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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) Death, Memory, Ghosts, Resurrection
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 09:23:41 

In several essays and countless conversations, people have wondered "Why
Severian? What qualifies him?" And often, after listing his various
strengths and weaknesses, his first known special talent is hit upon as
being somehow the most significant: "It must be his Memory."

It may be, but I haven't seen anyone pursue that thread--it is usually a
stepping stone to someplace else, or a side attraction.  (Or maybe I'm just
forgetting something.)

So here's a thumbnail sketch:

Let's pretend, for the sake of this experiment, that his memory is the
=only= thing that qualifies Severian. (I.e., it is not that he is a
torturer; nor that he is the person on throne when the timer runs out; nor
anything else.)

Now then...

Throughout the Urth Cycle we see many funeral customs and the way that
memory plays a part in them: from the hut where Hallvard's people maintain
a memorial shield until nobody can remember that person anymore, to the
Antechamber's memory of the navigator's funeral.

We also see how ghosts are raised--Malrubius and Triskele from Severian's
memories; the Vivimancer from the memories of an ancient being living on or
near   Fomalhaut; the legions drawn from Severian to fight on Yesod.

The same rules for raising ghosts =seem= to apply to resurrecting corpses
(which makes sense, of course, since in resurrection one is raising the
ghost and reuniting it with the body). But the various resurrections are
often complicated by other things: who remembered Typhon for his
resurrection (well, I would say the Claw); the Jonas ghost riding in the
Miles body (actually this finds a possible solution in the outline above);
who remembered Dorcas (well, "Charon," obviously); etc.

So Severian's memory is the same sort of lifeboat as we see in Ellison's
"Demon with a Glass Hand" (where the question "Where are all the people?"
is answered "All on a wire in your robotic chest," iirc).  Not only all the
autarchs, however dimly, but also all the other people he has written
about--the text itself (writ by Severian, remember) is the final proof for
Yesod that he has the ability to recreate the world.

Now, does this mean that Severian resurrects everybody from his narrative
immediately after transmitting the last chapter of URTH?  No.  But he is a
living momento mori, a breathing tombstone, for lost Urth: he is, himself,
like a shield of the dead in the hut of Hallvard's people.


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

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