Page 60

One of the tests of whether a book might be for you or not is to open it up a few chapters in and read a page.  It could be a page at random, or it could be page 60 which is the page I know Simon T always chooses, and since he told me this, I’ve found myself gravitating towards that particular page too when browsing.

Sorting out a pile of my late Mum’s books this afternoon I came across an old Penguin copy of The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre (trans Eric Sutton).  Most of the page was perfectly readable and I think I could get on with the book, but this little section was mighty perplexing.

To set the scene, Ivich, a female student is discussing her exams with Mathieu…

‘Anyway, I know what you’re thinking.’
‘Then why ask? You don’t need to be very clever to guess: I was thinking of the examination.’
‘You’re afraid of being ploughed, is that it?’
‘Of course I’m afraid of being ploughed. Or rather – no, I’m not afraid, I know I’m ploughed.’
Mathieu again sensed the savour of catastrophe in his mouth: ‘If she is ploughed, I shan’t see her again.’ She would certainly be ploughed: that was plain enough.
‘I won’t go back to Laon,’ said Ivich desperately. ‘If I go back to Laon after having been ploughed, I’ll never get away again. They told me it was my last chance.’

So, reading this page 60 on it’s own, would you think that being ploughed is failing one’s exams, or a euphenism for something else!

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To see for yourself at Amazon UK, click below:
The Age of Reason (Penguin Modern Classics)


13 thoughts on “Page 60

  1. Hi Annabel,

    | can’t believe just how many times it is possible to use the same word, in such a short paragraph.

    I must admit that I hade never heard of the word ‘ploughed’, but when I looked it up, sure enough it was there:

    7. (Social Science / Education) (intr) Brit slang to fail an examination – when used as a verb.

    I just love these old English words, it’s a shame that we have ousted them from our daily vocabulary, especially to replace it with a word like ‘fail’ !!!

    • Thanks for looking it up Yvonne – I’m relieved. This translation was 1947, so it would be interesting to see what a modern one says. It’s 9 pages into chapter 4, if anyone out there can help…

    • That was my first reaction too! Taking the paragraph in isolation put a rather different spin on it – I then read the couple of previous pages to get the real gist.

  2. maybe it was the age of translation I have struggled with some 40’s and 50’s translation I think as language is fluid in english and terms and meanings change slightly over time ,sometimes books seem odd to the modern reader ,all the best stu

  3. Some books seem to age better than others do in terms of language.
    I have just read book written in the 1920’s and it really does seem dated – much more so than books written only a few years either earlier or later. Maybe something to do with the slang of the period.
    Hadn’t thought of trying page 60 as a sample of an unknown book but it sounds as good a method as any and having read a couple of disappointing books recently, I must try it.

    • I should say page 60-ish really. It’s just far enough in that you’re not going to inadvertently spoil the book for yourself, and the author should be hitting their stride by then too. That’s my logic anyway. I should apply it rigorously to my TBR pile perhaps!

    • I’m glad you understood Mystica! Ploughed is not a current word in that sense here at the moment.

  4. It’s supposed to be page 69 according to Marshall McLuhan but I suppose + or – 10 doesn’t matter much.

    I occasionally do this with blind picks at the library and it kind of works.

    • McLuhan rings a bell somewhere, but I can’t place him. 69 is, of course, a significant number for all sorts of reasons & connotations! 60 works too though…

  5. lol yeah

    McLuhan was quite a influential media theorist (still is I suppose). His most famous work is probably The Medium is the Massage. It’s worth a read actually, it’s more collage than textbook.

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