Monday, 14 September 2009

Samuel Delany, Babel-17 (1967)

This is a title I picked up again so as to be in a position to write another foreword for the forthcoming Gollancz masterworks reissues. I'm doing, as I mentioned, a series of these with Graham Sleight; and it has been fun.

Re-reading all these books has been a genuinely fascinating exercise, and in pretty much every case I've been more impressed on reperusal than otherwise. That's certainly the case with this title: perhaps I'm more minded to accept the sometimes over-vigorous, over-strenuous writing and imagery (Delany was 23 when he wrote it, after all) for its manifold beauties and splendours. Really a much better book than I remember. A couple of things tripped me up, though:

'Good poets tend to be practical and abhor mysticism' [21]. Really? Bang go Blake, Hugo, Whitman, Yeats ...

'No way to say warm in French. There is only hot and tepid. If there's no word for it, how do you think about it?' [97] Um ... even if we grant that chaud means hot (although the degree of heat depends, surely, on context); what's wrong with assez chaud? What about agréable, cordial, chaleureux, ardent? Does it seem likely that the French have no concept of warm? More to the point, is there any word in French for snowclones?


Gareth Rees said...

More to the point, is there any word in French for snowclones?

Formules toutes faites.

Adam Roberts said...

Interesting! Thanks, Gareth.