Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Shadow", Chapter 4, Part 2

In the elevation of [the beast handlers'] masters, the candidate stands under a metal grate trod by a bleeding bull; at some point in life each brother takes a lioness or bear-sow in marriage, after which he shuns human women. All of which is only to say that there exists between them and the animals they bring to the pits a bond much like that between our clients and ourselves. Now I have traveled much farther from our tower, but I have found always that the pattern of our guild is repeated mindlessly (like the repetitions of Father Inire's mirrors in the House Absolute) in the societies of every trade, so that they are all of them torturers, just as we. His quarry stands to the hunter as our clients to us; those who buy to the tradesman; the enemies of the Commonwealth to the soldier; the governed to the governors; men to women. All love that which they destroy.
This is an amusing reminder of the effect of viewpoint on perception. It reminds me of The Indian Upon God. The last point reminds me of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. So you can add "women to men" to the list. The assertions that soldiers love their enemies and the torturers love their clients are interesting. If "love" means "appreciate keeping them in employment" then it sort of makes sense. Perhaps soldiers who have seen a lot of combat start to identify more strongly with other combatants than with people living at home, since the rules of war are completely different than the rules of normal society. To quote from much later in the book: "War is not a new experience; it is a new world." The point about the torturers is less tenable, since the tone towards the clients so far in the book has been very detached and cold. Maybe it means that the clients allow them to practice their art and gain a sense of professional worth, as well as feeling like they are an arm of justice in their society. It seems more of a selfish love than some of the others, though; "I love you because of the way you make me feel about myself." Although I suppose any love that destroys its object is a selfish love. This may be another instance of possible misogyny, although I think its just an instance of melodrama. Triskele (the Trinity, remember) runs away from Severian, and he pursues him through "a welter of lightless corridors of whose existence I had been utterly unaware.... Soon I was lost, and went forward only because I did not know how to go back." I believe this symbolizes the incredible maze of conflicting doctrine that exists on the Trinity. Severian surfaces in the Atrium of Time, a courtyard filled with sundials. The sundials do double duty as an evocation of the sun and of time, two themes of the book (and the sun is a way we tell time, which wraps it up nicely into a solar circle). Suggestive fact about atria: "Byzantine churches were often entered through such a space (as are many mosques, though the term is not usually used for Islamic architecture)." This atrium is also a rose garden in summer. There he meets a girl named Valeria.
"Is that what you call it? The Atrium of Time? Because of the dials, I suppose." "No, the dials were put there because we call it that. Do you like the dead languages? They have mottoes. 'Lux dei vitae viam monstrat,' that's 'The beam of the New Sun lights the way of life.' 'Felicibus brevis, miseris hora longa.' 'Men wait long for happiness.' 'Aspice ut aspiciar.' "
These are all Latin mottoes from sundials. "The light of God shows the way of life." "Happiness is brief, misery lasts long." (I like Valeria's more upbeat translation) "Look at me so that I am looked at." I found that "Aspice ut aspicari" is anecdotally the correct Roman motto. It means "Look, in order to be seen." I wish I had confirmation of that. Valeria is from Latin valere (healthy, strong). There was a martyr Saint Valeria, and the Roman emperor Valerian was captured and humbled by the Persians. This is vaguely similar to the reversal of fortune of Valeria's family. Apparently the ancient Greek word for Citadel is Acropolis. So having the Citadel overrun by a necropolis might be a pun. The buildings of the Citadel might also parallel in some way those of the Acropolis of Athens, but I'm not going to try to test that hypothesis now.

No comments:

Post a Comment