Janos Bátky’s guide to romance

After the success of my previous literary dating tip, culled from the pages of Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, I thought it was time for more guidance for the lovelorn from the pages of fiction.

Here we have Janos Bátky, narrator and protagonist of Antal Szerb’s The Pendragon Legend:

If you wish to attain intimacy with members of the opposite sex, you make an effort to share your past with them, to make them no longer strangers, newcomers to your life.

I would perhaps advise caution if your past is particularly bizarre or distasteful however.

This advice is likely to be of particular utility to the English, for as Bátky also observes when considering the comparative approaches of the Englishman and the Continental in matters of love:

… she listened in respectful silence to my fumbling compliments – not something Englishmen lavish on their women. With us, if we are even slightly drawn to a woman, we will tell her we adore her. An Englishman hopelessly in love will merely observe: “I say, I do rather like you”.

Wodehouse couldn’t have put it better.


Filed under Literary Dating Tips, Szerb, Antal

12 responses to “Janos Bátky’s guide to romance

  1. GB Steve

    “Like” is a bit strong, isn’t it? I may go as far as indicating that her opinions on flowers and other pretty things are not unworthy of attention, but “like”?

  2. I suggest that “I’m rather fond of you,” fits the bill rather well in matters of English-professions of love.

  3. Like is perhaps a bit strong. But then, Bátky was a foreigner.

    Fond fits the bill, “you know, you’re not too bad really, once one gets to know you” also suggests itself.

    I finished the O’Brien last night by the way Guy, the writeup should be up in the next day or so. Surprisingly sad for what’s often such a funny book.

  4. Max: I noticed you were reading the O’Brien book. I try to keep up with what you are reading, so I check in periodically.

    That’s one of my old reviews before I became unleashed. Looking forward to your take on the book.

  5. If she’s an English woman, wouldn’t she be frightened by any feeling expressed with stronger words than “like” ?

    So, maybe things are fine the way they are.

  6. Hello Max,

    I’ve started this book and so far I only have one thing to say about it: Thank you.

    Of course, I have the French translation and I came accross the second quote and I remembered your entry.

    Here is the French translation (Perhaps your wife can help you?)

    Elle écouta mes compliments sophistiqués avec beaucoup de respect, les Anglais ne gâtant guère leurs femmes dans ce domaine. Nous, lorsqu’une femme nous est un peu sympathique, nous lui disons : “Je t’adore”. L’Anglais, quand il est follement amoureux, dit: “I rather like you. Je vous aime plutôt bien”.

    Observe that the “do” disappeared from the English sentence and that the translator left it in English, followed by a literal translation. The concept is so foreign in French that he needed to keep the English. 🙂

  7. I’m delighted. He’s a real discovery Szerb. One of my wife’s favourite writers.

    Brilliant that “I rather like you” didn’t exist in the French.

  8. Btw, a piece of advice for others, you don’t need it, you’re married.
    Don’t ever say “I do rather like you” to a Frenchwoman, it’s insulting.

  9. leroyhunter

    A wonderful example of Anglo-reticence in these matters: Osborne is the victim of a quite athletic seduction, as described to Batky by the seducer:
    “Half an hour later we untangled ourselves and I asked him if he’d enjoyed it; he said he had, quite definitely, and he sounded reasonably sincere. He said he was please to have had one of life’s richer practical experiences.”

  10. It’s amazing any little English-people were ever created.

  11. Leroy,
    That passage was really funny. Poor Osborne, in appearance, it sounded as pleasing as the dentist’s chair.

  12. Pingback: I, János Bátky, Hungarian citizen, come face to face with Englishness, Welshness and Irishness « Book Around The Corner

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