest, Grunya that I have a superstitious fear of dreams?" "What of that?" "I dreamed last night that during dinner something unexpected occurred to you; put my mind at ease, my dear, by seeing if all is right in the kitchen. Dost you know that in a house lately, the cook, in place of sugar, sprinkled a tart with arsenic which had been placed in a cupboard for killing rats?" "My God what strange youghts arise in thy noodle!" said Grunya, and went out of the room, whilst I in the mean time opened my budget and placed on a small table the jewelry, along with a couple of thousand rubles for a dress. As soon as she came back into the room, I waited her at the door, and, taking her by the hand, led her up to the table, saying "Begone, dull care; I pray you begone from Grunya." She looked at the things, then cast such a glace at me as almost melted me on the spot; threw herself into my arms, screamed out and fainted.

I carried her to a sofa, and called to the maid-servant, ran, bustled about, sprinkled her with water, and perfumes, and at last succeeded in bringing her to herself. "Vanya," said she, "I know not how to thank you this heart which belongs to you, feels, but my tongue is too weak to express."

R.L. Fanthorpe M.B.I.S., Space-Borne (a Badger Book), 1959

The crowd had to be seen to be believed. There are crowds and crowds, but this was the crowd to end all crowds. Never, perhaps, ever before in the whole of human history had there been such a massive congregation. Such a teeming of humanity, as there was gathered round a wide expanse of concrete and there in the centre, like some strange steel deity, the object of their semi-idolatrous adulation, stood the ship. It centred their thoughts, as the small sphere of wind and leather, centres the thoughts of the teeming masses at Wembley Cup Finals. As far as the eye could see in every direction, were men, women, and children. Their faces eager, upturned. Full of hope, expectancy.

To cut a longish chapter short, the spaceship presently takes off:

And then it was over, the electric silence, the dynamic tension ended, in a cataclysmic eruption of power, which seemed all the greater for its majestic and solitary loneliness; the huge silver dart leapt up, probing with its rapier tip; against the blue vaulted curtain of the heavens, and then it was up. Like Wordsworth's "Skylark" it rose and rose, till it became an invisible sound, receding over the heads of watching humanity. The send-off was over. The adventurers were on their way. The Argosy had sailed: Ulysses and his band were setting off from Troy. There was no turning back. It was a moment of no return. The decision had been made. The button had been pressed. The gun had been fired. The arrow had left the bow, it could not be recalled. It was further from man's power to bring it back than it was possible to live again, even one second of yesterday.

Chapter 3 begins with a detailed description of the starry sky through which the ship is now travelling: this continues for a thrilling page and a half, and names some 44 stars, constellations, zodiacal signs, etc. The brain-destroying Fanthorpean coup comes when, having exhausted the northern heavens, the author treats us to details of how things would look if the ship were travelling the other way. By Chapter 6, Earth has been accidentally destroyed and the astronauts begin to worry a bit: "Any slight mechanical defalcation, if I may put it that way, and we're dead. We become twenty-four bloated corpses, sailing forever in a big steel coffin, a communal tomb, a jet propelled mass grave." There are many unexciting twists to follow before friendly aliens rescue two survivors -- one male, one female -- and deposit them on a planet closely resembling Eden.

Susan Key, Phantom, 1990

"I c ... can't," I stammered, hunting nervously through my pockets, "I can't seem to find my handkerchief. I m ... m ... must have dropped it when we came across the lake. Do you have any h ... h... handkerchiefs, Erik?"

He looked at me so sadly that I could have bitten my clumsy, stuttering tongue.

"I don't have much call for handerchiefs, my dear ... there are certain advantages, you see, in being without a nose."

My hand flew to my mouth.

"Oh, Erik! I didn't think, I'm so sorry! Please don't give it another thought. I can quite easily sniff."

Tanith Lee, Heart-Beast, 1992

They were no longer gentle, exploratory. They grasped each other and the ground, their hands full of flesh, grass, the soft ripe mud. They kissed like eaters, drawing on each other's tongues as if dying of thirst, biting at each other's lips, then detaching themselves to stare at each other, before coming together again in a kind of rage.

There in the streaming green sunlight under the trees as if in water, where the wolves had come and gone, he fought through the white petticoats to come at the hot coal of the centre of her.

As they joined, each gave a smothered cry of relief as if, before, they had been broken apart, and now mended.

Then they wrestled like enemies, rolling in the black mud, with the flowers crushed between them.

All the wood seemed moving with them, as if they had disturbed it into utmost life. Bubbles of air burst and leaves were shaken loose on them.

The roots of trees were in her back, pushing at her, the upper surface of her body was clamped to his, and in her hands he writhed, burying inside her, deeper and more deep, his strength and will. Under her elbow was the skeleton of a stoat, threshed out of its grave by their fury. The mud smelled of death and life, of rivers and time, and broken flowers covered her eyes.

She struggled upward into delirium, beating and clawing at him, her partner in this. At her screams, silver insects rose from the bushes and in the high tops of trees birds flashed away.

As she opened her eyes she saw above her the face of a blind golden beast, and felt the shuddering surge as his journey ended, with a low agonised cry. Then his eyes opened too on her.

They had created a great silence.

Beneath its orb, they looked at each other. They did not speak. No longer one flesh, they drew apart, and were separate.

The world seemed in stasis. The sun did not move.

Anne McCaffrey, The Tower and the Hive, 1999

This is Thog's Infodump Masterclass. Though readers have already been briefed with six pages of "What Has Gone Before", the characters work very hard at helpfully telling each other things they already know. [All strictly sic.] Thog particularly savours the way Thian, who delivers the first speech, refers therein to his own grandparents:

"Had the Hivers but known they had met their match in Jeff Raven and Angharad Gwyn aka the Rowan as partners, they might have quit while they were ahead."

"Not while there were Hiver queens needing planets to colonize," Clancy put in.

"And that, of course, brought the entire FT&T organization in at the time of the Deneb Penetration with the Rowan as the focus for the Mind Merge that helped Jeff Raven despatch the Hiver Scouts trying to depopulate his home world.

"And why the Mrdinis decided to ask us, through Mother and Dad, to join forces and defeat the Hivers," Thian said, "since we could take out a Hiver Sphere without having to resort to suicide missions." He leaned back again, pleased with his summation of the events leading up to recent developments ...

"John E. Muller" (Lionel Fanthorpe), Dark Continuum, 1964

Intimate secrets of feminine hygiene (try to imagine Mike Cule reading this in his most lascivious tones at an early Live Thog presentation):

The desire to clean her teeth grew absolutely compulsive, she could no more have resisted it than she could have flown unaided between two planets.

Moving quickly from the radio to her living quarters, she squeezed a little water into a plastic container and put a few dabs of toothpaste on her brush. She slipped the brush into her mouth and pressed the small button in the end which activated its electric motor. The bristles -- soft, gentle bristles, guaranteed not to damage the enamel or the gum -- moved swiftly against the teeth. She began with the top left molars, worked round to the bicuspids, and came round again from them to the incisors, the canines, the laterals and the centrals. Once she had reached the front of her mouth, she changed her grip on the brush so that it moved round to the top right, travelling over the bicuspids and molars as it moved. Coming down the sides of her teeth, she paused and took a deep breath, placed a little more paste on the brush and moved round again this time beginning with the actual chewing surface of [the] upper right molars, coming round and cleaning again between the crevices until she had worked round to the left-hand molars.

Once more she put paste on the brush in this same elaborate ritual and concentrated her attention now on the inside of the upper left molars, the inside of the upper left bicuspids, round across the incisors and so back to the right-hand masticators. She rinsed the brush, reapplied the paste, and repeated the whole ritualistic process with the lower teeth. She cleaned the brush very carefully and then, in a set way, put it down and moved back toward the radio set.

She had taken barely a dozen paces when she was assailed by a horrible thought that she had not cleaned the top left inside molars. She stood in an agony of uncertainty for five minutes, then went back to the bathroom area of her living quarters, recharged the brush, and carefully cleaned again the top left molars on their inside surfaces. She looked at her reflection in the mirror; it foamed back at her like a rabid dog.

Amanda M. Ros, Irene Iddesleigh, 1897; reprinted with corrections 1926

This is the author about whom Aldous Huxley himself wrote an appreciative if slightly disbelieving essay.

She who might have swayed society's circle with the sceptre of nobleness -- she who might still have shared in the greatness of her position and defied the crooked stream of poverty in which she so long sailed -- had she only been, first of all, true to self, then the honourable name of Sir John Dunfern would have maintained its standard of pure and noble distinction, without being spotted here and there with heathenish remarks inflicted by a sarcastic public on the administerer of proper punishment; then the dignified knight of proud and upright ancestry would have been spared the pain of incessant insult, the mockery of equals, the haunted diseases of mental trials, the erring eye of harshness, and the throbbing twitch of constant criticism.

The first two sentences that follow provide context for the splendid third; it should be noted that the (at first glance) seven apparent individuals who are successively mentioned in sentence two are all the same chap....

The news of his wife being Mrs Otwell, instead of the honourable name her conduct ordered her to bury, only served to cast forever the gentle words of practical remembrance Sir John had in his last will and testament concerning her into an unknown chasm. Until now the forgiving husband, the meek adviser, the patient sufferer, the wounded knight, the once attached partner, the loving father, and the son of justice, gratitude and chastity was ready to share a little of his ransom with her whom he thought he may have probably wronged by too rigorous punishment. But President O'Sullivan, whose well-guided words and fatherly advice had on this evening so sealed the mind of forgiveness with the wax of disinterested intent that Sir John, on his arrival home, at once sent for his solicitors, Messrs. Hutchinson & Harper, and ordering his will to be produced, demanded there and then that the pen of persuasion be dipped into the ink of revenge and spread thickly along the paragraph of blood-related charity to blank the intolerable words that referred to the woman he was now convinced, beyond doubt, had braved the bridge of bigamy.

Amanda M. Ros, Delina Delaney, 1935

Addressing the adored lady of the title, noble young Lord Gifford discusses the fashion sense of the cousin his mother would prefer him to marry. Is he perhaps too knowledgable about intimate female accessories? Thog admires the finesse of the closing sentences which deal so neatly with this question:

"... She stands almost a six-footer, with her treadles thrust into shoes you'd swear once long ago belonged to a Chinese madman; her long, thin wallopy legs enveloped in silken hose, with birds, fish, fowl, cabbage leaves, ay, by Jove, with every species of animal, vegetable and mineral rainbowed in coloured fashion over their flimsy fronts.

"Then her garters! Ah, ha!

"How I remember one fine day finding a lost one that at a time had fastened itself, I presume, above or below the knee, and, thirsting probably for a dash of fresh air, broke loose, and there it lay. That garter! Composed of every colour, resembling the amethyst, opal, emerald, jasper, garnet, onyx, pearl, and sapphire, terminating in a cat's face studded with diamonds. I remember perfectly examining the article at first, wondering under heaven what it was. I concluded it must be a necklet, and proceeded to carefully roll it up. As I coiled it, I couldn't fail seeing the word "garter" worked in emeralds about its centre ..."