Monday, 15 October 2012

Cities

Yet again, I commend a descriptive passage by Poul Anderson when one of his characters, in this case Eodan in The Golden Slave (New York, 1980), enters a city.

Anderson shows us many cities:

fabulous, prehistoric, extraterrestrial, even extra-planetary;
an alternative Paris in a divergent timeline;
an alternative York in an AI "emulation";
memorably, the real York in Operation Luna.

In The Golden Slave, Eodan enters Rome, a city great in history and myth, in Italy and Europe, in Paganism and Christianity, in the annals of Ys and the Time Patrol. Eodan had dreamed of "...golden roofs above white colonnades, shimmering against a sky forever blue...," then had experienced "...the avenue of the triumph..." as a captured slave. (p. 84) Now, he enters a real city to one of Anderson's descriptive lists, "...a city that toiled and played and sang and dickered and laughed..." etc. (p. 84) On the next page, there is a list of street smells.

We are told that Rome "...eternally outgrew her walls..." (p. 84). Well, she is the Eternal City. And there is one detail that we might recognize:

"...tall wooden tenements...the landless, workless scourings of war and debt crouched in their rags waiting for the next dole." (p. 85)

It seems that the Romans were just like us but with slaves instead of machines.

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