Tuesday, March 07, 2006

(27) In the country of the blind the one-eyed are kings; Solon misspelled;

On the morning of February 23rd 1988 I was reading some of the quotations at the back of Chambers dictionary.
This one appealed to me Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois.” (“In the country of the blind, the one-eyed are kings.”)
Of course, it is very well known, but encountering it seemed curiously apposite to certain literature I had been delving into of late, and so I copied it into my diary.

Around noon I started to read Somerset Maugham’s short story, Lord Mountdrago. I was surprised to discover that it has a supernatural theme.

The Foreign Secretary, Lord Mountdrago, visits a psychoanalyst and recounts how a Labour backbench MP, Griffiths, has been appearing in his dreams in situations which are always humiliating to Lord Mountdrago.
After each such appearance the backbencher then goes on to do or say something the next day, when he and Mountdrago meet at the Houses of Parliament, which clinches that he knows what dreams Mountdrago has had on the previous night.

Eventually Lord Mountdrago can take it no longer.
The psychoanalyst reads in the evening paper of the Foreign Secretary’s death by his falling under an underground train.
Then, on another page of the same paper he reads of the death of Griffiths, of unexplained causes.

Or was it, more mysterious and frightful, that when Lord Mountdrago sought relief in death, the enemy he had so cruelly wronged, unappeased, escaping from his own mortality, had pursued him to some other sphere there to torment him still? It was strange. The sensible thing to do was to look upon it merely as an odd coincidence.”
At one point in the story Mountdrago says to the Dr,

The Labour Party have 2 or 3 fellows on the front bench who’ve got a certain ability, but the rest of them don’t amount to much. In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king: because Griffiths is glib and has a lot of superficial information on a number of subjects, the Whips on his side began to put him up to speak whenever there was a chance.”

At 9:p.m. that day I watched an episode of M.A.S.H on TV.
At one point the character Hawkeye says to his friend Honeycutt, in response he had made about them each having appeared in the other one’s dreams - “Since when do we appear in each other’s dreams?’... ... ...
On the evening of March 19th 1988 I was reading from Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch’s novel Polyphemus.
The title is the name of the one-eyed Cyclops in The Odyssey.

Between pages 148-156 he discusses the interpretation of various myths including, and perhaps principally, the incarceration of Odysseus and his men by the Cyclops.
Odysseus arranges the escape of his party by first telling the Cyclops that his name is nobody and then, after having blinded him while he slept, tying himself and his men to the undersides of the sheep that the Cyclops keeps in the cave where the men are captive.
The Cyclops feels the backs of each of the sheep as they pass out of the cave, after he has removed the stone from the entrance, and thus they avoid detection.

When Polyphemus realises that he has been tricked he makes an awful racket and the other Cyclopses come to see what the matter is.
Upon being told that “Nobody has escaped!” they all go away again.

Later that evening I watched Alan Bleadale’s film No Surrender on TV. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Surrender_%28film%29

At one point an affronted man says “Nobody talks to me like that!”, to which the retort comes “Well my name’s Nobody!”
... ... ...
On the afternoon of May 29th 1988, Clare was reading from Kenneth McCleish’s translation of Aeschylus’ Orestian Trilogy. She came across a speech by Agamemnon in which he says "Call no man happy until he’s dead."
On the previous afternoon I had remarked to her and Jeremy Hyde that it was one of the original seven wise men of Athens, Solon, who had said "Call no man happy until he’s dead."

That same afternoon she queried a written reference I had made to the village of Eaton Socham. "Shouldn’t that be Eaton Socon?" she asked. I insisted that my spelling was correct.

At 1.07 a.m. on May 30th 1988, I was watching the charity Telethon on ITV. From time to time frivolous remarks, silly messages and reports of particular donations that had been sent in would run across the bottom of the screen in ticker tape manner.
Because of the hastiness of it all there were some spelling errors.

An appreciation ran across the bottom of the screen for the funds raised by people in "EATON SOLON, CAMBS."
There is no such village. Indubitably they had misspelt, as had I, the village of Eaton Socon.

About two or three weeks later I was reading from Arthur Koestler’s book, The Ghost in the Machine, when I came across a deliberate misspelling.
Koestler had been writing about the concept of the Holon, a term he created to describe the properties of certain natural structures which function with a dual identity; as an individual entity and also as a component of a greater one, e.g. a bee may be seen as an individual insect but also as a constituent part of a greater superorganism, a hive.

He notes:
A flatworm, cut into slices, will actually regenerate a complete individual from each slice within a matter of weeks. If the wheel of rebirth transforms us into a flatworm meeting a similar fate, must I then assume that my immortal soul has split into six immortal solons?

And then in early 1996, I sent a fax from my company, Sterling Publications, to Greg Becherer, vice president of marketing at the American company Metaullics of Solon, Ohio.
My secretary misspelt the town as Sogon, and upon receipt of the return fax I noted that the other company had corrected this.
... ... ...
NB. On October 4th 1997 I scanned over some of the earlier coincidences here listed, including, these.
Later that day I looked at a Daily Telegraph column on Classics, and saw that pieces of translation from a section of The Odyssey were featured.
One was the above part where Odysseus tells Polyphemus that his name is “Nobody”.

The given section of translation was ascribed to Brian Kemball-Cook.

He had been my headmaster.
I noted that he had translated the given name as NO MAN.

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