Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Order Of Events

Even when there is no time travel involved, i.e., most of the time, a novelist need not recount events in the order experienced by his characters. We can be shown the eve of a crisis, then the long build-up to the crisis, then the crisis itself followed by its aftermath. Poul Anderson deploys this technique in "The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth," even as his central character, Carl Farness, time travels back and forth between the fourth and twentieth centuries.

Each section of the narrative is headed by a year date:

in 372, Carl as the Wanderer addresses his and Jorith's great-grandson;

in 1935, he returns from 372;

in 300, he meets the young Jorith;

in 1980, he returns from the Academy on the same day that he had departed to it.

These are just the first four sections. Carl experiences these events in this order:

departure to the Academy;
the Academy in the Oligocene;
return from the Academy;
first meeting with Jorith;
conversation with the great-grandson;
return to 1935 -

- although, of course, there are other events between these. We do not lose track of the narrative while reading but it is instructive to analyze the text and realize how it was constructed.

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