Skip to content

So Goode it’s bad

Forever and a Day: a James Bond novel
by Anthony Horowitz
(Random House Audiobooks, read by Matthew Goode, 7hrs 36mins)

Around the final Daniel Craig installment, there’s been inevitable talk of who should be the next James Bond. Well, I’ll tell you who it shouldn’t be, and that’s Matthew Goode.

Three years ago, Anthony Horowitz was hired to write Forever and a Day, the umpteenth licensed 007® novel since the death of – and ‘with original material by’ – the master himself. Horowitz’s second outing in fact, FaaD was almost universally well received, a neatly-threaded Double-O origin story for Bond (more assured even than Fleming’s own Casino Royale, perhaps), set ‘just five years after VE Day’, amid the depressed 1950s at home, the distant Korean War abroad, and the CIA starting to interfere in both Europe and SE Asia, its focus on the drugs trade.

Tonally, Horowitz pulls off an atomically-precise emulation of Fleming’s own prose pulse-quickening whenever he talks of wine, women, cars and, here, the Riviera. Content-wise, he is exceedingly familiar with the source material, and has some clever fun with both Bond’s weary tropes and Fleming’s biotrivia.

In short, the book’s a (retro) classic, and I’d strongly recommend it.

Alas, I cannot say the same for Matthew Goode’s recording.

Bond may have been an unblinking British patriot; but he had his creator’s knowledge of, and lust for, all things foreign and exotic – and would have known, for sure, how to pronounce them.

I suppose it’s possible that M might render ‘Scipio’ (bad guy) as ‘Sippio’, and ‘Carbone’ as ‘Car-bone’ (like Churchill mispronouncing ‘Narzis’?); but ‘Unione Siciliana’ is ‘Sichiliana’, surely? The very first restaurant Bond dines in (a real, Swedish one) should not be ‘Catellin’, but ‘Cattelin’. And Soviet cruiser captain Stolypin’s wife would have been ‘Irr-ma’, not ‘Urma’ as though born in Huddersfield.

It’s ‘Taube‘ not ‘Taub’ (German for ‘dove’, a plane, and – perfectly – a deaf person). And ‘Ravens-brook’ (sic) was a notorious concentration camp, not, say, a ringroad garden centre. Kompani Linge, a Norwegian SOE outfit, was named for its commander Martin Linge'(r)’, not, as Goode makes it sound, a prefab waitingroom on a charter airfield. All of this stuff is Google-able, obviously.

Closer to home, Bond’s Scottish housekeeper calls someone a ‘bawheid’ (not a ‘boar-hide’); and the school in Edinburgh is ‘Fett(i)s’, not ‘Fet’. Never has the battle/location in North Africa been called ‘Tobb-ruck’ – least of all by military types just after WW2!

Worst of all, though – the crime de la crime, you might say – is that M. Goode, apparently, cannot speak French.

I don’t mean Radio 3 Style Guide French: no-one expects ‘Paggghree’ or ‘fronnk(s)’. Just your basic Tricolore “pardonnez moi, madame…”.

It’s ‘Rue Fon-say‘ not ‘Rue Foncet[te]’. ‘Fives-Lille’ is not pronounced like the toffs’ handball sport.

‘Citroën’ is not the same as the French word for ‘lemon’. And there’s no Marseillaise pastis drink called ‘Rye-‘ anything.

There are no Ls in ‘Aiguilles Rouges’ (Bond’s parents died there, FFS: he would remember that). Goode’s stab at ‘Rochefoucauld’ sounds like he’s actually halfway through being stabbed. And don’t even ask about ‘Marré-quelle Fock’.

I don’t, admittedly, recall a case of canon Bond being undone by mispronunciation. But a) in this book he’s explicitly credited with ‘fluent French’, and b) brand names and other proper nouns were, famously, Fleming’s stock in trade. Duff notes like this are the equivalent of Bond stirring his drink with a McDonald’s straw.

Lastly – and I do feel unkind noting this – Goode has a slight (if well-masked) speech impediment. That thing that inverts Rs and Ws. So we get ‘hewoin’, ‘Hotel Negwesco’, ‘enemy tewitowy’, ‘twuly desiwable’, ‘neutwality’, ‘Bewetta’, ‘quite an opewator’, ‘Miwabelle‘, ‘Gweat Bwitain’, ‘secuwity’, and… ‘the Secwet Service’.

This could be brilliant for skewering the louche, adulterous, sadistic Ian Fleming. But as James Bond, the uber-man and fantasy projection (a concept openly addressed in FaaD)…? Well, once you’ve heard it, it’s a little hard to take him sewiously.

For Perspective magazine

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *