All Stories, Literally Reruns, Writing

Literally Reruns – Forked Tongue by James McEwan

Leila has sent us a Rerun suggestion by one of the regular contributors and commentators on the site. Great to see something of James’ having a second shining. This is what she said:

James McEwan’s Forked Tongue deserves a second time around on the strength of lust, booze and art. Even on a  staid Sunday morning, the idea of someone having a more interesting life than you provokes the desire to have a look at it.

It’s a solid piece of writing, firmly rooted yet at the same time elusive.

Let’s ask Mr. McEwan for his thoughts. He’s a faithful commenter, which makes the job of filling blank space easy.

Q: How much difficulty was there including the authenticity of German in the piece via dialogue–as in having the waitress comment on the phrasing of the time and other items?

Q: It seems that there is the theme of Temptation in the story. Did that idea come first, or did a snake slither down a fig tree and approach you with it?

Leila Allison


Forked Tongue

James’ response.

I am delighted Leila has found my story of sufficient interest, thank you.

Background to the story.

I lived and worked in Berlin for a few years and eventually improved my German language, a fun time. I am sure the Germans knew that a certain way of telling the time was confusing for the British, I learned very quickly to confirm timings for meetings.

They tell the time by saying half to the hour instead of half past.

So, ‘um halb sechs’ (half the hour to six) is on my watch half past five.

This was the mistake made by the character in the story, he arrived at the café one hour late for his meeting with Marie.

Leila’s Questions.

Q. How much difficulty was there including authenticity of German in the piece via dialogue – as in having the waitress comment on the phrasing of the time and other items?

I have spent time working and living in Germany and the dialogue is authentic.

I note I have made a spelling mistake with –heir–this should be hier.

I was aware that using a foreign language in fiction is full of pit falls and can put readers off. I tried to keep it semi-obvious to avoid interrupting the story. The phrases used are common and I have included the list here:

Ich komme gleich wieder.                   I’ll be back soon/I’ll be right back.

Ist hier noch ein Platz frei?                  Is this seat available/free.

Bitte, sitzen Sie.                                     Please, take a seat / please sit.

Die Schotte sind geizig mit ihrem Geld. The Scots are stingy with their money.

Das is aber Schade                                That’s a pity.

Sie sind scheone Liebespaare             They are a lovely couple/lovers

Tschuss                                                   Bye.

The character says; ‘Es ist nur halb seben’, a mispronunciation of “sieben” (seven).


Q. It seems that there is the theme of temptation in the story. Did that idea come first, or did a snake slither down a fig tree and approach you with it?


The idea for the story came with the snake.

In my group of friends at the time was a tattoo artist, she was persistent in trying to convince me to take my shirt off so she could use ‘my skin as a canvas.’ Her words. I refused to have my body inked over. However, she did have a very detailed and skilfully done tattoo of a snake wrapped around her own body. She modelled for pictures to advertise the Tattoo shop. I was spellbound. We became good friends.

When writing the story, I remebered how she would try to manipulate me to have a tattoo, of course she wanted to be paid for her work.

In the fiction, I wanted to represent the struggle between man and woman with a nod to where it possibly all began in the Garden of Eden.

Readers will make up their own minds how they read and understand the narrative, and ‘temptation’ as a theme is a very good interpretation. I like how you have read the sub-text. The question I would want readers to consider is: Who had the upper-hand, Marie or the main character?

7 thoughts on “Literally Reruns – Forked Tongue by James McEwan”

    1. Hi Leila,
      Cracking choice once again!

      And James – Regarding the upper hand. Well, I reckon anytime a woman is involved with a man, they normally have the upper hand!!
      Excellent in-depth answers!


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