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Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 11:32:37 -0700
From: maa32 
Subject: (urth) paracelsus, italian translation of BOTNS

Since Paracelsus came up, and the elixer applied to swords that can heal or 
harm, I was reminded of the scene in Castleview which talks about the healing 
property of scabards and of the book I am in the middle of right now:
Umberto Eco's "Island of the Day Before".  I have been reminded of Wolfe the 
whole time I've been reading it, and Paracelsus' sword and other alchemical 
tidbits are important to the work, which is science fiction as it might have 
been written in the 17th century (crossing the date line [to restore a slain 
friend to life] and discovering longitude with accuracy seems similar to 
discovering faster than light travel or something).
There are several parallels between Severian's narrative and the Island of the 
Day Before (we should remember that the book of the new sun is popular in 
Italy).  There is a wounded dog that is kept wounded so that the time may be 
accurately known (the blade used to wound the dog is exposed to irritants at 
noon in Europe, while the dog is taken on the journey and his wound constantly 
flayed with salt so that it will not heal - the alchemical sympathy between 
the blade and the wound allow the men on the ship to know the time and 
determine where they are based on the stars or something).  It really reminded 
me of Triskele.  The hero falls down the stairs in a ship like Severian falls 
when he is discorporated, cutting himself with a weapon that seems to be based 
off of Paracelsus, with the ability to heal or destroy.  It has gotten awful 
reviews on amazon.com, but I like it tons more than "Foucalt's Pendulum", 
which I felt deep down was a waste of my time.

ALSO, since I have some experience reading Italian (but wouldn't consider 
myself fluent by any means), I actually have the Italian translation of Book 
of the New Sun (mainly to see how the words were translated).  If we accept 
that a translation can accurately approximate the "spirit" of the original 
work, there are some interesting things that happen.  The rhyme that Severian 
uses to hide his little coin is COMPLETELY different than the rhyme he speaks 
when he picks it up at the end of Citadel of the Autarch in the Italian 
version.  Scarcely two words are the same.  It is fascinating how much words 
can change in just a simple poem like that -> That really made me wonder about 
the possibility of translating an author like Wolfe, where the devil is really 
in the details.  I wonder if some of my favorite foreign authors should really 
be attributed to good translators ... but then again, the Book of the New Sun 
claims to be a translation anyway.
Marc Aramini


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