A funny section from late in Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666; lapsus calami is Latin for “slip of the pen,” indicating a mistake or miswriting (although, as the characters discuss later, some of these examples may be purposeful):
. . . . and then they started to talk about lapsus calami, many of them collected in a book published long ago in Paris and fittingly titled Le Musee des erreurs, as well as others selected by Max Sengen, hunter of errata. And one thing led to another and it wasn’t long before the copy editors got out a book (which wasn’t the French Museum of Errors or Sengen’s text), whose title Archimboldi couldn’t see, and began to read aloud a selection of cultured pearls:
“Poor Marie! Whenever she hears the sound of an approaching horse, she is certain that it is I.” Vie de Ranee, Chateaubriand.
“The crew of the ship swallowed up by the waves consisted of twenty-five men, who left hundreds of widows consigned to misery.” Les Cages flottantes, Gaston Leroux.
“With God’s help, the sun will shine again on Poland.” The Deluge, Sienkiewicz.
” ‘Let’s go!’ said Peter, looking for his hat to dry his tears.” Lourdes, Zola.
“The duke appeared followed by his entourage, which preceded him.” Letters from My Mill, Alphonse Daudet.
“With his hands clasped behind his back, Henri strolled about the garden, reading his friend’s novel.” Le Cataclysme, Rosny.
“With one eye he read, with the other he wrote.” On the Banks of the Rhine, Auback.
“Silently the corpse awaited the autopsy.” Luck’s Favorite, Octave Feuillet.
“William couldn’t imagine the heart served for anything other than breathing.” Death, Argibachev.
“This sword of honor is the most beautiful day of my life.” Honneur d’artiste, Octave Feuillet.
“I can hardly see anymore, said the poor blind woman.” Beatrix, Balzac.
“After they cut off his head, they buried him alive.” The Death of Mongomer, Henri Zvedan.
“His hand was as cold as a snake’s.” Ponson du Terrail. And here there was no indication of the source of the lapsus calami.
The following unattributed quotes from Max Sengen’s collection were particularly notable:
“The corpse stared reproachfully at those gathered around him.”
“What can a man do who’s been killed by a lethal bullet?”
“Near the city there were roaming whole packs of solitary bears.”
“Unfortunately, the wedding was delayed fifteen days, during which time the bride fled with the captain and gave birth to eight children.”
“Three- or four-day excursions were a daily occurrence.”
And then came the commentary.