Ultan's Library

a web resource for the study of Gene Wolfe

Category: Articles (Page 2 of 2)

Japanese Lexicon for The Book of the New Sun

by Michael Andre-Driussi

In the fall of 1987 I found myself with a new job in a rural town, where one Sunday I visited the local shopping mall, and there in a dump of used paperback books I found a copy of The Shadow of the Torturer. It was auspicious, I thought, to find an old friend in a new place, especially since it was a Japanese edition. But then again, I was living in Japan at the time.

To be clear, I couldn’t read Japanese very much at all, but I could spot the “Sci Fi” symbol on the book’s spine (a planet Saturn), and I could read the phonetic writing they use for foreign words and names, such that “Jiin Urufu” is Gene Wolfe.

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The Book of Gold… returns to Ultan’s Library

A few years ago Ultan contributor Jeremy Crampton offered us the chance to host PDF (Acrobat) copies of his old fanzine, THE BOOK OF GOLD.

Jeremy published 2 issues of the fanzine, focussing on Wolfe’s two books about Latro, SOLDIER OF THE MIST and SOLDIER OF ARETE. There’s some really interesting commentary on Latro, which nicely supplements the articles Jeremy has written for Ultan’s Library.

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The Death of Catherine the Weal and Other Stories (1992)

by Michael Andre-Driussi

This essay was written for John Clute’s proposed book of essays on Gene Wolfe’s fiction. Back in the early 90s, before the Internet as we know it existed, I was posting messages on the Gene Wolfe topic at GEnie (it was a message board system). Before long, Gregory Feeley kindly suggested that I write an essay for John Clute’s proposed anthology of Wolfe criticism. It seemed at the time that the book would be published by 1994. It may well be that my essay killed the whole project with its leaden prose. I once read it aloud at a bookstore and literally put people to sleep–good people, I might add. [Jeremy Crampton’s essay, Some Greek Themes in Gene Wolfe’s Latro novels, was also written for Clute’s collection of essays]

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Lions and Tigers and Bears . . . of the New Sun

by Michael Andre-Driussi

1. The Strange Bear Man at the Threshold

The first time I read The Urth of the New Sun, one scene tantalized me more than any other. I could see just enough to know that there was a great deal I could not see yet. The symbols were there, I just could not understand them.

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Desanctifying Victor Trenchard: some notes on Peter Wright’s “Confounding the Skin and the Mask”

by Robert Borski

I’ve now had the opportunity to read Peter Wright’s “Confounding the Skin and the Mask” several times and it continues to generate much thought.

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Confounding the Skin and the Mask: Gene Wolfe’s The Fifth Head of Cerberus and the Politics of Ambiguity

by Peter Wright

Since its publication in 1972, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe’s collection of three inter-linked novellas, has earned a reputation for being the author’s most perplexing single volume. Such a reputation is entirely justified since ambiguity is the watchword to the text. More significantly, it is also an organising principle of form, a means of confounding interpretation, and a fundamental theme associated with Wolfe’s defining authorial obsessions: the subjectivity of perception, the unreliability of memory, and the nature of identity.

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Torture and confession in Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun

by Jeremy Crampton

Abstract

This document briefly examines the use of torture and confession in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun and how it both differs from and reflects actual historical practice (at least in Europe and America). It is not the purpose of these notes to provide a full or sustained argument, merely to outline some possible ways of proceeding.

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The Reader as Augur: Beginnings and Endings in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the Long Sun

By Nick Gevers

Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the Long Sun (1993-6) is a deeply complex expression of momentum: the momentum of faith, of history, of escape, of understanding. Science Fiction is replete with texts that involve such accelerations of vision and concept; but Wolfe, with his penetrating and parodic understanding of the conventions and purposes of the genre, carries this technique of escalation to levels of subtlety not frequently encountered. In so doing, Wolfe achieves two grand purposes: first, he is able to demonstrate once again the extraordinary arsenal of irony, of resonant symbolism, and of subliminal implication that has fuelled his extraordinary career; and second, he is able to affirm the absolute primacy of religious faith – specifically, of his own idiosyncratic Roman Catholicism – by way of a work superficially characteristic of a thoroughly secular genre. The four volumes of The Book of the Long Sun are exponentially progressive secular leaps into the surrounding realm of Faith; this article, by means of close reference to the opening and concluding passages of each volume, explores how Wolfe structures this cascading, apparently inadvertent but in truth inevitable, march closer to the Divine.

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Five Steps towards Briah: Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the Long Sun

By Nick Gevers

The title is a multiplex pun, so typical of Gene Wolfe. The Book of the Long Sun (1993-6) can only closely follow, or mirror The Book of the New Sun (1980-3). And just as Severian, the narrator of the first Book, is the New Son of God, a man becoming Christlike if not Christ himself returned, so Patera Silk, Wolfe’s new protagonist, is the Long Son, the product of a virgin birth, long (tall) in physical and moral stature. And the renovation of the Sun is again implied; and the story, in four volumes, is very long, and is not over yet. Thus Wolfe in six words summarises his second tetralogy; and the critic can add that The Book of the Long Sun is, very likely, the most significant work of SF to be published in the 1990s – the most precise, the most sustained, and the most profound. It is a tale of physical, religious, and philosophical exodus; and, as such, it interrogates, and dismisses, the material world. The result is devious, eccentric, and charismatic, an old story rendered utterly, weirdly new.

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Some Greek Themes in Gene Wolfe’s Latro novels

by Jeremy Crampton

The moon is down
Taurus was in the sky before: it’s gone.
Time is passing.

It is midnight and I lie here alone.
Sappho.

“Who writes? For whom is the writing being done?” So Edward Said began his essay “Opponents, audiences, constituencies and community”, 1 by asking questions he said were vital for a “politics of interpretation.” Said, talking about modern literary criticism, could equally have been referring to genre fiction. His questions are particularly relevant for an examination of Wolfe’s writing.

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