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From: matthew.malthouse@guardian.co.uk
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 12:53:51 +0000
Subject: Re: (urth) electro-torture of Urth

On 05/03/2002 16:03:09 Michael Andre-Driussi wrote:

>Jeff Wilson quoted and wrote:
>>> Thecla (p. 239) correction, she did not exactly take her own life to
>>>avoid another session with the revolutionary, rather, she did so to
>>>further torment by
>>> the in-dwelling demon summoned by the device.
>>      I think that this bears closer examination. Rather than a device
>>literally summons demons (just as the Book contains hierodules rather
>>than literal angels), I think that the Rev is meant to be an
>>electroshock device of fiendish refinement that divides the brain by
>>damaging tissue electrically and leaves the non-speaking part greatly
>>resentful of the trauma and perhaps envious of the speaking part.
>In "Languages of the Dying Sun" (Damien Broderick's EARTH IS BUT A STAR;
>also in NYRSF No. 149) I wrote something somewhat similar.  I was talking
>about how Wolfe uses techniques to make common sf notions fantastical
>(using old words for new things), and also making 20th century items very
>strange (through reversals that employ magical thinking):
>"In other words, the revolutionary is an electro-shock therapy device
>instils suicidal depression rather than removing the same. Such a thing
>seems implausible, impossible; since we know that sane people are not
>insane by electrical shock. But a moment of magical thinking shows that
>suicidal depression can be seen as an entity which cannot be destroyed,
>can only be sent away;

There is a mistaken premis here.

ECT can induce changes, physiological and emotional, that themsleves can
lead to suicidal tendancies.  Here I write having observed the effect
culminating in my cousin's suicide jump from the Rosedale Bridge, Toronto.

The official conclusion was that the treatment had not been
"inappropriate", the concequence "unfortunate".

It seems plausible to me that very little would be required in the way of
"refinement" to turn ECT into a torment.  Perhaps no more than a
difference in intent.

One thing struck me about Thecla's reaction: it didn't appear so much a
depression as akin to that condition (the medical name for which escapes
me) where a person is convinced that (typically) a limb doesn't belong to
them, indeed is so alien that they require it removed.  There are cases
where no remedial therapy is effective and surgical removal of the
offending limb is the only "cure" available.  Thecla's involuntary clawing
at herself, her horror at her own form and existance seem similar, albeit
perhaps applying to the whole body.

Following this discussion I was wondering if there was any indication of
post-the-revolutionary Thecla in Severian after he receives the Alzebo of
her.  Surely "she" should have the memory of her excruciation and death
and with it potentially the same effects.  Shouldn't post mortem Thecla be
just as mad?  Yet I don't recall any hint of it.  Could death, suicide, be
a redemptive or curative act?  That too doesn't seem obviously indicated
because Thecla's memories - particularly those invoked while Severian is
in the House Absolute  - suggest only a slight change of perspective and
priorities concequent upon her stay with the Seekers of Truth and
Penitence; not a fundamental alteration.



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