Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Perspectives In Rogue Sword

I attach an image of "Le Gonfanon des Crusaders." (See earlier post, "Terminology.")

In Poul Anderson's Rogue Sword (New York, 1960), the introductory Author's Note states that the main source of information about the Grand Catalan Company is a chronicle by Company member, Ramon Muntaner.

Muntaner is a character in the novel so the novel's hero, Lucas, knows this Muntaner and even fights alongside him. A reader of historical fiction once told me that he disliked the incorporation of historical figures into such fictions. I cannot think why. Surely nothing is more satisfying than reading about a fictitious character's conversations and interactions with individuals who are known to have had a historical existence?

Anderson refers to Marco Polo twice, in the Time Patrol story, "The Only Game In Town," and in the historical novel, Rogue Sword, but I don't think he brings Polo on stage anywhere?

The first three pages of Chapter XI, like some passages in the Time Patrol story, "Star Of The Sea," simply inform us of historical facts, mainly who fought whom then and with what result. The combatants include Muntaner and this purely historical passage ends with a quotation from his chronicle:

"And I have told you this fine adventure in order that you should all understand that it was due to nothing but the power of God, and that this was not done through our worth but by the virtue and grace of God." (p. 160)

The very next paragraph begins:

"That was the only warlike action Lucas saw during this time." (p. 160)

- so we are back in the historical fiction. But fiction is about life. At the end, Lucas (and the author) reflects:

"If a man is fortunate, there are a few pure moments in his life. They do not last; the doubts and fears, guilt, loneliness, and all the grubby little weaknesses return; but he has had those moments and knows life is joyous." (p. 283)

I am preparing a talk on Zen meditation and this is one of the points that I want to make.

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