Shadow of the Torturer, final chapters (31-35)


Ready for the final round? After this, we have a week off (to mirror the break in the narrative) and resume with chapters one to three of the next volume, Claw of the Conciliator in two weeks.

Summary: Severian and Dorcas catch up with Baldanders and Talos, along with a new associate, Jolenta, and take part in their play. They head north, out of the great gate out of Nessus. Severian did initially want to return the Claw to the Pelerines, but learns they too have left the city.

I've a couple of thoughts here. Firstly, based on earlier comments, Severian coming across Baldanders and Talos again is absolutely no surprise to anyone reading.

My second thought concerns Jolenta. She's beautiful in an artificial way, has little energy and struggles to move. Presumably she's the waitress from earlier in the book, treated by Dr. Talos who offered to make her beautiful. And this, along with the effect on her health, is for me perhaps the most horrible thing I've come across in the book so far- and tells us perhaps something of the sort of people Talos and Baldanders are.


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    That's a very interesting observation and not one I made. Severian said he had never seen the woman before and I took that at face value, but your take is much more interesting and, yes, gruesome.

    Near the end of the last chapter, Severian says: "The driver I pulled down must have died at once. Because I had wished to impress Dorcas, I had hoped to perform the excruciation we call two apricots; but he had fallen under the feet of the travelers and the heavy wheels of the carts. Even his screams were lost."

    Two apricots? The mind spins.

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    I'm sure Dorcas would be smitten...

    I also realized that Jolenta was the waitress in a new skin. Looks like she got what she wanted.

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    A couple of unexplained things popped out at me in this section. First, just how is Talos able to keep people so entertained by a few distinctly amateur actors, including two who don't have the foggiest idea what they're meant to be doing? And second, what was causing the disturbance at the exit of the Gate?

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    edited May 2019

    Talos is very talented... :smiley:

    I dunno, Neil! Haven't a clue about the performance. Let's call it "MAGIC!" and not question it. I do that a lot with this book. :hushed:

    As for the Gate, I assume we will be informed later on if the auteur deems us worthy! >:)

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    What other entertainment do they seem to have?
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    @Bill_White said:
    What other entertainment do they seem to have?

    That was more or less my thought. I imagine there are superior entertainments around, but probably ones out of reach of most of the members of the audience.

    I've also seen a good few amateur plays, some surprisingly good, and some dreadful. And they charged admission. Though even those in the worst of these amateur plays had more practice than those in the Talos and Baldanders show here.

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    Apparently waitresses and torturers and formerly dead people with no memories make superb actors! Who woulda thunk it?

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > Apparently waitresses and torturers and formerly dead people with no memories make superb actors! Who woulda thunk it?

    And with no rehearsal time in two cases!
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    If Dr Talos was anything like Robin Williams, it wouldn't matter if anybody else could act.

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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > If Dr Talos was anything like Robin Williams, it wouldn't matter if anybody else could act.

    Okay, that's my mental casting of Dr. Talos done. For the record, I've cast a younger Russell Crowe as Severian, and Andre the Giant as Baldanders. Any ideas for Thecla, Agia, or Dorcas? Younger Nicole Kidman as Agia?
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    edited May 2019

    Severian: a young Telly Savalas
    Dr. Talos: Allan Corduner
    Baldanders: Rory McCann (The Hound from Game of Thrones), though I could buy Ron Perlman in that role
    Thecla: Amy Bailey
    Agia: Natalie Dormer
    Dorcas; A young Uma Thurman

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    edited May 2019

    Severian: Skeletor
    Dr. Talos: Dr. Quest
    Baldanders: Bluto
    Thecla: Wonder Woman (from Justice League cartoon)
    Agia: Jessica Rabbit
    Dorcas; Olive Oyl

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    Rocky and Bullwinkle for Talos and Baldanders, no?

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    FYI - I noticed next week is scheduled as a break, then all the next 5 clusters through to the end of June are 3 chapters each.


    Dr. Talos: "The few shall not pay for the multitude! If you've no asimis, then orichalks; if you have none, surely there is no one here without an aes!" p.193

    We've seen asimis and orichalks before, but aes are new, I think.
    Aes: Possibly here meaning a nugget of bronze, as in Aes Rude. Or possible referring to the Roman As, a bronze disk used as a proto coin.

    Dorcas, I fear, was too repelled by him to hear much of what he said. She turned aside as one turns from tge mutterings and cracking bones when an alzabo savages a carcass... (p.204)

    Alzabo: Apparently a made up monster, appeared in Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials and (as an homage) in the film version of Annihilation. We may be seeing this thing crop up again.

    ...a man riding a merychip at the edge of the concourse of people and animals reigned his diminutive mount over. p.207

    Merychip: An extinct and diminutive proto-horse from 15-5 million years ago.

    No doubt you, whi have perhaps seen the Wall many times, and perhaps passed often through one or another of its gates, will be impatient with me; but before I continue this account of my life, I find I must for my own peace spend a few words on it. I have already spoken of its height. There are few sorts of birds, I think, that would fly over it. The eagle and the great mountain teratornis, and possibly the wild geese and their allies, but few others.

    Teratornis: An extinct giant bird, resembling a vulture, but larger than a condor.

    Also, that's a pretty high wall. Why so high, I wonder.

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    edited May 2019

    @Apocryphal said:
    Rocky and Bullwinkle for Talos and Baldanders, no?

    Works for me! I'd pay to see that movie! :smiley:

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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > Also, that's a pretty high wall. Why so high, I wonder.

    To keep out the free folk of the North? :smile:
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    More to the point, the three levels of meaning in a tale that Severian talks about in ch 32 are very standard in the interpretation of sacred texts. For example, biblical exegesis, especially of Hebrew Bible narrative portions, recognises three levels of the specific details of the story, the context of the story in relation to nearby passages, and the meta-story relating to the overall theme of redemption. Wolfe would undoubtedly have known this, and recapitulates it in more secular clothing.
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