Continuing a thought from the other post, but putting it here to hide a spoiler...
Number 5's aunt also "veils" her identity, by writing under a different name rather than her own. And why does she act as if she doesn't believe in Veil's hypothesis when she speaks with #5? Does she actually not believe it, only using this as a pose for writing an academic fancy? Or is she pretending with #5 for some reason — like, perhaps, Mr. Million, who remember is himself also the aunt, asking the boys to argue both sides of various quetions: is she doing that herself in arguing against her own theory (playing #5's role), or is she getting #5 to do it (playing Mr Million's), or, since she is both, doing both at once?
Does Aunt Jeannine invent Veil's Hypothesis as part of a memory, or rather say a tradition, that remembers the purge, being descended (or rather cloned) from the one human being to survive the murder of the humans? Or just one of the humans to do so?
Something else I noticed for the first time about the first novella, and I don't know if anyone else has commented on this. I just read Kim Stanley Robinson's essay on Wolfe that was published in the New York Review of Science Fiction (https://www.nyrsf.com/2013/09/a-story-kim-stanley-robinson.html). Robinson points pout that Wolfe plays with time in a story in a variety of styles, speeding up and slowing down and pausing viewpoint: "Wolfe shifts his pacing everywhere in his stories very freely, creating wonderful, rhythmic effects in the flow of the telling, the slingshot effect among others. He can be stately or pell-mell, classical or jazzy. It’s one of many ways I am often surprised by him in my reading. Just as there is no knowing what the content of the next sentence is going to be, there is also no telling if it will cover a second or a year or stand outside time entirely. What joy, after the too many volumes written entirely at the same pace, either plodding or frenetic but in any case ever so predictable and painful to one’s urge to flow or bop. In this, one falls on Wolfe’s pages as on music after a metronome." One of the startling effects utilizing this, and one of the most disorienting things in "Fifth Head", is that while many narratives in stories may stop and reappear in another point in time - an hour later, a week later, etc. for dramatic effect and to speed the narrative along - in "Fifth Head," #5's first person narrative often literally drops out of his own knowledge of the events, losing days and weeks and even whole sections of the year, emphasizing his increasingly fractured consciousness to mirror conventional literary technique . It's a bizarre and fascinating effect.
Speaking of allusions, while reading The Fifth Head of Cerberus I kept getting hazy glimpses of Dicken's Great Expectations. Two examples:
- the girl and her nanny reminded me of Miss Havisham and Estella.
- Five's aloof father with unsavory businesses and Pip's unknown benefactor, the convict, who made his fortune traveling to another world (Australia.)
Mickjeco: certainly wolfe might be alluding to other art or literature, but I prefer the simplest explanations for these references, not truly as allusions but as plain descriptions. Streets inhabited by actors, frauds, and maggots. Mimizon as a close cognate for mimicry rather than an Edison reference etc. I think I’ve gotten some mileage out of literal application of certain terms - occasionally Wolfe sends me on goose chases for allusions but I think the meaning of the street names and city, built as it is on the design of a hand (Abos have useless hands, eh) is probably easier to apply thematically.
I was curious about the meaning of the street name "Saltimbanque" and did a little further research. It is sometimes translated as simply "acrobat", but the meaning is more in the sense of "street performer", and is used derogatorily in French as a synonym for "mountebank" or charlatan, like the sort of street performer who rips off onlookers with con games like 3 card monte.
It is a French borrowing from an Italian cognate. Wiktionary defines it as "Borrowed from Italian saltimbanco. Used thus in English because of the association with street performers, seen by the settled population in English-speaking culture as not to be trusted. A more usual and more accurate English word, derived from similar sources, is mountebank." The Italian saltimbanco derives from "saltare in banco (“leap (or somersault) on the bench”), with the bench being the raised platform on which street performers do their acts.
The English cognate is saltimbanco (plural saltimbancos)
A quack doctor, a fraud.Synonyms: mountebank, quack
This could also relate to the several references to Gypsies within the story, who are often associated in folklore with untrustworthy, itinerant people.
This could be intended as a comment on the dubious scientific studies of the Maitre, and/or could simply be part of the generally unsavory nature of the street names in the neighborhood - like "the Street of Maggots", Number 5 lives on "The Street of Charlatans".
I'd suggest another, possibly related allusion - to the 1905 painting by Pablo Picasso, "Saltimbanques", sometimes referred to as "The Family of Saltimbanques".
It's a very striking, moody painting from Picasso's Rose Period, executed on the largest canvas on which Picasso ever worked. It depicts a family of street performers on a desolate landscape which may represent Picasso's native Andalusia, apparently departing a gig (based on the baggage they are carrying). Various members of Picasso's family and friends are depicted as members of the family; Picasso himself is Harlequin, the young girl whose hand he is holding is apparently his beloved sister, Conchita, who died at age 7. The paunchy jester is believed to be the Symbolist, Apollinaire. The two boy acrobats could be identified with the poets Max Jacob and/or Andre Salmon. The young woman sitting apart from the main body of the family is probably Picasso's lover at the time, Fernande.
Although the figures in the painting are probably based on real people, not all of whom were related, there seems (to my eyes, at least) a family resemblance between them, as the clonal family in the story does; it is possible that Wolfe suggested an identification of the Harlequin figure with the Maitre; the older Jester as Mr. Million; the older dark-haired boy in trunks as #5, who more closely resembles Harlequin than the younger boy does; and the younger light-haired boy as David; with perhaps the young woman as Aunt Jeanine. I'm not sure who the youngest girl would be identified as, unless she (Picasso's sister) is Aunt Jeanine and the woman separated from the group is one of the "demimondaines", or Phaedria, or even Nerissa. She could also be the bio-mother seen in the photo in the story, Both boys are looking at her but she is ignored by the other three figures in the painting, who are clustered together. I have no idea if the painting suggested the name of the street to Wolfe, of course. But reading Gene Wolfe sure is educational!
"Does Aunt Jeannine invent Veil's Hypothesis as part of a memory, or rather say a tradition, that remembers the purge, being descended (or rather cloned) from the one human being to survive the murder of the humans? Or just one of the humans to do so?"
VERY interesting idea, Stephen.
Still working my way through the Cerberus prodcasts. A couple of additional thoughts that the podcasts jogged loose:
1) I agree that Wolfe seems to be making a comment on how language is used to conceal the true nature of a thing, in this case the use of ornate language to describe the victims of sex-slavery - "demimondaine," "queens", "nymphs" etc., a la Nabokov - the same thing goes on nowadays, when terms like "sex-worker" are used to normalize an abhorrent practice - it's hard to rationalize someone as a "worker" instead of a "slave," whether they are forced to work from hunger, drug addiction, or fear of a beating from a pimp. There's an interesting passage in the story near the beginning after the brothers return home from the library with Mr. Million, where the white-haired customers of the brothel are described bringing their sons and nephews, "very young men and boys," to be introduced to prostitution. Not only does this passage tell us much about how women are treated and commodified within this decadent culture, but it also speaks to the cycle of repeating the same mistakes, over and over with each generation - within the culture, as well as the Maitre's stated quest to learn why each generation of clones repeats the same cycle of life. 2) The Maitre says that the purpose of the experiments on Number 5 was to try to learn the reason for this continuing cycle, but of course, we have to wonder if he is a reliable narrator. It's just as likely that the Maitre, an archetypal "Mad Scientist," has been doing the archetypal Mad Scientist experiment - trying to transpose his own brain into the body of another, in this case, his clone - Number 5. In much the same way that his grandfather, Mr. Million, had his consciousness transposed into the body of a robot (destroying his own organic brain in the process), the Maitre may be recreating his own consciousness, through narcohypnosis, suggestion, and other methods, behaviorally rather than through a physical transposition, into Number 5 to perpetuate his own existence. And indeed, by the end of the novel Number 5 has essentially become his own clone-father. As a side-note, this creates the philosophical problem of whether an exact duplicate of a person, whose physical body is indistinguishable from the source by any experimental means, and who has been primed to respond and act and have the same memories as the source, can be said to "be" the source - if Number 5 has the clonal genetic structure of Maitre and the same memories and cognitive structure, can he be said to be a discrete entity from Maitre? The same question is raised in the story about Mr. Million - does he have the consciousness of his human source? If we can't show any difference through empirical testing, do we have to accept that he is the same person as the source and possesses qualia?
In other stories, Wolfe seems to hold the belief that, as we can never look into another's consciousness, if a robot seems to show the qualities and characteristics of a human being, even if we d0n't know if they are just a simulation of independent consciousness, the same dignity and human rights should attach to him. Essentially, Wolfe's standpoint is that if a robot can pass a Turing Test, we should take them at their word and assume that they have qualia, and perhaps even a soul. If Number 5 is morally and physically indistinguishable from his clonal father, he seems able to pass his own Turing Tes, will become indistinguishable from the Maitre, and loses his own sense of personal identity, becoming like the "philosophical zombies," or "p-zombies" of philosophical thought experiments (like those of David Chalmers, who used p-zombies to argue against Physicalism.) The scene where the drugged Number 5 on the lab table hears his own voice responding, as if from elsewhere in the room, reinforces this sense that his true identity is being separated or split, with his natural identity beginning to expire, to be replaced by Maitre's consciousness. Number 5's body becomes just a tool to be used for the satisfaction of Maitre's desire of self-perpetuation, (or at best, his experiments to discover self-knowledge), just as the women of the brothel and the slaves of the fighting rings are mere tools used to satisfy the desires of other powerful men.
Does Maitre want to end the cycle of genetic stagnation as he implies, or is he consciously perpetuating it through his cloning experiments and brainwashing of Number 5? 2) The question of whether the Abos transformed themselves into the inhabitants of the planet reminded me a little of Ray Bradbury's 1948 short story "Mars is Heaven!", (adapted into The Martian Chronicles as "The Third Expedition", wherein the Martians respond to an expedition from Earth by transforming themselves into the inhabitants of a 1920s midwest town, then slaughtering the earthmen after they are lulled into a state of trust. One could see the Abos doing something similar, then taking the earth ship over to St Croix. But I think the idea that the Abos may have transformed themselves (maybe through a form of protective camouflage, such as some animal species possess) is really part of the stream of consciousness layering of literary and historical and religious allusions that create an overall literary effect in this story, as you describe - I _really_ like that way of looking at Wolfe's technique. The notion of the Abos becoming the settlers reminds me, as you said, of Howard and Machen's view of the defeated ethnic groups of Europe, like the Picts, who may survive as some kind of racial memory of the faerie folk. As a Neanderthal-American (I treated myself to one of those 23-and-Me home genetic tests for my birthday, and was delighted to find I have a higher-than-average level of Neanderthal genetic structure than the norm for those of European descent), it also seems to me that the same could be said for the absorption of Neanderthals into the Cro-Magnon genetic line - they disappear, but continue to be a part of us. It also brings up memories of our own aboriginal peoples, the Native Americans who were forced to change into an alien culture, adopting their language, style of dress, government, religion, and so forth, causing serious rifts in their own cultural identity. If we accept Veil's Hypothesis, it could help explain the decadent, stagnant nature of the society and maybe also Number 5's bloodline. The use of scarlet and red in Maitre's wardrobe can be seen as a reference to the clonal family's bloodline, which is another way of referring to one's genetic line.
This story shares a lot of interesting features with Wolfe's later novel "Pirate Freedom", in which the protagonist Chris seems to be the clone of his mafioso father - with time traveling added to the genetic mix. 3) I would be very surprised if the fading family photo described is not one in the possession of our Gene Wolfe, and if the baby in the photo is not Gene.
As you said the the podcast, the photo is almost certainly an artifact from Earth. The scene reminds me of the scene from Book of the Long Sun when the framed picture of Apollo 11 is seen. Wolfe has provided his ethnic background as follows: "My father was of Dutch and Swiss descent, my mother Scottish and Welsh." (http://pages.swcp.com/~christfn/oli-gw.html). Number 5, when shown the photo, initially guesses the mother's ancestry as Gypsy, then says his second guess, almost a certainty, was Celtic - Welsh, or Scottish, or Irish, he says - yet another clue to Number 5's real name.
This comment causes one of the Demimondaines to giggle, for reasons that are unclear - do they know Number 5 is a clone?
If the fertilized egg would need a human surrogate to carry the clone during the gestation period, the women of the brothel would be available to the Maitre. (It might be, in addition to the revenue, the reason he runs a brothel - there have been numerous failed experiments brought to term, so the women would presumably all be aware of the experiments and have likely been egg donors for the cloning experiments and surrogate mothers, carrying the clone to term in the womb. This would explain the girl's knowledge that Number 5 was a clone.)