I knew 钱钟书 wrote the beginning of a novel after Fortress Besieged but lost the manuscript. He called it 百合心 from a French phrase Le coeur d’artichaut. One of the two translators of the English version, Nathan K. Mao, attributes the phrase to Baudelaire, but I can’t find any reference online, except that someone suggests it’s a metaphor for someone with a closed and guarded heart.

I can’t remember how I realized coeur d’artichaut means heart of artichoke, maybe after our French trip when I got to know coeur is heart from the imposing Sacre Coeur church. We’ve been buying big jars of pickled artichoke heart from Costco for a while, and always have it as a side dish with steak or pasta, a great combination we learned in Italy. At one dinner with the Jay couple, I taunted them for the Chinese translation of artichoke heart, only to be ridiculed after looking it up in a dictionary.

Artichoke means 洋蓟, which doesn’t seem to be closely related to lily at all, although the kind of artichoke we eat, globe artichoke, bears certain similarity with 莲蓬. Is 百合心 double metaphor, literary association, or just lost in translation?

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