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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Final Countdown

(Agatha Christie, “And Then There Were None”/ “10 negri mititei”)

            Most probably everyone has read this one. So I’ll gather my ideas in a nutshell, anyhow I only want to make a point. I hate how movie titles are translated into Romanian, they so specifically describe the action, that you do not even need to watch the trailer to understand what the movie is all about. This is the reason why I chose to write this piece in English. A year or two ago I've read Agatha Christie’s exquisite and notorious “And Then There Were None” which was doltishly translated by “Zece negri mititei”. Could it be more obvious than this?! I mean who can say he/ she has never heard the said poem? And there it goes all the mystery of the book. Consider the following:
Ten Little Indian Boys Went Out To Dine
One Choked His Little Self And Then There Were Nine.

Nine Little Indian Boys Sat Up Very Late
One Overslept Himself And Then There Were Eight

Eight Little Indian Boys Traveling In Devon
One Said He'd Stay There And Then There Were Seven

Seven Little Indian Boys Chopping Up Sticks
One Chopped Himself In Halves And Then There Were Six

Six Little Indian Boys Playing With A Hive
A Bubblebee Stung One And Then There Were Five

Five Little Indian Boys Going In For Law
One Got In Chancery And Then There Were Four

Four Little Indian Boys Going Out To Sea
A Red Herring Swallowed One And Then There Were Three

Three Little Indian Boys Walking In The Zoo
A Big Bear Hugged One And Then There Were Two

Two Little Indian Boys Sitting In The Sun
One Got Frizzled Up And Then There Were One

One Little Indian Boy Left All Alone
He Went And Hanged Himself And Then There Were None

            Even though the story closely follows the line drawn by the poem, its originality is indisputable. We know they will all die. And we know how this will happen. Yet, we know nothing! Apparently, each forthcoming move was easily predictable by the poem each of the ten victims had in their rooms, yet everything seemed amazingly new and unsuspected after it had happened. Each verse of the poem is in fact a metaphor for each death, and not the situation per se, as one may assume. Each new death provided me with consistent tracks upon who the murderer was, yet several pages later each of the tracks turned out to be nothing else but red herrings. Intriguing as it may sound, the murderer seemed to be better and better hidden after each new performance. I got quite mad when, by mistake, I opened the book almost to its end and I stumbled upon a letter signed by one of the characters. Thus it became obvious who the murderer was! I went on reading with about all my appetite gone, just to find out a few pages later that the said character was also murdered by the mysterious killer!
            The novel turned out to be a complicated web, each character having his/ her share part in. They were all murderers (cold blood killers/ killers by accident/ moral killers – poteităo, potato, killer is the word!) a “divine” presence decided to punish for all their deeds in the most bloodcurdling manner – by isolating them and turning each one against the others. As far as I have noticed, the pattern Agatha Christie follows in structuring and then developing a detective story is smooth and clear: a number of (more or less) remote people – usually around 10 – are gathered under a certain reason in a random place. A transportation device always plays an important part in each story. They are then isolated (and here steps in the transportation device, which is usually wrecked) and strange things start happening. From this point on, all the characters seem to be guilty, yet somehow they all seem to be innocent and the reader finds himself constantly hunting the wrong hare.
            I would never call in question Agatha Christie’s originality, her know-how and personal manner, her thrilling style and tenacious spirit, her vivid descriptions and fulminatory recording or her unmistakable hand, but maybe just a little the common sense of her expectations. Even though I totally loved her novels, I couldn’t get at the end that feeling I need and expect from a detective story – “of course, it was so obvious, how come it didn’t occur to me earlier?!” and this because her endings are not that much about logic and deduction, but about things having a preset order and all arranging in the places the author had set for them. Most of the times, the deep, atrocious thinking of a criminal mind is purely coincidence. It is hard to piece out the clues because most of them are deceitful and you can hardly rely on the characters’ emotions to give them away because they are portrayed in the colours of confidence from their very birth. You are given very little space to read off or through. You just have to read and at the end understand that there is no problem with your reading deduction, you simply couldn’t predict the denouement, no matter how much reading between lines you’ve practiced. It’s just the way things are with Agatha Christie’s detective stories – they are awesome but they make you feel completely lousy as a side detective.
            This aspect made me wonder upon how I do justice to the value of a book. Does it have to imply a valuable topic (valuable here reads subjectively, of course), a valuable author or does it simply have to make me feel valuable in the journey I undertake once I strike into the reading?! Maybe I have learned to search for the value in the journey per se, and not in its destination and this somehow manages to pull me back some steps from disappointment when the ending of a book does not match its overall wits.
            How do YOU play your justice cards when coming to the value of a reading?

[Later EDIT: I have to own up a mistake. I have written this piece some weeks ago but didn’t publish it. The point that triggered it was the not so inspired translation of the novel’s title in Romanian. I did some research now, and I found out that originally Agatha Christie herself entitled her masterpiece “Ten Little Niggers”, but the editor changed it into “And Then There Were None” because of the racial allusion it connoted. Thus, my point has lost its point... Nevertheless, the things said and the opinions shared totally qualify, this is why I decided it would be most fairly to me not to change the content of the article and most fairly to you to explain myself.]


  1. Hmmm, some time ago I saw a great anime series on TV ''Read or Die'' simply known as ROD. For me there aren't any justice card when it comes to reading, I just read therefor I know great books and books; but the title of the anime keeps popping up in my head whenever I see a book. I have never read a book written by Agatha Cristie nor am I interested but the title of the book presented can be applied to life.You start out with a group of friends and then....there were nine. Simysha

  2. me not likey your pessimism, missy! missing you a lot!!

  3. Awesome, a post in English!I was looking forward to this! I am also among those that haven't read this book but I remember how trapped i was by other Agatha Christie novels. She has a way of catching the reader....
    I'd like to read more often posts in English. your way with words always mesmerizes me and being charmed by this in English was a nice change!

  4. Thank you, sweetie! I think I should do this more often, writing the posts in English feels quite refreshing, isn't it? :)

  5. 私の同僚、Ciufulix.

  6. 信仰は、生命力です。男が住んでいる場合、それらが何かを信じているからです。(L.T)

  7. ThreeFour: Sa inteleg ca vrei sa ma insotesti la niste cursuri de japo, dragule? :)

  8. N-ar strica copil drag! In momentul in care se linistesc apele la noi acasa si vom sti tinta exacta cel putin eu, imi fac timp si de curs japo. Pana atunci...Noapte buna copil oriental (Suna ca o :>

  9. me no pessemistic, me realistic......kiss kiss. Simysha