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From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net>
Subject: (urth) Stuff, Temptation
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 17:46:18 

Rostrum wrote:

>>Does Urth have rainbows?  Did the Increate forget his promise to Noah?  Or
might this be a clue that Urth is not our world, but perhaps another
(earlier?) iteration of the universe in which God did not promise there
would be no more universal floods?  Or maybe it's our universe, but the
story of God's promise to Noah is false.

(Did we already discuss this question?  It seems familiar, but I can't
find it in the archives.)<<

Yes, we (I) did. V25, Sun, 18 Apr 1999, "Inire & the Flood"

Tony Ellis wrote:

> >When he writes that he lies to himself, the reader is given
> >warning that all that he relates cannot be trusted to be true...
> This is true, but I think it's just about as true of David Copperfield,
> Ishmael, the nameless narrator of THE BROTHER KARAMAZOV, the old
> persona as narrator," and Huckleberry Finn as it is of Severian.>

>>And Pip, and Holden Caulfield, and Graves' Claudius, and...
Yes. We take it as read, surely, that whatever a
first-person narrator tells us is filtered through his own
perceptions and predjudices. It's a game the author plays with the reader.

If this is all you mean by Severian "lying to us", then I
say again, I'm on your side, Roy. But that's not what I
personally would call it, and I don't understand why you're
singling-out Severian for something every first-person narrator does.<<

None of those other narrators claimed to have a perfect memory. Both of his
manuscripts are reconstructed from memory, in each case years after the
events they relate. As others have pointed out recently, memory is dynamic,
not static, and he has to "reconstitute" his memories when he writes of
them. Even if we concede him an extraordinary ability to recall events, that
recall is subject to the same malleability as any other human. Therefore,
what he writes from memory is necessarily prone to unconscious editing,
especially when it touches upon events which are invested with subjective
import, and that's assuming no conscious deceptions regarding those things
about which he lies to himself. It is his repeated insistence that his
version of events, based on his memories, is the true and correct one which
causes me to doubt him. Whether you call it lying, self-deception, wishful
thinking, creative license or something else, his account strays from the

Sev's memory has been cited as the primary--perhaps only--qualification he
has to assume the mantle of Urth's Conciliator. He is supposed to have
assumed the memories of his autarchal predecessors, those memories
diminishing in viability as they become more remote from Appian. Because
neither Appian nor his predecessors had an eidetic memory, the memories he
passed to Sev were subject to the normal degradations of time and the
failings of the flesh. Thus, memories much beyond Appian's were, for the
most part, so remote as to be inaccessible to Sev, possessing little more
than dream-like substance. That is why he writes so little of them and has
little ghosts of memory that he cannot flesh out. So, the notion that Sev
was the legitimate Epitome of Urth because he was a walking memorial, a
curator of the past like Rudesind and Ultan, Providentially endowed with a
memoriousness stretching "backward, perhaps, to Ymar, and behind Ymar to the
Age of Myth" is inherently flawed. If the Powers That Be choose to regard
Sev as emblematic of his species on Urth, that choice is largely arbitrary
if founded on Sev's memory.

The more emotionally involved he is (or wishes to appear; I see no evidence
that he has any deep regard for *anyone* but himself; not even Thecla,
because when he writes of her he *is* Thecla), the less reliable he becomes.
Another example of his lying/faulty memory: When he saw Thecla in the
Examination room Zak told him not to cry. He denied he was crying, then
realized he was and wrote: "If I had ever wept before, it was when I was so
small I can scarcely remember it ..." (V, XVIII) But when he left Dorcas in
Thrax: "Just as when I had first left the Citadel I had pulled up my hood so
that the passersby might not see my smiles, so now I hid my face to conceal
the tears running down my cheeks." (III, XII) (I'm almost certain there is
at least one other instance of him crying, but I can't recall it at the

The instances in the text where he admits lying about something are even
more common than I thought. I've come across several more that I haven't
posted; what's the point? People here just don't seem to want to hear of Sev
being a liar. He's a murderer, a torturer, a thief, a coward, an adulterer,
etc., that's okay, just don't call him a liar. I wonder; are there *any* of
the Ten Commandments he *didn't* break? <g>

In another vein--when Sev went to the House Azure he saw a door with "...a
stained-glass insert showing the Temptation." I take the allusion to be to
the Conciliator rather than Christ. If so, and the Temptation refers to the
scene where Typhon tempted Sev, then how did the story get into popular
tradition to become a subject of artistic expression? Sev hadn't lived the
scene yet, much less written of it. He wasn't even the Conciliator yet when
it happened. What was it based on? Or, like Jesus's prayers in Gethsemane
when there was no one awake to hear and record them, we're not supposed to


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

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