Color Me A Novel

What does the image below look like to you? A mosaic of random design where every piece is a square of basic color, perhaps.tom

This sequence of colored tiles represents a precise sequence of sentences in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where each tile is a “color word” — red, pink, grey etc.   Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has 154 mentioning of colors.

The idea — and the application — belongs to Tatiana Druzhnyaeva. It represents a dozen or so literary works in Russian, French, Spanish and English. It is based on the classic editions and translation of texts into Russian. The “live application” is interactive — positioning cursor over the colored tile anywhere will cause a corresponding line of text to pop up.  It also shows the number of mentioning of colors in the book.

Every form of adjectives denoting color were taken into account as well as the adjectives goldensilver and the like. Forms such as “rose bush” to mean “bush of roses” are excluded from the study.

Master painter” Leo Tolstoy uses 353 mentions of color in his Anna Karenina.

Tolstoj Anna
Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code boasts 268 “color words”.
dan brown 268
JD Salinger’s  The Catcher in the Rye has only 54 words of color.


Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has only 17, of which 4 appears in the first chapter and all refer to the “golden key” — “the was nothing on it except a tiny golden key…”  “she tried the little golden key in the lock…”

Another book with predilection to the color golden is... The Holy Bible. The entire Old Testament has unimpressive 390 mentios of color and quite uninspiring palette with prevalence of golden, very few greens and almost no yellow in sight. Golden “portrait” of the Holy Book is below:


Bible Golden

Below, is the “portrait” of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — lots and lots of red in preference to every other color. Pretty poor color palette, actually. Curious indeed… To think of it, before becoming the shame of his nation, Adolf Hitler had been an aspiring painter in Vienna…


The most impressive in numbers and dazzle are J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring (1,572 color words — lots of greens, whites and blacks), and M. Sholokhov’s Quiet is River Don  (Nobel Prize in Literature 1965) — a splash and a swath of 2,198 color words, but the “canvas” is huge, too, a monster in 4 volumes.

Frankly, I don’t know who and why would be really interested in examining the color palette of any book, holy or not, except for those who earn their living doing this sort of research. Still, I was plenty amused, playing with the app, my cursor hovering over the black, white and golden squares, reading the sentences where black, white and golden were used as epithets. I suppose, I’m just a naturally curious person.

I didn’t go into any trouble checking out if the Russian translation of The Holy Bible contains an exact same number of “colored words” as the King James Bible and whether or not those words are exactly the same. The numbers shouldn’t be much different.  Green in Russian is just that – the word meaning color green. There is no need – and I don’t see any – to substitute it with “red”, “orange” or omit it altogether. Substitution of one color for another won’t change the number of “color words” anyway, it’ll change only the look of the book’s color scheme.

To see how colors burst into a line of text, check out Вогнать в краску. It’s all in Russian, but it’ll give you an idea what the application is up to.


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