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Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 22:37:00 -0700 (PDT)
From: Thomas Bates 
Subject: (urth) Severian the Unreliable

Something to get discussion started again:

I think an important passage to examine when trying to figure out
what is going on with Sev's memory is this one from _The Claw of the
Conciliator_, Chapter 8:

"The truth is that I am one of those who are cursed with what is
called perfect recollection.  We cannot, as I have sometimes heard
foolishly alleged, remember everything.  I cannot recall the ordering
of the books on the shelves in the library of Master Ultan, for
example.  But I can remember more than many would credit: the
position of each object on a table I walked past when I was a child,
and even that I have recalled some scene to mind previously, and how
that remembered incident differed from the memory of it I have now."

So, even he knows and admits that he can recall the same event
differently.  I don't think that he's lying about having perfect
recall.  Maybe he's trying to reassure himself that his memory is
working properly when he mentions it so many times.  We know that he
fears that he's insane.  I'll continue quoting:

"It was my power of recollection that made me the favorite pupil of
Master Palaemon, and so I suppose it can be blamed for the existence
of this narrative, for if he had not favored me, I would not have
been sent to Thrax bearing his sword."

Maybe Palaemon, when he was trying to give advice, knew Severian
would just disregard it or misunderstand it, which seems to fit with
his naivete and gullibility.

"Some say this power is linked to weak judgment--of that I am no
judge.  But it has another danger, one I have encountered many times.
 When I cast my mind back into the past, as I am doing now and as I
did then when I sought to recall my dream, I remember it so well that
I seem to move again in the bygone day, a day old-new, and unchanged
each time I draw it to the surface of my mind, its eidolons as real
as I.  I can even now close my eyes and walk into Thecla's cell as I
did one winter evening; and soon my fingers will feel the heat of her
garment while the perfume of her person fills my nostrils like the
perfume of lillies warmed before a fire.  I lift her gown from her
and embrace that ivory body, feeling her nipples pressed to my

I wonder if Severian remembers the things he fantasizes or imagines
and thinks they are real?  Is it possible that he doesn't know the
difference between reality and fantasy?

He goes on, remembering the dream from when he slept in the bed with

"Again I bestride the mitred, leather-winged steed.  Pelicans fly
below us with stiffly formal strokes, and gulls wheel and keen."

Here again, the recollection recounted here differs from the original
description.  No pelicans or gulls were mentioned before.  Another
data point for the theory that he mentions his perfect memory almost
every time he describes something differently than he did before.

Thomas Bates

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