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From: Dan Parmenter <dan@lec.com>
Subject: (urth) memory and abstraction
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 08:51:26 

From: David_Lebling@avid.com

>I don't have a good explanation for why he first thinks Thrax is by the
>sea, but I think I can nail the other.  Palaemon probably knows Severian
>as well as anyone, and has figured out (as we eventually do) that while
>he has an exceptional memory, he doesn't have terribly awesome
>analytical faculties.  Again and again we see him _missing the point_,
>so Palaemon realizes that Severian won't get it, regardless of what he
>says, but he won't insult Severian by saying so.

I like your explanation.  Especially because it has the ironic
component that if, following Borges, we assume that people with
perfect memories aren't very good at abstraction (Funes the Memorious'
assigning names to numbers for example) and thus aren't the most
analytical of people.

>We've been around and around on this issue before; I'm in the camp that
>believes there was something different about Severian's memories of
>Thecla. Somewhere (where?) he states that the Claw brought her to life
>in his mind, and somewhere else it is stated that the analeptic alzabo's
>memory effects don't last (this may be when the Old Autarch is
>explaining _his_ potion in Book IV). Severian's total recall isn't

Perhaps the exact means are unimportant - perhaps it's "all of the
above", the Alzabo, his perfect recall and the powers within him
(manifesting throught the claw).  It was necessary for Severian to
gain her memories for various plot purposes, both grand and mundane.
One of my favorite examples of the latter is when Severian is in the
antechamber and his memory of Thecla's excursions with the other young
exultants to poke the prisoners with cattle prods enables him to
recall the location of a hidden door.  In order for Severian to escape
he had to experience the memory of the fact that Thecla was a torturer
too (as everyone is after all).

Whatever role the exultants play in this future, it seems obvious that
Wolfe doesn't think much of them.  He seems to depict them as rich
kids in search of thrills, through drugs (the alzabo), torturing
prisoners for amusement and occasionally plotting revolutions.

>> "He too was reared by the torturers, I think."
>This refers back to the scene where the masters ask Severian if he
>wishes to become a journeyman. They want him to understand that if he
>quits before becoming a journeyman, people who meet him will say "He was
>reared by the torturers," but if he accepts elevation and then quits,
>people will say "He was a torturer."  Perhaps Severian means that both
>he and Sev1 left the guild?

Yes, I think you're on the money there.  But wait, there's more!
(thank you Dr. T.)

I've been re-reading the short description that Wolfe gives of "The
Feast of Saint Catherine", the proposed novella which grew into BOTNS
and although we've speculated that perhaps this is essentially Sev0's
story, I'm afraid I have to reject that hypothesis on the grounds that
in that story Severian is forgiven by the guild and becomes a Master.
It isn't until *after* he's a Master that he receives the letter from
Thecla and I don't think he ever was supposed to become Autarch.  But
the Sev0 of the actual BOTNS apparently made it to the Autarchy before
returning to his guild to be elevated whether he wanted to or not.

From: tony.ellis@futurenet.co.uk (Tony Ellis)

>For Dan Parmenter, and anyone else who hasn't seen them, I've 
>scanned and uploaded the Bruce Pennington TBOTNS covers.
>They can be found at:


>Let's have your opinions, if any.

They're great!  But I'm starting to wonder if these are the other ones
I remember!  Now we hear of a third set!  Good heavens.

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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