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From: "Chris" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Severian and Horn's perfect memory
Date: Wed, 09 Jul 2003 02:03:56 +0000

Chris makes a flailing attempt to help:

All I can say regarding Horn is that I didn't read anything he said in Short 
Sun to be a categorical statement of perfect memory. When he refers to his 
own memory, it always struck me as being the sort of thing where he's 
acknowledging "Yes, I have considered the possibility that I might be 
mis-remembering, but as far as I can tell I don't think so." As far as the 
connection to Severian, I believe there's an interview with Wolfe in which 
he comes close to outright stating the connection between Severian and Silk. 
I don't remember which interview, but the question had been one where they 
were asking whether Silk was an incarnation of Severian, or Severian an 
incarnation of Silk, or something along those lines.

I find Severian to be a more interesting case. If we knew he was a liar that 
would definitely give us a direction to look in the text; *usually* people 
lie for a reason, so we could examine what he was trying to conceal and what 
he gains by lying in this particular way. So, just as an exercise, can 
anyone think of something he gains by telling this story as if he had 
perfect memory when he knew he didn't? (I can't come up with any myself, but 
one thing that makes a very large difference to this question is the purpose 
of the text. He seems to have written it for cathartic/personal reasons, but 
on the other hand it could have been deliberately written to become a 
religious text).

Speaking of the book itself, it occurred to me at least once that his 
perfect memory could be a metaphorical reference to him having read or 
having at hand a copy of... the Book of the New Sun. If so, when did he get 
it/read it? I don't think this possibility is trivial, but I tend to 
disregard it because it seems to lead in too many possible directions.

If he *did* have perfect memory and there are discrepancies in the text, 
then these probably again point to something that he wanted to conceal. Or 
that some later copyist wanted to conceal. Another possibility that I have 
to admit seems a bit too trivial for Wolfe's taste is that Severian simply 
was distracted and not paying attention to detail in those places. 
Personally while my memory is not perfect, I have made errors in writing of 
something that I remember perfectly well, but was not actively calling that 
detail to mind at the moment. To make another connection with Horn, at one 
point in his narrative he refers to his sons as "Hoof and Horn" and then as 
"Horn and Hide". Certainly both Horn and Silk know perfectly well the names 
of Horn's sons, and there's no reason to lie about something the reader 
already knows. The passage, however, is a particularly emotional one and we 
can guess that it's a kind of Freudian slip. The idea of Severian having 
Freudian slips would itself be interesting, if we knew for a fact that's 
what they were.

As a final note (I have rambled too long), I've also wondered if perhaps 
Severian had a normal memory, but came to believe that his memory seemed 
perfect to him because of the recursive-alzabo-effect I was talking about 
earlier. Even receiving partial memories an infinite number of times would 
lead to perfect recall, but only of *those* memories. Depending on how it 
worked it could be confusing in a number of ways, some of them crippling; it 
could even lead him to believe that he'd had perfect memory all along. I 
discarded this theory, however, after recalling (perhaps imperfectly) that 
in BotSS I believe that Silkhorn describes Severian as having a strange 
memory - and Silkhorn meets Sev long before his experience with ingesting 
alzabo. (This, if reliable, also tends to argue that if Sev's perfect memory 
is a lie, it's a lie he's been telling since childhood and not just in his 

Hope that wasn't entirely useless,

>Crush goes off on a tangent:
>This has always bugged me. I don't believe Severian really does have a
>perfect memory, but it is interesting that he thinks he does. In "On Blue's
>Waters" Horn makes a similar claim that he does not believe he has
>"forgotten anything" that he and Nettle wrote in the Book of Silk.
>I don't believe Severian has a perfect memories because of the error in
>memory he makes at the very beginning of tSotT. A previous review of the
>archives showed me that Bill Carmichael addressed this question way back in
>Oct 1999 http://www.urth.net/urth/archives/v0028/0209.shtml but it seems to
>have gotten zero rise out of the list back then. Has this been determined 
>be a typo? If not then....
>If Severian and Horn are not merely ignorant of facts, or concealers of
>unpleasant facts, or shaders of the truth, or even out-right liars -- but 
>their memories of events are just plain faulty as well, then this carries
>the concept of the untrustworthy narrator to a whole new level. But why is
>Wolfe playing this game over again?
>The questions I pose are:
>1. What does the false belief in one's flawless memory mean in these
>stories? That is, what is Wolfe driving at here?
>2. What is the connection between Severian and Horn that we are surely
>expected to draw from their shared claims of perfect memory?
>I am still winding my way through tBotSS, but I have a sneaking suspicion
>regarding the answer to the second question; however I have no clue about
>the answer to the first.
>Can anyone take these on?
>--- Crush

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