(urth) I Claudius

Russell Wodell wrustle at telus.net
Wed Sep 6 17:19:38 PDT 2006

Graves' Claudius novels seem an obvious inspiration for BOTNS. 

But I wonder if there isn't an intervening source in a Graves rip-off: A.E. van Vogt's fix-up Empire of the Sun (1957). I'm relying on childhood memories here (has anyone read this recently?) but I remember it as chock-full of the surreal pulp imagery that Wolfe loves to rationalize, in this case people fighting with swords and ray-guns in a medieval-seeming setting that included spaceships. The last sentence of Chapter One of Shadow particularly struck me as reminiscent of the van Vogt ("It was in this fashion that I began the long journey by which I have backed into the throne") which recapitulates (againk, as I recall...) the basic Claudius plot of the least likely man becoming Emperor.

In much the same way, the opening sentence of Shadow ("It is possible I aleady had some presentiment of my future") strongly calls to mind both Proust and Dickens, two of Wolfe's culture heroes. Particularly the Dickens of David Copperfield:  "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." How true of Severian!

Russell Wodell
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