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From: "Tony Ellis" <tony.ellis@futurenet.co.uk>
Subject: (urth) Re: Untrustworthy Narrators?
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 15:19:03 

Roy C. Lackey wrote:

> Is it Sev's fault that the
> cliffhanger at the end of SHADOW, the Piteous Gate affair, is
> never
> explained? He was there; he ought to know what happened, but it is
> never
> explained, and there has been a lot of speculation about it--but
> not in the
> text.

I have to quibble here and say that the Piteous Gate affair -is-
explained, see

But I agree that Sev's "sins of omission" are a good argument for
calling him an unreliable narrator. My rejoinder would be "...of
which narrative?"

Severian is telling the history of the events by which he "backed
into the throne". Any history has to omit some events, and if you're
someone with perfect memory the number of events you omit must seem,
to you, astronomical. I don't have the quote to hand, but at one
point Severian cheerfully admits to missing stuff out, explaining
that if he didn't his story would go on forever.

It's frustrating for us, because the narrative we want reliably
narrated is Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, but that's not
quite the narrative Severian thinks he's telling. Perhaps he did
later find out more about his mother, and/or Katherine: why should
he tell us, now that he's finished his story of backing into the
throne? Why record what went wrong between Valeria and himself in
TUOTNS, when that's personal, happened before the new story he's
telling, and in any case none of his readers are likely to have read
his previous manuscript?

People will argue that you can't glibly separate Sev's 'how I became
Autarch in my spare time and so can you' narrative from the broader,
GW narrative, and I agree. But I think from Sev's perspective, he's
just fast-forwarding past irrelevant events in a history that
already contains too many digressions, rather than going out of his
way to confuse or deceive us.

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

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