2022-12-03

“Débâcle”

Quotation of the Day for January 23, 2012

“‘No accident that _débâcle_ is a French word,’ observed my brother once…. The word _débâcle_ suggests the going-wrong of an elaborately conceived plan: a disaster that somehow leaves the principal parties not only having lost what they were aware that they were risking but much more besides, as if an attempt to charm the boss by inviting him to dinner and cooking an ambitious favourite dish of his were to result in the death by poisoning of his wife, the loss of one’s job, collapse of one’s marriage, one’s bankruptcy, turn to violent crime, and subsequent death in a shoot-out with police – when all one was worried about was the risk of curdling the hollandaise. Compare the implication of mismanagement, of organization going wrong, in the Gallic _débâcle_ with the candidly chaotic, intimate quality of the Italian _fiasco_, or the blokishly masculine and pragmatic (and I would suggest implicitly reversible and therefore, in its deep assumptions, optimistic) American _fuck-up_.”

– John Lanchester, The Debt to Pleasure.