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From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net>
Subject: (urth) Liars, TWHF
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 01:45:46 

Two instances where Severian admits to lying have already been given (I,III
and IV, XXXV); below I will give a third.

First, an instance where he acknowledges his memory isn't perfect:

After returning to the Ship after his phony "trial", Sev tells his story to
Big Tzadkiel, the ship's captain. She offers to take away the memories of
all his hard travails. He declines: "I don't want to forget, Tzadkiel. I've
boasted too often that I forget nothing, and forgetting--which I have known
once or twice--seems to me a kind of death." (V, XXIV) This quote
establishes from his own mouth that his claim to a perfect memory is a
boast, not a fact, and that his boast is lie.

The subject of lying is an integral part of the conversation Sev has with
banished Small Tzadkiel in the chapter "The Brook Beyond Briah". After again
telling his story to this version of Tzadkiel he adds: "But you, who are my
reader, know all these things (if indeed you exist), because I have written
them here, omitting nothing, or at least very little." This is his admission
that he has deliberately left things out of his story. Note that he doesn't
say that he has left out only unimportant details--that much is
obvious--just that he has omitted to relate some things. Indeed.

At the conclusion of his tale she says:

"No wonder I accepted you; in all those words there was not one lie."
        "I've told lies when I thought there was need of them, and even when
there was none."
        She smiled and made no answer.
        I said, "And I'd lie to you now, mighty Hierogrammate, if I thought
my lies would save Urth."

How much plainer can he be? He lies when he finds it expedient and he lies
just for the hell of it. How many times does Wolfe have to write it?
Severian is a liar. He is like all those oh-so-dangerous-people who are
absolutely convinced that they are Right; *they have no scruples* when it
comes to establishing what they think is Right--especially when they have
the power to impose their beliefs on others. He admitted to her face that he
has lied and will not hesitate to do so again. She *knows* he has lied to
her; that's why she said not *one* lie, and only smiled when he told her of
his lies, like an indulgent mother to a willful child. Who knows how many
lies he has told? There's no way to know because his manuscript *is*
tantamount to literary solipsism; there's nothing to check it against.

She knows all about lying because she/he/it isn't any better. She asks him
what is seen, in the plowman's view, in comparable places on Urth to where
they are now at the Brook Madregot. Sev finally gives the answer she wants:
"wild things". She is, herself, a "wild thing" banished to the Brook between
Briah and Yesod. Why was she banished? Because she is the rogue element of
the Hieros, the Dionysian principle spurned by the Apollonian, just as was
the case for mankind when they strove to be as gods, just as Cyriaca told

Sev wants to return to Urth nearer the time when the New Sun will arrive.
She says: "And you want my help." She paused to stare at me with as serious
a face as ever I was to see her wear. "I've many times been called a liar,
Severian, but I would help you if I could."

Now who, exactly, would be in a position to call an angel-like being a liar?
Why would anyone do so? That, at least, is obvious; because they lie.
Severian was lied to at every turn by agents of Yesod. And the last thing he
heard of Small Tzadkiel was her mocking laughter ringing in his ears.

Rostrum wrote:

>>TWHF also attempts to answer the
question of why God, if he exists, does not simply show himself to us, but
the book is much less overtly Christian than Lewis's other fiction.  I
think it's a great story, but would be interested to know what folks who
aren't Christians think of it.<<

It's been 25 years or so since I read it, and my memory isn't the best, but
as a non-Christian I still liked it.


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

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