(urth) Suzanne Delage redux

Gerry Quinn gerryq at indigo.ie
Tue Dec 7 22:05:58 PST 2010

From: "Gwern Branwen" <gwern0 at gmail.com>
> On Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 11:15 PM, Gwern Branwen <gwern0 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> So, someone complained it was quiet around here...
>> To rectify that, I'd like to offer up a little experiment of mine.
>> This is sort of an attempt at what I think a wiki article on Wolfe
>> stories could look like: the story or a detailed summary, followed by
>> analysis of allusions, and then a summing up of the theories floated
>> on Urth.net and hopefully a dispassionate appraisal. I doubt this
>> format would scale to the novels, but it seems to work well in this
>> case.
> I recently gave it another polish and put it on my website:
> http://www.gwern.net/Suzanne%20Delage.html
> Hopefully this form is much more readable. I don't think I missed any
> major theories about "Suzanne Delage" but perhaps someone has thought
> of a new one in the last year or so?

I believe I have an explanation of the story, which falls close to the 
category of 'Missed Chances' in your list,.but the link there from Alice 
Turner does not really hit the target.  I'm pretty sure of this explanation, 
so Lee and James may feel free to line up the slings and arrow!  Here it is:

Suzanne Delage is a kind of horror story, but the supernatural element is 
something we do not think of as supernatural, because it is the stuff of 
every romance novel - only Wolfe has inverted the story.  The element is as 
follows: there is one person who is made for us, and when we meet them we 
will fall in love, perhaps have to overcome some vicissitudes, but 
eventually live happily ever after.

The key to it is near the beginning, in the paragraph that starts: "When I 
had switched off the light I lay recalling, very pleasantly on the whole, my 
life. It has been a pleasant life, though I fear a dull, and perhaps a 
lonely, one."

So might a goose nailed to the floor of a foie gras forcing pen describe its 
life, if it were philosophically inclined, and determined to look on the 
bright side of things.  This man's life is empty and blighted.  Why? 
Because by some perverse operation of chance, he has never met his other 
half, the woman he is made to love.  (Does the converse apply to Suzanne?  I 
do not know. Perhaps her life works okay both ways.)

At the end after "the usual half teasing reproaches about my (supposed) gay 
bachelor life" he sees and is enchanted by Suzanne's daughter, who is (we 
are told) the image of Suzanne at the age when he should have met her. 
There is no auctorial duplicity here. She is indeed the daughter, not 
Suzanne, and she is indeed the image of Suzanne.  The description is 
deliberately sensuous in regard to her body "the virginal breasts half 
afraid to press the soft angora of her sweater, nor the little waist I might 
have circled with my two hands", and also refers to her spirit "vivacity 
coupled with an innocence and intelligence that were hers alone".  There is 
no doubt here - this is the image of the woman he would have loved.  If only 
he had met her.

By some perverse conspiracy of chance or fate he did not, and his life has 
been wasted.

- Gerry Quinn

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