Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A Disguised Moment Of Realization?

"'His sort would rather bring the whole works down than surrender to what they hate,' Hoshi said.
"'A praiseworthy attitude when our side has it,' Fraser remarked with a sardonicism that was acrid in his mouth.
"Hoshi regarded him out of narrowed slant eyes. 'What do you mean by that, Mark?'
"'Nothing. Forget it.'"
-Poul Anderson, Three Worlds To Conquer (London, 1966), Chapter 6, pp. 46-47.

(I googled "sardonicism" because it is one of those words that I recognize but this time I wanted to get a more precise meaning.)

Nothing? Ordinary conversation is full of unexplained, unfinished or interrupted remarks but, in a novel, every word and phrase is there for a reason. This remark does not seem to refer to anything that has happened so I expect that it prepares us for something that is still to come. Will Fraser later take a big risk to defeat the enemy?

6 comments:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I thought of Nazi Germany and Hitler as a classic example of the kind of people who would "...rather bring the whole works down than surrender to what they hate." By the time of the Normandy Allied landings in 1944, at the LATEST, it must have been plain to many Germans the war was lost and the rational thing to do was to surrender, for the best terms possible. But no, Hitler and those who thought like him, insisted on fighting on till Germany was utterly ruined. Kaiser Wilhelm II was not like that in WW I. He preferred to accept an armistice and abdicate, leaving behind a basically intact and functioning Germany.

Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

You can't render conversation literally in print -- it's much less structured, and hard to understand without the nonverbal input.

Paul Shackley said...

Very true.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I agree, but writers HAVE to render conversations in this structured, formal way simply in order to advance the story. If an author tried to write his book only in the way most people actually talk, it would make for dull, tedious, rambling, confusing reading.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
It would but maybe more could be done in that direction to capture what conversations are really like? I read aloud some dialogue from an English novel:

"'Just sayin', 'Ilda, lad's image of 'is mother!'"

Someone commented, "Aye! That's just like life!"

Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree! Good writers try to vary their stories with snippets of how most people actually talk. Including some slang and dialect words.

Sean