Posts Tagged ‘The Sinner’

The Sinners

October 9, 2018

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I would like to discuss The Sinner. Actually, The Sinners, since seasons 1 and 2 of the TV series, and the novel that season 1 is based on, are three different beasts.

I first found out about it from my favorite TV critic, Melanie McFarland. It was shortly after the first episode of season 2 had run, and it was from her that I also first learned about the first season, despite the splash that it was said to have made last year. Fortunately, the USA Network makes previously aired (cabled?) episodes (or “parts”, as they are called in this case) available for recording, while our local library happened to have the entire recorded first season on the shelf. So my wife and I binge-watched it in the course of a week, and then began playing the new season.

But to call this series a second season, as though it were a continuation of the first, is a stretch. There is no connection between the plots, and the only continuity in the show itself (as distinct from the production staff) is the character the detective, Harry Ambrose, played by Bill Pullman.

But both the professional and personal aspects of this character are quite different in the two series. In the first he is the lead detective investigating a case in his department’s jurisdiction, and his private life centers on his complicated relationships with his ex-wife and his mistress. None of this is alluded to in the second  “season”,  he is invited as a consultant by another detective in what happens to be his hometown, and what we see of his inner life is flashbacks to his traumatic childhood.

Even using the same title is a bit disingenuous. The original series is based on a novel titled Die Sünderin (feminine!) by Petra Hammesfahr, the title character being Cora Bender, who murders a man called (but not actually named) Frankie. In the TV adaptation Cora gets to retain her first name, as do (more or less) her mother (Elsbeth → Elizabeth) and her aunt (Margret → Margaret), while Frankie becomes her victim’s actual name. All the other characters’ names (and all surnames, of course) are changed significantly. Cora’s sister Magdalena (a highly symbolic name in view of the plot’s religious undertones) becomes Phoebe, while Harry Ambrose’s prototype is Rudolf Grovian, an altogether different character — conventionally and faithfully married, with a daughter and grandson about the same age as Cora and her son. And in the second series it is not at all clear who the titular sinner is meant to be.

Another difference between novel and adaptation has to do with space and time. The novel takes place in precise locations in and around Cologne and Hamburg, and, while it was first published in 1999, its action is earlier in that decade. We know this because Freddie Mercury is dead, so it must be later than 1991, while Cora’s mother Elsbeth (who is now 65) had, as a young girl, a pregnancy-producing fling with a British soldier after World War II. If she was 18 in 1945, that would put us in 1992; if a year or two younger, then in 1993 or 1994, but no later. The TV series, on the other hand, takes place vaguely in the present (all the technology is up to date, but the are no references to contemporaneous events) and in fictitious places in upstate New York.

Each of the three is an excellent work, worthy of enjoyment on its own.

 

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Marin

September 30, 2018

I am a big fan of Marina Hyde. Of Marine Le Pen, not so much.

I have known, or heard of, a fair number of women named Marina, and a few named Marine. But I only know of one named Marin: the conductor Marin Alsop, whose forename is, according to Wikipedia, stressed on the first syllable, unlike the homographic county in California, stressed on the second.

Oddly enough, two TV series that recently concluded their American runs had female characters named Marin. One was the BBC series The Miniaturist, where all but one of the characters (including Marin) are Dutch, and Marin is paroxytone (/’mærən/, rhyming with Darrin). The other was the  second season of USA’s The Sinner, in which Marin was pronounced like the county: /məˈrɪn/.

The BBC’s version is to be expected, since the British in general have an aversion to oxytones. Even French names like François or Monet are most likely to be heard in Britain as FRAHN-swah or MOH-nay. Here, of course, Marin is supposed to be a Dutch woman’s name, and by Dutch rules it would also be paroxytone, but as [‘ma:rin]. But the series makes no effort to pronounce Dutch names with anything but their English reading pronunciation, and the word schout /sxɑu̯t/ is pronounced like shoot.

It isn’t just the pronunciation, by the way. As is quite common in British shows taking place in other European countries, the characters behave in a thoroughly English fashion (for a recent example, see this movie review).

In any case, Marin is extremely rare as a Dutch woman’s name, and according to the relevant database it is not found before 1960 (the series takes place in the 1680s), and then often among those born in Turkey. I have no idea how Jessie Burton, the author of the novel on which the series is based, came up with it.

I similarly have no idea how Derek Simonds, the showrunner and writer of The Sinner, came up with the same name for a girl in a small town in upstate New York. As regards its pronunciation, it’s most likely due to the fact that, while originally from Connecticut, he moved to Los Angeles in 1994 and he was thus exposed to the California county name.

That name in turn comes from that of an indigenous Californian known in English as Chief Marin, though his entire life (c. 1781–1839) was spent under Spanish and Mexican rule, and he was named Marino, the Spanish name of two saints known in English by their Latin name, Marinus. The English form, with its oxytone accent, seems to be due to the Spanish-speaking General Mariano Vallejo, who may have modeled it on the not unusual Spanish surname Marín (which in turn may come from the Galician town of that name).

But then again, when it comes to two-syllable words ending in a consonant other than a simple s, Americans in general prefer, when in doubt, to stress them on the last syllable. The contrast with the British preference can be seen in common words such as harass, and such names as Bernard, Maurice, Barnett or Parnell. (This is not to say that the opposite does not occur in some well-known words.)

But with words ending in n the situation is not clear. Names ending in –in that are known to be Russian (Lenin, Stalin, Putin…) are stressed on the first syllable, but Yitzhak Rabin’s surname was usually stressed on the last (as in formal Hebrew). On the other hand, an anglophone surnamed Rabin will most likely have his name pronounced RAY-bin (/’rsbɪn/. Similarly Carl Sagan’s surname is sounded /ˈsɡən/, but Peter Sagan (/’sagan/ in Slovak) is usually referred to as /səɡɑːn/.  Irish surnames ending in –an usually stressed on the first syllable (Dolan, Dugan, Nolan…), as they are in the British Isles, but for some reason Doran and Moran are not. Could the intervocalic r be a factor? That would help explain the seeming naturalness of Marin.

By the way, I’ll have more to write about The Sinner.