Noah in Time

When the silence was first broken at Gorgias Press, one of my colleagues suggested that I read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The title suggested to me some kind of point-of-view rewriting of H. G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine, a novel that had a large influence on my young, science-fiction inclined mind. For some reason I wanted to keep this place sacred to the memory of Wells and I dismissed the suggestion with polite demurral. Since that time Niffenegger has been constructing quite a reputation as a novelist, and because I enjoy the implications of time-travel and I like to keep current – fashionably late, of course – I finally took the time to read the book.

I wasn’t sure what to expect; it is a sensitive love story, wrenching in parts, but the mysteries of time travel are left to a genetic defect and not some technological invention. In the course of wending in and out of past and present lives, the main characters, Clare and Henry, carry on a dialogue that includes the dynamic of a protagonist raised Catholic. Once, while discussing the bizarre nature of time traveling, Henry suggests that Noah is a fairy tale to which Clare replies, “Noah is in the Bible. He’s not a fairy tale.” This statement reaffirms that, for many people, Noah is the obvious touchstone of the Bible and modern society. A versatile figure, enigmatic and only sketchily drawn in the Bible, Noah reappears regularly in the popular media. Just this summer I noted how Justin Cronin’s The Passage also cites Noah as a schematic for much of the plot that bears the story. A few weeks ago I mentioned how the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still viewed Klaatu’s ship as an ark. Noah from outer space.

Noah is a foundational figure for our society. This should not be surprising since the flood myth is among the most ancient of stories that humanity has relegated to religious literature. The Sumerians and Babylonians told the story long before Genesis was composed. In its own way, the Noah story is an example of time-travel. A tale whose origins are lost in the pre-literate stages of humanity, it becomes history with the uncritical acceptance of the Bible, only to become a defining myth of twenty-first century literature. The world of the twenty-first century often feels like a fragile environment ripe for a catastrophic flood. Consciously or not, we are still looking for our Noah.

Another kind of Noah

One thought on “Noah in Time

  1. Henk van der Gaast

    In the case of science fiction, the continual redaction of ideas only seems to make the genre worse. Sure its entertaining for most but science fiction has never surpassed its originator team s of authors; those that wrote genesis and the “Homeric” novels.

    In these cases, the mush awaited “Revelation” beautifully tied in the cultures of Homer, Sumer and the Levant with the originator plots.

    Possibly the only concept that will bear out true fantasy with enduring ideal would be Michael Moorcock’s “Eternal Champion” concept. The problem is, it’s literature that can only be described as “Heavy Metal”.

    My only comment on trash literature or trash music is; “nobody really cares what the writers have to say as long as they make the world rock when they did it”.

    You can’t tell me that when you reflect on the world initiated by Moorcock and Judas Priest that they didnt write with the concepts of being loud, brash and exuberant foremost in their mind. The parody of mind numbing comedic violence within an all too attainable science fiction on this world still leaves imitators stealing their ideas but never getting the joke.

    If there is a heaven to travel to, Priest and Moorcock will be feted as the smart but very funny bastards section whilst “repeat pretenders” such as
    Manson and Auel will be the Barristas coffee grind hands in the cafe for authors in business review weekly, that part of heaven that had to wait for the news to be interpreted for them a decade hence.

    Great modern science fiction has moved from the texts and musics available to the young. Mind you, it appears in TV advertisement and hopeful alternative medicine-science.

    One wonders how many cycles of re-invention these can bear before the populace start looking for a newer entertainment?


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