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From: adam louis stephanides <astephan@students.uiuc.edu>
Subject: (urth) A few minor cavils
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 1998 16:26:07 

On Tue, 14 Jul 1998 mantis wrote:

> Actually I believe raster's primary concern re: authentic autarchs is
> the same as my own--the brain eating bit.

> And thus, it doesn't matter what Valeria calls herself, she isn't a
> real autarch.  The higher ups of Yesod would know it if they cared to
> look, and issues of sovereignity aside (though I agree with you on
> all or nearly all the points you've made--my intended point was that
> "Conan the Nomarch of Urth" and other pseudo-autarchs aren't going to
> be allowed to take the Test: the only recognized representative of
> Urth is the real autarch), that the common people know Valeria isn't
> a real autarch is extremely damaging to the domestic situation.

I didn't see anything either in the scene in Valeria's throne room, or in
Severian's later talks with Odilo and Eata, to indicate that there is
any domestic instability over Valeria's inability to take the test.  All
Eata says is that there is "talk," and this talk stems from her being a
woman and not knowing the words of power, not over her inability to take
the test (let alone her not having eaten her predecessor's brain, which
I doubt the populace knows anything about; at any rate, Severian didn't).

In any case, if nobody took the test between Ymar and Appian, then the
role of the test in legitimating the Autarchy can't have been that
> I'll also agree that the autarchs inbetween were told that they
> would fail if they tried--this may be straight from the text (in any
> event, I know I've talked with people about it).

That's actually not what I had in mind, and the one passage I recall which
bears on this question seems to tell against this: Severian tells
Palaemon that his predecessors had often refused to take the test because
they thought the enemy would gain an advantage from the New Sun
(IV, ch. 34).  My idea had been that the other Autarchs' Hierodule
advisers had given the Autarchs ostensibly neutral advice which
nevertheless highlighted this, and perhaps other, alleged disadvantages of
taking the test.

> The Byzantine model fails at this level, since Byzantine emperors had
> to be cunning, ruthless, etc., clawing their way to the top.  Whereas
> we know that the autarchs often enough just stumbled into it--the
> Peter Principle crafts a "Claudiarchy" of common men and women,
> including second-rate scholars, farmwives, wantons, sailors, and
> artisans (V, ch. 34).

I'm sure you're right about the general mediocrity of the "found" Autarchs
(though they need not be any more mediocre than those who succeeded
through primogeniture, or than hereditary monarchs anywhere else, for that
matter).  But my impression is that this quote (which is in IV, not V)
refers not just to the earlier Autarchs, but to all the personalities
Severian now contains, only some of which are Autarchs.  If they are all
Autarchs, then since Severian says "'Most are only common men and women,
sailors and artisans, farmwives and wantons,'" that would seem to imply
that the Autarchs who succeed via heredity are in the minority.


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