Monday, 18 August 2008

F & V

There are two highlights in the otherwise dull Bond film The World Is Not Enough which was shown on ITV a few nights ago. First is the appearance of British poet Jeff Nuttall as Dr Arkov, a nuclear scientist who is bumped off in his one and only scene for not going along with the dastardly plans of evil terrorist Robert Carlyle. Second is Robbie Coltrane who plays a Russian capitalist (and Casino owner) called Zukovsky (first name irrelevant). I'd like to think that Jeff Nuttall had something to do with suggesting the name to the producers. Who knows?

It was wildly and weirdly incongruous to hear the name Zukovsky in this context though of course it's spelt with a 'v' rather than an 'f'. I say of course because the 'real' Zukofsky's name was spelt with an 'f' though over the years countless critics have opted for the more angular letter which if you don't know Zukofsky might seem the more likely given all the other letters in his name. There is however clearly a form of racism at work here - the 'v' ensures that Zukofsky is kept more Russian than American, a move which is in the interest of the more conservative critics who refused (and continue to refuse) to acknowledge his poetry which is seen as alien and unassimilable.

In one of his notebooks Zukofsky himself relates a telling anecdote in this vein. A German immigrant arriving at Ellis Island at the end of the C19th was asked his name by a US official. He replied sardonically in German, "Schon Vergessen" ("already forgotten") only to be given the name Sean Ferguson. At a stroke he became Irish. Note the 'f' for 'v' substitution again.

Of course the use of British actors to ham up foreign villains in Bond films is no less despicable.

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