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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) Antechamber, Jonas, navigator
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 11:47:00 

Antechamber-as-missile-base: it is possible, and in some ways likely. But
one of the solid clues we have is that one of the "original" ceilings has a
painting of clouds and birds on it--while such a room could exist in a
bunker or anywhere else (the pleasure dome of Dr. Strangelove), still, it
isn't an icon of "bunker" in the way that, for example, radiation warning
signs (I thought Severian saw these in the tunnels of the Citadel, =not= in
the House Absolute) and rows of stopped clocks are.

Clouds and birds would be a fine decoration for a spaceport.

Thematically, the "garden above and palace below" arrangement at first
echoes the Eloi/Morlock scenario of THE TIME MACHINE, furthered by the
similar situation on worldship Yesod.

A different tack: the name itself, "Antechamber," implies that there is
some room that is bigger or more important adjacent or nearby.  Again, this
is "the waiting room."  Waiting for justice--that is what the prisoners are
doing, that is certain.  We don't know much about the surrounding area, so
there might not be a "chamber" nearby.  But the odd thing is, we do know
that there is direct secret access from the Antechamber to the Presence
Chamber . . . could the antechamber have previously been a waiting room for
a teleportation station?

The Navigator.  New tack: let's take the lore as literal truth, there was
only one guy, and his name was Kim Lee Soong.  Not a whole crew, not a
fragment of a crew, just the one guy.  (This tack puts even more weight
upon Kim Lee Soong.)  From the physical evidence, the generations in the
antechamber look to be twenty years apart, so KLS was imprisoned for
trespassing or whatever it was at least 160 years ago (seven generations at
20 years plus one more generation).  If there was only one guy from a
starship, then it seems somewhat more likely that he himself was the
navigator.  And he was the first prisoner, or at least, the first lifelong
prisoner, of the antechamber.

My longtime sense of the navigator's funeral: the navigator was a prisoner
in the antechamber, and because he was considered something of a nobleman
(by virtue of his own personality or his title as navigator, which is a
high position indeed) even by his unwitting captors (because at this early
stage the antechamber wasn't the dumping ground it had degenerated to by
Severian's time), he was given a fitting and proper ceremony.  The other
prisoners saw the ceremony and it was burned into their lore because it was
the last glimpse they had of the outside world and/or the navigator was
very important to them.  (Previously I had assumed that there were more
crewmembers as prisoners, and for them the death of their highest ranking
member was really like the death of a king or president.)

(Still begs the question: what did the navigator do to become arrested?
The answer is that whatever it was, it was trivial, because we are told
major cases are/were dispatched quickly.  And yet for some reason it was
not a simple situation whereby he could be released--in a sense, every time
he came up for parole, there was some reason to keep him in custody.)

Putting these two things together for my first time: Kim Lee Soong was the
navigator, the only crewmember from some unnamed ship, and he became the
"culture hero" (and perhaps blood ancestor as well) for generations of
prisoners because he brought big knowledge of the starry heavens to people
who were trapped in a big cave.  (Note the Platonic imagery.)  Almost an
Oannes to them.

Another tack on Jonas' agitation: maybe there is a hint of "resurrection
shock" when he says that he feels that he is finally waking up.  If Jonas
personally knew a man named Kim Lee Soong, a specific man with a very
common name who he has learned was trapped in this prison and lived and
died, then Jonas would have two avenues for shock: the loss of another
personal link to his lost homeland; the concrete passage of biological time
compared to his mindnumbed and timeless robotic wandering.

The Navigator as JFK.  I wouldn't deny the cultural impact of JFK's funeral
on the 20th century USA and how this is reflected in what the girl says.
It also bundles nicely with the Apollo astronaut on Lune--but it is an
association a step removed.  (The Man on Moon picture is direct.)  JFK is
linked to Apollo as its visionary father, but one who didn't live to see it
achieve its goal . . . like Caesar, JFK died, and Nixon is the one who was
in the office.  So maybe a stronger case could be made that "the navigator"
is a wholly legendary figure, a composite of two historical figures--JFK
(visionary of Apollo Project) and, say, Henry the Navigator (visionary who
also died before the goal was achieved).

As always, it all depends upon the greater application.


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

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