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From: "Chris" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Sev's not-so-perfect memory
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2003 19:34:11 +0000

>Also, if Severian really had a perfect memory, and intended to lie, 
>he have remembered to lie consistently?

On some occasions I believe that Severian changes his mind about what he's 
going to tell you as he goes along. It seems like he is reticent on the 
subject of Thecla early on, but later finds that in order to tell his story 
he can't hold certain things back after all. For sins of omission he 
probably wouldn't feel obligated to go back and fill things in earlier- thus 
you get surprising revelations about events that you thought you understood 
well after they are first recounted. However, even when it comes to the 
lies, while he may have remembered full well that his account isn't going to 
match, there are reasons he might not go back and correct them. First of 
all, he was writing a manuscript; it's not quite so easy to go back and make 
a significant revision or rewrite, and he may not have had time to do such 
revisions. Another possibility which may seem odd is that there are things 
Severian may want the reader to know, but hesitates to say directly either 
from squeamishness or because he won't be believed if he says it outright.

>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 
>authors of the third-person sections of RttW?  None of these seem to 
>any obvious function in their respective novels.

Possibly just to make things interesting. But it also occurs to me that 
there are some points which can be made far more effectively if you give the 
reader the tools to figure them out for themselves. Especially concerning 
matters of religion or philosophy.

>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?)

I suppose it's a matter of how much of the narrative you want to reject. By 
thinking of him as having an almost perfect memory, you leave open the 
possibility that he is simply mistaken rather than outright lying to you. If 
there were nothing special about his memory, there's no way he could simply 
be mistaken. This isn't "evidence" that he has an almost perfect memory, but 
it is *a* reason to believe it.


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