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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (urth) More: Dr Talos's Play
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 97 16:07:00 GMT

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

Dan Rabin,

Yes, your list is nearly perfect.  According to Wolfe, the demons are
both played by Dorcas and Jolenta.

Re: the missing characters, I would make a strong bet that "the Moon"
is played by Dorcas, and I'm also guessing that the women play the
Angelic Beings (mirroring how they played the demons).

Tony Ellis,

Re: sons from stones in Greek myth, to be precise I believe you are
thinking of Deucalion's Flood (alga note: wolves and wolfmen here), which
is not exactly a genesis myth--more an eschatology and genesis myth
(i.e., a flood myth).  "Noah" here being Deucalion, and his wife here
being "Pyrrha."

Re: acts versus scenes.  Ah, so the whole misunderstanding was due to my
misuse of the technical term?  It happens: "scenes" they are then; a
one act play with several scenes on a stage without a curtain in a
Greco-Roman culture.

Re: divine week.  Right, that was the nebulous theory "frosting" built
upon a few layers of cake, said cake in turn concocted of solid info
(cast of characters; number of internal divisions; relation of play to
several eschatology, genesis, and eschatology and genesis myths; how
often genesis myths use a divine week; and so on).  Sorry, I really
should always remember to tag mantic things as mantic and solid
things as solid.

Re: why Severian ends his transcript when he does.  I thought I had
hammered this home a couple of times, but you've managed to get most
of it despite my fumbling: yes, he is recording the play as it was
performed both times.  The first time, at Ctesiphon's Cross, he walked
on cold and was talked/stage directed through the whole thing (as was
Dorcas), and Baldanders did his scare bit; the second time, while
somewhat (i.e., barely) more practiced, ended the same way.

My main point of "why" before had to do with the wrath of Baldanders.

But now I'd like to move beyond that and make a hash of why Severian
is being coy about the play (or why he has to be coy about it).

The fact is, I think we all agree, that this play is a blueprint of
the whole Urth-into-Ushas shebang.  Playing as an actor in such a
play obviously has an impact upon the actors who actually turn out to
have a role in the real deal.  We're back to the thorny thicket of
Free Will versus Determinism.  If Severian leans too heavily upon the
play when he is going through the real thing, then he is just a
puppet of a pre-determined Fate; if he willfully ignores the play as
he transforms the world, then he is a fool of Free Will.

The same thing is going on to a lesser extent with the stories in the
brown book.  They really are all messages to him about his big

The same thing is going on to a much greater extent in a third text
which is shrouded in such crafty silence that most readers do not
know that it was read in the cell by Thecla and Severian: the
original, "long lost" work (that Dr. Talos has also apparently seen),
(Canog's) THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN.  (No, I didn't figure this one
out, dispite the clues--I only learned it in an essay by Wolfe in

(Obviously this has to be.  Otherwise, Severian would always be
saying to himself and the reader, "Lessee now, what did the
Conciliator do next?"  Rather than just going through life as it
presented itself to him.)

Re: which play (whole/truncated) is "the one we are supposed to think
about," I disagree.  I think both are important--and often times, in
Wolfe's fiction, things hinted yet =not= said are very important
indeed.  But everybody is entitled to a different opinion, of course.


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