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From: Peter Stephenson <pws@ifh.de>
Subject: Re: (urth) Heliotropic Plants
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 1998 11:10:15 +0200

Dan Parmenter wrote:
> The only map we hear about is the one at the end of CITADEL.  I always
> assumed that the fact that it isn't there was due to the fact that the
> map probably dated from a time when the citadel was still a spaceport.

That's always seemed obvious to me, at least after I realised the
place was a spaceport which took a decade or so, because...

> "...and there were towers on that map that are not in the Citadel, and
> towers in the citadel that were not on that map."

...that's surely because the `towers' have flown in and out since,
maybe carrying passengers to the odd whorl.  (If it's the `Citadel of
the Autarch', did it cease its true purpose when the Autarchs came
along?  That's quite symbolic.)  So the Atrium of Time doesn't seem to
fit with the spaceport age.

The Atrium, and the whole final chapter where it appears, have always
had to me a very strong symbolic quality, a Proustian summing up of
all the themes of time that have gone before --- read the chapter and
you'll see the references to everything: night and dawn, the corridors
of time, Severian's personal journey, the two Severians and their
footprints a year apart in the passages (that gives me goose-pimples),
his double in some alternative time cycle (or however you look at it),
his time-travellings and eventual death, the seasons, clocks and
sundials, the `time-worn' walls, age (Father Inire), his own `antique'
titles, the changes time have made in the citadel... I seriously
cannot think of a better thematic summary in English prose fiction,
all in a few short pages.

The history of the Atrium, at the centre of all this, seems almost
irrelevant, except that nothing on Urth ever is.  Rather than
time-travelling, I would see it as rather more fixed in time, a still
point about which time moves, wearing it but hardly changing it.  I
can vaguely remember a reference to it, in an episode when Jolenta and
Severian are in a boat, that probably helps, but the books, as usual,
are at home.

Time we both take up our lives.

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

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