Claw of the Conciliator: Chapters 20 to 22

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Severian finds his sword, delivers, Vodalus' message, and is reunited with Dorcas, Dr.Talos, Baldanders, and Jolenta.

The recipient of Vodalus' message seems to be the Autarch himself. Wheels within wheels.

Comments

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    I felt that these chapters, especially the last, contained something of the core of what Gene Wolfe wanted to say - I've read them twice so far and will probably read again before commenting properly :smile:

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    My short description absolutely did not get at any of the meat of it, and I'd like to discuss, but it's hard for me to work out how to phrase my observations. There's a lot, both in delivering the message, and in both Dorcas and Dr. Talos/Baldanders.

    I'll race you @RichardAbbott!
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    I read chapters 20-22. I had no idea that the message was delivered to the Autarch. I think I am losing this. Everyone else seems to be enjoying it, and I seem to have no idea what is going on.

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    I'm with @clash_bowley : all I got from these chapters was Severain wandering through a palace, meeting strange people and not much happening. I'd love to hear the thoughts of @RichardAbbott and @dr_mitch about these chapters!

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    Right, let's have a go. There's so much in these three chapters, only some parts being explained.

    The fundamental thing that emerges for me here is Gene Wolfe's extensive use of metaphor. We begin with the finding of the sword - at first sight a wild coincidence but actually a piece of careful positioning needing his memory and logic. It's another sign that Severian is being steered into something. But also when he puts on the sword and cloak he becomes "more than a man" - he is an embodiment of an office rather than simply being himself.

    Severian meets the person we realise is the Autarch, and we discover that Vodalus' message was in fact for him. They are swapping information using a shared secret code. So maybe they are not at war, except as an elaborate facade - maybe a play? Which in narrative terms might be why Dr Talos' play receives such prominence?

    I totally loved ch22, in which Dorcas seems to be getting at the heart of the problem of Severian's existence and purpose. If Death is a metaphor for him, albeit one which Talos uses in a manipulative way, then I take the closing sentence to mean that Dorcas brings innocence into situations, whilst not herself being innocent (or Innocence, if you prefer). Just to pick up on the Talos thing again, it's a fascinating insight put into Dorcas' mouth that metaphor can be used to harm and tear down, as well as to build up. What role, I wonder, is Talos playing? Is he the real adversary, rather than either Vodalus or the Autarch?

    In short, yes I really enjoyed and appreciated these chapters, and feel that the real story - the one behind the journeys and minor skirmishes - is unfolding now.
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    edited July 12

    How exactly do "we" realize that some one of these strange people he is wandering around meeting is the Autarch? To me this is equivalent to the famous Sidney Harris cartoon - https://i.pinimg.com/originals/d6/e7/54/d6e754d24aaef324c1595e68583ace7a.png.

    I never metaphor I didn't like, but I didn't see how these metaphors were tearing down anything.

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    Love the cartoon 😁
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    The character who - so far as I know - we have never knowingly met is Father Inire, who seems to be behind loads of stuff but as yet has remained mysterious
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    edited July 12

    I'm looking for the Autarch and you are distracting me with Father Inire! :wink:

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > I'm looking for the Autarch and you are distracting me with Father Inire! :wink:

    Try the 4 paragraphs from "For a moment the androgyne stood silent again" to "The Autarch spoke to him, something I was too distracted to understand".

    They made it all click for me.
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    Ah! OK, @RichardAbbott! I read that last as meaning "The autarch at times spoke to the androgyne", figuring the androgyne was high up in the autarch's favor, and was betraying him. I read it at least three times, searching for the reveal of the autarch you and Dr. Mitch referred to, each time it did not register as that! I wonder if @NeilNjae was reading it the same way!
    Why was the autarch personally running a house of ill repute? If it was so important as a source of information, It seems he could have delegated that to someone else. Why did he concern himself with arranging for Severian to be with the counterfeit Thecla? Severian was just an anonymous young man. This seems odd - too much of a coincidence. "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action."

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    Also, Father Inire (Deus Irae?) seems to be immortal, having worked for the first autarch.

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > Ah! OK, @RichardAbbott! I read that last as meaning "The autarch at times spoke to the androgyne", figuring the androgyne was high up in the autarch's favor, and was betraying him.

    Another fascinating point which we have yet to be revealed is the word androgyne itself... literally man-woman. Is androgyny a necessary feature of the Autarch, or is it a coincidence?
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    Seeing as Severian becomes autarch and he is not in the least androgynous, I wouldn't worry about that , @RichardAbbott !

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    Unless the process of becoming Autarch involves cruel and unusual modifications...
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    Of course the other strand I forgot was Dorcas apparently starting to remember the reality of her death
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    edited July 13

    For me, I think it's only hinted at that this is the Autarch. He later tells Severian that when he later meets the Autarch he will need to kill him. But almost, not quite, a smoking gun for me that this is the Autrach is that he sends Severian into a sun via portal, as if to test him to see if he's the one foretold, then admits "I sought, perhaps, to postpone my time". I read this as meaning that he foresees his own end at the hand of Severian, and makes a feeble attempt to postpone it. Then, when he realizes he can't he sends Severian on his way with a piece of advice for when they will next meet.

    Quite fascinating, this 'second house' in which the Autarch resides, a palace hidden within plain view inside the House Absolute.

    Also, I give you "The Pelgaic Argosy Sights Land" string quartet by Leyla I. Royale.
    https://soundcloud.com/leyla-i-royale/the-pelagic-argosy-sights-land

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    @clash_bowley said:
    Also, Father Inire (Deus Irae?) seems to be immortal, having worked for the first autarch.

    Is "Father Inire" a person, or is it now some kind of title, passed on from person to person to give some semblance of continuity?

    And all this talk about Severian meeting the Autarch makes it pretty plain that almost everything we've seen so far in the story has been planned (or manipulated) by various people. But quite why Severian has been chosen to fulfil this role is anyone's guess!

    Perhaps, given all the christian references, Severian will turn out to be some kind of deity in mortal form and without self-awareness?

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    @NeilNjae You may be right - looking up the word Inire one finds this in the Wiktionary:

    Verb
    ineō (present infinitive inīre, perfect active iniī, supine initum); irregular conjugation

    1. I enter, go into.
    2. I begin (a certain activity, enterprise, business).
      (transitive, by extension, followed by the accusative) I take up (an office, position).
      magistratum inire ― to take up the magistracy
      imperium inire ― to come to power
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    @NeilNjae said:

    @clash_bowley said:
    Also, Father Inire (Deus Irae?) seems to be immortal, having worked for the first autarch.

    Is "Father Inire" a person, or is it now some kind of title, passed on from person to person to give some semblance of continuity?

    Nice! That works for me! I had been imagining some mad Dworkin, but this makes more sense!

    And all this talk about Severian meeting the Autarch makes it pretty plain that almost everything we've seen so far in the story has been planned (or manipulated) by various people. But quite why Severian has been chosen to fulfil this role is anyone's guess!

    Sigh... Not a big fan of fulfilling prophecies...

    Perhaps, given all the christian references, Severian will turn out to be some kind of deity in mortal form and without self-awareness?

    Let's hope not.

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    @clash_bowley said:

    @NeilNjae said:
    Perhaps, given all the christian references, Severian will turn out to be some kind of deity in mortal form and without self-awareness?

    Let's hope not.

    Wow! I can feel the waves of eager anticipation from all the way over here! :-)

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    edited July 15

    @NeilNjae said:

    @clash_bowley said:

    @NeilNjae said:
    Perhaps, given all the christian references, Severian will turn out to be some kind of deity in mortal form and without self-awareness?

    Let's hope not.

    Wow! I can feel the waves of eager anticipation from all the way over here! :-)

    The only thing fulfilling prophecies is worse for than fantasy novels is roleplaying games. The only time it was ever done right is the Missionaria Protectiva prophecies in Dune.

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    I found Severian's reuinion with Dorcas surprisingly touching, and rather tragic. The tragedy was that although his resurrection of Dorcas was unwitting, he really did her no favours. She's traumatised, and it doesn't look like there's any cure. And dependent upon Severian, who isn't really up to the job of looking after her.

    And Severian as Death...that's what he was trained to be- a torturer, an executioner. And his intended career still. But he's experienced too much to be content with that role. He's even loved, something which is essentially forbidden to the torturers. He's absolutely not a good friend or partner, but considering his background, he might have been even worse. He's slowly learning actual morality.

    As for the reveal of the Autarch, from the end of the chapter:

    "Good. There is something else you must do as well. The Autarch is here, but long before you reach Thrax he will be in the north too, with the army. If he comes near Thrax, you are able to go to him. In time you will discover the way in which you must take his life." His tone betrayed him as much as Thecla's thoughts. I wanted to kneel, but he clapped his hands, and a bent little man slipped silently into the room. He wore a cowled habit like a cenobite's. The Autarch spoke to him, something I was too distracted to understand.

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    OIK, so that's a smoking gun...!

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    That is the passage I misread. @RichardAbbott referred to it above.

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