Monday, 21 April 2014

The Call Of The Old Days II

I do not remember this amusing dialogue from previous readings of Poul Anderson's "Margin Of Profit":

"'In my day we were men! And we had ideals, I can tell you. We would have boosted through hell's open gate if you paid us enough.'"
- Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 157.

So having ideals means doing anything if you are paid enough! Although, as a matter of fact, the speaker, Nicholas van Rijn, is nowhere near as bad as that. Everything that he says, however spontaneous it sounds, is calculated to produce exactly the desired effect in the hearer.

When discussing the suggestion of a nuclear strike, he says:

"'I must got to admit, also, supposing we could, slaughtering several billion sentients because their leaders make trouble for us is not nice. I do not think the League would long survive being so guilty.'" (ibid., p. 149)

Of course, he adds:

"'Besides, it is wasteful. They should better be made customers of ours.'" (ibid.)

But the moral judgement came first.

This same page gives us a van Rijn malapropism that is also a portmanteau word, "'...grismal...,'" grisly and dismal.

Deliberately irritating in the hope that this will stimulate his colleague's thoughts, van Rijn spells out what they all know - and thus informs the reader of it! And, teaching good manners to a younger man, he says:

"'In my day, we said "sir" to the captain even when we mutinied.'" (p. 159)

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Old Nick's comic mangling of what would become the Emperor's Anglic always makes me smile or laugh! And, I agree, while Old Nick might pretend to be merely a crassly money grubbing materialist, the moral points he makes shows van Rijn has a conscience. Yes, he likes to wheel and deal, wheedle and bargain, but he won't use grossly unethical means of getting rich.