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From: raster@highfiber.com (Charles Dye)
Subject: (urth) Valeria and Catherine and Peter and Doug
Date: Sat, 10 Oct 1998 20:31:32 

Robert Borski writes:

>Of course, that would require original thinking, and since it's much
>easier and cheaper to shoot at other people's clay pigeons...

Touche; that's fair, I guess.  I'd hoped to simply delurk and plug a
clay or two, then relurk; but I guess it's not to be.  Okay, here are
what I see as the most parsimonious explanations.  (Call it "biblical
literalism" with a lowercase b, or perhaps "lupine fundamentalism.")

>raster does not like the Corridors/Atrium of Time escape clause, but I'm
>sticking with it. Or to quote the LEXICON URTHUS entry for A of T: "A time
>traveling structure, like the Last House, located in the heart of the
>Citadel. Inhabited by at least Valeria and her old servant, it may also
>house Catherine." Like mother, like daughter, eh mantis (whose second larva
>has recently emerged: Congrats!)? Of course we could both be wrong.

It seems to me that the Atrium and Valeria are time-travelers, but only
in the sense that the Acropolis and William F. Buckley are:  fossils,
reminders of a distant past.  Severian can enter the Atrium from below,
but can't find it from the air:  sure, this is reminiscent of Master Ash's
abode, but there are simpler explanations.  Severian is not a veteran
aviator; he has difficulty with directions; the Citadel is a big place,
and the Atrium is a small place, and none of the old maps fit.

Severian enters through the tunnels, but it doesn't appear that he exits
through them.  He seems to get back to the Matachin tower he knows anyhow.

Second larva:  Why haven't we heard this from mantis?  (Not that I
automatically reject everything you write, Robert.)  Congratulations
from me also.

>raster also brings up the-claw-has-never-vanished argument. To my mind, if
>someone steals my wife's wedding ring and I knew who it is, the ring has
>not vanished. It's been stolen by a definite individual (as opposed to it
>simply dematerializing, or burning, since diamonds, the hardest substance
>known to man, are flammable). I also think the answer to the Hierodule's
>twice asked question (it's even repeated once in italics)--"Where did you
>get it?" (I.e., the Claw)--and which is later revealed to be a test that
>Severian has failed--is: "I didn't get the Claw, it got me." It gets
>Catherine in the same way, I'd argue.

I truly don't think the Pelerine uses "vanished" to mean "dematerialized" --
she knows someone has it, she just doesn't know where.  I also get the
distinct impression that this has happened in the past, perhaps more than
once (the Pelerines regard it as part of the Master Plan), just not recently
enough for Severian's mom to have been the culprit.  Unless we invoke time
travel, of course.

Then too, in the tradition of American statesmen, I have to ask:  How do
you define the word "is?"  <g>

>Also in regards to Caesidius resembling Severian (as Eata notes), this is
>because he is Severian's maternal grandfather. And Catherine, his daughter,
>is easily adult-age when the deluge strikes. Severian's been gone several
>decades, after all.

Caesidius clearly does resemble Severian.  This could be because of some
family connection.  It could also be pure coincidence -- my boss and I
look similar enough that folks mistake us for brothers, but it's not so.
But the solution that makes the most sense to me is that Valeria simply
preferred, consciously or unconsciously, to remarry someone who looked
like her first husband.  It couldn't have been too difficult; there are
on the order of 1500 noble families extant in the Commonwealth.  Call me
old-fashioned.  I prefer my causes to precede my effects, only invoking
time travel where absolutely necessary.

I noticed the other day that Peter Falk strongly resembles detective
Columbo.  A close cousin, perhaps?  Which brings me to:

>Question for raster, then (or Kieran M or anyone else.): who's the woman
>arrested by the Praetorians in the loggia when Severian returns to the
>House Absolute (Urth, Ch. 41) since you seem to think my theory's full of
>balloon juice? I still say it's the *original* Katharine, she of canonical
>fame to the Torturer's guild. Who do you?

I nominate the Contessa Carina.

"But she's a fictional character!"  Yes.  So are Severian, and Thecla and
Dorcas and all the rest.  They are all creations of Gene Wolfe.  Why
shouldn't they meet one another?

Or, if you prefer, she is a metafiction:  a story within the story which
is Severian's "reality."  If Severian can billypilgrim through time,
surely he can also slip between the "layers of reality beneath the reality
we see" which he mentions in Chapter 16 of Shadow.  This contact between
metafictions has a definite Borges or Douglas Hofstadter feel to it.  On
a more prosaic note, it could simply be an early warning sign of Severian's
developing messianic insanity. [1]

I'd also like to point out that two of the actors in Dr. Talos's play go
on to live the roles they previously acted.  Perhaps the play is the
"reality," and Severian's entire life a fiction constructed around it.

>Also, I'd be very happy to entertain anyone's elses notions of who Sev's
>maternal grandparents might be. Of course, that would require original
>thinking, and since it's much easier and cheaper to shoot at other people's
>clay pigeons... 

Many of the puzzles in the Book have answers, but I don't think that all
of them do.  What's the name of the mason outside Jader's hovel?  And even
if we can all agree on a canonical set of grandparents (unlikely), is it
necessary to go further and name the great-grandparents?

Short answer:  I don't know.  I'm not sure we're meant to.


[1] Has anyone seen Bruce Willis in "Twelve Monkeys?"  I thought that flick
has a pronounced wolvish feel to it.  I spent most of the movie wondering
whether Willis's character was a time traveler or just insane, before
realizing that he could be both....

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

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