October 14, 2010

The copy-editor’s dilemma #11



Our series featuring the intoxicating language of Jean-Christophe Valtat‘s Aurorarama draws to a close. For the last time, we present you with one of the weird and wonderful English words used in the novel that so often baffled our copy-editor.

sigil: an inscribed symbol considered to have magical power.

Valtat comments on his discovery of the word:

I may have encountered this while nursing an unwholesome interest for magic (as a metaphor for writing). Sigil magic — here used by Brentford for good dream incubation — relies on abstract symbols, traditional or drawn for a particular purpose, “charged” with the magician’s will and “buried” in his/her unconscious. It doesn’t appear in this book, but Gabriel D’Allier wears a little tattooed sigil of a demon, Humots, that allows him to find book easily in libraries.  ”Basic library magic”, he calls this.

Valtat’s references to details left unmentioned in the novel itself reminds us that Aurorarama is merely an introduction to a vast literary reality. Future novels will take us to these unexplored places — and will surely teach us unknown territory of the English language.