“Long I signed on the silver-sailed ships, the hundred-masted whose masts reached out to touch the st-st-stars, I, floating among their shining jibs with the Pleiades burning beyond the top-royal sp-sp-spar, but never have I seen ought like you! He-hethor am I, come to serve you, to scrape the mud from your cloak, whet the great sword, c-c-carry the basket with the eyes of your victims looking up at me, Master, eyes like the dead moons of Verthandi when the sun has gone out. When the sun has g-g-gone out! Where are they then, the bright players? How long will the torches burn? The f-f-freezing hands grope toward them, but the torch bowls are colder than any ice, colder than the moons of Verthandi, colder than the dead eyes! Where is the strength then that beats the lake to foam? Where is the empire, where the Armies of the Sun, long-lanced and golden-bannered? Where are the silken-haired women we loved only last night?“.
The Shadow of the Torturer – Gene Wolfe
There couldn’t be any other way to start this blog than quoting my favourite literary master Gene Wolfe, as read in the first volume of his masterpiece The Book of the New Sun.
Quoted are the words of Hethor, an unimpressive personage -possibly quite mad or at least very impressionable- met by the main character Severian during his travels. Hethor has just witnessed the performance of Severian and a cadre of unlikely chance actors led by one Dr. Talos. They have just finished a supposedly improvised theatrical performance of some depth and unknown significance. Is the newcomer just impressed by the fiction portrayed by that motley group of performers? Or does he somehow relate the fiction to truths too big, too terrifying to comprehend or accept as real?
Are these insane words from a fool or do they recollect epic voyages between the stars? Where is this mythical Verthandi place? Is it maybe one of the furies of fate? Has that person been driven mad by loss, by forsaking such an adventure for a more trifling existence? Have those eyes really seen the Pleiades framing the hulls of an armada of silver ships?
The master Gene Wolfe perhaps invites us to draw our own tentative conclusions. I contend that he entices us to challenge these passages, to be lost in thought for awhile, to explore them and imagine for a moment how the moons would look framed against that starscape named after Verthandi, a mythical being of fate.
Well, a blog is a perfect place to ramble about such things and many more. And I cannot think a better humble way to start that under the shadow of the master, so much like being under the shady safe haven of an ancient tree.