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A single, continuous narrative initially published in four volumes--The Shadow of the Torturer (1980), The Claw of the Conciliator (1981), The Sword of the Lictor (1981), and The Citadel of the Autarch (1982)--and followed by a sequel, The Urth of the New Sun (1987), The Book of the New Sun is Gene Wolfe's science fiction masterpiece. The text is a fictitious autobiography, and Severian, its ostensible author and protagonist, often reflects on the task of writing. A fallen torturer who eventually ascends to the throne of the Autarch--"the legitimate head of the whole of" Urth who, nonetheless, "ran only a small part of it," a continent that, several million years in the future, occupies the region of the globe that is now South America (Urth, 20)--Severian at one point compares the executioner's art to the writer's: He observes, "Those who have paid the carnifax to make the act a painless or a painful one may be likened to the literary traditions and accepted models to which I am now compelled to bow," yet he notes that the artist "must add to the execution some feature however small that is entirely his own and that he will never repeat "(Shadow, 241-42). Much later--after listening to Loyal to the Group of Seventeen's story, "The Just Man"--Severian realizes "once again what a many-sided thing is the telling of any tale" (Citadel, 84). One of the many sides of Severian's tale--that literary tradition and accepted model to which Wolfe is "compelled to bow," yet to which he still adds "some feature ... entirely his own"--is The Book of the New Sun's incorporation of the monomyth, "the Ur-action-adventure formula" of which "Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces is probably the most exhaustive, subtle, sophisticated, and spiritually aware explication" (Spinrad, 151). And Severian finally decides that his own history is like "every long tale, if it be told truly," in that, like the monomyth itself, it, too, "will be found to contain all the elements that have contributed to the human drama" (Citadel, 270). Indeed, The Book of the New Sun is so intricately and convolutedly imbued with the monomyth's plot structure, archetypal characters, inherent themes, and internal fractal patterns that recognition of the source of these elements, and of their meanings and interrelationships in that context, adds an additional dimension to what is already a fantastically mind-boggling narrative. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces Campbell defines the monomyth as that single "consciously controlled" pattern most widely exhibited in the world's folk tales, myths, and religious fables (255-56). Its morphology is, in broad outline, that of the quest. The hero is called to an adventure, crosses the threshold to an unknown world to endure tests and trials, and usually returns with a boon that benefits his fellows (36-38). Although agreeing with Carl Jung that "the changes rung on the simple scale of the monomyth defy description" (246), Campbell's analysis fills in this outline with an anatomy of the archetypal hero and descriptions of those specific incidents likely to occur at each stage of his adventure. The product of a virgin or special birth (297-314), the hero may have been exiled or orphaned, may be seeking his father, and may triumph over pretenders as the true son (318-34). He possesses exceptional gifts, and the world he inhabits suffers symbolic deficiencies (37). He does not fear death, and he is destined to make the world spiritually significant and humankind comprehensible to itself (388). If a warrior, he will change the status quo (334-41). If a lover, his triumph may be symbolized by a woman and accomplishing the impossible task may lead him to the bridal bed (342-45). If a tyrant or ruler, his search for the father will lead to the invisible unknown from which he will return as a lawgiver (345-49). If a world-redeemer, he will learn that he and the father are one (349-54). If a saint or mystic, he will transcend life an

Professional & Technical
22 June
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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