Procol Harum

the Pale

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AWSoP in a French novel

Malène Lemoine

Last Christmas holidays, when reading a book, I came across a 'procolerie' ...

The book Le Géant Inachavé is a sort of thriller / detective story (in French we called it a 'serie noire') by an excellent French author, called Didier Daneninckx. Apparently, DD knows about the song more than the average French person, and - though this is my guess - he likes it.

I was somewhat surprised to see this reference to AWSoP, and I found it was a very nice surprise. I did not know it was there, I just choose the book because Daneninckx is one of my favorite authors and there are several of his books at my sister's. I liked very much the way he has inserted the song in his story, so I copied the relevant passages and translated them.

Didier Daeninckx -
Le Géant Inachevé - Editions Gallimard. Collection Folio, 1984.

The Unfinished Giant

Pages 18-19
En premier, il remarqua la musique qui lui parvenait de la salle à manger. Il reconnu le « largo » solennel, ampoulé, servant d’introduction au morceau. Un remake de Bach à l’orgue électrique. Il sentit son cœur se serrer quand la voix légèrement nasale de Gary Brooker prononça les premiers mots de « A Whiter Shade of Pale ».

We skipped the light fan…

First he noticed the music that was coming from the dining-room. He recognized the solemn, bombastic largo used as the introduction of the piece. A remake of Bach on the electric organ. He felt his heart wringing when Gary Brooker’s slightly nasal voice uttered the first words of A Whiter Shade of Pale.

We skipped the light fan …

Le chanteur ne parvint pas à articuler les deux dernières syllabes de « fandango » ; la pointe du diamant fut ramenée dans un crissement de notes aux premières mesures de l’orgue. Figé dans le hall, il se rappelait ces mois de l’année mille neuf cent soixante-sept quand le « Procol Harum » faisait partie de son bonheur. Le disque dérailla à quatre reprises avant qu’il ne sorte de sa rêverie . (…) Il souleva le couvercle d’altuglass (de la chaîne hi-fi) et d’un coup léger d’ongle sur la tête de lecture il fit sauter la voix du chanteur au milieu du troisième couplet.

One of sixteen vestal virgins…

The singer did not managed to pronounce the last two syllables of « fandango ». The pickup head skated back to the first bars of the organ. Rooted in the hall, he remembered those months in 1967 when Procol Harum was part of his happiness. The record went off the grooves again four times before he woke up from his daydream. (…) He lifted the altuglass lid (of the hi-fi) and, with a light tap from his fingernail, made the singer's voice skip to the middle of the third couplet.

One of sixteen vestal virgins …

A delightful conclusion to this story!

page 22
Aucun bruit ne lui parvenait de l’intérieur du pavillon, à part une musique étouffée, un truc qui lui faisait penser aux Beatles.

No noise at all was coming from inside the house, except for a muffled music, something that reminded him of the Beatles.

page 23
Gary Brooker hoquetait sur un autre sillon fatigué :

Gary Brooker was hiccoughing on another worn-out groove :

That her face at … at … at …


Reflecting on the fact that Didier Daeninckx knew a lot more about AWSoP and its performer than the average French novelist, Malène began to dream of acquiring a copy for Gary Brooker … and, to cut a long story short … she got lucky!

Not only did she managed to contact the author, but he sent her a first edition of the book which actually depicts the French sleeve of the record on its front cover (see above – illustration by Pierre-Marie Valat).

Furthermore he declared that he still loved the song, and wrote a dedication to Gary on the fly-leaf, here reproduced with permission. 'To Gary Brooker, these few pages, illuminated by his music: best wishes … 24 March 2000'

More about AWSoP More about the author ... here and here

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