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Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2003 13:32:20 -0700
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) never the Twain shall meet Lafferty nor Davies

Alga, she wrote:
>The miracle of Apu-Punchau was an eclipse. Or a supposed eclipse; actually,
>as Wolfe makes (almost) clear in his afterword, it was the very large
>starship Sanru passing across the sun. This "miracle" echoes the one in Mark
>Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court--which was a genuine
>eclipse. Wolfe is not so crass as to copy.

(She means "Tzadkiel," not "Samru.")

What ho!  And Twain echoed, iirc, none other than Christopher Columbus --
who might not have gotten such great reviews, but most likely had the
greater historical impact. 

I would like to point out that after Severian benefits from the "eclipse
trick," he has to pay -- they believe he is a solar god and they do not
want him to leave them, ever.  When he tries to walk away, they follow and
bring him back.  Finally they strangle him.  Now there is a logical
consequence that Columbus and Twain never had to deal with!

Well hey, I recently read Lafferty's novel ALARIC (aka THE FALL OF ROME
[1971]), and I must say it puts me in a mind about Severian's narrative!
(I had some difficulty in getting started, getting used to the form, but
once in, I found it quite compelling.) In Alaric we have a strapping fellow
bred, groomed, and gimmicked into being a national hero/holy emperor type,
a man bent on saving the Roman Empire yet known to (bitchy?) history as its
destroyer.  Third person, with lots of faction-action, so it is something
like Herbert's DUNE, in that way, and chock full of all sorts of wild
details about the ancient world.  Plus Alaric, in addition to having a
mother/sister/wife (who is a chief architect of the hero), has all these
powerful "brothers."  Lafferty says that the ruling class of the blond
goths was a group that was red-headed and brunette, and very tall in
stature; that this ruler group was a relatively recent refugee party from
the Mediterranean; that this group was creating Norse mythology from Gothic
tales blended with international fairy tales; and most cryptically, that
their original homeland was in the area of Sicily/North Africa (i.e., they
must be Carthaginians, but he is very careful not to say that).

Before that I read fiction by Robertson Davies for the first time, his
novel FIFTH BUSINESS.  Many years ago, in another country, I'd lent a
friend a copy of PEACE and after he read it he said it reminded him of
FIFTH BUSINESS.  And there is a certain amount of congruence: if we factor
out the SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE aspects of PEACE, the similarities are even
more clear.  The village life; the childhood rivalries; the historical
events of early 20th century; seductive circus women; mysterious magic.  It
is almost as if PEACE is a case where the hero never leaves the village, as
opposed to FIFTH BUSINESS where the hero leaves but is still bound in
strange ways.



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