Against Translation

A couple of years ago we rented a beautiful apartment in London, a large flat where we must have stayed four or five times. It was perfectly comfortable and perfectly private, and the location, directly behind the British Museum, was ideal for visits to theaters and museums. It was decorated in the taste of a refined gay man of my parents’ generation. It had good Chinese porcelain, carefully chosen oriental rugs, witty French prints. It also contained the kind of photographs which, in that mysterious way, have grown dated without becoming quite old — gently pushed, by an accumulation of tiny changes, into the past. Some minute evolution in eyewear, some invisible reformulation of lipstick, some arcane improvement in cameras, betrayed their age. They did not look ancient. But though I couldn’t say exactly why, I knew that the pretty young bride was now middle-aged, and that a lot of

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