Monday, 15 September 2014

Alleged Discoveries, Misleading Titles

On the 15th of September 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin. That is to say, he noticed that penicillium mould killed bacteria.

If you forget an orange in the fruit bowl for so long that it starts to grow green mould on its surface, you will notice a smell like a hospital corridor. This is the smell of penicillium mould. Greek women have known for centuries, perhaps aeons, that if you put some of this mould on a wound that has turned septic, it will get better. No-one gave them a Nobel Prize for this.


Here and there about this village, outside foreigners’ houses, one finds boxes of left-behind holiday reading in various languages, mostly English and German. There is a pot for money and a sign saying, usually, one euro per book. Which is a bit steep for old paperback novels, usually trashy airport literature, but the money goes to a local charity that looks after cats, dogs, donkeys, mules, horses, and for all I know goats and hedgehogs too.

I always have a quick look; you never know. Just the other day I found a copy of ‘The Red and the Black’. ‘Good,’ I thought, ‘I’ve never read Stendhal’s great novel, and here it is in English translation.’ I pulled it out and was disconcerted to see a cover photograph of a Neanderthal in sports gear punching the air. Turned out the thing was a history of some football team.

Legally I am free to call my book, whatever it is, ‘Anna Karenina’ or ‘Remembrance of Things Past’, or, God help us, ‘Harry Chamber and the Potter of Secrets’. There is in fact no copyright in book titles. Perhaps there should be.

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