Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Hugh Valland

Rereading a novel involves noticing details that were meaningful to the author and to some of the characters though not to the reader on a first reading. This instance is particularly poignant. In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars (New York, 1966), three thousand year old Hugh Valland, who travels between stars and galaxies, explains why he is content to visit his Mary O'Meara only occasionally on Earth.

" 'Earth's no place for a live man to live any more. Fine for Mary, not for me. It's not unfair to either of us. We get together often enough, considerin' that we'll never grow old. Between whiles, I can remember...' " (p. 16)

Earth is no place for the living but fine for Mary because Mary is dead. They'll never grow old because he has the antithanatic and she has died. Valland visits a grave. He remembers all the time.

The narrator of the novel did not know this when he conversed with Valland but does know it when he narrates. Like the author, he keeps the surprise till the end. And we forget this early conversation unless and until we reread the novel.

Anderson readers, reread! You have nothing to lose but insufficient appreciation of well-crafted stories and novels.

No comments: