Citadel of the Autarch, chapters 5 to 8

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Severian continues to recover under the care of the Pelerines. He talks to his fellow patients, two of whom vie for a woman's affections by telling the best story with Severian as judge.

Severian decides, thanks to a turn of phrase, that the soldier he resurrected is Jonas - though the soldier believes neither this nor that he was resurrected.

He also tries to give the Claw back to the Pelerines, who believe neither that it is the Claw without the gemstone encasing it, nor that it has miraculous healing powers.

Further thoughts:

I don't think the soldier is Jonas. He wanted to come back when restored - but surely a restored Jonas would not be a being of flesh. Though who he is is a mystery.

I really like the Asians who can only speak by quoting from the texts. Orwell's Newspeak gone further. Also, geographically... the action is in South America, and Ascia is north of the equator. So it's potentially where the USA is, depending on how far north.

Comments

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    I stopped at ch7 but will hastily read ch8 as well :)
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    I agree about the soldier not being Jonas: I'm not altogether sure why Severian would jump to this conclusion.

    In these chapters I was particularly admiring Gene Wolfe's ability to describe people of different cultures or habits of thought. So the various patients in the tent all come across as distinct from each other. The Pelerine woman is presented splendidly, I think - religious without being fanatical, insightful without being cruel.

    Interesting also that the Thecla side of Severian is now apparent to others, so that Emilian recognises her speaking to him.

    These chapters are a slow build up, but I am finding them fascinating.
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    Oh yes. I nearly commented that there wasn't much to summarise, but plenty to discuss.
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    Also, my mistake - chapter 8 wasn't planned for this week. But I've mentioned a plot point there. My bad.

    It means next week is up to chapter 11.
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    I say this every time we start a new one of these, but this is my favourite book in the series so far. I'm enjoying the writing and storytelling in these first chapters.

    Yes, the Ascians speaking in aphorisms is interesting. Also noted that Thecla can't use the claw - only Severian. Could that be why it didn't seem to work at times?

    Severian thinks "the claw is the kind of thing that spells and prayers are made with, and not the kind that is made with them." That's a very interesting distinction - the claw is primal magic, the source of magic, rather than the result of it.

    There's a very interesting passage in chapter 8 where the Pellerine says that 'Every person... is like a plant. There is a beautiful green part, often with flowers or fruit, that grows upward toward the sun, toward the Increate. There is also a dark part that grows away from it, tunneling where no light comes."

    She denies she is speaking of good and evil, though: "The roots give the plant the strength to climb toward the sun, though they know nothing of it. Suppose that some scythe, whistling along the ground, should sever the stalk from its roots. The stalk would fall and die, but the roots might put up a new stalk."

    Severian asks if evil is good. She replies: "No, I am saying that the things we love in others and admire in ourselves spring from the things we do not see and seldom think about."

    This seems highly reflective of Severian's journey - his roots are his dark past, and we know he is travelling toward the sun. Many in our group have commented on how Severian's actions have seemed evil or dark, but if Wolfe saying that these things are necessary to propel Severian forward - that perhaps these things were not evil, per se, but rather an important part of Severian's growth cycle? The tallest plants also have the deepest or largest roots, afterall.

    (Also, was there not a similar message in Sarah Canary? Does anyone need more time with that book?)

    (Also, while I have your attention - has everyone read this month's newsletter? I'd like to make sure Rossum is taken care of. Thanks)

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    @Apocryphal said:
    I say this every time we start a new one of these, but this is my favourite book in the series so far. I'm enjoying the writing and storytelling in these first chapters.

    Yes, definitely

    There's a very interesting passage in chapter 8 where the Pellerine says that 'Every person... is like a plant. There is a beautiful green part, often with flowers or fruit, that grows upward toward the sun, toward the Increate. There is also a dark part that grows away from it, tunneling where no light comes."

    At the risk of repeating myself, I think she is a really interesting character, and one who definitely increases ,my opinion of the Pellerines. For example "[the Claw itself] was only a flaw at the heart of the jewel. The Conciliator was a man, Severian the Lictor, and not a cat or a bird" - it seems to me that this is probing the same issue that CS Lewis does in The Horse and His Boy, when Bree finds it ridiculous that Aslan would have whiskers and such like, if he were an actual lion. In both cases, the actual biological substance of the Christ figure is questioned by people who would consider themselves spiritually attached to said figure. Both authors are foregrounding the actual incarnational aspect of Christ - not just as a theological nicety but in tangible form - and also how difficult it can be even for believers to accept the mundane or prosaic implications of that.

    (Also, while I have your attention - has everyone read this month's newsletter? I'd like to make sure Rossum is taken care of. Thanks)

    Was that the bit about making contributions to server costs. if so, 'tis done. Can you remind me how I find the newsletters again? I have lost track of where they live.

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    The Newsletter is a pinned thread - you can find it here: https://www.ttrpbc.com/discussion/231/book-club-newsletter#latest

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    Found it thanks

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    edited November 3

    I really really really don't care for prophecies in fiction. Dune handled it well, and... and... I got nothin'!

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    What's this prophecy you keep speaking of?

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    What this book is all about. The New Sun.

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    Interesting that the Pelerine priestess regarded the Claw merely as a large gem, sacred merely for its symbolic link to the Conciliator. Not only had it shown no supernatural ability to her, but none in the Pelerine Order had any memory of any supernatural ability. So why does it work for Severian?

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    I don't think it's quite a prophecy, not as such.

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    From the WolfeWiki: "A prophecy tells of a messiah-figure, the New Sun, who will bring a new sun to Urth and restore the vitality of Urth and of the human race. This figure was prophesied by another mysterious messiah, the Conciliator, who lived a thousand years in the story's past. The two figures are said to be the same being."

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    @clash_bowley said:
    From the WolfeWiki: "A prophecy tells of a messiah-figure, the New Sun, who will bring a new sun to Urth and restore the vitality of Urth and of the human race. This figure was prophesied by another mysterious messiah, the Conciliator, who lived a thousand years in the story's past. The two figures are said to be the same being."

    I wonder where they got that 1000 years from? That seems to me vastly too short a time considering the other parts of the story. I don't recall us reading anything this explicit about a prophecy in the text (if it was there, I missed it :) ) - to me it feels much more generally prophetic / apocalyptic, rather like reading the books of Ezekiel or Revelation without trying to pin things down to specific years.

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