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Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2003 09:25:04 -0500
Subject: Re: (urth) Sev's not-so-perfect memory
From: Adam Stephanides 

on 7/11/03 5:02 PM, James Wynn at the.wynns@usa.net wrote:

> Blattid asserts:
> That [all the discrepancies are mistakes on Wolfe's part] strikes me as the
> least likely hypothesis in general (though it may be correct in any _given_
> case).
> Crush agrees:
> I'm with you on this, Blattid. Especially the first and most glaring
> discrepancy -- that of whether Drotte or Roche mentioned the pikes. As has
> been said before, The first couple pages are the part of any novel that is
> most likely to be pristine. For this to have slipped through unnoticed would
> dismay me.

What convinces me is the number of discrepancies Roy has found, rather than
any specific one.  We know that Wolfe is a careful writer; if he were going
to create a character who really had a perfect memory, he would surely have
cross-checked the character's later recollections of events with the
original accounts.

> Blattid suggests:
> Alternatively, he could be lying about some of the incidents -- which was my
> point about which version is more likely to be "edited" to suit his purposes
> (whether they be political, propagandistic, historical, or merely
> egotistical)...so the question comes down to: are the demonstrated errors of
> recollection subtle clues left by Wolfe as unspoken commentary on Sev's
> veracity, or did Wolfe make that many mistakes?
> Crush responds:
> That Severian is lying about these things strikes me as less likely than
> that they are typos (and I don't think it is likely _as a whole_ that they
> are typos). The discrepancies at issue are just _too_ trivial -- too trivial
> too lie about, but not too trivial to prove Roy's point. If the
> discrepancies were about big things, it would be obvious to argue that
> Severian was lying or covering up the truth. But what reason is there to lie
> about whether Drotte or Roche mentioned pikes?

Also, if Severian really had a perfect memory, and intended to lie, wouldn't
he have remembered to lie consistently?

All of which raises the question: what is the point of making Severian an
unreliable narrator?  For that matter, what is the point of making Horn the
not-necessarily-reliable narrator of TBotLS, or Horn's family the unreliable
authors of the third-person sections of RttW?  None of these seem to fulfill
any obvious function in their respective novels.

Marc Aramini wrote:
> What does it matter if Severian has an
> almost perfect memory as opposed to a perfect one?

It's a small point, but if Severian doesn't have a perfect memory, there's
no reason to think he has an almost perfect one.  The only reason for
thinking he had a perfect memory was that he said so.  (It's been a while
since I last read the books, though; are there any scenes where his great
memory is objectively validated?)




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