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From: "James Wynn" 
Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2003 00:15:44 -0600

Andrews asks:
...what would be the narrative point of Sev having a false belief in his own
perfect memory? If the intention were to cast ambiguity over everything he
says, then it seems too weak to have only examples of fairly trivial
recollection errors - does it matter to the story if he actually doesn't
have perfect memory for detail; would it really cast doubt on his account of
larger things? I'd expect there to be at least one substantial example, even
if it were Wolfishly hidden & scattered in 5 holographic parts over 3

Crush blabs on and on:
To merely "cast ambiguity over everything Severian says" is not IMO the
point. Yet while the discrepancies are slight, that is made up for in that
Severian throws us LOTS of clues -- I'm talking about, each time he reminds
us that his memory is immutable.

One might as well ask  (*should* ask, I say) "what is the point in having a
first person narrator assert his own flawless memory?" A flawless personal
recollection of the facts is typically *assumed* for any first-person
narrator -- even for the most unreliable narrator. That Severian repeatedly
reminds us that he remembers everything perfectly is therefore suspicious.
Who is Severian trying to convince? IMO We were gullible to believe him
after he said it the second time, let alone over and over.

On the other hand, for Severian NOT to have a perfect memory but to *think*
he does or to want desperately to believe he does suggests volumes about the
nature of memory. After all, how can Severian, or anyone, know he has a
valid memory? The Nature of Memory is a subject in which Wolfe is manifestly
interested. During his recent online chat on SciFi.com, I broached the
subject of Wolfe's relentless reopening of the theme of the Meaning of
Identity. His response was "I think that identity *and memory* are the
fascinating themes of life" which considering the phrasing of my question
sounded to me as if he considered the two concepts -- identity and memory -- 
to be the same category.

Well, Severian definitely has a discombobulated identity what with sharing
it with Thecla and all those other Autarchs -- what of his memory? Latro is
another journal-writing character with a memory issue. So is Number Five, as
whole swaths of his life -- almost a year at one point -- are lost to him.
Also there's Aunt Jeanine's theory that all the humans on St. Croix and St.
Anne's are abos who killed and replaced the humans but have *forgotten it.*
I seem to be alone in this, but this theory led me wonder what happened to
Number Five during those lost forgotten months. Then there is journal writer
Horn's peculiar assertion that he has not forgotten anything he wrote in the
Book of Silk.

There is *definitely* a solid definable connection between *each* of these
characters (and I'm not talking about clones or memory sharing) which I have
decided with trepidation to define in an extensive essay as soon as I finish
the Short Sun -- but I admit I think I know only superficially what a faulty
memory has to do with this connection. But then I haven't *any* real inkling
of what blue and green orbs have to do with this connection either.

Finally, for Severian to boast fallaciously about his memory is, I am
convinced, a direct parody of "Cugel the Clever" (as he calls himself), Jack
Vance's shirtless (IIRC), sword-wielding comic hero in "The Dying Earth"

-- Crush


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