man is god's ruin

peter falk vs columbo is a fascinating doco about peter falk and inevitably columbo (it even has a little scene from 'himmel über berlin' in which columbo is a fallen angel) but there is also plenty about his work with john cassavetes and gena rowlands — hey that rhymes with lowlands which has been cancelled this year.

speaking of his work with cassavetes i hear peter falk say something which has me scrambling for a pencil and a piece of paper. he is quoting someone who said : man is god's ruin. the dutch subtitle says : De mensheid is de ruïne van god.

in other words, humanity has destroyed god and his vision. here we have an omniscient omnipresent and omnipotent supernatural being ruined by his own creation. ah the sad irony! now that would be something, right?

and peter falk says that cassavetes 'saw the ruins with a clarity that the rest of us would find unbearable'.

but rewinding, i find that what he actually said, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson❊, was : “A man is a god in ruins.”

that's quite a difference. this is in part a problem arising from the fact that in english, 'man' can be used as a synechdoce, where a part stands in for a whole, so that 'man' can mean 'humanity' rather than 'a member of the human species of the male gender'. this doesn't work in dutch where you have to say 'de mensheid' if you mean the species, which is infinitely preferable due to a thing called patriarchy.

the person doing the subtitles for the doco didn't hear the 'a' at the beginning of the quote (or the 'a' before 'god') and assumed humankind was meant.

sometimes being bilingual produces an interesting idea thanks to a misreading, a mistranslation or something misheard. so the subtitle influenced what i heard and what i heard was much more interesting than what was said.

❊”A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.”