HHhH by Laurent Binet. As book titles go, it’s a peach. Enigmatic and entrancing in equal parts. Who wouldn’t want to know what those four ‘h’s stood for?*
And yet it wasn’t the author’s choice. No, he wanted to go with Operation Anthropoid. His editor felt that was too sci-fi for what is, apparently, a non-fiction novel (I disagree about the ‘novel’ bit). The editor, then, is to be thanked for this dramatic, original and unexpected title.
This makes me desirous for a professional editor to cast their eye over The Circus Clowns’ Desertion. Would they have preferred its original title, Send in the Clowns? Or its later, more enigmatic nomenclature, Perpetual Verdure? Or would they be happy with the title it has. And what of the contents. As bold and bracing a read as HHhH was, it wasn’t edited enough for my liking. The ‘I’ parts, especially, when the author agonised about how he’ll write this or that scene, or feeling himself present in Prague 1942. It soon lost its charm, its novelty, and began to jar. A good editor should have spotted such egocentric excesses and culled away.
Ye gods! What, then, would be left of my own novel, should a good editor ever get their hands on it?!
*Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich - ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’