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From: "Nigel Price" 
Subject: (urth) The Great Keinplatz Experiment
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2002 21:23:07 +0100

In his short story "The Great Keinplatz Experiment", Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
deals, albeit factiously, with one of the themes which is central to Wolfe's
Book of the Short Sun, namely the transference of human spirits and

In the story, which appears to be set in the nineteenth century, a German
professor conducts a public experiment with himself and one of his rakish
young students as the subjects. The idea is that the professor will
hypnotise his student using "mesmerism" so that the student's spirit will be
free to leave its body. The professor will then hypnotise himself so that
his spirit can interrogate that of the student to ascertain what the spirit
experiences when disembodied in this fashion.

In the event, the experiment goes wrong, in that when the two spirits return
to their bodies, the student's spirit ends up in the professor's body and
vice versa. Niether spirit is initially aware of the transferrence and
supposedly hillarious consequences ensue as the professor's body acts like
the rowdy student while the sober spirit of the poor professor, ignorrant
that it inhabits the body of the student, cannot understand why he is
treated so disrespectfully and contemptuously by his friends and family.
Eventually, the professor and student meet again and repeat the original
experiment, albeit this time in private, thereby restoring their spirits to
their proper bodies.

Certainly not a close parallel with TBotSS, and I'm not suggesting Conan
Doyle's story as a "source" for Wolfe's book or any such thing, but it is
interesting to find a treatment of this theme in an author whom Wolfe openly
admires and whom he has on occasion pastiched. The common elements are the
transferrence of spirits and the ignorrance of the spirits as to the fact
that they are in different host bodies. Among the big differences between
the two stories, apart from the vast difference in tone, style, genre and
context(!) are the fact that in Wolfe's story, the migrant spirit's original
body (Horn's) is dead, while the new host's body (Silk's) appears to contain
two spirits, not one.

I mention it for what it worth.



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