The Dream Archipelago Week 13: The Discharge, part 1

1

Summary

  • We meet an un-named soldier, fresh from boot camp and in his 20's, marching to a ship. He's a conscript, and heading to the south continent to fight.
  • The war is now 3000 years old! Common knowledge holds that it was the Islanders that started it.
  • As he travels south, the recites the names of several islands. He says: "Each of these names was evocative to me. Reading the names off the map, identifying the exotic coastlines from fragments of clues - a sudden rise of sheer cliffs, a distinctive headland, a particular bay - made me think that everywhere in the Dream Archipelago was already embedded in my consciousness, that somehow the islands were where my roots were found, that I belonged in them, had dreamed of them all my life. In short, while I stared at the islands from the ship I felt my artistic sensibilities reviving." I picked this about because I feel the same way.
  • There is to be only one island stop - on Muriseay, the largest island - where the soldiers soon learn they can take a brief leave for R&R.
  • We learn of Rascar Acizzone, a painter and the inventor (or pioneer) of tactilism, who lived in an artists colony on Muriseay. We learned briefly about him in The Islanders.
  • The soldiers are granted shore leave. Most opt to visit the whores. Our viewpoint character, though, seeks only to find the trace of Acizzone. Instead he finds whores, and ends up in gogo bar.
  • Our soldier is uncomfortable in the gogo bar and wants to leave, but just then black-caps with batons enter and block the exits. Meanwhile, women seem to sense him and harass him with their come-ons. A younger woman catches his eye and he goes with her into the back.
  • He enters one of the private rooms and soon finds himself alone with a woman on a bed in a scene that seems like a re-enaction of Ste Augustinea Abandonai, one of Accizone's most famous tactilist works. He realizes he's been searching for this. The woman tells him he must either engage and ravage her, or he must leave. Lamely, he leaves.
  • He blunders through the corridors, interrupts a couple, then enters and empty room. Three women quickly join him and before he knows it, he's The Swain of Lethen in Godley Pleasures, another of Acizzone's works. Finally he's aroused.
  • But its over almost before it begins, and he's left to climax on his own. Dissatisfied and embarrassed, he leaves and returns to the ship - which sets sail the next day.

Discussion

  • Are the women in Priest's books more comfortable with sex than the men?
  • Who is taking advantage of whom in this scenario?
  • What's the connection between art, sex, and war? Why do both feature so much in The Dream Archipelago?

Comments

  • 1

    There's obviously more going on than appears on the surface. I think we're expected to infer that the black-caps are searching for the narrator, and the tableaus he sees are enacted for him. Were told that every person perceives each tactilist work differently, but the tableaus he sees are exactly what he remembers from the art.

    I don't think that women are more comfortable with sex, as everyone apart from the viewpoint characters are more comfortable with sex. That could be giving voice to everyday anxieties: everyone else is having better sex than me.

    Why art, sex, and war? I think because they're outside the everyday experiences and normal rules don't apply there. I don't know if they're meant to be windows onto our true selves, stripped of the veneer of polite society (echoes of Island of Moreau?).

  • 0

    I was struck by the revelation that the war had (allegedly) gone on for 3000 years! Even Haldeman's Forever War didn't last that long... 1997-3143 = a mere 1146 years, mostly spent in relativistic time dilation. In our-universe terms that means they started fighting in the early Iron Age with swords, chariots, bows and arrows, and are still at it now with all kinds of techno-weapons.

    So I don't for a moment believe that CP intended this to be actual history - more a kind of propaganda effort by the warring factions to make their efforts sound unending. It seems to me that this book has been full of different kinds of hallucinations, whether by natural cause (Qataari roses) or technological (synaesthetic grenades). So the artificially extended figure, coupled with the protagonist's near-total loss of connected memory to his own childhood, leads me to believe that the apparent history bears no resemblance to that world's actual history.

    So taking that to its logical extreme, I doubt that anything in the account has more reality than the images inside our protagonist's head. (Which still makes it real to him, of course). So in his mind the black-caps are after him. In his mind the women are reenacting the artworks he has seen. And so on.

    I did think that the tactile art was a cool idea - rather than people just seeing different thing, they feel different things too.

    @NeilNjae said:
    I don't think that women are more comfortable with sex, as everyone apart from the viewpoint characters are more comfortable with sex. That could be giving voice to everyday anxieties: everyone else is having better sex than me.

    Yes agreed, that's a very neat way to describe it.

    @Apocryphal said:

    • But its over almost before it begins, and he's left to climax on his own. Dissatisfied and embarrassed...

    A theme which we met with Ordier in the last story.

    In summary, once again an interesting setup... let's see how this one progresses. This is also the last story of the book so there may be a sense of finality to the whole work... though from what we have learned about CP this seems unlikely, and in any case so far as I understand these stories were originally published separately and only later drawn into a standalone work. So the idea that we are going to be find a grand round-up of ideas seems far-fetched!

  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:
    So taking that to its logical extreme, I doubt that anything in the account has more reality than the images inside our protagonist's head. (Which still makes it real to him, of course). So in his mind the black-caps are after him. In his mind the women are reenacting the artworks he has seen. And so on.

    True. I think the 3000 year war and the amnesia are meant to tell us that we have an unreliable, probably deluded, narrator.

    @RichardAbbott said:

    @Apocryphal said:

    • But its over almost before it begins, and he's left to climax on his own. Dissatisfied and embarrassed...

    A theme which we met with Ordier in the last story.

    Perhaps my mind's in the gutter, but that did make me wonder what "Discharge" the story title refers to.

  • 1
    edited August 4
    I wondered about that bit of innuendo, too.

    I thought the cavalcade of islands that the soldier described felt like something of a summation. A bit of a preamble to ‘concluding remarks’, perhaps.

    Also, yes, the 3000 years and ‘the islanders’ caused it both smack of either propaganda or the kinds of bs people hear on the front lines.
  • 1
    edited August 7

    This isn't the first mention of of the war being thousands of years old in this book. I noticed it before - not sure which story... When Priest pulls stupid crap like that it really bothers me.

    Are the women in Priest's books more comfortable with sex than the men?
    

    No. I think Priest the author is messed up and has problems, because sex is ALWAYS screwed up in his books.

    Who is taking advantage of whom in this scenario?
    

    I think the whole thing with re-enacting the painting tableaux is entirely in his own mind, as Richard suggested.

    What's the connection between art, sex, and war? Why do both feature so much in The Dream Archipelago?
    

    Because they obsess Priest? My best guess. :D

Sign In or Register to comment.