Sunday, February 2, 2014


So I'm reading The Forsyte Saga just now.  Lovely little piece.  But that's not what I want to talk about.

In a single paragraph, Galsworthy uses both the word Bismillah and Nirvana. And Jumping Jesus.

For Jolly was forming himself unconsciously on a set whose motto was:
'We defy you to bore us. Life isn't half long enough, and we're going to talk faster and more crisply, do more and know more, and dwell less on any subject than you can possibly imagine. We are "the best"—made of wire and whipcord.' And Val was unconsciously forming himself on a set whose motto was: 'We defy you to interest or excite us. We have had every sensation, or if we haven't, we pretend we have. We are so exhausted with living that no hours are too small for us. We will lose our shirts with equanimity. We have flown fast and are past everything. All is cigarette smoke. Bismillah!' Competitive spirit, bone-deep in the English, was obliging those two young Forsytes to have ideals; and at the close of a century ideals are mixed. The aristocracy had already in the main adopted the 'jumping-Jesus' principle; though here and there one like Crum—who was an 'honourable'—stood starkly languid for that gambler's Nirvana which had been the summum bonum of the old 'dandies' and of 'the mashers' in the eighties. And round Crum were still gathered a forlorn hope of blue-bloods with a plutocratic following.
I had always assumed that Bismillah in the English-speaking public consciousness was a by-product of Bohemian Rhapsody and Freddy Mercury's Indian background (though I admit I don't know if the concept of Bismillah is relevant to Parsis).  And Nirvana...well...I guess I'd assumed it had made its way into the modern English speaking world via the Hare Krishna folks in the 60s.  Seems like, at least among the educated, they were out there a bit earlier.

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