Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Shadow", Chapter 5, Part 1

The picture he was cleaning showed an armored figure standing in a desolate landscape. It had no weapon, but held a staff bearing a strange, stiff banner. The visor of this figure's helmet was entirely of gold, without eye slits or ventilation; in its polished surface the deathly desert could be seen in reflection, and nothing more. This warrior of a dead world affected me deeply, though I could not say why or even just what emotion it was I felt. In some obscure way, I wanted to take down the picture and carry it - not into our necropolis but into one of those mountain forests of which our necropolis was (as I understood even then) an idealized but vitiated image. It should have stood among trees, the edge of its frame resting on young grass.
This is what Severian says when he meets Rudesind, the curator of the pinakotheken. Interestingly, "The name is specifically used for the building containing pictures which formed the left wing of the Propylaea on the Acropolis at Athens, Greece." So my Citadel = Acropolis theory is looking better. The galleries are incredibly extensive, since Severian says "dark arches opened to strings of chambers lined - as the hallway itself was - with innumerable pictures." and "After I had walked at least a league among these enigmatic paintings one day...." Rudesind is the name of yet another saint, a bishop and abbot of Galicia. Why does the painting affect Severian so? Maybe because it's an ancient image of a great explorer, or it could be Wolfe's own projected feelings about one of the iconic images of his lifetime, or it could be because it's a scene of desolation, and Severian wants to take it to a place of vitality. My favored guess is that he somehow knows that it comes from a time when man still was driven to explore the stars, something that is rare or nonexistent in his world. Vitiated means corrupted or diminished, by the way. In case you haven't guessed what the picture is:
"There's your blue Urth coming over his shoulder again, fresh as the Autarch's fish...." "Is that the moon? I have been told it's more fertile." "Now it is, yes. This was done before they got it irrigated. See that gray-brown? In those times, that's what you'd see if you looked up at her. Not green like she is now. Didn't seem so big either, because it wasn't so close in - that's what old Branwallader used to say. Now there's trees enough on it to hide Nilammon, as the saw goes."
The point is pretty clear: the picture is of an astronaut on the moon's surface. As to the forestation of the moon, Wolfe had made comments about "green moonlight" earlier, but that's a poetic device as well, so it wasn't really a definitive clue. The moon is currently moving away from the earth due to tidal acceleration, but it very well could move closer due to friction with the solar atmosphere when the sun becomes a red giant. Whether or not Wolfe got his science right is irrelevant, though, because a giant green moon and a giant red sun would be pretty awesome. Branwallader is, to no one's surprise, another saint. And guess what? Nilammon is too. One day I'm going to have to do some real research as to why all of these people are saints.

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