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From: "Tony Ellis" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Re: What abos?
Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 12:47:45 +0100

Jerry Friedman wrote (of the non-existence of the abos):
>> Actually, you remember wrong. He remembers his grandfather as "'a most
>> honest old man. He would not tell lies to anyone, you understand.'" But
>> perhaps he is delusional, like Victor. Or stupid, like Doctor Marsch. Or
>> lied to, like Madame Blount. :-)
>Or senile. Or the younger Culot could be lying. Or just mistaken.

None of which is supported by the text. And none of which disproves the
existence of the abos, until you also invent similar extra-textual reasons
why every other piece of evidence is wrong. Robert Culot was senile _and_
Victor is delusional _and_ Doctor Marsch is stupid _and_ Madame Blount was
lied to, and so on and on.

>By the way, you were the one who said the real Dr. Marsch was stupid
>for not recognizing Victor's clumsiness as a sign that he was an abo.

By the way, I didn't. I said he was arrogant, and that his failing to make
the connection was "typical both of
the way Wolfe encodes true information, and of his penchant for poking fun
at academics." You can be unimaginative without being stupid.

>But Victor wasn't clumsy.

In your post of April 27 you state "If he fantasizes that he's an abo, you
would expect him to pretend to be ham-fisted".

>According to Marsch, he was an excellent
>camp cook (which must involve using knives, spatulas, etc.),

Marsch doesn't tell us what it involves (and I've known more than one
excellent cook who regularly sliced his own fingers with the onions). Wolfe
does, however, make him tell us that "Even so, he burns his fingers pretty
often, I notice."

>brilliant with ropes,

Which we would expect from a people whose reliance on knotting "nets of
rawhide or vegetable fibre" as Number Five puts it, is foreshadowed waaay
back in the early pages of the first novella. And raised several times

>and capable of pounding tent pegs with a rock.

A feat rather less impressive than his ability to use a pen. The
significance of the peg-pounding incident is that it reveals, as Marsch
discovers, that "we had not brought an ax, or any other sort of implement
with which to drive the tent pegs." Odd, that.

>He just couldn't write in the normal way or shoot.

Or cook without regularly burning his fingers.
Or use matches.
Or make flint weapons as well as his crippled father.
Or "even remember the way to twist open the top of a jar."

On the existence of the abos:
>You have to invent some really enormous excuses.

No, you just have to read the text:

>There should be roomsful of videotapes of the abos' quaint
>ceremonies. There should be treaties.

We are told, more than once, of "the destruction of the records of the first
French landing parties by the war."

>There should be chiefs or supposed chiefs being briefly
>lionized in the capitals of Earth. There should have been a large
>reward for abo remains, so Mrs. Blount's father wouldn't have dreamed
>of just leaving them for the wild animals.

You seem to be crediting these colonists from a future, overcrowed, and very
distant Earth with a degree of philanthropy and compassion entirely absent
from the picture Wolfe paints -- which is based very obviously on the
treatment of the Australian and Tasmanian aborigines by early Western

R.T.: ".but would they be wise to show themselves? Once all this world of
Sainte Anne was theirs. A farmer thinks: "Suppose they are men like me after
all? That Dupont, he is a clever lawyer. What if they engage him, eh?" .What
do you think the farmer does then if he sees an abo on his land, Doctor?
Will he tell anyone? Or will he shoot?"


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