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The Editor's View Feb 07


John Jenkins

John Jenkins' monthly column from Writers' Forum magazine

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Xenophobia is alive and well. . .

who’s excluded from writing. . .

Zadie as a set text. . .

Comeback for Enid Blyton

BONJOUR mes enfants. Il n’est jamais trop tard pour apprendre quelques very dirty French words. To help, Harrap’s has produced Rude French and Pardon My French! It was Churchill, epitomising the British inability to master foreign tongues, who once threatened De Gaulle that if he didn’t stop being objectionable he would address him in French.

Here are a few phrases to help you along the road to a fresh entente cordiale... or not, as the case may be. You can learn to be as politically incorrect, racist and objectionable as you can be in English if you try hard and do a little devoirs every night. For example: a femmelette is a sissy or big girl’s blouse... a fiotte is a poof... push off... tiretoi!… baiser debout is a knee trembler and to be as thick as two short planks is en tenir une dose.


As for cest une mal-baisee I would be careful to whom you say that, particularly if she has a big brother or father nearby.

I had a good friend who was a sergeant in the Alpines Chasseurs and in a fine show of solidarity seldom seen between the French and British armies we taught each other basic phrases essential to military conversation. But we never quite plumbed the depths given here. Perhaps they were simpler days.

Bon chance, mes amis.

AS A-level students of a generation ago we had to wade through Chaucer, Shakespeare and in a daring break with tradition perhaps D H Lawrence. (But not that book). Then came Eliot and Auden.

Today’s students can choose Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, Louis de Bernières and Aphra Benn. Shakespeare is still the rock although Antony and Cleopatra, far from his best work, is the choice.

Looking back over choices for the past 50 years I cannot see what Vita Sackville-West, Peter Shaffer, Al Alvarez and Malcolm Bradbury were doing in the set texts. Fashion more than quality seems to play a greater role in the choices made.

WHAT do politicians have to do to lose total credibility? Serial adultery doesn’t seem to matter – it never did as Lloyd George and Wellington proved. Lies to Parliament are easily brushed aside. Lies to the public are par for the course.

Take Lord Archer who was sentenced to four years for perjury and let out after serving two. Macmillan recently picked up his contract and backlist and he is in line to make another £12 million for three new books and a collection of short stories.

You can’t keep a good man down, or even Lord Archer, come to that.

AND you cannot keep a good author down. Disney is to develop a new television series featuring Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. Some 26 episodes are planned and the programmes will go out next year.

Nicholas James of Chorion, who own the rights, said that although the stories will be brought up to date the story-lines will remain faithful to the original concept, pleasing old and new fans alike.

It was not so long ago that a few misguided individuals removed Enid Blyton from library shelves, declaring them unsuitable. It had little effect on her popularity, although in recent times teddy bears replaced golliwogs and name changes have been made to satisfy sensitive souls.

She wrote around 800 books and her sales topped 400 million copies so she must have been doing something right. She was also translated into 90 languages. Children the world over enjoyed her work.

There is an Enid Blyton Society which holds a day each year in her memory and I would say that the commercial minds of Disney have picked another winner.

OCCASIONALLY we receive letters criticizing publishers for being hung up on chick-lit and good looking young female authors. But can you blame them?

Anyway, Transita, the new Oxford-based publisher, is happy to promote the experienced female writer. Hence we have a feature on Wily Old-bird Lit. Here’s luck to them and Transita.


John Jenkins, Publisher, Writers' Forum


Read the article about setting up WritersServices which was originally published in Writers' Forum magazine.

© Writers International Ltd 2007. Reproduced from Writers' Forum magazine by kind permission of the editor.