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From: Charles Dye <raster@highfiber.com>
Subject: (whorl) Book of Silk, Book of Gold
Date: Tue, 8 Apr 1997 10:23:05 

[Posted from WHORL, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]

Marching orders from mantis, m.driussi@genie.com :

>               [snip]   (Long ago someone around here whose name
>I should remember was saying that the Writings smacked of Marcus
>Aurelius.  Time has come to follow up on that . . . <reaching back
>into auxiliary brain> . . . so how 'bout it, Charles Dye?  Could you
>give us some links between the Writings and the Meditations?)

Mr. Wolfe has inserted several references to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
and his "Meditations" into the Long Sun books.  Here is a short list;
there are probably others I haven't dug up yet.  My Marcus passages are
from a translation by George Long (coincidence, of course.)

In his exorcism in chapter 11 of "Nightside," Silk begins to read a passage
from the second book of the "Meditations":

     The soul of man does violence to itself, first of all when it
     becomes an abscess and, as it were, a tumour on the universe, so
     far as it can.  For to be vexed at anything which happens is a
     separation of ourselves from nature, in some part of which the
     natures of all other things are contained.  In the next place,
     the soul does violence to itself when it turns away from any
     man, or even moves towards him with the intention of injuring,
     such as are the souls of those who are angry.  In the third
     place, the soul does violence to itself when it is overpowered
     by pleasure or by pain.  Fourthly, when it plays a part, and
     does or says anything insincerely and untruly.  Fifthly, when
     it allows any act of its own and any movement to be without an
     aim, and does anything thoughtlessly and without considering
     what it is, it being right that even the smallest things be
     done with reference to an end; and the end of rational animals
     is to follow the reason and the law of the most ancient city
     and polity.

In chapter 1 of "Lake," Horn mimics Silk quoting the fifth book of the

     Live with the gods.  And he does live with the gods who constantly
     shows to them that his own soul is satisfied with that which is
     assigned to him, and that it does all that the daemon wishes,
     which Zeus hath given to every man for his guardian and guide,
     a portion of himself.  And this is every man's understanding and

(Horn's final sentence, as Silk awakens, has an oddly Ascian flavor ....)

In chapter 3 of "Lake" Silk recites to Maytera Marble a sentence from the
seventh book of "Meditations":

     Nature which governs the whole will soon change all things which
     thou seest, and out of their substance will make other things,
     and again other things from the substance of them, in order that
     the world may be ever new.

Chapter 2 of "Calde" has Maytera Mint presiding at Matera Rose's funeral
sacrifice.  Her text comes from the second "Meditations":

     Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath, and
     the ruling part.  Throw away thy books; no longer distract thyself:
     it is not allowed; but as if thou wast now dying, despise the
     flesh, it is blood and bones and a network, a contexture of nerves,
     veins and arteries.  See the breath also, what kind of a thing it
     is; air, and not always the same, but every moment send out and
     again sucked in.  The third part then is the ruling part:  consider
     thus:  Thou art an old man; no longer let this be a slave, no
     longer be pulled by the strings like a puppet to unsocial
     movements, no longer be either dissatisfied with thy present lot,
     or shrink from the future.

Other possible links to the Golden Marcus include Silk's golden hair; the
"Aureate Path" (the Long Sun, viewed metaphorically as the road of the
dead); the golden circuitry of the cards used as money.  Cards appear
to be rectangles of roughly golden ratio, which might or might not be

The Silk-as-Marcus link contrasts neatly with the Severian-as-Claudius
link.  Marcus Aurelius Antoninus really was the enlightened (ahem) ruler
that Tiberius Claudius only became in Robert Graves's fiction.  Claudius,
Marcus Aurelius ... can we expect a Constantine analog in Mr. Wolfe's
next series?


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