Aug 22 2017

Politics and the Language of Soccer/Football

Texas wildflowers

Politics and the Language of Soccer/Football

From “What sets Germany’s ‘liberal’ FDP apart” at Deutsche Welle news on August 11, 2017:

While both German liberals and US libertarians want a smaller state, most FDP members reject the notion they are libertarians because the term is often associated with radically anti-government views. “I don’t bend down to American terminology, it is not historically adequate,” Paque said. “Just like I don’t call football ‘soccer’ just because Americans call it that.”

Compare George Orwell (1903-1950):

Did I understand the political situation in England? Oh, of course, of course. I mentioned the names of various Ministers, and made some contemptuous remarks about the Labour Party. And what about Le Sport? Could I do articles on Le Sport? (Football and Socialism have some mysterious connexion on the Continent.)

Down and Out in Paris and London. 1930. Berkeley Medallion Edition. September 1967. Ch. VIII, p. 37.


Jan 4 2017

La Dolce Vida: Novelists on American versus French Food in the 1930s

Mortadella in Bologna, Italia

La Dolce Vida: Novelists on American versus French Food in the 1930s

First, from George Orwell (1903-1950):

Roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it….[1]

According to Boris, the same kind of thing went on in all Paris hotels, or at least in all the big, expensive ones. But I imagine that the customers at the Hôtel X were especially easy to swindle, for they were mostly Americans, with a sprinkling of English–no French–and seemed to know nothing whatever about good food. They would stuff themselves with disgusting American ‘cereals’, and eat marmalade at tea, and drink vermouth after dinner, and order a poulet à la reine at a hundred francs and then souse it in Worcester sauce. One customer, from Pittsburg, dined every night in his bedroom on grape-nuts, scrambled eggs and cocoa. Perhaps it hardly matters whether such people are swindled or not…. [2]

While the Frenchman ate, the patron’s wife stood behind the grille of the kitchen door and watched the expression of his face. Next night the Frenchman came back with two other Frenchmen. This meant that we were earning a good name; the surest sign of a bad restaurant is to be frequented only by foreigners. Probably part of the reason for our success was that the patron, with the sole gleam of sense he had shown in fitting out the restaurant, had bought very sharp table-knives. Sharp knives, of course, are the secret of a successful restaurant. I am glad that this happened, for it destroyed one of my illusions, namely, the idea that Frenchmen know good food when they see it. Or perhaps we were a fairly good restaurant by Paris standards; in which case the bad ones must be past imagining. [3]

And from Henry Miller (1891-1981):

The only place to find a good loaf of bread is in the ghettos. Wherever there is a foreign quarter there is apt to be good bread. Wherever there is a Jewish grocer or delicatessen you are almost certain to find an excellent loaf of bread. The dark Russian bread light in weight, found only rarely on this huge continent, is the best bread of all. No vitamins have been injected into it by laboratory specialists in conformance with the latest food regulations…. [4]

Another fact…. Food, when it is not enjoyed, kills. The best diet in the world is useless if the patient has no appetite, no gusto, no sensuality. On the whole, Americans eat without pleasure…. [5]

We throw bones to the dogs and eat the dogs instead of the bones…. [6]

Americans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or any other condiment which destroys the original flavor of the dish. On the other hand, olive oil which the French eschew when preparing salads because it has too strong a flavor, Americans hardly ever use in their salads. [7]


[1] Orwell, George. Down and Out in Paris and London. 1930. XIV.

[2] Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London XIV.

[3] Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London XXI.

[4] Miller, Henry. The Intimate Henry Miller. 1939. Signet Book. April 1959.  p. 71.

[5] Miller, The Intimate Henry Miller 74.

[6] Miller, The Intimate Henry Miller 76.

[7] Miller, The Intimate Henry Miller 78.


Dec 6 2016

Olive Oil and Orwell

Roma, Italia

Olive Oil and Orwell

(1) The New Criterion has re-posted (originally from May 1990) Joseph Epstein’s deep, long meditation on the significance George Orwell and why his relevance remains, including this jewel:

Unfortunately for Danielle Steel and Euclid, it is neither number of books sold nor number of children forced to read a author that confers upon him true literal fame. Instead it is the currency of his ideas that matters. Here Orwell has scored, and scored heavily. “Orwellian” has clearly left“Kafkaesque,” “Chekhovian,” and other literary eponyms far behind.

But read the whole thing.

(2) Coincidentally, I just finished reading Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) for the first time. One particular passage that hung in my mind involved socks with holes. I myself have often polished my scuffed shoes with olive oil, but I’ve never used ink on my ankles:

It was midday before Boris decided to get up. All the clothes he now had left were one suit, with one shirt, collar and tie, a pair of shoes almost worn out, and a pair of socks all holes. He had also an overcoat which was to be pawned in the last extremity. He had a suitcase, a wretched twenty-franc cardboard thing, but very important, because the patron of the hotel believed that it was full of clothes––without that, he would probably have turned Boris out of doors. What it actually contained were the medals and photographs, various odds and ends, and huge bundles of love-letters. In spite of all this Boris managed to keep a fairly smart appearance. He shaved without soap and with a razor-blade two months old, tied his tie so that the holes did not show, and carefully stuffed the soles of his shoes with newspaper. Finally, when he was dressed, he produced an ink-bottle and inked the skin of his ankles where it showed through his socks. You would never have thought, when it was finished, that he had recently been sleeping under the Seine bridges. (Chapter V)