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It’s been quite spiritual in the last week or so. The principal reason for this mood is completing Brothers Karamazov. Shouldn’t that be, The Brothers Karamazov? Yes. But more of that later.

That book was as exhausting as walking across Siberia with a broken snow shoe. This reaction has been documented elsewhere and can be found in this post.

In the time since the book was closed for the last time, I have had much to contemplate and had a few doubles of vodka (only figuratively as I don’t drink vodka) to, to, to…ponder the meaning of it all; the immensity, the breadth, the inherent craziness. I am not sure exactly, but it’s been profound.

In a vague and rather uncertain way, one of the things that circulates in the head is why we stick a definite article in the title of the book. In Russian, and I haven’t even a passing acquaintance with Russian grammar, they don’t, but then many languages do not need to assign good old, the; though its understood to be there in the grammatical form of a title.

With languages derived from Latin ‘the’ is quite important and is put in front of words that can confuse the English speaker. It’s more bad practice when the is translated into English literally from French or Italian, because it is redundant in English.

That quality of transition is quite similar to some bands who had a The in their name, invariably in the 1960s and then somehow, along the way, they lost it. The was no longer groovy in the early 1970s and they dropped it. Or later, as in some cases, their fans gave them a The for their abbreviated name as a sign of their closer connection to the group. This analysis all breaks down with The Band but let’s not dwell on that demonstrative assertion of unique status.

A quick online search doesn’t show a trend to greater or lesser use of The in book titles. It may be that in some genres The is essential, sci-fi perhaps, while in others, not at all. The spy thriller likes The as it heavily implies government secrets, officially sanctions and the like, as, for example: The Exabyte Sanction. But then, equally, the has a life in the romantic fiction arena, with a book title like, The Rose of Mayo.

My next choice will be something not Russian, or at the very least where I do not have to grasp the Orthodox catechism in all its permutations. It will be light and funny, not quite Jeeves, which is almost aerated egg white, but something clever and witty, and who knows, it may have a the in the title.

Guy Cranswick
6th March 2014