What’s in a title?

The Times Literary Supplement this week contains a letter from Lydia Davis detailing the struggle she had in translating the title of Proust’s “Du Côté de Chez Swann”.  I had enough trouble with the English title of my book about the origins of modern facial surgery.  No-one has yet suggested it should be translated into French, and I did not, to be truthful, have that as a consideration.

For nearly 15 years its working title was “The Queen’s Hospital and all the King’s Men”, referring of course to the nursery rhyme, which seemed apposite:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Except, of course, that the surgeons did manage to put their 5000 Humpties together pretty well.

But it seemed a bit long.  So I switched to “Faces of War”.  A quick Google revealed several such titles, as did “The Face of War”, which anyway left out 4999 from the equation.  Oh dear.  Then I came up with “Faces from the Front”.  This had no overlaps; if you look now you will find a few sites indicating how to draw faces from the front.  It was short and alliterative.  It resonated both with my diligent editor and daughter, and my publisher.

So “Faces from the Front” it became, although for clarity it had appended a rather long subtitle.  But the book cover makes this suitably sub.  So you can see for yourself and purchase from any number of bookselling sites worldwide.

“Faces from the Front: Harold Gillies, the Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup and the origins of modern plastic surgery” is published by Helion Press (2017).