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Science fiction writer Gene Wolfe died on April 14 at the age of 87. Even though I consider it one the greatest science fiction novels ever written, I taught Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) for only one term, back when I was teaching my Introduction to the Literature of Fantasy and Science Fiction class. Like The Sound and the Fury and Swann’s Way, both of which it resembles in ways, it’s a hard book to teach to a general undergraduate class. And Shadow is one of the most accessible of Wolfe’s novels.
There is also Peace (1975), his amazing novel told from the point of view of a ghost. There’s the beautiful and strange A Soldier of the Mist (1986), the scroll journal of a Greek warrior with a brain injury that makes him unable to turn short-term recollections into long-term memories. This was written long before the movie Memento came out, by the way. The soldier has to re-read the journal every day. Yet it gets longer and longer.
Condition - Gods - Way - Martin - Heidegger
Plus, his condition causes him to be peculiarly open to the Greek gods that surround him in a very physical way, and to be able to interact with them. He is Martin Heidegger’s man of pure being who existed before the advent of Western philosophy and our subsequent breakdown into bicameral mindsets that Heidegger and Julian Jaynes posit occurred after Aristotle and his damnable categories.
Wolfe was Catholic, and his writing is deeply affected by his faith. He was a convert greatly influenced, possibly even converted, by reading G.K. Chesterton. But he was a Catholic convert as an artist, as well—or perhaps his mind gravitated to where his imagination already dwelled.
Wolfe - Output - Teems - Catholic - Symbolism
Wolfe’s imaginative output teems with Catholic and early Christian symbolism. He called himself a writer who happened to be Catholic, but...
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