Citadel of the Autarch, Chapters 31 to 34

0

Severian learns of a venture he can undertake to attempt to bring back the New Sun, and the consequences should he fail. He returns to Nessus in a position of honour, pausing to see (but not speak to) Dorcas on the way. He returns to the Guild of Torturers, speaks to Master Palaemon and some current prisoners, and makes the decision to disband the Guild.

Comments

  • 1

    It all seems very appropriate for Severian to go back to his starting point - very TS Eliot
    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

    I liked also the catch-22 situation about torturers "it is intolerable that good men should spend a lifetime dispensing pain... what it is intolerable that it should be done by bad men"

    And how interesting about Dorcas. I suppose that this is the flip side of his assimilating all the previous experiences and lives... he has gained a huge perspective on the world and the various organisations within it, but he has also, it seems lost the capacity to personally relate to another: "not that the minds of Thecla and the old Autarch, or the hundred contained in his, had made me old. It was not their memories but mine that aged me"

  • 0

    I should also have said that the meta-explanation for why things might be different and why the (apparent) reversal of entropy of the New Sun should work, was very cool. In its conception of a set of beings outside the constraints of regular time it reminded me of Asimov's The End of Eternity, where the temporal engineers were able to insulate themselves from the effects of the changes they were making, and hence (in a certain sense) stood outside of time.

  • 1

    The manner in which he saw Dorcas was a bit implausible, I thought. The coincidence of finding her, and the timing of that at just the moment when she was burying her husband. In fact, the way these last few chapters have played out reminds me greatly of the deus ex machina ending mentioned in the book. It seems that Severian becomes Autarch because he became the autarch from the perspective of those higher beings outside time.

    A couple of other things of note. Severian now refers to himself in the plural: we the Autarch. I think that's a pointer that he hasn't fully assimilated all those memories. He also refers to himself as not being the State, but the Commonwealth. Is that the origin of the term "Autarch"? It's not government by an individual, but it's governent of the body politic by itself.

  • 0

    Out of interest I looked up the etymology of Autarch and found (https://www.lexico.com/definition/autarch via Google)

    Origin

    early 19th century: from Greek autarkhos, from autos ‘self’ + arkhos ‘leader’.

  • 1

    Severian himself gave the meaning in the previous set of chapters when he was speaking to the Agia after she freed him:

    I was beginning to find myself again, the minds that made up my mind all falling into place. I had been told once that Autarch meant 'self-ruler,' and I glimpsed the reason that title had come into being.

    Wolfe probably liked the term for being able to convey several meanings - self-ruler as in a person who propels himself to the position, as we probably assumed the name meant through the book. But now it seems a self-ruler is someone who has mastered himself, or found himself, when faced with possession by many. But it also works as the collective - if Severian has absorbed all the different kinds of people and can synthesize this, he can then represent the multitude or commonwealth as a 'self-ruler' - rule by all and rule by the self are one and the same.

  • 1

    @NeilNjae said:
    The manner in which he saw Dorcas was a bit implausible, I thought. The coincidence of finding her, and the timing of that at just the moment when she was burying her husband. In fact, the way these last few chapters have played out reminds me greatly of the deus ex machina ending mentioned in the book. It seems that Severian becomes Autarch because he became the autarch from the perspective of those higher beings outside time.

    Last batch of chapters, Apocryphal made a comment about the 'deus ex machina', and I made the rereply "No sense in not spelling out to the audience what is happening in the show!" - which is exactly what I have been feeling lately. We are playing out the script now.

  • 1
    I think with these final chapters the book is slightly suffering from being a slow read (whereas it usually benefits). Still, just one short hop until the end when we can consider it as a whole.
  • 2

    Unrelated to this discussion, take a look at this time lapse of the milky way. The camera is stabilised to the sky, so you see the sky still and the planet rotating underneath it. It's the same perspective Severian has of the world.

  • 2

    LEXICON

    "I know you think us cacogens of a kind, and for a time I felt it would not be wise to wholly undeceive you, but I must do so now. We are aquastors, beings created and sustained by the power of the imagination and the concentration of thought." p.366

    Aquastor: Aquastor, or Aquaster, is an esoteric term coined and used by Paracelsus. It denotes an entity formed by the power of a concentrated thought. This being can obtain a life of its own and can even assume physical form. The aquastor is astral in nature and does not possess spiritual characteristics. Rather, it is controlled by the mind of the person exercising willful imagination. If the imagination of the creator is strong, but unbalanced, the Aquastor can still come into being, but cannot be wielded. Examples of such uncontrolled Aquastors are the Succubus and the Incubus.


    I have talked with the heptarch and with various acaryas; but they have been able to tell me very little... p.367

    Heptarch: One (of seven) members of a government of seven people.
    Acaryas: In India, a preceptor or instructor in religious matters; founder, or leader of a sect; or a highly learned person or a title


    The thorn was a sacred Claw because all thorns were sacred Claws; the sand in my boots was sacred sand because it came from a beach of sacred sand. The cenobites treasured up the relics of the sannyasins because the sannyasins had approached the Pancreator. But everything had approached and even touched the Pancreator, because everything had dropped from his hand. Everything was a relic. All the world was a relic. I drew off my books, that had travelled with me so far, and threw them into the waves so that I might not walk shod on holy ground. p.367

    Cenobite: A member of a religious order or monastery.
    Sannyasin: (Hinduism) a wandering ascetic - the fourth stage.


    As we were about to cast off, he unbelted his craquemarte and handed it to me, saying solemnly, "It has stood by me in many a grim fight. Go for their heads, but be careful not to knick the edge on their belt buckles." p.370

    Craquemarte: A broad-bladed curved sea sword. This is certainly French, but I'm uncertain of the etymology. Craque certainly means 'crack' - a marte is a marten, the animal, so was it used to hunt them? Marteau, on the other hand, is a hammer - so maybe it's a 'hammering sword'.


    A basilosaur swimming up from the open sea would not have astounded me more. p.372

    Basilosaurus:


    I soon found myself arrayed in lapis lazuli jazerant, cothurni, and a stephane, the whole set off by an ebony baculus and a voluminous damassin cape embroidered with rotting pearls. p.376

    Jazerant: A coat of defense made of small plates of metal sewn upon linen or similar, or this kind of armor taken generally.
    Cothurni: a buskin, or half boot, usually associated with Greek tragedies.
    Stephane: an ancient Greek headress like a coronet.
    Baculus: a stick, cudgel, walking stick, rod, or sceptre.
    Damassin: Another word for Damask, which might refer to silk, a linen so woven that a pattern is produced by the different directions of the thread, without contrast of colour, or to a garment the colour of damask rose, which is a dusty rose colour.

  • 1
    edited January 2

    @Apocryphal said:
    LEXICON

    The thorn was a sacred Claw because all thorns were sacred Claws; the sand in my boots was sacred sand because it came from a beach of sacred sand. The cenobites treasured up the relics of the sannyasins because the sannyasins had approached the Pancreator. But everything had approached and even touched the Pancreator, because everything had dropped from his hand. Everything was a relic. All the world was a relic. I drew off my books, that had travelled with me so far, and threw them into the waves so that I might not walk shod on holy ground. p.367

    the last phrase ("that I might not walk shod on holy ground") is intended to remind us of Moses at the episode of the burning bush, and one assumes (by virtue of the complete lack of explanation in Exodus) that it was a routine way of showing respect for the sacred

Sign In or Register to comment.