(urth) Severian on trial

Adam Stephanides adamsteph at earthlink.net
Mon Mar 28 08:02:45 PST 2005

on 3/26/05 1:48 AM, Chris at rasputin_ at hotmail.com wrote:

> In short, YES. It has always seemed surreal to me, from the first time I
> layed eyes on it. And the more I learned, the stranger its elements became.
> I have always also found it strange that some of the veterans here avoid
> discussing this surreality like the plague. I do not know whether to
> attribute this to the idea that it is all old hat to them, now... or whether
> they simply weren't sure what to make of it. It becomes even more perplexing
> when people who I would expect to know the best seem to approach the story
> in a very literal sci-fi narrative fashion.

I never found Urth as depicted in BotNS to be particularly surreal, or
unreal. Picaresque, yes, but not surreal. UotNS, though, I did find
disjointed and dreamlike to the point of incoherence, and reviewing UotNS
only confirms this impression.

On the other hand, it seems clear to me that Wolfe does intend us to judge
the morality of Sev's actions in UotNS (whether well or ill). And to do so
we have to be able to extrapolate the likely consequences of these actions,
which means that the cosmos of UotNS must be rule-bound to some extent; it
can't just be a dream (at least in Wolfe's intentions).

> But riddle me this, those who know: why, when choosing his whole qabbalistic
> naming scheme in BotNS, did Wolfe choose to ground the realm of Urth under
> the name of "Yesod"? This is a level too high for any literal story.
> Shouldn't it be "Malkhut"?

Actually, Urth's universe is Briah; Yesod is the Hierogrammates' universe.
But this makes things more puzzling, since "Briah would appear to be a
different spelling of Beri'ah" (Andre-Driussi, Lexicon Urthus, p. 270),
which is above Yesod.


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