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From: Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) BotNS Review
Date: Thu, 12 Mar 1998 00:30:04 

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

At 11:31 PM 3/7/98 -0500, you wrote:
>[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]
>Fellow Urthers,
>I'm writing a review of the Book of the New Sun and Urth of the New Sun for
>Porchnus, the e-zine of the America Online Religion and Beliefs forum. The
>review will center on religious themes in the BotNS. I'd appreciate any and
>all suggestions from those of this list who are certainly more knowledgeable
>than I concerning Wolfe's writings.
>Christopher R. Culver <crculver@aol.com>

	What I should warn you against is trying to see Severian's story as a
gospel allegory. Now, Silk's story IS pretty much a retelling of the gospel
narrative, but I'm not at all sure Severian's is.
	From Wolfe's standpoint, Severian is a "Christ figure" in the sense that
all Christians are. That is, his life is an application of what Jesus
Christ accomplished. Jesus saved the world from sin and damnation; all
Severian does is provide new warmth. Jesus said His followers should show
compassion to all men by giving out cups of cold water to those in need.
That's what Severian does, in essence.
	Now, to be sure, Severian is a very talented man. We are not all Bachs,
not all Rembrandts, not all Severians. But those who have great talent are
called to do great things. Remember, though, that part of what Wolfe was
trying to do is to fill out that part of Lewis's *Great Divorce* in which
he sees a small crack in the ground of heaven that is the universe, and
also hell. So, we are constantly reminded that Urth is just a little world
in a huge cosmos, and that the Commonwealth is just a little kingdom on the
Urth (about the size of Delaware, or smaller). Severian does not save
Briah, but only Urth. 
	I'm not trying in the least to diminish the religious overtones of the
Severian Quintet, but only trying to put them in context. As a human being
fulfilling a human destiny under God, Severian is not only Christ-like, but
also like Apollo and like other human figures (and figures of human history
and imagination). He is acting as a soldier in a much larger conflict
between demons and angels (advocates of entropy, death, and advocates of
transfiguration, new life).
	Jesus saves souls; Christians are supposed to save lives. With that in
mind, you can see allegorical similarities between the Severian narrative
and the gospels, but don't let them run roughshod over everything else.
	Some thoughts:
	1. The idea that a tiny country has the key to saving the Urth may relate
to the call of the Jews to bring forth the Messiah to save the world.
	2. Compare Nessus to Jerusalem, at least in having named gates.
	3. The spaceport towers are also like a Cathedral, with a perverted
monastery (torturers), convent (witches), and sanctuary (sacrifices; beast
tower), and a cemetery associated with it.
	4. Note the sacramental aspects. Numerous kinds of baptism early on,
numerous kinds of eucharists as we go (many are perverse distortions). 
	5. Remember that you are in Byzantium, not in Judaism, in Medieval Western
Europe, or in a Protestant or Enlightenment or Pagan culture.
	6. You asked how to interest people in these books. Well, the Severian
narratives are Wolfe's best but hardest stuff. You really need to have a SF
background to "get" a lot of it, and most people don't. One thing to do,
however, is find some of the really wonderful and stunning passages and
quote them, such as the one about symbols making people instead of the
other way around. (Duggan has that quotation at his website.) 

Just a few thought. Good luck. You're going to need it.

AND, we EXPECT you to post it here also!!


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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