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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: (urth) PEACE and Swedenborg
Date: Sun, 05 Nov 2000 12:52:19 

I came across a story by Swedenborg--apparently an excerpt from one of
his mysical-theological books--in an anthology.  It's only a page long,
but the parallels with PEACE are startling.

When the theologian Melancthon (an early Lutheran theologian) dies, he
is  "provided with a house deceptively like the one in which he lived in
this world."  As a result, he doesn't know he's dead and continues
writing theology.  Because he never mentions charity, believing faith is
sufficient for salvation, his clothes and surroundings supernaturally
deteriorate.  Eventually he finds that "the other rooms [of his house]
no longer matched those of his old house in the natural world." 
Ultimately he is taken to be "a servant of demons."

In less than a page, we have four strong parallels: unawareness of
death,  the lifelike house, writing, and the appearance of strange rooms
in the house.  There are a couple of other episodes which may have
parallels in PEACE too.  One of the strange rooms Melancthon finds in
his house is full of people who praise him, "but since some of the
visitors were faceless and others seemed dead he ended up hating and
distrusting them."  This reminds me of part five where Weer gets praise,
which he distrusts, from people who seem faceless or dead.  And earlier,
for his denial of charity, Melancthon was "transported ... to a kind of
workhouse, where there were other theologians like him."  He returns
after a few days, and "tried hard to convince himself" that it was just
a hallucination.  This might be regarded a parallel to the visit to Van
Ness, especially if you believe that the visit is real and the other
patients are also after-death souls (which, incidentally, I don't).

Did Wolfe know this story?  I don't know.  The anthology in which I saw
it, THE BOOK OF FANTASY, was actually co-edited by Borges; but this
anthology was not translated into English until 1988.  And I don't
recall Wolfe ever mentioning reading Swedenborg.  Nor do I know if the
story was ever summarized in some more accessible source.

Not everything in the story is (obviously) paralleled in PEACE.  And I'm
not arguing that Weer is literally going through what Melancthon did. 
But given all the parallels that do exist, it would be quite a
coincidence if Wolfe's portrayal of Weer's afterlife wasn't influenced
by Swedenborg's story, consciously or unconsciously.


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

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