Frankenstein in Baghdad Q9: Allegory

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"I have a number of assistants who live with me. They have banded together around me over the past three months. The most important one is an old man called the Magician."

Is there any particular symbology you can see in the book that suggests something deeper than the story? What do you make of Whatsitsname's assistants, the Magician, the Sophist, the Enemy, and the Three Madmen? What about the presence of Saint George?

Comments

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    I'm not sure what the naming is saying. There are characters that have names and peripheral ones who don't. Is that just an attempt to keep our attention focused on the characters in Bataween, by making all the others ciphers? (I did like the comment that the Sophist was the person who named himself.)

    I read somewhere that St George is a symbol of Elishva's thoughts about Daniel, a proxy for him. That sounds about right.

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    I don't think that "allegory" is quite the right word - the pedant in me reckons that in an allegory you lose the sense that the characters are real people, and they are replaced by qualities or traits of some kind (the classic example being Pilgrims Progress). Symbology is probably a word I find more useful.

    That said, I agree that some of the secondary characters are not fully fleshed out, and that their names tend to reflect their role (again I wonder if this is a translational artefact, or one that is also reflected in the Arabic original).

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    I don't think that "allegory" is quite the right word - the pedant in me reckons that in an allegory you lose the sense that the characters are real people, and they are replaced by qualities or traits of some kind (the classic example being Pilgrims Progress). Symbology is probably a word I find more useful.

    By that measure, the story of the events in Dora is allegory, as none of the characters have names, only traits. Given that everyone else has names, I must consider the difference to be deliberate. The question is, why do it?

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    I've been told the word 'allegory' refers specifically to biblical references, so I acknowledge its probably not the right word, but I figured it could stand colloquially.

    Often we read things and @RichardAbbott or @NeilNjae or @BarnerCobblewood points out that it's a reference to something well known to the literati (or people with a good English education, anyway - we missed all that stuff where I grew up). In the odd chance it might refer to some classicist essay or a play by Euripides, I thought I'd ask. Maybe it's a joke: "A magician, a sophist, and an enemy walked into a bar...'"

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    edited June 2

    @Apocryphal said:
    I've been told the word 'allegory' refers specifically to biblical references, so I acknowledge its probably not the right word, but I figured it could stand colloquially.

    That seems too narrow a limitation to me, though it's probably true that pretty much all allegory written in the English language is based on biblical material. Ironically, of course, very little (perhaps none) of the storytelling parts of the bible itself is allegory, but relies largely on more direct and realistic methods to impart meaning. (I don't mean that the events described are necessarily to be taken as historical, but that the authors wrote the accounts as though they were telling stories about real people and real events).

    Now, lots of authors both in the ancient and modern worlds give their characters names that are meaningful in the context of the story, so that a knowledge of the name's meaning often sheds light on their personality or character arc. But that is different from allegory where the virtue or vice is signalled in a very overt way, and the character does not act or develop any differently from their name.

    @Apocryphal said:
    ... In the odd chance it might refer to some classicist essay or a play by Euripides, I thought I'd ask. Maybe it's a joke: "A magician, a sophist, and an enemy walked into a bar...'"

    Such a joke deserves to be told :)

    Finally, I still wonder if the names like the Magician, the Sophist, or the Enemy are a translator's choice or in the original.

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    I didn't notice any allegory, nor did I care. I don't read books for those reasons or in that manner.

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