“Auk shook his head, and found that it no longer ached. “I’ve never had no god bossing me, Jugs, or wanted to either. That’s lily. I never even knew about Kypris, but you were a lot different when you were Scylla.”

“Some of that was me, I think. Hold me tighter, won’t you? I’m really cold.”

Excerpt From: Gene Wolfe. “Epiphany of the Long Sun.” Apple Books.

Quetzal: […] There is a possibility that he has vampire episodes as a form of sleepwalking (IV, chap. 17, 375).

Andre-Driussi, Michael. Gate of Horn, Book of Silk: A Guide to Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun (p. 89). Sirius Fiction. Kindle Edition.

The main problem I have with Andre-Driussi’s indubitably grand and great lexicons is that they pretend that each person they delineate is one specific person, rather than a multiple of people. Severian, for example, contains multiple personalities at the end of New Sun, so if it seems best to establish him still as one person at the end of that book and onto Urth, it would mean that Wolfe didn’t inscribe the changes taking on so many more personalities into his brain must have had on him; textually, regardless, he still reads to us as “Severian,” so Severian, not hyphenated Severian, he still be. So a lexicon fairer to our own experience of Severian, would have multiple entries, delineating each time he delineated off path of what we might consider his “ego” standard, the Severian we all know and love, as they say, into somebody we don’t recognize as him, or as fundamentally him. He ought to deviate massively when his brain-bower of Thecla and himself becomes the fractured-mob of the squabble of all the former autarchs, but it would do so earlier than this, when his Thecla personality has the helm of him. A lexicon probably wouldn’t even list the Severian in some parts of his experience in the Pelerine camp as Severian, but rather under some of the functioning under “Thecla,” because when she takes over Severian, then, becomes the forefront personality in him, then, his movement, his voice, are so persuasive of Thecla that even as she operates within a male body, a former nurse of hers recognizes her and cowers in terror.

Because with the like of Thecla’s infusion into Severian, Wolfe overtly acknowledges that there is a more profound way that there surely have been multiple Severians than the fact that Severian has been allowed many lives, all of whom veering only slightly off standard, into which to finally live one that suits his shapers, he’d probably be ok if Driussi had had subsections of maybe Severian-Thecla, or Severian-autarchs, so the reader knew that sometimes when the text was inscribing “Severian” it really has involved itself with one of his complete switches or hybrid personalities, like as is conveyed in Driussi’s Silver Silk, where he is listed away from “Silk” onto “Gods of the Long Sun Whorl.” But even if a lexicon worked that way, it would still argue that there is a standard aggregate personality involved with each of its characters, but if we take away all the times Wolfe has overtly had a person being taken over by a different being, all the Roses into Marbles, all the Echidnas into Mints, all the Kyprises into Chenilles, is it really true that there aren’t dramatic alterations in ostensibly integrated single personalities that are so marked that regardless of whether inscribed by Wolfe as a personality take-over or not, this is clearly what has occurred to a particular character?

Doesn’t the Severian, not during the Pelerine camp but when he is leaving it, onto a mission that the substitute Domnicellae, Mannea, has sent him on, begin to seem something of a different person? I always felt so. The Severian who establishes,“I’m no diplomatist,” I told her. “But for the other business, I can honestly say I have received long training.” carries off persuasively as a straightforward, well, thug, then, but I don’t remember it being square with who Severian always is otherwise throughout New Sun. Like Able, he’s another one of Wolfe’s protagonists who often carries himself off akin to how Master Gurlos is described, as “midway between a dancing master and a diplomacist, with a touch of assassin if needed,” the knight who might insist on his knighthood but who is translated instantly into warlock by others for his being too artful for mercenary. Dorcas calls him a hybrid-torturer, who is more philosopher, a contemplator, one who questions, than one who “obeys.” He recognizes a need to be diplomatic, and seems to believe he’s capable of it, with art, when dealing with the islanders, and is overtly diplomatic and cleverly sly when dealing with the masters of his guild: he distracts his masters off something major by bringing attention to a smaller affair–his fiddling in his pockets–and articulates his decision to remain with the guild and become a torturer at his age of maturity, in a way that greatly pleases them. A lexicon might, to be fair to the different Severians, need to do more than hybrid him Thecla-Severian and do more along the lines of Appeasing Severian, where the dominant aspect in charge of him there is the appeasing aspect of him, which, when he is involved in it, is a very different personality than when he is not so involved. A different person, perhaps.

But I want to do more than argue than a lexicon takes characters who may have many aspects to them, and brings them into an integrity that may or may not exist within a person. I want to argue that there are times when a lexicon, in delineating a character as one person, effectively lies for the character often being, really, very different people, regardless of whether they’d not been possessed by a specific god or had a person who’d been grafted to at the cellular level, take over them just then. Like Able who when he articulates himself as 13-year-old, sometimes actually is in the 13-year-old him at some points of the text, but not so, at other times–and so needs to be corrected out of his error, at those times, like Garsecg does for him at one point–the Severian who delineates himself as not artful and a person who obeys, might be at the instant in the mental state of whom he was at times as an obedient child, perhaps, whereas at other times, he’s the adult and more freethinking him. (Swallow, in Long Sun, argues that you can manage a company of adults with just a few whacks and a few bits of praise, and Mint de facto argues that this is because it brings them back to the status of childhood, where this was the means by which teachers engaged with them.) Diane, in Death of Dr. Island, complains that she can never get away from her parents because she carries her parents inside her all the time, is voicing the same complaint as Auk does when he complains that Maytera Mint has gotten inside his head, something he says is so destabilizing, so real, it makes him want to kill her (Silk says he obviously won’t kill her, which is probably correct, because what is Long Sun [and short Sun], but a text(s) that displaces matricidal inclinations off heroes onto villains?).

Both I think are arguing that the problem with having “parents” inside you, is more than that they perform as a judging super-ego, but that they speak to some part of yourself that believes you’ve been so bad you don’t deserve to exist at all, some part that would be willing to let itself go, or shrink down a lot, and let the voices one views as morally superior or simply bigger and more impressive than you and always pressing against you, simply take over as ego, as “the show,” as the primary stage presence, as you just tag along. I think this happens quite a bit in Wolfe, where a judgmental mother, especially, really becomes the person (interesting how the infusion of a personality in Wolfe’s works is often a woman. Thecla, Echidna, Hyacinth, with Tartaros as but the exception), but where it isn’t done out of one’s sense of sin but in an effort to adapt the tremendous power one associates with her onto onself. The mother takes over, but you’re to some extent still with her, existing in her power, like Severian is when he follows the lead of Agia when she goaded their driver into a race with the armigers, or like Chenille is, when she says in the quote above, yes, it was mostly Kypris, but I was there too; I was in there too, and how awful but grand I was!

For my money, Able is not “Able” when he makes his first appearance back into Mythgarthr after spending many years in Skye, the land of truly great and royal knights and ladies. As a hint as to who he really is is the fact that he makes about the same appearance as Echidna when she first arrives back into the whorl, after countless ages of being remote from it. He screams at blind slaves for not properly attending to the horses. He says he won’t even pity them for they don’t deserve it. Then he abandons them entirely to collect himself for court. This is Euklytes as he makes his entrance into a ship by presuming for and getting the captain’s cabin, and Able himself when he enters into a dining hall and tells all the head torturers there how’s it going to be from now on. This is Silk’s mother as she is described as being, a boss, a terror, of the kitchen, a “virago.” She enters into a place, and blamo! things change, for real. He is effectively Wat in Devil in a Forest, when he isn’t so much “play-acting” as Sieur Ganelon by letting the maternal voice in him, the Mother Cloot who was all of him at one point and who still thinks she owns him, imbibe him, become him. Such a voice is so effective because in the boy’s life, it was deadly for ensuring that powerless child did everything that mommy wanted. So head torturers, so King Arnthur, who also is on the receiving end when Able is borrowing off his mother (country America’s) authority, so blind slaves, so one and all, all to some extent run scurrying, as in that instant they are recognized, in a nurse-recognizes-Thecla-a once-boss-in-Severian, sort of way, as their own Echidna-Kulili mothers, like so many giants do the petit Lynnet by her mere wielding a whip with some military effectiveness. Able is one man but also an army, yes, but Lynnet shows the source of this power to a boy, in her being even more petit being even that much more a realm-shaker and determiner.

Many lead protagonists are more or less their mothers when they perform their drama queen entrances, as well. Once Able scolds the slaves and then presumes at court, where he is recognizes as the great welcome knight, this for my money is akin to Weer’s understanding of Aunt Olivia, who believed herself queen of a town of numbskulls, and who had her many illustrious courters flocking to her, as the only genuine vision around. It’s Severian when he makes his famous Cinderalla-akin entrance into Vodalus’s forest court. It’s also Severian when he makes his reappearance at the end of Urth, at just the moment the bells chime for him. He steals the stage from his bitch-rival, Valeria, who’d held centre stage long enough. When wizard men lend Cassie, in Evil Guest, her great attraction, it’s a very different situation than when Dr. Talos lends Jolenta her own “shine,” because Wolfe doesn’t enhance her breasts like he had happen to Jolenta or magnify her dignity like he had Kypris do for Chenille, but lets her go about the same-same as always. The appeal that is lent to her, was always hers, really, but only to a very specific audience, the boy who sees in her their, as Ouen would say, “mother come again.” All that happens to her is that everyone was made to see her as if she represented most of their own mothers, which in Wolfe’s universes, we can pretty much assume they already did. Evil Guest is a strange story that tries to make what is a normal situation for most men seem the result of magic, making the “magic” mostly a distraction, a trick, to get us away from thinking on the fact that this Cassie who magics other people, is the drag queen that exists at times in so many main Wolfe male protagonists, and that Wolfe himself so evidently found comforting in inhabiting, and that we might have too.

 

 

 

 

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