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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (urth) Severin
Date: Thu,  6 Nov 97 18:09:00 GMT

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

Reply:  Item #8062114 from URTH@LISTS.BEST.COM@INET03#


The Severin/Severian notion is pretty interesting and I'm glad you
are still kicking it around.  You could build it up into a solid
essay, I'm sure.

You remind me that last time we corresponded on this I said Severian
isn't an algophilist.  Just to cause mischief: Well, that's what
=Severian= insists at various points in the text.  However, his
relations with women are a bit more dominating/alienated than we can
reasonably assume would be "average" for a man who had grown up
(1) under near-total gender segregation, (2) being instructed on the
arts of torture.  Just as we begin to question his "perfect memory,"
we might well begin to doubt his lack of sadism.

To begin with the clear cases: he =knows= that he has been
psychologically cruel to Dorcas with his flaunting of affairs with
other women (well, maybe she doesn't know about Cyriaca); he =knows=
that he has caused physical pain in consensual carnal relations with
Dorcas.  And this is a woman he really =loves=!  Then there is the
threat of violence against the Thecla khaibit; the "affair" with
Jolenta that he himself says might have been rape (which is actually
perhaps even more damning for his situation, since rape is shown to be
a form of punishment dealt out by torturers =by judicial order=; see
also the near-rape of Casdoe by zoanthrops); and so on, back to the
beginning where Severian, in a mood of petty vindictive jealousy,
gives Thecla a knife rather than setting her free (to love somebody
else).  (So how come people get all crazy about the petty vindictive
behavior of the women in "The Cat" as some kind of gender issue when
Severian his own self is so much worse--and that's before ingesting
Thecla. [:)])

(Hey, maybe I should call "[:)]" the Frankensmiley.)

Now if I recollect my cliff notes aright, VENUS IN FURS is at one
level about the natural evolution of a masochist into a sadist, a
transformation between what looks like polar opposites.  TBOTNS is
about the metamorphosis of a torturer into a kind of anti-torturer,
but even in his "advanced" state, Severian has some odd moments with
women: for example, his abrupt murder of the mistress of the jailors;
the petty vindictive jealousy that might underlie the "accidental"
assassination of Valeria.

SEVERIAN IS AN ANTI-HERO.  I don't think that people will argue with
that point.  Among various "heroic" attributes we find "chivalric
attitude towards women"; and yea, verily, Severian lacks this quality at
various levels, confirming his anti-hero status.  Moorcock's Elric is
also an anti-hero; but when Elric kills the woman he loves (as when Jerry
Cornelius shoots his sister/lover) it is an "accident" rather than
pre-meditated (pulling punches?).  OTOH in Clint Eastwood's "The
Unforgiven," as in Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," [sp?] there is that
moment when suddenly the reader's alligence shifts from protagonist to

Go Talon!


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