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From: Peter Westlake <peter@harlequin.co.uk>
Subject: Re: (urth) Islands in Commonwealth
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 1998 10:23:52 +0100

At 13:57 1998-07-05 -0500, Adam wrote:
>prion wrote:
>> A previous letter to the list (I'm sorry but I don't remember when)
>> asked how the Commonwealth could be in a South America geographically
>> similar to the current continent when the Commonwealth is described as
>> consisting of an archipelago of islands to the south.  The answer is
>> that SA does have a long chain of many islands in the south, but it
>> closely follows the close, so the questioner probably wouldn't
>> remember them or have noticed them just by casually looking in the
>> first place.
>I was the original questioner, and I was aware of the islands in the
>south of SA.  My question was based on my belief that Severian was
>asserting that the Commonwealth consisted entirely of islands.  But
>reexamining the quote, it now seems clear to me that the relevant
>phrase--"a chain of islands like our south"--refers to the southern-
>most portion of the Commonwealth, and not to the Commonwealth as a
>whole, as I had originally thought.  So there's no problem there.

Hasn't Wolfe said that Gyoll is the Orinoco? As usual, I can't find
the place where I read this. But I looked at an atlas yesterday and
was quite surprised. Because if it's true, then the islands in the
South - the direction away from the Equator - would be the West Indies.
Last year Scott Dalrymple wrote:

>And, regarding Vodalus's assertion that Urth has flipped on her axis, would
>that matter?  To someone like Severian, wouldn't the world appear to be the
>same?  He'd still be traveling toward Urth's belly to reach the tropical
>regions.  After all, North and South, while tied to poles, are somewhat
>arbitrary constructs, aren't they?  Why couldn't we depict the world with
>the South Pole on "top"?  Maybe we've got the whole universe upside-down.

(I quote Scott because I can't find the original quote ;-)

It makes sense for the West Indies to be rather colder than nowadays,
while the islands along the coast of South America would surely be
under the ice. The West Indies are more of an archipelago, too.
I think this also explains why the rivers all flow West, when we
would expect them to flow East.

In _Citadel_ Severian is walking North with the sea to the West and
the Sun rising on his right. The Sun still rises in the East, I think
(doesn't Typhon's statue face West, away from the sunrise?) so this
really would be the world having turned over, not a magnetic reversal.
Mind you, this is about the one place in the whole book where left
or right are mentioned explicitly. I would almost rather believe the
Sun rose in the West than trust Severian to know which way was right,
given his total inability to follow directions.


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

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