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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Thank you, Robert Silverberg!

On October 19, two days before we left for California, I received an e-mail from Robert Silverberg. That's THE Robert Silverberg, author of many books of fantastic literature, including Lord Valentine's Castle, which won the Hugo award, and the other Majipoor books (He's written a lot more, and not all fiction). Mr. Silverberg had found my web page on these books.

Here's part of his e-mail to me:

In particular I was struck by your exploration of the religious themes buried in the series. I wonder if you've seen the most recent (and probably final) of my Majipoor stories, "The Book of Changes," in the LEGENDS II anthology, in which I hint as explicitly as I can at the appropriateness of equating Valentine and Jesus. At least, I think that's what I was saying. I'd be interested in your views.

I have, thanks to a local library which allowed me to have a card, been able now to read the novella Silverberg suggested. (Robert Silverberg, "The Book of Changes," pp. 287-345, in Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, Silverberg, ed., New York: Del Rey/Ballantine, 2004)

The plot of the novel is that a prince, Furvain, with nothing much to do, has become a poet, but not a serious one. He doesn't write second drafts, and his topics are trivial. One day he decides to make a journey, and is captured. While in captivity, he dreams of part of the long past of Majipoor, and begins to write a poem, a serious one. It turns out to be a poem on the entire history of humans on Majipoor. The poet finds that he is guided, in dreams, by a Valentine, one of the royalty of Majipoor. There has been no such Coronal in the history of Majipoor, and no wonder -- Valentine will come many years in the future. Silverberg seems to think that it is appropriate to equate fictional characters with Christ, but I'm not certain of his intent.

In Silverberg's sub-creation, there is a divine being, and persons (of various species) who believe in him/her/it:

The Spirit of the Divine lingered high about that mighty ocean, Furvain perceived: impersonal, unknowable, infinite, all-seeing. Though the Spirit was without form or feature, Furvain recognized it for what it was, and the Spirit recognized him, touching his mind, gathering it in, linking it, for one stunning moment, to the vastness that was itself. And in that infinitely long moment the greatest of all poems was dictated to him, poured into him in one tremendous cascade, a poem that only a god could create, the poem that encompassed the meaning of life and of death, the destiny of all worlds and all the creatures that dwelled upon them. (Robert Silverberg, "The Book of Changes," pp. 287-345, in Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, Silverberg, ed., New York: Del Rey/Ballantine, 2004, pp. 322-3)

Religious themes show up in more than one of Silverberg's works. If you are interested in reading more about what I think of Silverberg's work, see my web page. I greatly appreciate that Silverberg contacted me.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Julana said...

What a thrill!
Thanks to the internet and blogging, six degrees of separation have been reduced to two. I haven't read Silverberg, but have heard of him.