Monday, September 06, 2010

Mosque or Church in David Mitchell's "Night Train"?

Coat of Arms, Eritrea
(Image from Wikipedia)

I like David Mitchell's writing, but he sometimes needs to self-edit a mite better to catch where he's been careless. Consider this passage on an Eritrean scene from the story "Night Train," in his novel Ghostwritten:
"The villagers were herded into the mosque. Those who tried to escape were shot. They suffered less. Once all the villagers were in the church the soldiers locked the doors and lobbed grenades through the window. The luckier ones were killed in the blast, the rest burned alive, or were cut down by bullets as they tried to get out." (Mitchell, Ghostwritten, page 417)
I suspect that Mitchell first wrote of this as a church attacked by radical Muslims, but reconsidered and reworked it as a mosque attacked by fundamentalist Christians (or perhaps some other force), for in a passage just before this one, the speaker refers to "the corpses around the mosque" (page 417), and in a passage a little after this one, there is a reference to "Christian fundamentalism" as possibly culpable (page 418).

I'm not being overly fastidious, I don't think. Readers may recall a query that I posed concerning a similar discrepancy in "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After," from Cloud Atlas. See also this, for a possible error. And what of this:
"God, for what are thou waiting?" (Mitchell, Ghostwritten, page 390)
That translates "O Dio, cosa tu attendi?" (page 390) . . . but not quite precisely enough if Mitchell intended to accurately echo the Authorized Version of the Bible. Though maybe this fault is the Zookeeper's own?

But there's something of a pattern here . . .

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