This last weekend, trying (and failing) to ignore the rather over-the-top and seemingly endless celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, I couldn’t help but think of the words of Sarah Maguire, Director of the Poetry Translation Centre at a Persian Poetry event that I attended at the Asia House a fortnight back.

When an audience member familiar with the Persian language commented upon the loss of the sense drama and vivid imagery that is typical to Persian literature, in the English translations, Maguire, rather defensively and quite emphatically, attributed it to the British sense of understatement, and that the “British do not show off” – whether in literature, or in life.

I wonder if this is what they call British irony.

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