Shadow of the Torturer chapters nine to twelve

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Severian spends more time with Thecla. He becomes a journeyman amongst the torturers. After a long delay, orders come for Thecla's particular mode of torture. Severian passes her a knife with which to end her own life and then goes to confess his betrayal of the guild.

Comments

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    And that brief synopsis misses out lots of fascinating things. For me there's:

    • The brothel, where the women imitate the high-ranking nobility who presumably form a part of the Autarch's harem, mentioned in an earlier chapter.
    • The feast of St.Catherine, the foundation myth of the torturers. There's all sorts of symbolism to untangle here, and I don't think I'm up to most of the job. The story about the armiger who attended their feast shows how little empathy the torturers have for those not one of them, not just "clients". To their own, they can behave decently, but that's it. And yes, Severian is already different here, and doesn't seem likely to grow into the coldness.
    • The prophecy that Thecla would sit in a throne, which has the obvious reading that the "throne" is some manner of torture device.
    • The hope with which Thecla manages to deceive herself. She's not actually surprised when her doom falls, though she tries to put it off.
    • The politeness between torturers and "client", and their veneer of concern makes everything more sinister. They're absolutely cold. There's a duty, and the clients are but objects- a repeat of something established earlier.
    • The way that Eata, the new master of apprentices repeats Severian's method of establishing control. A small thing, but indicative of bullying leading to more bullying.
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    I think both your summaries are very fair :smile: It is odd, though probably a good assessment of human character, that clients go to the brothel to fulfil a fantasy of sex with one of the nobility, and how appropriate that Severian, who has actually met one of the actual noble women, once he sees through the charade, is repelled by it.
    It was very tempting to read on and find out what happens concerning his act of mercy. Strange also, now I think about it, that although this particular gruesome device is hardly ever used, he knows all about what it wil do over a period of time. You've gotta wonder about the training he and his fellow students get. Yuk...

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    Paul, I think your notion about a lack of empathy is spot on. There's just about none in any of the torturers. They have no empathy for their "clients", none for the armiger, and precious little for each other. But at the same time, none of the clients really attempt to plead their way out of their predicament: they have a fatalistic acceptance of their fate.

    The feast, and the pointless ceremony surrounding it, reinforce the notion of a decadent society moving on inertia. The whole rationale for the elaborate ceremony is purely because someone, unknown and unseen, might be observing it and appearances have to be kept up!

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    Hmmm. No empathy. Yes and no. I think they love their clients, but in a very cold, dispassionate, objective (being redundant for emphasis here) manner. I am reminded of this quote from earlier:

    ... but I have found always that the pattern of our guild is repeated mindlessly (like the repetitions of Father Inire’s mirrors in the House Absolute) in the societies of every trade, so that they are all of them torturers, just as we. His quarry stands to the hunter as our clients to us; those who buy to the tradesman; the enemies of the Commonwealth to the soldier; the governed to the governors; men to women. All love that which they destroy.

    Wolfe, Gene. Shadow & Claw: The First Half of 'The Book of the New Sun' (p. 32). Kindle Edition.

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    Rings somewhat true for me... though there is also self-delusion.

    “Weak people believe what is forced on them. Strong people what they wish to believe, forcing that to be real. What is the Autarch but a man who believes himself Autarch and makes others believe by the strength of it?”

    This food sculpture is amazing?! :)

    ... capybaras and agoutis, posed in the stances of life and bearing fur in which toasted cocoanut mingles with their own flayed skin, clamber on logs of ham and scale boulders of new-baked bread.

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    Oh, just to point out: in a contrast to the previous chapters, something actually happened in this week! Long may it continue!

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    edited April 4

    What do we make of this idea that Severian may be unstuck in time? In his dreams he visits the chapel from many ages past and sees the blue sky (as opposed to the near-black sky of present day). Then he is visited by a person long dead.

    I saw the chapel, but it was not the ruin I knew. The roof was whole and high and straight, and from it there hung ruby lamps. The pews were whole and gleamed with polish; the ancient stone altar was swatched in cloth of gold. Behind the altar rose a wonderful mosaic of blue; but it was blank, as if a fragment of sky without cloud or star had been torn away and spread upon the curving wall. I walked toward it down the aisle, and as I did so I was struck by how much lighter it was than the true sky, whose blue is nearly black even on the brightest day.

    [...]

    My door opened a trifle and Master Malrubius looked in as though to make certain I was all right. I waved to him and he shut the door again. It was some time before I recalled that he had died while I was still a boy.

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    Very much reminds me of Kafka's In the Penal Colony. A worthy short story to read if you have the time.

    “The kite I’m certain you must be familiar with—everyone knows of it. Behind it there … if you’ll take a step this way you’ll be able to see it better … is what we call the apparatus. It is supposed to letter whatever slogan is demanded in the client’s flesh, but it is seldom in working order.

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    edited April 4

    Some of this mix of SF and fantasy reminds me of Silverberg's [EDIT: I meant Zelazny's] Lord of Light as well.

    There were cables to be wound from one part of the examination room to another, rheostats and magnetic amplifiers to be adjusted. Antique lights like blood-red eyes gleamed on the control panel, and a droning like the song of some huge insect filled the entire chamber. For a few moments, the ancient engine of the tower lived again. One cable was loose, and sparks as blue as burning brandy played about its bronze fittings.

  • 3

    The torture device is interesting. A super bright light that causes you to conjure up a psychological demon (born of guilt?) that turns your body against itself? Horrible and complex. It's very "hands off" in a way. And I like how the torturers absolve themself of guilt by "just carrying out orders ... no more, no less." Very much reminds me of some of the excuses that captured Nazi's used after WWII.

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    Zelazny’s Lord of Light?
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    Ooops. YES. Zelazny's.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    Oh, just to point out: in a contrast to the previous chapters, something actually happened in this week! Long may it continue!

    To be fair, I think one artifact of a slow read is that in some weeks you will happen to read only "set up" chapters. Surprisingly, I felt like that only happened once or twice in all of The Lord of the Rings. That book/trilogy is way "tighter" than people give it credit for being.

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    @Ray_Otus said:
    And I like how the torturers absolve themself of guilt by "just carrying out orders ... no more, no less." Very much reminds me of some of the excuses that captured Nazi's used after WWII.

    That's a very good point. The torturers see themselves as reasonable agents in the system, but with no responsibility for what they do. The language of "client" adds to that: the guild is just providing a service to the people in its cells. Orders may come from above, but the language hints at a thinking that torture is something the clients chose to have done to them.

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    I need to revisit the "unstuck in time" notion, but we're moving into looking ahead/spoiler territory for me to properly give my thoughts. I've made a note...

    The torturers just carrying out orders is an excellent point.

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    The client choose to become clients by working against the system. The torturers are not allowed to judge, so they can only carry out the sentences given by those who judge, so they must assume that the clients are indeed working against the system.

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    BTW, this society is a dark mirror of the society in my last-designed game. Interesting.

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    @Apocryphal - I meant that the societies were extremely similar, but where in the game this is done to be a morally better society, in the book nobody seems to care, and it's done because that is the way things are done. In either case they are suffocating and static. Then again, this could be the far future of that world, where they used to care, but that just eventually rotted out, leaving only the forms.

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    Interesting.

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    Not really interesting, I think. Just a funny coincidence. :smiley:

  • 3
    • “... on them. Strong people what they wish to believe, forcing that to be real. What is the Autarch but a man who believes himself Autarch and makes others believe by the strength of it.” The characters questioning/challenging what they observe in daily life has been very interesting. There is a deep philosophical tone to this work.

    • “I spoke of something else until she laughed and said, “You are so intellectual, Severian. When you’re made a journeyman, you’ll be the most cerebral torturer in history—a frightful thought” Indeed a frightful thought but also a reveal that he is not like others in his guild.

    • “I knew that a vast world lay outside the walls of the Citadel—indeed, outside the walls of our tower. But I could not imagine that I could ever have any place in it. Faced with a choice between slavery and the emptiness of freedom, I added, “I have been reared in our guild,” for fear they would answer my question.
      “Yes,” Master Gurloes said in his most formal manner. “But you are no torturer yet. You have not put on fuligin.” This is interesting that the formal joining of the guild is a choice and with it some real searching. Severian’s thoughts are both conflicted and fascinating.

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    LEXICON

    Only a small one, this section.

    "You see now what you might have had if you'd only waited for one more to come out." A smile I had learned to know elsewhere lurked at one corner of my paphian's mouth. (p65)

    Paphian: a prostitute, from Greek Paphos, the mythical birthplace of the goddess of love on the island of Cyprus.


    "Though it may come as a shock to you, when I was free I seldom devoted time to metaphysics. I went dancing instead, and pursued the peccary with pardine limers. The learning you admire was acquired when I was a girl, and sat with my tutor under the threat of the stick."

    A peccary is a wild pig. In Arizona they have wild pigs called javelinas, which I think are peccaries. Not sure if they have them in the San Diego area. I've seen peccaries in Belize and in Costa Rica. Also saw Capybaras in Belize and an Agouti in Costa Rica, both of which are Central American animals. They had Agoutis on the island of Dominica, too.

    Limers: Two meanings, and I'm guessing the second is what is meant, here. (1) A kind of dog kept on a lead; a bloodhound; a mongrel, or (2) (West Indies) Someone who hangs around the streets; someone hanging out. A limer might also be someone who washes with lime, but that doesn't seem to fit.

    Pardine: Panther-like.

    So, "I pursued the peccary with pardine limers" sounds like an expression = "I sought sex with people slinking in the street?"


    Of this kind there are the soldiers upon Hadrian's day, the matrosses on Barbara's, the witches on Mag's, and many others.

    Matrosses: (from Wikipedia) A matross was a soldier of artillery, who ranked next below a gunner.

    The duty of a matross was to assist the gunners in loading, firing and sponging the guns. They were provided with firelocks, and marched with the store-wagons, acting as guards. In the United States Army, a matross ranked as a private of artillery.

    The word is probably derived from French matelot, or from German Matrose, both of which refer to a sailor or seaman.

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    "Pursued the peccary with pardine limers" could more probably mean "hunted Javelinas with a pantherish dog", especially given we know they have genetically modified animals.

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    Could be, though I have to say that "I danced and hunted boar" sounds a lot less probable to me than "I danced and flirted with boys". 'Pursued the peccary' sounds a lot like 'pursued the pecker', after all.

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