Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Van Rijn POV V

See Van Rijn POV IV here. For references, see here.

I have posted about Andersonian moments of realization. See here. Nicholas van Rijn has one. While discussing a common problem with fellow merchants, he comments that they need a scientific approach, then breaks off in mid-sentence:

"Abruptly he dropped his glance and covered a shiver by pouring himself another glassful. He had gotten an idea." (p. 155)

Like all of Anderson's problem-solvers, van Rijn does not disclose his solution immediately. That has to come as the surprise ending of the story. When, after a further hour of fruitless argument, he proposes:

"' agreement. A pool, or prize, or reward for whoever solves this problem. For example, ten percent of everybody else's Antarean profits for the next ten years.'" (p. 155)

- Firmage of North American Engineering understandably says:

"'If I know you, you robber, you've come up with an answer.'" (p. 156)

Maybe, but the answerer must handle the expense and risk of the (possible) answer... During the ensuing argument:

"Van Rijn smiled with infinite benevolence." (ibid.)

There is a modicum of humor here. The word "benevolence" is used ironically. Van Rijn always finds a neat match between his business need to make a profit and other people's needs of different kinds but how often does this happen in reality?

Pp. 156-158 present a second conversation between van Rijn and Torres, surprisingly narrated from van Rijn's pov. Or, rather, the pov shifts. The passage opens:

"Rafael Torres had considered himself unshockable by any mere words." (ibid.)

That is Torres' pov. Then we are told what both men say so the pov could be that of an observer. There is more humor. Van Rijn bellows:

"'...we had ideals, I can tell you. We would have boosted through hell's open gates if you paid us enough.'" (p. 157)

His ideal is to do anything for high enough pay! This humorous self-criticism is not accidental. With van Rijn, every word is calculated. With a different audience, he would make entirely the same point in an entirely different way. Later, he entices Chee Lan back into employment by offering high pay and Adzel by appealing to that being's sense of duty and responsibility - but Chee Lan can be relied on to watch Adzel's back.

The conversation with Torres' shifts to van Rijn's pov:

"Van Rijn stood quiet for a while. This was something he had not quite foreseen.
"His gaze wandered forth, out the transparency, to the narrow sea. A yacht was passing by, lovely in white sails and slender hull. Really, he ought to spend more time on his own. Money wasn't that important. Was it? This was not such a bad world, this Earth, even when one was being invaded by age and fat. It was full of blossoms and burgundy, clean winds and lovely women, Mozart melodies and fine books. Doubtless his memories of earlier days in space were colored by nostalgia...." (ibid.)

This paragraph about white sails and blossoms is in a pulp sf story about fighting aliens in outer space. Those who remember reading stories about van Rijn's flamboyant character might not as readily remember these inner reflections, in his very first story, about the loveliness of Earth?

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And I suspect Old Nick EXPECTED Chee Lan to make sure Adzel was not TOO self sacrificingly self abnegating! So I don't really think Old Nick would have unfairly stinted Adzel of reasonable pay and bonuses.

    And that moment of wistfulness we see as Old Nick looked out the window would not be seen in most of the more pulpy SF stories.