Friday, 20 July 2012

Senlac II

By page 10 of Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), the text has not yet informed the reader that this will be a time travel novel. We have probably read the blurb but, apart from this, we have not yet been told that in this narrative historical events will have a double significance. Not only do they affect human lives both immediately and later but also a time traveller can decide whether to revisit or shun them.

However, Anderson which here can mean either the author Poul or the narrator Robert, prepares us for what is to come by carefully delineating the historical period of the early 1930's when the time traveller Jack Havig is born:

a worldwide depression;
the Japanese conquest of Manchuria;
a bonus march on Washington;
the Lindbergh kidnapping;
Hitler Chancellor of Germany;
a new US President due to take office;
Prohibition about to be ended;
for local colour, "...springtime in these parts is as lovely as our autumn." (p. 10)

A different era, although Havig can revisit it - but will he want to? If this novel were written by Jack Finney, then there would be no doubt. The protagonist would be strongly motivated by nostalgia for this or an earlier period. Anderson's characters differ from Finney's and from each other. In a very different time travel scenario, one Time Patrolman says, of Victorian London:

"I'd like to have lived here..." (1)

- and, when his colleague asks:

"Yeah? With their medicine and dentistry?" (1)

defiantly replies:

"And no bombs falling." (1)

(This character's fiancee had died in an air raid in 1944.)

Much later, both in history and in the characters' lives, the colleague thinks, of his own birth period:

 "The Midwest of his boyhood, before he went off to war in 1942, was like a dream, a world forever lost, already one with Troy and the innocence of the Inuit. He had learned better than to return." (2)

But why not return sometimes? I would.

Back to Havig's birthplace:

"Senlac is a commercial center for an agricultural area..." (p. 10)

with "...some light industry..." and a big Rotary Club. Robert and Kate Anderson's friends are her father (a local banker), the public librarian, professors and their wives from Holberg College forty miles away and New Englanders Tom and Eleanor Havig who attend the local church as the only way to keep Tom's high school science teaching job which pays so little that he must supplement his income with a summer job in creamery quality control. A teacher needing a summer job? Again, a different era (I hope).

Robert drives his Marmon down Union St to Elm to visit Eleanor who has panicked because Jack disappeared when she dropped him in surprise at hearing, then seeing, another baby crying in his crib. The baby in the crib is indeed Jack so she must have hallucinated...

The reader who has skipped the blurb might begin to suspect time travel and circular causality. When dropped into the crib, the baby time travelled a few minutes into the past and screamed, thus causing his mother to carry him into the bedroom and drop him in surprise. The novel will present several intricate elaborations of this paradox.

(1) Anderson, Poul, Time Patrol, New York, 2006, p. 28.
(2) Anderson, Poul, The Shield Of Time, New York, 1990, p. 178.   

No comments: