Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I was going to let it go, honestly. I told myself I was a mean spirited old swine and that I had no right to laugh at the debate on fiction publishing in the UAE that takes up two glorious tabloid pages in today's Emirates Today. But then they went and quoted a fellow mean-spirited old swine and I gave in.

Nancy Collisson, proposed by the newspaper to debate against the motion 'The UAE is likely to develop a significant fiction publishing industry', is the author of the popular Mr Buffy series of colouring books which, we are told, 'tell the tale of an ex-pat cat making friends and a new home in Dubai'. One can only assume that John Le Carré wasn't available.

While generally supporting our Nancy's stand against the evils of censorship (set against the chap from Motivate, for the motion, who apparently thinks that 'censorship makes for great art' - the less said about that the better, I think), I was struck by her use of a quote from Juvenal (attributed by our Nance to Decimus which, although it is Mr. J's proper first name, is generally not a name wot he is usually called): "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?".

Nancy translates that as: "Who among us has the authority to decide what is to be read?", a slice of piffle that could not be further from the meaning or intention of the original - which has got absolutely nothing to do with reading, let alone the assignation of authority. Even someone who spent two years of Latin classes reading thrillers disguised as Latin text books by covering them in brown paper (I did, too) could tell that.

Juvenal was, in fact, asking "Who will guard against the guardians?", a completely different question that aims to question, even provoke, answerability in the leaders of a city state. Incidentally, a city state that Bad Boy Juvenal satirised mercilessly because he hated it with a passion. "Who could endure this monstrous city, however callous at heart, and swallow his wrath?" Juve baby asks us, in one of his kinder moments.

Pithy stuff, then, for the inhabitants of a city state to be reading over their coffees, but not quite what I think Nancy intended...

I am nowhere near so cynical, incidentally, as to propose an alternative motion: that the UAE has already developed a significant fiction publishing industry...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The quote in the article by Nancy Collisson is intentionally left UNTRANSLATED so that the censors freak out. Roughly translated, the Latin bit means 'Who's watching the watchers?'

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