FIND in
<--prev V12 next-->

From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: (whorl) Textual criticism of TBOTSS
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 14:21:23 

With all the talk about the difficulty of determining the "true facts"
behind the narrative(s) of TBOTSS, I thought I'd try and determine just what
are the textual "components" of the book we have, and how close each of them
is to the events it purports to describe.  In the analysis below, I confine
myself to what can be determined from the text, setting aside for the
present hypotheses about long chains of copyists and such (which I'll get to
later).  There's nothing really new here, but I thought it'd be handy to
have it in one place.

The components are:

1.  The Narrator's manuscript, corrected for "obvious errors" and divided
into chapters by the editors, and copied by the editors, presumably
introducing further errors.

2.  The third-person "Horn" sections written by the editors.

3.  The first-person sections written by the editors, singly or together.

4.  The volume and chapter titles, supplied by the editors.

5.  The epigraphs to the volumes, of unknown provenance.

If my hypothesis, that the final two paragraphs were appended by someone
else long after the rest of the book was written, is correct, then all the
above were copied by an unknown copyist, introducing further errors.

6.  The final two paragraphs, authorship unknown.

All the above were transcribed and translated (unless the Common Tongue is
English; I don't recall) by Wolfe, introducing further errors.  And finally,

7.  The lists of "Proper Names in the Text," which I take to be by Wolfe,
since the editors would have had no need to gloss Blue or Green.

In terms of closeness to the "events" they describe, 1, 3, and 6 are written
by participants or eyewitnesses, though the "correction" and copying may
have introduced inauthentic material.  2 is a narrative based on a
combination, in unknown proportions, of a participant's testimony,
imperfectly recollected by its hearers (there is no indication that Horn's
recollections were transcribed at the time he spoke them) and conjecture by
the editors.  5 is a mystery: they may be transcribed directly from the
documents, or copies thereof; they may be Horn's reconstructions from
memory; or they may even be the editor's reconstructions from conjecture,
though this last seems unlikely.  Similarly, we don't know whether Horn, the
editors, or Wolfe placed the epigraphs in their current positions.

All the above takes the text's account of itself at face value.  Is this
justified?  I think it is.  The absence of contradictions, or passages of
nonsense, implies either that there was no long chain of copyists, or that
if there was it preserved the text accurately. And while the suggestion
(made by someone a long time ago) that the hard-to-swallow elements of
TBOTSS are legendary accretions to the original book has attractive
features, I don't think it can be sustained.  The style and voice is too
consistent for the book to be such a composite.  (And it's the astral travel
I'd most like to dispose of as legendary, but if it were just a legend how
would the originator have known about Severian and Merryn?)

If my account is correct, then the "textual problems" raised by TBOTSS are a
less difficult than any of the Gospels (though if you believe John is
written by an eyewitness--a minority view, as far as I can gather--you may
disagree), and certainly much less difficult than the Gospels taken
collectively, or the Bible as a whole.  For reconstructing the "true
events," the significant components are 1, 2, and 3.  And if the editors
aren't lying, which there's no reason to think they are (and if they are,
the problem of what "really happened" becomes unsolvable), then 1 and 3 are
essentially eyewitness and participant testimony.  The only major problem is
2, which admittedly is a biggie; but even here we know the authorship and
sources, just not what stems from which source.


*This is WHORL, for discussion of Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun.
*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.moonmilk.com/whorl/
*To leave the list, send "unsubscribe" to whorl-request@lists.best.com
*If it's Wolfe but not Long Sun, please use the URTH list: urth@lists.best.com

<--prev V12 next-->