Claw of the Conciliator, chapters 1 to 3

1

We're back!

There's a gap in the narrative after the ruckus passing through the wall, and Severian is separated from Dorcas and his other chance companions, but is still accompanied by Jonas. He is in the nearby town of Saltus, and employed by the town elders to practice his profession- he is ready to execute two people, one accused of being a servant of the bandit Vodalus. The bandit was sealed in his house, and is dragged from it by a mob after it was battered in for access. Severian catches a glimpse of Agia.

Severian searches for Agia at the town fair. He doesn't find her, but comes across a tent containing a green man- who Severian pays to speak to. The green man is from the future, and chained up. Severian talks to him, and believes he learns that the sun will become brighter in the future. Severian gives the green man the means to free himself.

Some thoughts:

() The Cathedral of the Pelerines. It was made of silk, and with the bottom lit soared into the sky, like a paper cone. And it sounds like this is by design.
(
) Severian seems remarkably unconcerned about losing Dorcas.
(*) The photosynthetic Green Man is nifty. I wonder why he travelled back in time. Anyway, that was the point where I started fully engaging with the book- the gap in the narrative, though I knew it was there, threw me.

Comments

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    A couple of things I noticed.

    One is Severian's change in status since leaving Nessus. In the city, he was just another faceless member of the crowd; in Saltus, he's a man of significance.

    The other is the magnitude and duration of the war against Vodalus. It seems that it's been going on for many years, and military units heading out are a common sight. It's even remarked how few of those soldiers ever come back.

    And it's not clear from the narrative that Severian's actually separated from Dorcas, Talos, and the rest. They don't get mentioned, but I assumed that was just because they're doing their own things.

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    I agree with @dr_mitch that the gap was hard to process, and it disoriented me as well. And with @NeilNjae that I just didn't know whether Dorcas et al were absent or just not talked about.
    When I reconnected with the story, I thought these chapters were tremendous! So much that is actually happening (though we don't always know why) and huge amounts foreshadowed for later chapters and/or books. For example;
    The war against the other Autarch (I think this is the first we have been told of multiple Autarchs?)... which maybe is just state fabrication and not a real war at all, but only a hunt for Vodalus. And a war that still uses slingers, albeit with hi-tech slingshot.
    A wonderful precis of what I take to be Wolfe's theological position "that we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin".
    The mysterious things that happen to these people imprisoned in their own house in the dark. And triggered by that, the conflict of interest Severian feels on hearing that Barnoch is a follower of Vodalus.
    The frantic search for Agia (why? No doubt we'll be told) narrated largely through the voices of others.
    The whole conversation/confrontation with the green man. Is he really from the future? Are either of them true men?

    Loved it :smile:
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    "that we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin" is not Catholic thought. Tolkien would have put it differently - perhaps that we are capable only of being what we are remains our GREATEST sin? Nothing is unforgivable by God.

    Anyway, thrown by the unstated time between and by the unexplained non-presence of Dorcas. He should be wondering where she was, what she is doing. Instead he does not even think of her. Out of sight, out of mind. I begin to wonder if he is human at all, and whether I give a damn.

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > ... the unexplained non-presence of Dorcas. He should be wondering where she was, what she is doing. Instead he does not even think of her. Out of sight, out of mind. I begin to wonder if he is human at all, and whether I give a damn.

    I get the impression that this is basically how (at least at present) he handles all of his relationships, especially with women. While with them, they are idolised, but when not there they are forgotten
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    @RichardAbbott said:
    I get the impression that this is basically how (at least at present) he handles all of his relationships, especially with women. While with them, they are idolised, but when not there they are forgotten

    That matches my understanding so far.

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    Fascinating. The jump in narration also threw me for a loop, and I could not recall for the life of me who Jonas was (he was introduced only on the second to last page of the previous book as a 'stranger', but was given his name once on that page.) Jonas, it seems, is here to stay and looks like he will be a very interesting character.

    Dorcas - it's not clear she's missing, nor would I say that Severian has forgotten about her - she's mentioned twice on the first page as Severian describes a dream sequence which itself hints at a separation. Clearly, Severian isn't over Agia, however. His interest in her seems more romantic than vengeful, but could be either at this point.

    At the end of Chapter 1, Severian speculates that the past might exist only in memory, and yet in chapter 3 we meet a Green Man who claims to have travelled into the past. Did he travel only into Severian's memory (which as we know, is perfect - and is also this book?)

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > @RichardAbbott said:
    > I get the impression that this is basically how (at least at present) he handles all of his relationships, especially with women. While with them, they are idolised, but when not there they are forgotten
    >
    > That matches my understanding so far.

    To be fair, he's hardly the only man for which this is true :smile:
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    @Apocryphal - I too did not remember Jonas. I thought he was a new character with this chapter.

    @RichardAbbott - Severian is making himself very difficult for me to sympathize with.

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    At the moment, though I'm interested in Severian's story, I don't like the man himself very much.

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    Don't we have three more chapters, @dr_mitch?

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    Up there now!
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    LEXICON

    ...as though I were the Increate, peeping through his rent in Eternity to behold the World of Time. p.217

    Increate: That exists without having been created.


    A burning cariole tainted the clean air with smoke. p.217

    Cariole: A kind of carriage, similar to the caleches that take tourists around the streets of Old Montreal. In Canada, also a kind of sleigh or toboggan.


    Five riders sat on destriers whose hooked tushes were encrusted with lazuline. The men wore helmets and capes of indanthrene blue and carried lances whose heads ran with blue fire; their faces were more akin to the faces of brothers. p.217

    Lazuline: "pale blue", though one assumes here perhaps something actually made from lapis lazuli?
    Indathrene: A blue dye

    So many ways to say 'blue'!


    "There's to be a fair, you know. The alcalde announced it." p.219

    Alcalde: A municipal magistrate in Spain or Latin America.


    ...among them were a few autochthons, carrying fur pelts and strings of black and green birds killed with the cerbotana. p.219

    Autochthones: Aborigines. The words 'autochthone' and 'autochthonous' are frequently used in Quebec to refer to native territory, but I don't heat it used in English Canada.

    Cerbotana: Misspelling of cerbottana, Italian for blowgun.


    I heard the shouted order to sing as they came into the thickening crowd, and almost together with it the thwacks of the vingtners' rods and the howls of the unfortunates who had been hit. The men were kelau, each armed with a sling with a two-cubit handle and each carrying a painted leather pouch of incendiary bullets. Few looked older than I and most seemed younger, but their gilded brigandines and the rich belts and scabbards of their long daggers proclaimed them members of an elite corps of the erentarii. The song was not of battle or women as most soldiers' songs are, but a true slinger's song. pp.219-220

    Vingtners: Renaissance English - a sergeant commanding twenty men.
    Kelau: A Malaysian tribe?
    Erentarii: Light infantry.

    Reading this passage again, and slowly, I just love it. The imagery of the slingers, singing by command of their sergeant who, what, thwacks people so they get out of the way? And the slingers' song - a 'true slingers' song', speaks of those becoming slingers who were born under a shooting star. I just love how, in the ancient and byzantine society, the circumstances of your birth can dictate your career in ways that seem random to us.


    A woman. I've forgotten her name, but we called her Mother Pyrexia. The stones were put up on her, just like what you see here, for it's largely the same ones doing it, and they did it in the same way. p.223

    Pyrexia: 18th c. word for 'fever'.


    The green man threw back his head and laughed. Much later I was to hear the sound the alzabo makes as it ranges the snowswept tablelands of the high country; its laughter is horrible, but the Green Man's was more terrible, and I drew away from him. "You're not a human being," I said. "Not now, if you ever were." p.230

    Alzabo: An invented creature and word - a flying wolf, as near as I can tell from the etymology.

    Another great passage. Going through the putting the lexicon, typing up the sentences, is giving me greater appreciation for Wolfe's writing. Many of these passages I would have read but not fully absorbed if I didn't force myself to go back and study them.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    LEXICON

    A woman. I've forgotten her name, but we called her Mother Pyrexia. The stones were put up on her, just like what you see here, for it's largely the same ones doing it, and they did it in the same way. p.223

    Pyrexia: 18th c. word for 'fever'.


    And presumably etymologically related to words for fire, as in pyromania or pyrotechnics

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