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From: Peter Cash <cash@rsn.hp.com>
Subject: (urth) Madam, I'm Nadan
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 1997 09:57:21 

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

Jim Jordan wrote some very thoughtful comments on "Seven American
Nights" that sent me back to the text with my sharp pencil to find the
missing "night". After a careful recount, I now think that _eight_
nights are enumerated in the narrative, and I'm more confused than ever.

Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net> wrote:

> 1. The missing night might be the Moslem sabbath (Friday night), but the
> story does not seem have any break where this might occur. It is the second
> night. Notice on p. 338 that Nadan begins to recount his first day in the
> evening, around 4 p.m. (midnight in Teheran). He describes that he slept
> late, breakfasted, and then asked about visiting the city. He headed north.
> Then we have a break: Jasmin must not read this. It is later at night,
> because a candle is burning and something is beating against his window. He
> is full of fear, and mentions that he might have been drugged. Then there
> is a break, where he had edited something out, because section 4 begins
> "That is out out at last!...." The preceding stuff is not something that
> would have been hard to write, so something has been edited, something
> related to his true mission, something related to Gassem (see below). 

> He
> then moves ("Still...") to a dream about bread that has mold on it, some
> kind of famous bread. Christian communion bread? 

Psychedelic communion? The mold is, to me, suggestive of the grain mold
that yields lysergic acid. Thus, this a perversion of the sacrament of

> At any rate, something has
> happened during the day to make him rejoice that he is a Persian and not an
> American. Then, the next section describes an actual visit to the Central
> City of the north, which must be the next day, because it ends with his
> opening the shutters to watch the sun set. 

> Then he goes out to eat and to a
> play. If it was on the previous day, which it seems at first reading to
> have been, then this is a couple of hours after "evening" and also after he
> has lit a candle to write by, and that makes no sense. So, here is the
> missing night: the second night.

I'm not sure whether I agree with this or not. I agree that there is a
hiatus of at least one day between the writing by candlelight and
opening the shutter on the setting sun; I had missed that! But I'm not
sure that I agree with you on where the breaks are. The problem is that
the more I think about this, the more confused I get. 

It is true that he begins writing on the evening of the second day with
"Here it is evening again..." (p. 338, ORB). And there appears to be a
break between the section begun thus and the "Yasmin must not read this"
section. But how long is the break? Is it a few hours or a day (or
more)? It's clear that Nadan's mood has darkened in the interval, but it
is not necessarily because some great evil has happened. Nadan says he
is "paralyzed by a fear that entered me--I do not know from
whence--yesterday..." Thus, Nadan does not know the cause of the fear.
However, it began at a certain point in time; it began _yesterday_, and
I believe that's important. The "fear" could not have come upon him any
earlier than the second day--on the first day, he is still burbling
about how he loves America. Thus, the writing about the fear (the
"Yasmin" passage) must have taken place no earlier than the third night.
Thus, I agree with Jim (I think--let me know if I'm misrepresenting you,
Jim)--there is a day missing from the account, and it is the second.

If this is true, then the following account of the "visit" to the
Smithsonian took place no earlier than the fourth day, for at the
conclusion of the account, Nadan says that as soon as he left his guide,
he "returned here" (ORB, 343), and proceeds to open the shutters on the
setting sun. That same night (4), Nadan goes out to dinner and then goes
out again to see a play.  He returns to his room with the alleged
psychedelic drug. 

The next entry is on the morning of the fifth day--"I am writing today
before I go down to breakfast" (ORB, 350), and Nadan resolves to visit
the park. He also recounts the visit of the three whores, which took
place late on night 4.  When Nadan returns from the park, he notes the
fact in his journal, and announces he is about to eat an egg (ORB, 353).
After experiencing no effects, he goes out to dinner and sees a second

The next entry is made on the morning of day 6. Nadan recounts the
remainder of the events of the previous evening--which are strange
indeed. Nadan breaks into the manager's office (isn't this a bit
extreme?), gets what he hopes to be Ardis' address, and kills a monster
while searching for her. As soon as Nadan has written of these events,
he rushes out to find the monster's body (still a bit high, eh?), but
fails. He returns, makes another entry. He leaves to go shopping; when
he returns,  he also notes that there are five of the original six eggs
remaining: "The five remaining candy eggs stood staring at me..." ORB,
360). Nadan then eats another egg, goes out to see the second play,
where he meets "Kreton", gets him arrested, and finally makes the
acquaintance of Ardis.

On the morning of the seventh day, (ORB 370) Nadan makes a brief note
about his disturbing dream. That evening, he recounts the "sorry" time
he and Ardis had dealing with the police bureaucracy, and eats his third
egg. He then goes out to meet Ardis for dinner. Late at night, he
returns to find only two eggs remaining, and assumes that his rooms have
been searched. He says that he has eliminated all passages relating to
his true reasons for coming to America--but then continues to narrate
the events of that evening, in which he acted in a play  with Ardis. 

The passage that begins, "Once again I am here" (ORB 377) must be
written on the evening of the eighth day (Sunday, when the Theater is
closed for Easter), when he recounts the picnic with Ardis. He then
leaves to meet her for the final time, after eating his fourth (and the
next to the last) egg.  At three AM, he he writes of his shocking
revelation about Ardis' true nature.

>         2. It certainly appears that the last egg eaten was hallucinogenic. But to
> a slight degree, it may be that all the food in America is hallucingenic;
> notice the attention given to virtually every meal.

Or perhaps the first egg was psychedelic, and the effects of the drug
are permanent...

As you can see, I have gone from a lack of days to having too many. Can
anybody help me out?

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