(urth) Lake of Birds

Bruno de Albuquerque Furtado meuemaildobruno at gmail.com
Sat May 19 22:34:34 PDT 2012

This list's threads have been a great help in my unrelenting effort to
understand the BotNS and UotNS, which I have just finished reading for the
first time. I live in Brazil, so don't have ready access to much of the
supporting content that would otherwise help me, such as Lexicon Urthus
etc., and therefore this list has been particularly useful. Thanks!

Unfortunately, the archives are so extensive that I lack the will to sift
through them all. Consequently, I don't really know if the remark I'm about
to make is original or not, though I suspect it isn't, for it's quite
obvious. Anyway, while searching for "avern" on google, I stumbled upon
lake Avernus, which is a real lake in Italy. In addition to "Avernus"
meaning "birdless" (apparently due to ancient Romans' belief that birds
that flew over this lake would die), and to this lake being considered a
sort of gate to Hades (and therefore a place in which many dead people
lie), it is also the abode of the "mythological" Cumean Sibyl. The "Lake of
Birds" is thus obviously lake Avernus.

This raises some questions. What are the gardens in the Botanical Gardens -
illusions, reconstructions of past landscapes, or, as I'm more inclined to
believe, those landscapes themselves? If the Lake of Birds is Avernus
itself, in which time period is it? Ancient Rome? Or is it possible to
experience many different periods of time in the Lake of Birds, as it
appeared to be in the Jungle Garden? What I thought most interesting,
though, was the part in which the old man with the boat (Severian's
grandfather?), says that there is a pipe that links the Lake of Birds to
Gyoll, and that apparently that was the reason why this lake does not dry
up. Is that Wolfe giving us an early clue that, in his world, the future
can determine the past, and not only the other way around? Would lake
Avernus dry up in ancient Rome, if the pipe that connects it to Gyoll would
clog up in the future? Given the general theme of Wolfe's work, that would
"make sense".
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