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▶  More from Fiction Before the Rising Sun
‘Angel of Torment’
Impressions of Chapter 32 of The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
Reading from pages 189-194 of Shadow & Claw
The Play
The previous chapter ended with a miraculous vision, the discussion of which, along with its positive influence on Severian and Dorcas is discussed as they walk the nighted country road, discussing the nature of divinity and enlightenment.
As Dr. Talos had predicted, Severian would arrive at his appointed stage whether he intended to or not. Declaring that Death and Innocence have both come to play their parts, the irrepressible Dr. Talos entertains a crowd of farmers and travelers with a beauty and the beast drama. Wolfe’s signature trope, having the characters in his stories tell each other stories, real, mythical or imagined, finds fertile ground on the Doctor’s makeshift stage, turning the balance of the chapter into an enjoyable but not pointless diversion:
“If I were to describe Dr. Talos’s play now, as it appeared to me (a participant), the result could only be confusion. When I describe it as it appeared to the audience (as I intend to do at a more appropriate point in the account) I will not, perhaps, be believed.”
A five person play, enhanced by projectors and other gadgets, narrated and directed and acted by Talos in different voices, entertainingly separates the audience from coin and even some food and clothing in order the sustain the Doctor and his gigantic patient and a lovely woman he seems to be enhancing through some power of suggestion, on their weird way, in company with the torturer who would someday sit the throne along with the saintly resurrected girl Dorcas.
Talos’s driving arrogance and rationalistic optimism manages to convince the dainty beauty in her “creamy amplitude” along with the more malleable members of the tiny troupe that sleeping outside “…beneath the stars that are the personal cherished property of the Increate…” is preferable to a warm bed. In such a dark dale a character of such optimism is a welcome figure.
Diction of note
Ire and Ice: Winter and A White Christmas
prev:  ‘Overawed By Force’     ‹  before the rising sun  ›     next:  ‘The Dilemma of Master Werenfrid’
supplicant song
black & pale
riding the nightmare
winter of a fighting life
your trojan whorse
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