Thursday, December 20, 2007

Today's English & French

My current pleasure reading is Naked Lunch, which I somehow never got around to reading, although I've read a good number of Burroughs's works. I'm most surprised at how funny the book is: it's like a thoroughly disgusting Catskills routine; I almost expect the last line to be, "And then Dr. Benway replied, 'The Aristocrats!'"

There's also a great deal about control here, an ongoing Burroughs theme. There's a great passage about bureaucracy as the cancer that grows in democracies, which stands out as an enduring theme in his books. I'll quote it, if I remember.

Anyway, in honor of Burroughs's endlessly inventive use of language, I'm going to use a passage from the book for today's English and French lesson:

"Slunk traffikers tail a pregnant cow to her labor. The farmer declares a couvade, rolls screaming in bullshit. The veterinarian wrestles with a cow skeleton. The traffickers machinegun each other, dodging through the machinery and silos, haylofts and mangers of a vast red barn. The calf is born. The forces of death melt in morning. Farm boy kneels reverently- his throat pulses in the rising sun."
Naked Lunch, p.126

Couvade: Sympathetic pregnancy. A practice in certain cultures in which the husband of a woman in labor takes to his bed as though he were bearing the child. It comes from a medieval Basque custom in which the father would take to bed, complain of labor pains, and be accorded the same treatment as the mother during pregnancy.

Now the French term that it comes from...

Couver : To hatch.

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