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Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003 12:40:27 -0700
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) TBOTNS as political document and the wait for new sun

Responding to Marc Aramini, Civet wrote:
>I'm completely willing to entertain the concept of BotNS as a piece of
>propaganda, but in practical terms I just can't see it as beneficial to
>Severian's position *politically*.

I want to point out that John Clute first raised the interpretation of The
Book as political.  His essay is in STROKES, a collection of his essays and

> In many ways it's counter-productive, but
>the most important one is that it paints him into a corner w.r.t. the New
>Sun. The book leaves off with him about to be tested. Any of his subjects
>who read it after that point will expect a new sun to have arrived, and if
>they don't get it then they will assume that Severian is a failure. If Sev
>is in fact expecting to provide a new sun, then he doesn't really need a
>book to assure his political power. And if he's not, then by no means does
>it serve his purpose to create an immediate expectation of one - he would
>benefit more by ending his book by implying that the test will take place at
>some point in the distant future ("If you're just patient enough, Severian
>will fix all this one day.")

This raises the question of how long anyone thinks the wait will be.
Severian is probably the most "in the know" in the Commonwealth (aside from
Father Inire, of course), and judging by his actions/reactions, he seems to
have thought that the whole thing would happen in real-time, synchronized
with his experience, so that he would return to Urth in less than a year
and the Old Sun would have been replaced with a New Sun.

That is: from the moment he gets on the Ship, the Old Sun will last only a
few more months -- certainly not a year.

From his point of view it took a bit longer than he thought, but still less
than a year, whereas from Urth's point of view 40 years had gone by.

>Also, if you do assume that Severian had a copy of BotNS then you have said
>a mouthful. There are several different ways you can go with it (I
>considered drawing a diagram for myself, but of course it wouldn't translate
>well to posting), but the implications of any of them are overwhelming
>enough that they tend to set the tone of how you interpret the entire book.
>They also tend to preclude a simple, propagandistic reading.

The distinction is being made between Canog's book (he overheard the
Conciliator talking to his friends about the death of the sun and the
coming of a new one), which presumably became something of a bible for the
church of the Conciliator, and Severian's book, which is a rip-roaring
heroic adventure tale (with graphic sex and violence, monsters and magic,

I think Severian the Narrator chooses to call his tale by the same name
because he understands that he will be bringing the new sun: he himself
really will be "finishing" that tale, a somewhat garbled storyline begun
1000 years earlier (by himself, but he doesn't guess that part yet: he
knows he will be Apu Punchau, but not the Conciliator).  And nobody
remembers Canog's book, anyway -- iirc, Talos says it is "long lost."



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