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Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 16:03:00 -0800
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) lost in the big words

Joe Eull wrote:

>The scene you're talking about
>is a particularly affecting one. Without re-reading, Severian seems to hate
>Jolenta for her relationship with Dorcas, and more importantly for the lust
>she engenders in him is a reflection of her desire to be desired. He says
>she made a tribadist of Dorcas, and nearly an algophilist of himself.
>(lesbian, ghoul-lover respectively). My girlfriend at the time stopped
>reading the book at this point and handed it back to me saying it was
>disgusting. I don't blame her, Severian is talking about killing her and
>raping her dead body for spite.

Joe, your memory is quite good, but your word-hoard contains a few false coins.

"Algophilist" is not "ghoul-lover," nor does it function as a synonym for
"necrophiliac" as you suggest.

"Algo-" here means "pain"; an "algophobic" is one who morbidly fears pain.
By changing the "-phobia" part into its commonly known opposite, "-philia,"
we get a word meaning "lover of pain."

This is a tad ambiguous, since it might apply to both a masochist and a
sadist. Severian's use of the term clearly marks it as a synonym for
sadist--so why not use "sadist" instead?

Because sadist is one of those words which comes from a name, and as such
it would be too time-specific and jarring for the milieu of Urth.  Likewise
the word lesbian, which shows up in your example.

Thus "algophilist" is "sadist" without mentioning de Sade.

The larger point thus becomes clear: algophilists are =forbidden= to become
torturers (those sick little amateurs who try to join the guild are turned
away, iirc). So her effect on him is to threaten that professional part of
himself with a personality trait that is forbidden by the guild--he goes up
to the limit and nearly plunges over.


Sirius Fiction
booklets on Gene Wolfe, John Crowley


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