Sandra Rutmane asked:
I have some trouble with the language here. For example, at the very opening of the book we read: Flipping up the old misericord beside her, her fingers flutter on the proverb of exposed wood. This far it's OK, but then- can anybody tell me what the next sentence mean, namely, It is a relief of a man shitting a bag of coins, a leer of pain chipped across his face. - And yes, what does this sentence mean?
Monica Hi Sandra, haven't read the book (but plan to). A misericord is a sort of support on the underside of a folddown seat often found in choir stalls of monasteries or churches - when choristers have to stand for a long time, they can sort of lean their rear end on these without actually sitting. Then the seat can be folded down to make a proper seat. So if you flip up th eseat you see the misericord. Under the actual seat/support part, there is usually a carving, and this is one of those places where medieval sculptors could engage in humorous topics, as there was no prescribed iconography to put in this place not generally seen by the public. So in this particular one, it was a relief (carving that emerges 3D out of the wood) represening a man doing just that to coins - in a sense a saracastic comment perhaps on how the greed of the Dutch merchants was for money, associating money with filth but also with the love of money. "leer" is an odd choice I thought for an expression of pain, as usually a leer is a sly, perhaps mocking or contemptuous grin. Perhaps it is used to indicate a combination of pain (at passing the bag of coins) and sly delight/contempt for the filthy lucre. "Chipped" across his face - I suppose refers to the fact that this is done by carving, chipping away at the wood to form the relief sculpture. Does that help?