Thursday, March 5, 2009

" They Seek Him Here, They Seek Him There" - Exchange with NYT Steve Farrell

My comment and query on a story in the New York Times that was headlined "They Seek Him Here, They Seek Him There" by Stephen Farrell was posted on their blog ( The headline immediately struck me!
I was surprised to receive a personal response from the NYT journalist Stephen Farrell from the Baghdad Bureau (See below). I replied to this and he responded again. NYT seems to have a brave and literary reporter. The literary folks among us may enjoy this exchange.

From: Stephen Farrell
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2009 10:37 AM

In answer to your questions and in keeping with the spirit of the Baroness as I remember it, perhaps incorrectly after such a long time. If so, please forgive a rare moment of humour in Iraq:

Egad, it was just such a deuced allusion. I wrote the headline, and I’m glad someone picked up on it. I went to a state school (in Britain).

Thanks very much for reading Baghdad Bureau, ‘pon my soul.

Steve Farrell


From: Sundar
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:32 PM
To: 'Stephen Farrell'

Dear Steve,

What a surprise to hear from you. I am delighted to learn that you were the crafter of the headline.

I recall reading the book given to me by my dad, who had probably read it when he was very young himself. I suspect it first read it when I may have been in 6th grade or so (this was back in India). Even more remarkable was the coincidence of having just borrowed the audio version of the book from our excellent Public Library.

To encounter, even fleetingly, such an allusion after many decades is wonderful… I will admit it was the headline that caught the eye, which in turn led me to read your excellent story. Kudos to you, and the Baghdad bureau, on wonderful reporting. A story that is apparently from outside the Green Zone is always of interest.

Don’t apologize for interesting writing. This is why I love the FT (but not the WSJ).

What next? Bulldog Drummond, perhaps?



From: Stephen Farrell []
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:38 PM

'What Ho, Jeeves' if I can get away with it.

(By the way, we are always outside the Green Zone. Our bureau is in the Red Zone. Or perhaps Scarlet Zone, given the Pimpernel context.)


Steve Farrell.

POSTSCRIPT 1: Many of us relying on a creaky memory got parts of it wrong. My Famous Scientist cousin wrote in minutes ago with the correct complete stanza:

“The complete stanza, complete with ethnic slur and sympathy for the aristocracy:
They seek him here, they seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel.“

POSTSCRIPT 2: An long time East Coast collaborator writes:

Note that the 1930's movie production with Leslie Howard and Raymond Massey has been on TV quite often. In keeping with the headline it probably would have been better if the article had been written by a reporter from Le Figaro or Le Monde rather than NYT, i.e., "Those Frenchies seek him everywhere".

He is of course quite wrong...but still all the same, there are more than a few literate people left.

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