I’ve just this morning had a letter from my friend and French translator, Jean-Louis Chevalier, who is translating the bit in The Virgin in the Garden about Wilkie’s glasses, which were sometimes Cambridge blue and sometimes Bristol red. He’s translated Cambridge blue as bleu clair, which is, a, accurate, but, b, not quite right. He obviously doesn’t know Bristol glass, so he can’t see that particular red that Bristol glass is. He gave me a list that went on for about a line and a half of French possible words that might do for this particular kind of red. I couldn’t find one that was the right red for Bristol red. This made me despondent and at the same time very gleeful.
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I think you can read Tolkien, and you can identify with the very small people with furry feet, or you can identify with Aragorn, who has the weight of the world on his shoulders. You have to do it in a very primitive way. If you start thinking, you’ve got to stop reading. I read it as a sort of soporific. I read it when I’m very tired, and I read it partly because there’s no sex in it. I read it because it’s not stressful, which is why I don’t think the argument that it’s too simple because the good are going to beat the evil carries much weight. You ought to know that. It’s that sort of story. It’s good that you know that nobody you really care about will die except the very old. That’s very soothing, and children, after all, should have their literature.