(urth) completed version - Donaldson, Moorcock etc

Sergei SOLOVIEV soloviev at irit.fr
Tue Aug 9 09:55:58 PDT 2011

Gerry Quinn wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
>> - Master torturer in Elric story - hybrid of torture device
>> from "In the penal colony" by Kafka:
>>> an elaborate torture and
>> execution device that carves the sentence of the condemned prisoner 
>> on his
>> skin in a script before letting him die (Wiki)
> Wolfe also pinched that idea!  It is one of the devices shown by 
> Gurloes to Thecla before her excruciation, though he mentions that it 
> does not work.
> - Gerry Quinn
Exactly! And look how Wolfe uses it. In his book it is part of 
"historical lecture" by Gurloes, so,
it is a token of immense depth of time. It is woven into the subtle 
fabrics of references
to our own time, like the photograph of lunar landing (or maybe its 
painted copy) cleaned by
Rudesund, like the Pope's translation of Homer  used in Chrasmologic 
writings and many
others. (Notice also that the machine breaks in the end of Kafka's 
story, and Gurloes says
it does not work.) The meanings and references play beautifully.

And if we take Moorcock, the use is quite the opposite. He takes a rich 
deep story and "flattens"
it to suit in some very straightforward way his purposes. So his 
torturer is just a sadist, and he
borrows the image, using only the idea of extreme cruelty.

It comes to my mind to compare three torturers: Gurloes (complex man who 
tries to look
simple brute) - by Wolfe; Nolieti in the Inversions by Banks who is a 
real brute but his
brutishness is described with great skill by Banks, so he has 
interesting human dimension
(he tries to use the teeth of his victims as his own prostheses) and the 
main hero Vosill
even tries to negotiate with him because she cannot believe that he may 
be truly so brutish;
and Dr. Jest of Moorcock borrowed from other contexts and transformed 
into one-dimensional
sadist. I think the Wolfe's is the best on literary scale and Moorcock's 
the worst (no talent,
no imagination and even no honest references to the sources).

Another example (I have forgotten to mention it) is that Arioch is 
borrowed from
"The Lord of the Flies" by Golding (he comes as a fly to Elric) and
the whole tradition concerning Beelzebub, and again flattened very much
(though at least he is not one-dimensional character).

I still had no time to analyse Donaldson.


Sergei Soloviev

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