Friday, 5 February 2016

Two Surprises In The Old Phoenix

Poul Anderson's "Losers' Night" is an extremely compact text. A full analysis of the story would be longer than it, especially if every historical reference were to be followed up. I want to focus just on the conclusion.

When Francois Villon has sung about Christians "'...burning heretics, hanging Jews...'" (All One Universe, p. 123) -

- the first person narrator comments:

"I thought his mind had slipped back to his medieval realm, until I remembered what world it was whereon Winston Churchill now opened the door. The envoi sums up the entire ballade." (ibid.)

(Do we need that last sentence?)

This is a double surprise ending. First, it is possible that some readers have not realized that the "John Bull" Englishman in the story is Churchill. Any such readers will be pleasantly surprised by the second half of the second last sentence. Secondly, however, their pleasurable recognition of a historical figure might distract their attention from the reason why the narrator remembers the world to which Churchill returns: Europe between the Wars. Mass murder of Jews was not solely a medieval aberration.

But there is more. In the Old Phoenix, Churchill has met van Gogh and their conversation has inspired him not to "'...surrender...'" (p. 122) despite his current political setbacks. World War II awaits.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

So, if we assume Churchill's meeting with Theo van Gogh was "real," it inspired Churchill not to give up, to continue with his political career even at a time, circa 1930, when he was thoroughly unpopular, everything seemed to be going wrong, pushing him to accept early retirement.

Therefore, Churchill's visit to the "Old Phoenix" convinced him not to surrender, to continue his struggle.