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‘In the Sight of the Pancreator’
Impressions of Chapter 29 of Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer

Reading from pages 174-178 of Shadow & Claw


Severian, having been contracted to perform the execution, has obligations to the condemned, necessitating visit to the person’s cell, a person who has serendipitously wronged Severian in the past. Exposing the dialogue could spoil the story. Suffice it to say, that in the depths of a dungeon which struck Severian with horror, the condemned person blames Severian for his plight, based on highly rationalized capitalistic principles of the kind that are often put forward by criminals of our own age possessed of the same materialistic slave mind.

Despite his very real desire to fit into society by performing the office he had been instructed in, Severian’s empathy, his crucial flaw as a hierarchal functionary, intrudes, colored by the torment naturally afflicting the imagination of an active mind while functioning as an aspect of collective power:

“I was oppressed by the darkness and stench as if by weight. The thought that I might myself be confined there by some accident (a misunderstood order, for example, or some unsuspecting malice on the part of the portreeve) recurred no matter how often I pushed it aside.”

In the end, the instructions given to the condemned are practical and compassionate, centered predominantly around the maintenance of what dignity remains to them.

Diction of note

-lazaret, hospital barrack

-simar, a woman’s garment

-portreeve, a military justice functionary

-chilarch, a military justice official

-xenagie, a military division

Organa: The Malfunction of Tray Sorenson

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