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Often underestimated is the influence of a translator on the literary quality of a written work of art. It seems to me that the translation of the Englishman, Richard Allinson, must have been significant in producing the version of Anatole France’s ‘The Gods Are Athirst’ in such simple, poetic prose as is presented in The Bodley Head’s first illustrated edition of 1927 which I finished reading today.
The author, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1921, has produced a masterly novel set during the reign of terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution. We have a perfectly crafted tale of love, fear, poverty, mistrust, political intrigue, mismanagement, breakdown of law, and ultimate tragedy with what I think is historical accuracy. Sensitive characterisation, poetic imagery, and a keen sense of the dramatic are evident in this work. I particularly like the skilled descriptions of environment, place, and weather, all of which set the scene and have symbolic significance. Above all, this is any easy book to read. As usual, I will not give details of the story.
Having earlier embraced the flowing line exemplified by Aubrey Beardsley in his book illustrations, by the time he came to produce the illustrations for this volume, John Austen, an excellent and prolific artist, had become influenced by Art Deco, a style, although popular, which I dislike for its geometric angularity. Nevertheless I can but admire
the colour plates
and the black and white vignettes that decorate this publication.
I had trouble presenting these pages directly from the scanner, so Elizabeth photographed them while I held them down then loaded the results into the computer, taking care to crop out my fingertips.
This evening the three of us tried Rokali’s, a comparatively new Indian restaurant in Ashley. It was a good one. The food was very good, as was the friendly, efficient, service. I chose Bengali prawn; Jackie, chicken shaslik; and Elizabeth, chicken tikka bhuna. We shared special and sag rices, a plain paratha, and onion and cauliflower bahjis, and all drank Kingfisher.