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“Under Four Eyes” (Unter Vier Augen):
Ford Madox Ford, Propaganda, and the Politics of Translation

The phrase “under four eyes” appears twice in the text of Ford Madox Ford’s most influential novel, The Good Soldier, and although it may seem generic enough to be overlooked, this article argues that it is not only integral to the novel’s themes of sight, impression, and privacy, but also, in its translation from the German idiom unter vier Augen, indicative of Ford’s ambivalent, shifting performance of national identity during World War I. This article explores the connections between The Good Soldier and Ford’s engagement with anti-German propaganda and translation, as well as his later amendment of these views in his postwar work, Parade’s End.

Three small, translated words intrude in the text of Ford Madox Ford’s most influential novel, The Good Soldier—words generic enough to be overlooked yet integral to the novel’s themes of sight, impression, and privacy, and, in their curious, buried translation, indicative of Ford’s ambivalent, shifting performance of national identity during the First World War. These three words are “under four eyes” and the key to recognizing their centrality is to hear their foreignness as an English idiom: they are in fact a direct translation of the German idiom “unter vier Augen,” used to signify a conversation or meeting that happens privately between two people. Though very common as a German idiom, the phrase “under four eyes” is all but nonexistent in English. It is not included anywhere in the Oxford English Dictionary (the closest is “four-eyes”1) and exists in common English usage in only three contexts besides Ford’s use of it in The Good Soldier: direct, nonidiomatic translations from German prose; uses of the Caribbean-English phrase “to meet under four eyes,” a calque or loan translation from various African languages; and the acknowledged adoption of the phrase from German, spoken by a German character [End Page 25] in an English-language work.2 What, then, are these implied German words doing in the middle of Ford’s English novel? The answer to this question illuminates not only the deep resonances of this simple phrase within The Good Soldier but also connects the form of the text itself to Ford’s struggle to employ linguistic manipulation as a basis for pro-British, anti-German propaganda. “Under four eyes” stands as a cipher at the center of Ford’s wartime trajectory from The Good Soldier through his postwar opus, Parade’s End. It signals the centrality of language and translation to Ford’s understanding and manipulation of wartime politics via propaganda: facilitating his propagandistic efforts to indict and attack Germany on the basis of its language but later grounding his turn toward translation as a means for subverting indoctrination and sustaining multiple meanings.

Ford’s two uses of “under four eyes” in The Good Soldier are similar to a calque, yet they differ in that they remain unacknowledged as loan translations from German. There is no question that Ford could have used the German phrase “unter vier Augen” directly or explicitly since he was fluent in German (his father, Francis Hüffer, came from Münster [Saunders 1: 18]), and further, since The Good Soldier is primarily a story of an English and an American couple undergoing a rest cure at Bad Nauheim, a town near Frankfurt am Main that Ford himself visited in 1910 (Saunders 1: 537n23).3 In the course of the novel, the American narrator John Dowell occasionally makes use of German and (more often) French terms and sometimes provides an English gloss for foreign words.4 Yet there is no indication in either of the phrase’s uses in The Good Soldier that “under four eyes” comes from German. In the first, Dowell speaks of Edward Ashburnham, the titular “good soldier,” who is having an affair with Dowell’s wife, Florence:

Good God, what did they [women] all see in him; for I swear that was all there was of him, inside and out; though they said he was a good soldier . . . what did he even talk to them about—when they were under four eyes?—Ah, well, suddenly, as if by a flash of inspiration, I know. For all good soldiers are sentimentalists—all good soldiers of that type. Their profession, for one thing, is full of the big words, courage, loyalty, honour, constancy.


In the second, Dowell speaks of Edward’s wife Leonora and another of his mistresses: “And there was not a word spoken. You see, under those four eyes—her own and Mrs. Maidan’s—Leonora could just let herself go as far as to box Mrs. Maidan’s ears. But the moment a stranger came along, she pulled herself wonderfully up” (63). [End Page 26]

It is immediately clear from both of these passages that they involve precisely the secrecy and privacy inherent to the German idiom, as well as simply a face-to-face meeting.5 Such a conclusion raises questions about Ford’s consciousness and intention in his use of the phrase. Does Ford transform “unter vier Augen” into “under four eyes” intentionally, as an alternative to the English “face-to-face”? Or is this a sort of Freudian parapraxis, in which one parental language, the German of Ford’s immigrant father, subconsciously intrudes into and provides a felicitous phrase in the other parental (and chosen) language—the English of Ford’s mother and artist grandfather? As Doris Sommer writes of the German- and Yiddish-speaking Freud himself, for bilingual writers, “Foreign words manage to slide (verschieben) past linguistic control and release clinically significant information, when you know how to listen to double-talk” (67). Does the “double-talk” in Ford’s phrase-length translation reveal a repressed language that slips to the surface when he finds himself in need of an idiomatic expression? Or, if Ford employs the phrase intentionally, is this a case of “relexification” as defined by Chantal Zabus (112), a phenomenon that stands apart from autotranslation, loan translation, and calques in that it prescribes the effacement of the original by the translated phrase? Along these lines, Ford’s phrase may be characterized as a variant on what Emily Apter terms “texts that have turned out to be translations with no originals” (212), since it is a translation that strives to appear as if it had no original, an Oedipal phrase that (literally and figuratively) sets out to kill its father. It may well act as a “sort of alibi” (Tóibín 70), attesting to the half-foreign Ford’s mastery of his chosen language.6

Whether parapraxis or relexification, intentional or accidental, “under four eyes” is a discrete remnant of translation, what Sara Haslam calls a “kaleidoscopic fragment,” a particle of the signature impressionist style that Ford devised with his friend Joseph Conrad (7).7 Irreducible to a single, simple linguistic origin, it is a hard, opaque collocation that exemplifies the “fundamental complicity” of Ford’s politics, propaganda, and impressionism that Mark Wollaeger discerns at the heart of The Good Soldier (129),8 or the “sense of the danger of language” Ford’s biographer Max Saunders terms the novel’s defining aspect: “the power of words to deceive or to destroy; to utter the unthinkable or the unspeakable, and thus to transform our lives; to express to ourselves what it is that we are, and what we have been doing without realizing it” (1: 443). Ford left this impressionistic phrase whole and unchanged in his typescript for Wyndham Lewis’s BLAST, his edited American edition of The Good Soldier, and his own French translation of the novel.9 The phrase’s endurance through these different authorial drafts and translations [End Page 27] and its centrality to the symbolism of Ford’s novel suggests that it is a calculated component of his thinking about the novel’s thematics as well as about his own mediation of his English, French, and German heritage in the context of the Great War.

To understand the significance of “under four eyes” within Ford’s mediation of his national affiliation, it is necessary first to contextualize it in the deeply linguistic- and translation-based arguments of Ford’s two contemporaneous volumes of anti-German propaganda, When Blood is Their Argument: An Analysis of Prussian Culture and Between St. Dennis and St. George: A Sketch of Three Civilisations.10 In these volumes, as in his translation and application of “under four eyes,” Ford demonstrates how a savvy, multiply self-reinventing author might capitalize on his intimacy with the German language while also asserting an anti-German stance that argues for (or performs) the language’s eradication. The virulent anti-German jingoism Ford espouses in his propaganda tracts is, at base, an act of self-preservation in a wartime atmosphere in which British periodicals such as Horatio Bottomley’s John Bull exposed citizens suspected of German sympathies or—worse—of being German themselves.11 As the English-born son of a German father and Anglo French mother and having himself sought German citizenship in 1910 in order to divorce his first wife,12 Ford was dangerously guilty of both charges and, by 1914, had already been blocked from a staff job in MI6 (Saunders, Introduction 4), denounced by acquaintances as a German spy (Wiesenfarth 30–31), and derided in print as “not exactly of pure European extraction” (Tate 58).13 He was well aware of the need to position himself carefully in the context of wartime Britain.

By the time Ford published his propaganda tracts and The Good Soldier in 1915, he had already begun the process of pushing back against the encroachment of German in his own name. In an echo of his translation of “unter vier Augen” into “under four eyes,” Ford signaled the transformation of his national identity via an act of tactical, opportunistic (self-)translation, signing these war-era texts as Ford Madox Hueffer and later, after the war’s end, subsuming his German name entirely under a self-reiterating palindrome, Ford Madox Ford. Yet Ford’s hesitation to change his name entirely—he did so stepwise, informally taking up the middle name Madox before the war, then legally becoming Ford Madox Hueffer in July 1915 and Ford Madox Ford only in June 1919 (Saunders 1: 1)—marks not only his long-term effort to efface his paternal heritage but also his ambivalence in doing so. Such ambivalence—producing the hybrid “Ford Madox Hueffer” who penned The Good Soldier—is present in the very act of translation itself, by which, in Walter Benjamin’s description, the translation at once covers over and provides an echo of the original [End Page 28] text (15–16). This is particularly true of a translation such as “under four eyes,” in which the strangeness of the phrase in an English text makes its foreign origins readily legible to the knowing reader.

Hybridity and ambivalence are at the heart of the performance of national identity in Ford’s two propaganda tracts of 1915, in which he acknowledges his German heritage only in order to leverage his mastery of the German tongue and its translation to devastating effect, arguing for the fault of the Germans on the basis of their language, and consequently, for the eradication of the German language itself. Many critics, including Wollaeger, have protested the “gratuitous vehemence” of Ford’s propaganda (134), particularly in his declaration that “I wish Germany did not exist, and I hope it will not exist much longer. Burke said that you cannot indict a whole nation. But you can” (Between St. Dennis 66). Some would even argue that such lines advocate a “doctrine of total war,” calling for the German population’s decimation (Buitenhuis 45). Yet a closer look at Ford’s propaganda shows that he strives to forestall such inferences by distinguishing between the German people themselves and the culture—above all, the language—that condemns them. While Ford delights in the possibility of “the end of Germany” as a “Power” (Between St. Dennis 156), he acknowledges, “We cannot extirpate sixty-four million human beings and it would be better for us ourselves to die than contemplate such an extirpation” (10). Instead, Ford advocates for the eradication of the German language in its “certain clumsiness,” “certain clinging to obsolescences of phrase, and a certain resultant stupidity and want of imagination” (68). Although Ford might be hearkening to the long British history of extirpating languages, we might wonder how he proposes to eradicate a widely-spoken language without eliminating those who speak it (including Ford himself) or annexing their nation to the English-speaking empire—in other words, reciprocating the sort of outrage that was Germany’s own alleged goal.14 Nevertheless, Ford strives to make the argument that such linguistic cleansing is his main priority. Even as he imagines the destruction of Germany, he focuses not on this hypothetical outcome but on its correlated effects: “Well, thank God, there’s an end of the German language” (When Blood 293). Which returns us to Ford’s oft-cited refutation of Burke regarding the indictment of “a whole nation”: as no critic has noticed, this famous passage does not, in fact, end Ford’s chapter on “The Persons of the Drama.” Instead, it is followed by the invitation to “Let us now consider France” (Between St. Dennis 66)—Ford’s foil to Germany and the German language—which provides an entry point into the book’s next chapter, “Language” (67).

A basic tactic by which Ford seeks to distance himself from his German heritage in his propaganda is painting Germany and France [End Page 29] as polar opposites in his esteem, their relative values mediated by England and “my knowledge of myself qua Englishman” (Between St. Dennis 61). In his propagandist writings Ford places these three nations along a continuum of linguistic value: English is at worst “[t]ight,” France is “always exactly right according to her aspirations as she is true in her phraseology,” and so,

It is always only Germany that is absolutely wrong; it is always only Germany that accepts with inevitable voracity every phrase that is bombastic and imbecile. . . . There is no department of German life into which this fallacious use of language has not penetrated; there is no range of human thought in which it has not been self-consciously employed to dig gulfs between the German nation and the rest of the world, or to make fallacious and mischievous distinctions.


This pronouncement glosses the three central points on which Ford indicts the German language throughout his propaganda: “fallacious and mischievous,” it masks a culture of war with a prose of peace; “self-consciously,” it asserts its own primacy and separates itself from neighboring languages such as French; and above all, “bombastic and imbecile,” it is a priori a demented and damaging tongue, a danger to all who come into contact with it.

In substantiation of the claim for Germany’s hypocritical “lip-service to peace,” Ford appends the text of Between St. Dennis and St. George with a chronicle of “One Hundred German Militarist Utterances” (26), “got together without any particular trouble” (33) compared with the impossibility of finding any such utterances in English.15 Further, Ford criticizes Germany for applying its language not only to utterances of veiled violence but also to actual linguistic violence against its neighboring languages in Europe. Specifically, he condemns the “uproarious and militant” German “Sprachvereins” (sic) (69), which seek to rid their native tongue of French encroachments, demanding that rail passengers show their “Fahrkarten” in place of “billets” or “coupons” or asking that they “umsteigen” (70) rather than the Francophone “changieren” as they switch trains.16 While Ford laughs at the inability of Germans to escape from under Latin derivations (he points out that “Karte” comes from the Latin “carta” [Between St. Dennis 70]), he waxes nostalgic on meeting an “old lady” who refers to her home-country interchangeably as “die grosse Nation,” and “la grande nation” (When Blood 40).

The expulsion of such French words and “international culture” from the German language and culture signals, for Ford, a premonition of the war that Germany has perpetrated in Europe, particularly [End Page 30] in France. His criticism indicts the German language for being at once radically different from the Romance languages and at the same time deeply similar and semiparasitic to them. Ford levels French and English “culture” against German “Kultur,” arguing that “the culture of England and France differs as much from the Kultur of Prussia as the two words differ in appearance” (When Blood 281), yet neglects to provide further elucidation, as if this difference in spelling were sufficient evidence for German’s alienness.17 Finally, toward the end of When Blood, Ford explains that if “culture” signifies “all-round culture, attainments, and sympathies,” then “a Kulturmensch is almost exactly the opposite,” namely, a “specialist” (305–06). The greatest criticism against the German speaker, then, is that he is not well rounded, a fairly weak claim after the violence of Ford’s earlier assertions regarding German difference.

The feebleness of Ford’s actual evidence of the damage caused by the German language is covered over by his prevailing assertion that the German language is a priori “the most unfortunate of languages for giving expression,” petty and exacting in its phrasing and detrimental to anyone who speaks it (When Blood 130). Ford performs the alienation of German by peppering his text with German terms suited to the confined mind that he ascribes to the Kulturmensch. The most frequent of these is “Quellen,” a term that Ford glosses as “ground facts” (Between St. Dennis 9) and that he implies is the basis for “the extremely detrimental appetite” (When Blood 218) and “crush[ing] out” (xv) of “the constructive spirit” occasioned by German “Philologie” (218) and “Forschungen” (research) (xv). Yet he also refers to his own scholarship as “Quellen,” using this word to refer not only to “simply the amassing of documentations” (Between St. Dennis 28) but also his “personal impressions” and “historical sources” (When Blood 116). Ford seems to be travelling two disparate routes here: taking advantage of this form of German scholarship and using it as an alibi for his own impressionistic historicism (Wollaeger 147), even as he uses this account to deride German academic practice. In a more overt appropriation than his use of “under four eyes,” Ford is applying to German for the benefit of his own work in order to use this work to anti-German ends. By employing “Quellen” in this way, he instantiates himself as both German and not-German, inhabiting this ambiguous role in order to use the German term against itself.

This is the paradox of Ford’s language-based propaganda: that he must claim intimacy with the German language in order to deride it more fully and with greater authority. At times, this necessitates a sort of indirect self-abasement, as when he approvingly quotes an “acquaintance” who asserts that the German language is detrimental to the literary health of English children: “anything that one can [End Page 31] acquire from modern German prose is insufficient to compensate for the harm that will be done to a child’s intelligence by familiarity with the German habit of sentence” (When Blood 296). Ford strives to distance himself from this self-inflicted wound by asserting that he has heeded his father’s warning “never to read German prose for any length of time or with any deep attention” (79) and has read German books “with an exclusive eye for facts and paying as little attention as possible to the style” (80). Yet such artificial separation of Saussurean langue and parole is ineffective, even at the heart of Ford’s own propaganda. German habits of sentence creep into Ford’s syntax even as he appeals to French vocabulary to heighten his phraseology, as is evident in this sentence from Between St. Dennis and St. George: “If one of a group of nations persistently assume and take as a chose donnée the necessity for war as a means of ultimate enrichment none of the other States of that congeries of nations can possibly disarm” (9–10). While Ford’s diction leans toward the Francophone, the verb shifted to the end of this sentence exposes a parapraxal syntax that is decidedly German.

In Ford’s view, French is always the natural foil for German, the “highest” linguistic plane to which even English might aspire (When Blood 295). While he professes to deplore the “militant” imposition of German over French in Germany via the “Sprachvereins,” he not only ignores the centuries-long existence of the comparably normative Academie Française but also advocates “a conscription of the French language into this country and a conscription of the English language into France,” reasoning that “it is only through language that comprehension and union can arise” (Between St. Dennis 205). More than a call for Franco-English unity, this is an outright call for language’s mobilization (“conscription”) as a tool of war. Indeed, Ford proclaims the “exact use of words” to be “the most important thing in the world” (202), for we are “in the end, governed so much more by words than by deeds” (203). In consequence, “French will have saved Europe, if Europe is to be saved” (68). Ford supports this assertion not with a discussion of military prowess or efficacy but with an oddly divergent foray into French linguistic and translational appreciation. In an abrupt change of tack, Ford concludes the text of Between St. Dennis and St. George with a close analysis of the “almost unheard-of difficulty” of translating the opening line of Flaubert’s short story, “Un cœur simple,” into English (199).18 As Wollaeger notes, the “blunt instrument of German is not even an option” here, nor does Ford mention it (145). Instead, he makes a self-acknowledged “fuss about the exact incidence of a few commonplace words” (Between St. Dennis 202) in order to prove the point that the very language of the French contains the key to their success as a [End Page 32] people and that they hold the standard for other civilizations, most of all the English: “Out of such small material indeed, and managing life with such frugality, these people achieve an existence of dignity and common sense. And that should be a great lesson to us” (204). Ford’s own words beg the question, is he still speaking merely of the French language?

Ford’s implication here is that the translator holds exclusive access to such an evaluation of the effect and efficacy of language. While a native French speaker might live within his language without giving its nature a second thought, Ford’s foray into translation allows him to recognize the dignified intractability of Flaubert’s phrasing and, what is more, to promote this “dignity and common sense” to his English- (but not necessarily French-) speaking readers. While such translation analysis may not seem to be propaganda, it is in fact persuasion of the most subtle kind since it draws Ford’s readers in as accomplices to the act of translation that he performs, including them via the open publication of multilingual sources; convincing them of his implicit point by authoritative translations; and finally, on the basis of this seemingly mutual agreement, capitalizing on his readers’ sympathy in order to make wider, near-unsubstantiated claims about his source’s meaning and intent—namely, the virtue of the French language and its speakers. In reality, the act of translation is idiosyncratic and often exclusive (excluding those who lack fluency in one of its two languages), yet Ford’s translation propaganda succeeds in selling a priori claims and persuasion by wrapping them in the trappings of legibility and inclusiveness.

In response to wartime xenophobia, Ford sought to leverage one language and translation against another: to efface the distinctiveness of his German heritage by emphasizing the (equivocal) exclusivity of his access to the French language. While Ford’s compensatory Francophilia might be borne out by his translations of The Good Soldier or Pierre Loti’s L‘Outrage des Barbares into and out of French—as well as by his multiple French-language essays—it is most striking in his framing of The Good Soldier, a novel that takes place mainly in Germany yet sheds every possible vestige of this national language or location. In a 1927 dedication to the novel, Ford makes clear what the replacement for Germany should be: France. Recalling his desire to forge in this novel an English equivalent to Guy de Maupassant’s French stories, Ford quotes delightedly the modernist John Rodker’s quip that The Good Soldier represents “the finest French novel in the English language” (“Dedicatory” 3). While critic Mark Schorer interprets this remark purely aesthetically—signifying a “perfect clarity of surface and nearly mathematical poise” (45)—and while Rodker himself may well have meant it in this vein, Ford’s decision to include [End Page 33] it in proximity to his Maupassantian aspirations and as a “tribute to my masters and betters of France” suggests that he wishes to position himself once again as a translator, providing exclusive access to a novel that, by rights, ought to exist in French. Ford’s novel (and Ford himself as translator, conduit, and author) is all the more valuable in that it provides English readers with access to French language and literature without the mediation of translation.

Ford’s performance as an Anglo French interpreter was so successful in this and other French-oriented writings that his propaganda work, Between St. Dennis and St. George, was translated and welcomed into wartime France (Farrar 148), while the French editor of a 1918 article by Ford went out of his way to ingratiate “Ford Madox Hueffer” with French readers, reassuring them that Ford’s “inclinations are clearly anti-German” and that he “has been strongly influenced by French literature” (Ford, “Pon” 30).19 Ford substantiates this claim in the text of The Good Soldier, in which an abundance of French turns of phrase (“pour le bon motif” [with good intentions; 47], “au mieux” [on good terms; 124], “lâcher prise” [to let go of; 215], and so forth) serve as a foil for the dearth of German terms. Unlike the limited German words that Ford does include in his novel to give a sense of its setting in Nauheim, the novel’s French words are more idiomatic, less related to food or travel technicalities than to human relationships, artistry, and thought. Further, the French words are far more fluently integrated in The Good Soldier’s English text, correctly conjugated and syntactically organized. By contrast, the diverse forms of the German expressions included in the text (these number only five: “Ja” [yes; 128], “Zum Befehl Durchlaucht” [as you please, Highness], “trinkgeld” [sic] [gratuity; 52], “Reiseverkehrsbureau” [travel agency; 86], and “Schreibzimmer” [study (room); 87]) suggest that Ford—a self-professed obsessive about language—was at pains to make these words seem careless and ancillary, lowercasing one noun, italicizing another. Though Ford knew enough German to include these words more correctly, this haphazard affect further distances his novel from the language.

Ford goes so far as to invoke his narrator in The Good Soldier, John Dowell, in this linguistic carelessness, having Dowell profess in one breath to speak “German much more correctly” (51) than his wife and in the next to undermine this assertion by claiming that he retains “the accent of the Pennsylvania Duitsch of my childhood” (52). This last pronouncement has stumped critics, who wonder that Ford could allow Dowell to utter such a “howler,” as he would have known well that there is no such thing as “Duitsch,” but only Pennsylvania Dutch, Deutsch, or Deitsch, an American population descended from German immigrants (Stannard, Preface xi). Dowell [End Page 34] seems to have conflated these with some combination of the English term for Netherlanders (Dutch) and the Dutch term for Germans (Duits). Grover Smith insists that Ford could not have been “guilty” of this mistake (326–27), but perhaps Ford is, instead, taking advantage of his famously untrustworthy narrator in order to distance his story further from its German setting and language. Like Ford, the confused Dowell claims the expertise required to guide his reader through this international text and translate from the German, yet Ford signals through Dowell’s uncertainty about his own heritage, hereditary language, and accent that his readers should expect no such linguistic intimacy.

The contrast between Ford’s continuing knowledge and fascination with Germans and the German language, and his performance of disdain, repression, and occasional hatred toward them finds no more central, paradoxical expression than in his buried translation of “unter vier Augen” at the heart of The Good Soldier. Whereas Ford’s French words and translations in the novel are overt, elaborate, and performative, displaying the sympathies of their author even as they ratify the social stratum of Dowell and his fellow upper-middle-class, cosmopolitan spa-goers, Ford’s German terms are either offhand, or, in the case of “under four eyes,” they are covert and integral, mapping out the symbolic-thematic substratum of the novel itself. In other words, just as Ford uses French translation to revarnish his own national persona, he uses French words superficially to adorn the characters in the novel without making any deeper comment on their relationship with the French language or the country of France (even though Dowell and Florence are actually residents of Paris). French may run throughout the novel, but its action takes place in Germany, England, and—peripherally—Ireland.20

Ford submerges his use of German via its translation into “under four eyes,” yet this phrase encapsulates much of what drives the novel thematically: the book’s cabalistic preoccupation with the number four; Dowell’s incessant interrogation of the language of eyes; and, most of all, the novel’s commentary on the boundaries of privacy, intimacy, and interpersonal knowledge. Behind this, Ford’s very suppression of the translated German phrase “unter vier Augen” implies the embedded importance of the novel’s silent German setting. In particular, the German history of Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and the “Protest” at the 1529 Marburg Colloquy sets the stage for Dowell, Florence, Leonora, and Edward’s climactic visit to Marburg (Good Soldier 53). This trip-within-a-trip brings to the fore, for the first time, the foursome’s underlying tensions of religious difference (Edward’s Protestantism versus Florence’s Catholicism), sexual infidelity (Florence’s finger on Edward’s wrist all but declares their affair [End Page 35] to the oblivious Dowell), and interpersonal strife (it is here in the narrative that Dowell overturns his former equanimity and declares his hatred for Florence) (Rau 108). While the group’s animosities originate in the conflicts between their American, English, and Irish nationalities, it is on German ground and through German history that these tensions are exposed and enunciated.

And it is through “under four eyes” (itself a translation) that the novel’s themes are translated into a central phrase. The two passages in which this phrase is used in the novel present two of its most central conflicts, interrogated by the clueless Dowell through the question of what happens “under four eyes,” that is, how do people achieve intimacy? First, Dowell wonders how Edward might have spoken with the women he has seduced. His surprisingly accurate solution—that Edward is a “sentimentalist” (33)—foreshadows the weakness for sentimental attachment (namely, to the Ashburnhams’ ward, Nancy Rufford) that will eventually bring about Edward’s depression and suicide. Yet Dowell’s question itself signals the deeper quandary of how two radically isolated human beings can relate to each other, if not merely by the bonds of sex. If Edward’s downfall is one reason for calling the novel, as Dowell does, the “saddest story” (7),21 then another, more profound one is the comment that the novel makes on the impossibility of communicating with or understanding another person beyond the bounds of their eyes. Soon after his first mention of “four eyes,” Dowell concludes that his acquaintance with the Ashburnhams has produced no souvenir of intimacy or “knowledge of one’s fellow beings,” not even “a bone penholder, carved to resemble a chessman and with a hole in the top through which you could see four views of Nauheim” (44). While the four main characters have, indeed, experienced “four views of Nauheim,” these perspectives do not cohere into a single, souvenirlike common memory but instead drive them further apart. Ford himself would seem to reiterate this theme of tragic noncommunication when, a year after publishing The Good Soldier, he named the shaky détente between the British and German naval powers “the saddest story in the chronicles of the world” (Between St. Dennis 110). Like Dowell and Edward or Edward and Leonora, Britain and Germany had failed to bridge their geopolitical division and to understand each other—a failure of translation Ford himself lamented yet, like Dowell looking on at Edward’s downfall, neglected to ameliorate. Ford’s 1915 novel may seem to focus predominantly on individual human relationships rather than geopolitics, but his implicit connection of the novel to this other, international “saddest story”—the story of the war—suggests that The Good Soldier’s commentary on communicational failure applies on a much broader, more immediately political scale. [End Page 36]

The second use of the phrase, which arrives in the text relatively soon after the first, articulates the conditions and consequences of this radical failure of interpersonal communication and understanding. “Under four eyes,” Leonora meets with Mrs. Maidan, the frail woman she knows to be having an affair with her husband, Edward. Enclosed in this private colloquy, Leonora exerts a truncated version of the vengeance she would like to exact: boxing Mrs. Maidan’s ears much as if she were the child that Edward and Leonora lack. As the passage explains, when the two women’s “four eyes” are met by another pair—“the moment a stranger came along”—this private understanding and retribution lapse into the well of unspoken knowledge that underlies the novel and threatens to swallow its characters (63). That neither woman speaks during their violent meeting signals this pervasive silence and the fact that the eyes and bodily contact under which such meetings take place may express more than any enunciation. The private boundaries demarcated by these “four eyes,” which allow Leonora the space to enact Mrs. Maidan’s punishment, also suggest that even within this moment of seemingly direct communication, some understanding is left out. Outside of this interaction—as the Dowells and Ashburnhams are touring Marburg—Mrs. Maidan’s weak heart expires under the stress of her botched affair; the revenge Leonora has exacted within the seeming confines of “four eyes” spills out into public view. In other words, this scene shows the power of interpersonal privacy—“four eyes”—to be as insidious and silencing as it is uncontrollable and prone to leakage.

Once these basic themes are laid out through the connection of “four eyes” in the first quarter of the novel, they are elaborated in the play of “four” and “eyes” that threads throughout The Good Soldier. Like Ford’s own efforts at containing and redirecting his Germanness through propaganda and the tactical translation of “under four eyes,” the webs of symbolism woven around “four” and “eyes” in The Good Soldier signal both Dowell’s effort to exert control and order in a chaotic, polysemic world and also the fundamental futility of such an endeavor. The number four, for instance, is one of the novel’s fundamental organizing principles and also the source of some of its most perpetual critical controversy. It furnishes what Martin Stannard refers to as the novel’s “spine date,” 4 August, the day on which almost every major point of action takes place (qtd. in Bergonzi 153). Dowell openly thematizes this uncanny recurrence, speculating whether it might be “one of those sinister, as if half-jocular and altogether merciless proceedings on the part of Providence that we call a coincidence” or the date that Florence has half-consciously chosen to bear the brunt of her life story (91). He explains that it was on this date that Florence was born, set sail round the world (1899), had [End Page 37] her first affair (1900), got married (1901), witnessed Mrs. Maidan’s death (1904), and finally discovered Edward’s infidelity and committed suicide (1913). Yet it is the 4 August that does not occur within this novel that has furnished the greatest controversy among critics: 4 August 1914, the date that Germany invaded Belgium and began World War I. Ford famously claimed that he completed writing of The Good Soldier before the outbreak of war, yet it wasn’t published until 17 March 1915, and evidence supports October 1914 as the novel’s terminal composition date.22 Nevertheless, there is no incontrovertible proof that Ford did go back into the novel and emend his “spine date” to this auspicious day. While the 20 June 1914 excerpt of the novel in BLAST does not go far enough into the narrative to include the 4 August citation, original manuscripts from Ford’s amanuenses (including H. D.) show the date appearing well prior to the outbreak of war. In the end, 4 August may truly be an “amazing coincidence,” as Arthur Mizener and Thomas Moser have called it (Moser xxxiv).23

This calendric controversy displays the extent to which both Dowell’s and Ford’s narratives depend on a repetition and coincidence that would seem to contradict the chaotic world around them (extramarital intrigue and World War I, respectively). Like the “four eyes” it mirrors, 4 August is a mode of converting a messy narrative into a regular, legible order. Regardless of whether Ford inserted the date before or after the German invasion of Belgium, it clearly organizes his novel, as it appears at the opening or close of several chapters and at the crucial nexus of betrayal and suicide at the center of Edward and Florence’s affair. Echoing Ford’s claim to have foreseen the war a year to the day before its beginning, the recurring date’s serendipity obscures the doubt, disorder, and polyvocality far more proper to an entropic world—and particularly to war (Buitenhuis 43–44). For Dowell, too, 4 August furnishes a mode for making sense of incomprehensible events, whether this recurrence is due to mere coincidence or, as he guesses, to Florence’s half-conscious choice. Dowell is resigned to cede control of the calendar just as he is resigned to stand semiobliviously outside of Edward and Florence’s meetings “under four eyes.” What matters is only the certainty that this organization exists—a certainty Dowell wishes to expand to his entire story by recounting it “in diary form” (256). It is notable, though, that his twisted narrative fails eminently to do so and that the only dates that actually appear are repetitions of this same date.24 Dowell’s constructed order cannot bear the puncture of variation. By contrast, Ford’s own narratives (both The Good Soldier and his own self-presentation) succeed by way of the orchestration and regularity brought about by translation—of his own name, as well as “under four eyes”—which allow them to remain whole, coherent, [End Page 38] and convincing under the pressure of international conflict and an embattled national identity.

Similarly, the discussion of eyes throughout The Good Soldier would seem to signal the insight of a single, eyewitness perspective (such as Dowell’s), yet in fact it compounds the embattlement of Ford’s and Dowell’s sense of order and identity through the intrusion of multiple voices—multiple eyes—encroaching on this single, coherent narrative. In The Good Soldier, the “four” of “four eyes” mirrors not only 4 August but also the four main actors in Dowell’s drama (Dowell, Florence, Edward, and Leonora) and the disruption that arises from a fifth player (Nancy). At base though, the integrity of unions between these four bodies is betrayed by the four that appears also in “four eyes,” that is, the recoupling and division that signifies an extramarital affair. It is significant here that Ford chose to use the German idiom “unter vier Augen” rather than its French or English semiequivalents (tête-à-tête or face-to-face), since it is only the German phrase that represents the redivisibility of the body into the two eyes, the sense of sight, and therefore the possibility of private, four-eyed intrigue even in the presence of four players (two are party to the affair, two are blind). The four of “four eyes,” then, stands as a deliberate challenge and foil to the integrity of the group of four characters that the novel draws together.

Unlike similar phrases in French and English, “under four eyes” seems to signify the simultaneous gazing of two people at one object or concept, providing for an “extreme intimacy,” in Dowell’s words, that excludes other viewers (7). As Dowell naively explains, “the Captain [Edward] was quite evidently enjoying being educated by Florence. She used to do it about three or four times a week under the approving eyes of Leonora and myself” (48). In other words, Edward and Florence’s four-eyed, private intrigue continues unnoticed even in the presence of four people (eight eyes). Dowell’s obliviousness to what happens “under four eyes” incites him to turn to the eyes as a portal for understanding other people’s psyche and relational dynamics. Yet as Dowell describes Edward’s eyes first as “honest” (13), “stupid,” “goodhearted,” “straightforward” (35), and “direct” (36) and then as “hopeless” (258) and “doomed” (263), we might wonder whether he really succeeds in reading eyes at all or whether, as with Ford or Florence’s dependence on 4 August, he is imposing his own meaning on them as a way of corroborating his narrative. We know Dowell to be an unreliable sight-reader, since he fails to recognize any betrayal of Edward’s infidelity even “by the quivering of an eyelash” (112) and equivocates that “Florence was never out of my sight . . . come to think of it she was out of my sight most of the time” (103). [End Page 39]

By contrast, Leonora perfectly understands the mutuality of Edward’s and Florence’s gazes, and as Dowell later recognizes, she “knew that that gaze meant that those two had had long conversations of an intimate kind” (220), as she had “from the way in which his [Edward’s] eyes returned to doors and gateways” at the arrival of other mistresses (207). The difference between Dowell and Leonora is that Dowell tries to read Edward’s eyes themselves, thus failing to enter into Edward’s thinking, while Leonora reads Edward’s gaze—what is under his two eyes—and translates his private intrigues into something readily intelligible. Whereas Dowell is ineffectual in transmitting any gaze, Leonora has eyes like a “lighthouse” (40), “china blue orbs” that Dowell imagines “boring” into Nancy (226), who herself has looks that could kill, with “a thing like a knife that looked out of her eyes” (147). If Leonora cannot be part of the private meetings “under four eyes” perpetrated by Edward and Florence or desired by Edward with Nancy, she will cut into them with the violence of her own insight.

Dowell, by contrast, has no such power, no access to the shared vision “under four eyes,” though he asserts that a man’s passion is based on a “craving for identity with the woman that he loves . . . to see with the same eyes, to touch with the same touch, to hear with the same ears, to lose his identity, to be enveloped, to be supported” (135), a desire that might be applied to any other character in Dowell’s story. He wishes desperately to be absorbed into another’s sight (not to be seen but to see), to experience one of the other perspectives or idioms that might make his story intelligible. Short of this sort of absorption, Dowell imagines transferring his own blindness to others through an Oedipal violence that would bring about an end to his isolation: he watches Florence, at the sight of the man who could reveal her infidelity, put her “hands over her face as if she wished to push her eyes out” (118) and imagines Edward with his “forearms shielding his eyes” as he is flayed alive by Leonora and Nancy’s cruelty (275). As Dowell concludes his story, “It was a most amazing business, and I think that it would have been better in the eyes of God if they had all attempted to gouge out each other’s eyes with carving knives” (286). This is an extreme recourse for mutual nonunderstanding, but it may well be Dowell’s ultimate choice, as he reads Edward’s “direct, challenging, brow-beating glare” as a request to be left alone (294) rather than a plea for help, an abandonment that leads to Edward’s suicide and eliminates Dowell’s rival’s gaze as surely as if he had scratched his eyes out. In his repressed love for Nancy and his revenge for Florence’s infidelity, it seems extremely plausible that Dowell semideliberately misreads Edward’s silent communication to him “under four eyes.” [End Page 40]

The acuity with which Ford represents Dowell’s desperate bid for belonging and his manipulative mistranslation of Edward’s gaze signals the author’s inherent ambivalence about such techniques. As we might infer for a writer as careful and self-reflective as Ford, that ambivalence extends, too, to his own use of manipulative, propagandist arguments and translation in the context of World War I propaganda. Already, the centrality of “under four eyes” in Ford’s novel suggests his mixed feelings toward the German language he purports to eschew in his propagandist tracts. While he effaces the language through translation, the oddity of the translated English phrase inevitably points to its German origins and the German palimpsest of Ford’s text. In applying to the translation of such a singular phrase, Ford lays bare precisely what he seems to conceal.

The duplicity by which the real linguistic origin of the phrase remains apparent—or rather, the ambivalence by which Ford allows the Germanic phrase to remain within the text—is a function of translation that Ford explores more elaborately in his reflective postwar tetralogy, Parade’s End. Like The Good Soldier, this later series of novels features an equivocating protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, and employs the stream-of-consciousness high-modernist style that Ford debuted in his 1915 work. In contrast to Ford’s earlier novel though, Parade’s End’s omniscient, often sympathetic third-person tale of Tietjens’s transition from statistician to soldier to civilian and from cuckold to lover bears little of the sense of critical irony with which Ford, in the first-person narration of The Good Soldier, distances his reader from Dowell’s obliviousness and dissects his protagonist’s repressed psyche. Paradoxically, it is through the third-person narration of Parade’s End that Ford brings his reader closer to Tietjens: through this narration, we are able to witness the machinations of others (particularly Tietjens’s wife, Sylvia) that keep Tietjens in the dark, allowing us to sympathize with his ignorance. Dowell’s first-person narration, by contrast, alienates him from the reader, since Ford’s manipulation of this narration allows us to see just enough of the characters around him to deprecate his naiveté. Whereas Tietjens seems only human, Dowell seems blamably blind. In a signal departure from his translation of “under four eyes,” Ford facilitates the reader’s sympathy with Tietjens by exposing—rather than subsuming—the multilingual, multivocal confusion of language that constantly confronts his protagonist.

One reason for Ford’s de-ironizing of his later protagonist may well be the autobiographical elements that inform Parade’s End; much of what Tietjens experiences both at home and in combat would have been familiar to Ford.25 Most of all, as Peter Buitenhuis and Trudi Tate have argued, Parade’s End (and particularly its first volume, Some Do [End Page 41] Not . . .) dramatizes Ford’s decision to depart from propaganda and forge his own form of patriotism by joining the Royal Welch Fusiliers at the age of 41. As Buitenhuis puts it, the “inherent hypocrisy of urging young men to go out and fight while he sat safe and secure in London, still a relatively young man, finally proved too much for his conscience” (119). He was one of the few members of the British Propaganda Bureau’s club of eminent literarians (which included figures like Arnold Bennett, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Thomas Hardy) to make such a radical departure from warlike word to world war (Tate 61–62). While Ford carried his anti-German attitude to the battlefield, his accounts of encounters with the enemy show a vacillating mix of acute interest (imagining a Bavarian sniper complete with moustache and a “finger . . . just curling tenderly round the trigger” [Ford, “Arms” 46]) and easy dismissal (“the Huns always seemed to me to be impersonal” [47]). It is this cautious yet mounting ambivalence regarding the translation of the German enemy into a recognizable human being that imbues Ford’s presentation of Tietjens’s confusing, polyvocal world.

Parade’s End, then, exposes not only Ford’s own domestic and professional struggles in making the transition from writing desk to battlefield but also his change of orientation toward propaganda itself. As Tietjens shifts from a propagandistic manipulator of statistics to a soldier, Ford’s perspective in the novel replays his wartime transition out of propaganda writing and into warfare and also formulates his reflection on wartime propaganda from the vantage point of its aftermath. As Tate writes, “What does ‘democracy’ mean if you do not have reliable information upon which to base your judgments, if the state in which you are now a democratic citizen has been systematically telling you lies?” (56). Further, what does it mean when you yourself have been complicit in this truth production, while also suffering its consequences through the flurry of wartime gossip and rumor? As late as 1937, Ford was still adamant in protesting to D. H. Lawrence’s German-born wife Frieda that his national identity was not chosen but involuntary: it “is incorrect in saying that I prefer to be an Englishman. That also I could not help. I was born in England. One does not preside at the destiny of one’s birth” (qtd. in Saunders 1: 477). Yet by the 1920s, Ford was well aware of the fact that he had had a hand in asserting the precedence of that nationality over and against his German heritage and, indeed, had presided at the creation of his anti-German propagandist texts. With the clarity of hindsight, then, Parade’s End provided him with the fictional space in which to complicate this unilateral propagandist stance.

Ford never reclaimed his German heritage, yet in Parade’s End, he approaches it from a more level stance than in his earlier propagandist [End Page 42] works. This is evident through the different real-life German locations Ford involves in the plots of his pre and postwar novels. In The Good Soldier, much of the action takes place in the ironically named Hessian spa-town Bad Nauheim (the name translates approximately as “New-Home Spa”), which proves to be the site not of home—as Ford himself had hoped to find in Germany in 191026—but of the self-destruction of at least two marriages.27 By contrast, in Some Do Not . . . , Tietjens’s flagrantly unfaithful wife Sylvia flees with her lover to Lobscheid, an actual town in Nordrhein-Westfalen (about 130 kilometers from Ford’s earlier home in Gießen), whose name is akin to troth-division or praise-division, suggesting its role as the site for Sylvia’s destruction both of her wedding vows and of Tietjens’s reputation.28 While this would seem to paint Lobscheid in a thoroughly negative light, it does so differently from The Good Soldier’s Bad Nauheim, as very little of the narrative actually passes in Lobscheid, and so the genius loci is less implicated in the outcome of Sylvia’s actions there. While Lobscheid certainly represents a faraway, foreign place where such infidelities might occur, the repercussions of Sylvia’s treachery are felt by Tietjens not in Germany but in England itself.29 In other words, Lobscheid—the place-name advertising the place’s purpose—is simply a convenient (German) elsewhere for treachery to happen. Bad Nauheim, on the other hand—whose name serves as an ironic cover for the infidelity and intrigue that occur within—is itself implicated as treacherous, advertising precisely the sort of home Dowell and his fellows fail to discover.

This name play implies that if Ford does not exculpate Germany in his postwar novels, he at least seems to set its depravity aside as a relatively benign given. This appears most clearly in Parade’s End’s disenchanted representation of various propagandist slogans and stories familiar from the war years: rather than support or dispute these stories, Ford employs Tietjens and his fellows to expose them for what they are—namely, words. In the trenches, Tietjens’s Colonel plays up the stereotype of German “frightfulness” to belittle his comrade’s fear of attack, assuring him that the “Germans’ fire is not a ‘strafe,’” but rather, in quotation of a well-known cartoon in Punch, “only a little extra Morning Hate” (Man 661).30 As this implies, the Colonel believes that the Germans are no more particularly hateful than their fire is a true attack. Similarly, in the tetralogy’s final volume, Last Post, Ford himself diminishes the indictment of Germans as intrinsically evil at the same time that he pokes subtle fun at the fad for name changing (of which he himself was a participant), as he mentions an acquaintance of Sylvia’s, “Sir Gabriel Blatyre—formerly Bosenheir” (877). As any German-speaking reader—or Ford himself—would recognize, “Bosenheir” is a ridiculous (and nonexistent) [End Page 43] German name, combining the word Böse (bad or evil) with the English word heir (which may also serve as a transliteration of the German Herr [master]). It composes a parody of the anti-German Briton’s bugbear: someone whose German name itself marks him as an heir and master of evil. Last but not least, Tietjens himself debunks the claims behind his friend Mrs. Wannop’s propaganda projects. As he explains, the illegitimacy rate has not, indeed, risen during the war, nor do the Germans process dead corpses into household items (Some Do Not 289).

As this anecdote shows, Ford employs Tietjens not as a monopolizing mistranslator such as Dowell but as a conduit through which he can provide his reader with multiple perspectives and texts for multiple interpretations. We are guided in such interpretation by Tietjens, whose virtuosically absorptive mind and experience in the sophistic Department of Statistics has made him an especially perceptive, open, and self-conscious translator, as well as a reluctant propagandist. Ford describes the workings of his protagonist’s mind: it “picked up little pieces of definite, workmanlike information. When it had enough it classified them: not for any purpose, but because to know things was agreeable and gave a feeling of strength, of having in reserve something that the other fellow would not suspect” (75). Tietjens’s mind, then, is a weapon, yet it is also the perfect defense against myopism or mispersuasion. The arbitrariness with which Tietjens learns to classify information allows him to entertain multiple perspectives without collapsing them into a value system, as he explains to Valentine Wannop:

Do you know these soap advertisement signs that read differently from several angles? As you come up to them you read “Monkey’s Soap”; if you look back when you’ve passed it’s “Needs no Rinsing.” . . . You and I are standing at different angles and though we both look at the same thing we read different messages. Perhaps if we stood side by side we should see yet a third. . . . But I hope we respect each other. We’re both honest. I, at least, tremendously respect you and I hope you respect me.

(250; ellipses in original)

The difference between Tietjens’s urge to enlist and Valentine’s pacifism is not one of incommensurable division but of different practices and perspectives of reading. His role, then, for Ford, is to serve as an unmasker—an unraveller—of translation and propaganda, exposing in his near omniscience the multiple interpretations that less perceptive or multilingual readers might encounter collapsed into a single translation or persuasion. [End Page 44]

Tietjens leads the novel’s reader in the revelation of multiple perspectives through his sensitivity not only to language itself but also to the interaction of multiple languages. This is the source of his attraction to Valentine, with whom he shares a love of England as signified by an English language that is a mix of local words and cosmopolitan terms as various as the birds they observe in the fields of Kent: “chaffinch, greenfinch, yellow-ammer (not, my dear, hammer! ammer from the Middle High German for ‘finch’), garden warbler, Dartford warbler, pied-wagtail known as ‘dishwasher’” (112). Valentine is Tietjens’s ideal match because she approaches language with the delicacy with which he, too, employs it, understanding his expression of love in the mere use of “the word ‘we’” and his farewell in “the inflexion of a verb” (251). Rather than accepting the meaning of words as a given—as Dowell blindly adopts words like “sentimental” and “sight”—Valentine and Tietjens sustain a relationship based on open discussion of words, exposing their malleability instead of employing them, as Sylvia does, as weapons. As Ford later shows, it is Sylvia’s tactic of weaponized verbiage that prevails on the battlefield, as his General orders Tietjens’s troops to shout “Banzai!” so as either to convince the Germans that they are facing Japanese (rather than English) troops or to “show them that we were making game of them” and send the “owlish fellows mad with rage” (Man 651). This does the trick—the Germans, who are trying to expose their opponents’ nationality by singing English songs, “shut up.” Whereas translation is for lovers a point of connection, for opposing soldiers even one’s own language is a weapon that can be used to expose or maim.

Tietjens serves as Ford’s antidote to such violent usage. Through the novel’s stream-of-consciousness narration, Ford further exposes readers to Tietjens’s own internal openness toward language. He portrays Tietjens as actively translating, considering a nineteenth-century song by Joseph Viktor von Scheffel (Tietjens mistakenly attributes it to Heinrich Heine), in which he considers and reconsiders the opening lines, “Die Sommer Nacht hat mir’s angethan / Das war ein schweigsams [sic] Reiten. . . .” (Some Do Not 137). He remarks on the impossibility of translating Heine (von Scheffel) while rendering this first as “It was the summer night came over me; / That was silent riding . . .” Then, with a stroke of recognition, he amends the last line so that, rather than using the banal English word “silent,” he better approximates the German “schweigsams” by twisting the English word to coin the term “silentish” (139). Nevertheless, Tietjens later quibbles with Heine, criticizing him as “sentimental” in his poetic compliment “Du bist wie eine Blume” (You are like a flower) (333). “Damn the German language!” Tietjens mentally exclaims, “One should not say that one’s young woman was like a flower, any flower. Not even to [End Page 45] oneself. That was sentimental. But one might say one special flower. A man could say that.” Tietjens thus considers translation carefully, refusing to adopt a line from Heine’s poetry merely as an unthinking adornment and revising his own English so that it better approximates Heine’s (von Scheffel’s) phrase in German. Through Tietjens’s stream-of-consciousness, the reader, too, is allowed to participate in this translation and revision, a notable departure from the stream-of-consciousness narrative that, in much of Parade’s End, obscures the reader’s ability to decipher which characters and plot points are at play. Here Ford seems to make a point of providing the reader with excess information with which to comprehend these passages, a markedly different approach to translation than his silent insertion of the translated “under four eyes” in The Good Soldier.

However, as Ford himself would recognize, it is just such excess of information, language, and the residues of translation that can drive a man to (literal) distraction. Ford depicts the process of Tietjens’s wearing down in the trenches by his increasing inability to discern different languages and speakers from each other, his buckling under the weight of language and information. Lying on his camp bed in the trenches, it is the echo of a German phrase beneath him—“Bringt dem Hauptmann eine Kerze” (Bring the Captain a candle)—that begins to disintegrate his consciousness, and he “cast[s] around in his mind for some subject about which to think so that he could prove to himself that he had not gone mad” (Man 609). The translation and absorption of this phrase is too much for Tietjens—he must find a new subject. Earlier, he finds it difficult to differentiate between the weight of the battlefield’s mud and that of the German language, pondering,

Es ist nicht zu ertragen; es ist das dasz [sic] uns verloren hat . . . words in German, of utter despair, meaning: It is unbearable: it is that that has ruined us. . . . The mud! He had heard those words, standing amidst volcano craters of mud, amongst ravines, monstrosities of slime, cliffs and distances, all of slime. . . . The moving slime was German deserters. . . . And it had horribly shocked him to hear again the German language in a rather soft voice, a little suety, like an obscene whisper. . . .The voice obviously of the damned; hell could hold nothing curious for those poor beasts. . . . His French guide had said sardonically: On dirait l’inferno de Dante! . . . Well, those Germans were getting back on him. They were not to become an obsession! A complex, they said nowadays. . . .


The weight of translating the Germans’ (or are they Tietjens’s?) despairing words, of translating the muddy shapes into German [End Page 46] deserters, of translating the German language into “hell,” of translating Dante’s Italian inferno into France and French, and finally of translating this sorry sight into a war and an opponent bears down on Tietjens much as it must have encumbered Ford himself.

In this respect, both Ford and his protagonist are men who know too much, weighed down by the language and translations, the interpretations and considerations, that they are able to manipulate and control but that also retain the capacity to shape and compromise the minds in which they reside. As Tietjens’s onset of madness and “complex” imply, sanity is derived from the ability either to consider multiple interpretations or derivations in tranquility (as on the Kentish fields) or to assimilate all conflicting languages and interpretations into a single narrative. As Ford’s own propaganda attests, this narrowing to a single, sovereign translation is precisely the end pursued and manipulated by propaganda. Ford’s final comment on translation through Parade’s End, then, may be a sober one: that while an ideal protagonist might consider and weigh against each other multiple interpretations or translations, he must ultimately be careful not to allow such accumulated residues to weigh him down to the point of madness. It is the role of propaganda to provide the shortcuts of translation and understanding that relieve such a cluttered mind. Whether intentional or unintentional, the multilingualism of modernist fiction such as Ford’s The Good Soldier or Parade’s End holds the key both to understanding how such propaganda functions and to uncovering the multivocal palimpsest below this single message.

Emily Hayman

EMILY HAYMAN <efc2106@columbia.edu> teaches in the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. Her work has been published in Translation and Literature and Joyce Studies Annual. Her article in MFS is adapted from a chapter in her manuscript, Inimical Languages: Conflict, Translation, and Multilingualism in British Modernist Literature.


1. Signifying a person who wears glasses (“four”).

2. Examples of these three types of usage may be seen respectively in Richter 52; “meet under four eyes” 220; and Wouk 474 and Walker 427. This survey of the phrase’s usage is taken from a search of the Google Books database.

3. Ford’s description of Nauheim was also influenced by his 1904 stay at the spa town of Marienberg. See Saunders 1: 223.

4. For instance, “the Germans say, A.D.—at disposition” (Ford, Good Soldier 237). That “at disposition” is a German phrase is questionable; I can find no evidence of its existence. Since it is a phrase Dowell imagines for a peripheral character whom he dislikes, Rodney Bayham, it may be telling that “a.D.” in German more often denotes precisely the opposite meaning, “außer Dienst,” that is, “retired.” [End Page 47]

5. Haslam is the only critic to have noticed and deciphered this phrase, if briefly, explaining it as “the sense of judgment or conscience . . . (conspicuous by its absence in a way), although what Ford is actually referring to is the unwatched interaction of two characters” (115n51). It is also significant that Ford chose to translate “unter vier Augen”; though this is the most common occurrence of the phrase, it can be adapted in German to invoke larger groups: “unter sechs Augen” (six eyes, three people), “unter acht Augen” (eight eyes, four people), and so forth.

6. Tóibín considers this a form of invention and disguise used particularly by Irish authors to display their Englishness.

7. For Ford’s own description of his and Conrad’s vision for literary “impressionism,” see his essays “On Impressionism” and “Developing the Theory of Impressionism.”

8. For Wollaeger’s extensive, insightful alignment of Ford’s propagandism and impressionism in The Good Soldier, see 128–63.

9. As Ford explains in his 1927 “Dedicatory Letter” to The Good Soldier, translating the novel forced him “into the rather close examination of this book” (3). In the translation, “under four eyes” appears as “sous quatre yeux” (Stang and De Julio 276). On Ford’s French translation, see Stang and De Julio; on the second American edition of the text, see Moser, xxxii–xxxiii; on Ford’s publication in BLAST, see Stannard, “A Note on the Text” 198; Peppis 84–8. The inclusion of Ford’s excerpt in the first (of two) issues of BLAST seems particularly apt in light of Ford’s politics, as the journal set out to present its Vorticist viewpoint as a distinctly British nationalist avant-garde, distinct from and opposed to the Italian Futurists and later, in the second issue, “War Number” (published July 1915), German imperial antimodernism. See Peppis 85–86 and 96–98.

10. Richard Aldington claimed that Ford was working on these books and The Good Soldier simultaneously, but since the end date of The Good Soldier is uncertain, so too is this precise simultaneity. See Farrar 146.

11. On John Bull’s aggressive xenophobia, see Firchow 44 and Haste 115–31.

12. See Saunders 1: 174, 18, and 314. Ford’s failure in this endeavor, in which he briefly moved to the German town of Gießen, may well have helped to sour his feelings toward Germany, but at the time he performed his Germanness with gusto, particularly in his cowritten travelogue, The Desirable Alien at Home in Germany, in which Ford played the echt German resident Joseph Leopold to his wife-to-be, Violet Hunt’s “desirable alien.”

13. Though such anti-Germanism peaked at the outset of the war, Ford had been aware of it even as early as 1898, when the editor of Punch alleged that Ford must not be “really English” if he could not appreciate Punch’s peculiarly English humor. See Loeffler 4–5. [End Page 48]

14. The British history of language eradication dates back at least as far as the 1536 Act of Union, which sought “utterly to extirpe” the Welsh language, preventing non-English speakers from holding public office, and thus effectively eradicating the language among the Welsh gentry. See Stephens 6.

15. A patently false assertion, even if one turns only to the works of Rudyard Kipling or Henry Newbolt (who in 1892 urged, “play up! and play the game!” [Collected Poems 95–96]).

16. The plural should be “Sprachvereine.”

17. This contrast is first introduced at the opening of Ford’s book. See When Blood 20. In James Douglas’s review of When Blood, excerpted from The Star in the front matter of Between St. Dennis and St. George, he echoes Ford in his warning that “the neutral nations have yet to learn what Kultur means for them and their children.”

18. Although Ford makes much of it, the sentence is not particularly notable for its complexity: “Pendant un demi-siècle, les bourgeoises de Pont-l’Evêque envièrent à Mme. Aubain sa servant Félicité” (For a half-century, the ladies of Pont-l’Evêque envied Mrs. Aubain for her servant Felicity) (Between St. Dennis 199).

19. “Pon . . . ti . . . pri . . . ith” was originally printed in French in La Revue des idées.

20. The issue of Irishness in Ford’s novel has been much discussed by critics such as Doggett and Tóibín.

21. Also the original title of the novel.

22. Ultimately, the novel’s completion date continues to remain uncertain. For some of the arguments around dating, see Cheng 388; Saunders 1: 436–38; Stannard, “Note” 183; Bergonzi 150; and Farrar 146. To confound matters further, as Saunders notes, the time scheme of the novel’s plot actually moves well beyond the timeline of its completion and publication, with Dowell’s writing of his experiences possibly taking place as late as May 1916, despite the fact that the novel itself was published over a year earlier (1: 436).

23. Or as Bergonzi reasons, perhaps it is a bit less amazing when we consider that with all the dates in August to choose from, Ford had a 1-in-31 chance of happening on this soon-to-be historic one. See 154–56.

24. On time-shifts in the novel, see Meixner 251.

25. The character himself may have been based largely on Ford’s deceased friend, the mathematician Arthur Marwood. See Saunders 2: 201.

26. On Ford’s move to Germany in a (failed) bid to divorce his first wife and marry Violet Hunt, see Saunders 1: 174, 18, and 314.

27. For more on spas and Bad Nauheim, see Rau 100. [End Page 49]

28. “Lob” may mean praise or accolade, but is also used in the verb sich verloben, which means to get engaged. Scheiden means to separate, and is used specifically for divorce.

29. For a unique perspective on the novel’s Englishness via translation, see Rademacher, “Ford Madox Ford’s Englishness.”

30. For the Punch cartoon, see Rau 73.

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