You can see Mr Flay side-stepping the presence of his mortal foe, Swelter, as one side-steps other unpleasantness in one’s path. Perhaps he could delicately pinch his fingers to his nose to preserve himself from any sweltering smells.
‘It had therefore been Mr Flay’s practice, whenever possible, to ignore the chef as one ignores a cesspool by the side of a road.’
For another of Peake’s colourful ways to convey the mutual, mortal hatred of Flay and Swelter, see their encounter in the kitchen.
See also our bestellar review of this book, with its lavishly illustrated quote-mosaic, packed with fine phrasing and fresh metaphors.
Source: Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan, introduction by Anthony Burgess (London: Vintage Books, 1998), p. 91
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