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From: "LJ Janowski" 
Subject: (urth) Sev's not-so-perfect memory
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 09:14:27 -0500

Chris wrote:

From: "Chris"
Subject: Re: (urth) Sev's not-so-perfect memory
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 00:09:06 +0000

To throw more into the fire:
Perhaps, given the "many worlds" cosmology of the NS books, Severian has
actually picked up memories from Severians in several different branches of
the possible event tree which all had similar enough outcomes that they
succeeded and were able to return, become Autarch, and pass their memories
on. If the differences were small enough he might not notice that he was
remembering it differently from one time to the next. Even larger
differences might pass unnoticed if there were enough time between the first
remembrance and whenever he revisits the same subject. It may not be the
only or even the best solution, but it's consistent enough and hangs
together with the Ash episode.

LJ writes:

I tend to side with Chris (and the several others who were pursuing similar 
arguments), I simply cannot believe that several of the conflicting points 
would be Wolfe's mistakes.  For instance, the "like glass grow"/"like grass 
grow" dissimilarity between Sev's charm in BOTNS and UOTNS was so striking I 
caught it while reading the first time through.  And given that Wolfe has 
stressed in several interviews that he finds it shocking when he readers 
expect narrators *not* to lie, it seems that the tension between Sev's 
claims to flawless memory and his actual capabilities has to be deliberate.  
As several excellent posts have pointed out, there are several areas where, 
even if Sev's memory is near flawless (his narration is highly detailed and 
he seems too unimaginative to completely fabricate things whole cloth), he 
becomes muddled and contradicts himself.  I like the theory that the 
contradiction results at least partially from outside manipulation of Sev's 
timeline and would argue that another of Severian's claims also supports the 

With all the insistence on Sev's claims to perfect memory, the discussion 
has not touched upon another Sev's insistence that he is at least partially 
insane.  To my mind, Sev's belief in his own insanity reflects his 
occasional lapses into fugue and the events at the end of BOTSS (too 
unbelievable for him to write down), but also support the many timelines 
interpretation (i.e. the ambiguity of Sev's memory sometimes results from 
accurate memory of events that temporal manipulation has rendered 
ambiguous).  Sev suspects his insanity because his memory, ordinarily 
powerful, fails him at several critical junctures.  The claims of perfect 
memory and partial insanity allow Sev to have his cake and eat it too.  He 
can rationalize the flaws in his acute memorty to himself by using his 
partial insanity to explain experiences that are muddled in his mind.

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