Sorry, gang; I've been fighting off a cold and a toothache most of the week and wasn't able to finish this week's installment of "Out of the Silent Planet." Yeah, yeah, excuses, excuses. I'll be back next week, honest.
But in lieu of a full diary, I wanted to point out a few random observations that didn't get into the previous diaries:
There was a point I wanted to make about Ransom and the hrossi; that it was significant that when Ransom first met the hross, he started out by trying to learn the creature's language instead of trying to teach him his. I had it in my head that Lewis made a point that in doing so Ransom managed to avoid the mistake many colonialists and missionaries make of inflicting his own culture on a new one instead of trying to understand it.
Except that in re-reading the passage, I couldn't find Lewis saying that. And thinking about it more, I realized that I was thinking of a passage from a different science fiction novel, (I'm thinking it was Anne McCaffrey's Decision at Doona).
Be that as it may, the fact remains that on the whole, Ransom doesn't try to impose his own culture on the hrossi; and by living with them, learns much more about Malacandra than Weston and Devine do.
Early on in the novel, Weston speaks rather sneeringly about Ransom's area of expertise, not considering philology to be a "real" science -- reflecting what C.P. Snow called "The Two Cultures" as well as the later distinction drawn by fans between "Hard SF" and the more wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. But this is really unfair of him. When Ransom meets the hross, it is his scientific curiosity which overcomes his initial fear. All through the book we see Ransom trying to analyze the things he encounters; trying to extrapolate the rules of Malacandrian grammar, constructing hypotheses about Malacandrian life and society and revising those hypotheses as he acquires new evidence.
It also occurred to me in this re-reading that the hrossi bear some resemblance to the the Navi from the movie Avatar. I suppose this is mostly because both races are furry and extremely tall, and both have a primitive but idealized society. (And both races serve a more powerful intelligence which the human visitors are unaware of).
In one passage, Lewis describes the hrossi in a way to which I think furry fans could relate:
...the rationality of the hross tempted you to think of it as a man. Then it became abominable -- a man seven feet high, with a snaky body, covered, face and all, with thick black animal hair, and whiskered like a cat. But starting from the other end you had an animal with everything an animal ought to have -- glossy coat, liquid eye, sweet breath and whitest teeth -- and added to all these, as though Paradise had never been lost and earliest dreams were true, the charm of speech and reason. Nothing could be more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful than the other. It all depended on the point of view.More next week!