Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Humor II

I reread parts of Poul Anderson's Satan's World (New York, 1977) in order to learn about Nicholas van Rijn's adversary, Edward Garver, but I also found some Andersonian humor - I mean apart from the description of Garver himself!

"'We did not invite you to smoke,' Anastasia Herrera said frigidly.
"'Oh, that's alright, don't apologize, I know you got a lot on your minds.' Van Rijn lit the cigar..." (p. 75)

Amusingly, van Rijn pretends to misunderstand while simultaneously demonstrating his complete control of the conversation.

"[Adzel] assumed the quadrupedal equivalent of the lotus position,..." (p. 80)

We wonder what that must look like as the sentence continues:

"...which is quite a sight." (p. 80)

Here, for comical effect, Anderson seriously compromises the remote impersonality of the omniscient narrator. Only someone who had seen the quadrupedal lotus would be able to comment that it is "...quite a sight."

When van Rijn turns the tables on an opponent, the latter has to put a brave face on it:

"'Freeman van Rijn generously" - Kim had a fight to get the adverb out - "offered us advice.'" (p. 82)


"'...Freeman van Rijn will, sub rosa, be our broker.
"'At a fat commission,' Garver groaned.
"Kim could not refrain from groaning back, 'Very fat.'" (p. 82)

"'You have made your own settlement - with van Rijn?' Garver whispered.
"'Yes,' said Kim, like one up whom a bayonet has been rammed." (p. 83)

Humor is a sudden realization of incongruity. In these dialogues, there are repeated realizations of an incongruity between reality and appearance in the exchange between van Rijn and Kim.

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