Severian, the main character and narrator of The Book of the New Sun, is a notoriously unreliable narrator, according to many Gene Wolfe fans.

There's no doubt that Severian often leaves out information (such as answers to questions he thinks he learns the answers to, 1 & 2), and that he most likely embellishes the narrative to present himself in a better light (like his relationships to Thecla, Jolenta, Dorcas and others), but does he ever outright lie without it being a lie by omission? He also clearly lies to people he meets along the way several times, but we as readers are usually privy to the fact that they're lies.

Does he lie to us, the readers?

  • 1
    This is a good question! – zeta-band May 31 '17 at 19:33
  • I'm afraid we can't tell; there would need to be some serious contradiction in his tale, I guess. Don't see a reason he would. Without another PoV it seems problematic. – Mithoron Jun 1 '17 at 0:03
  • @Mithoron I don't think it's out of the question that there might be serious contradictions in Severian's tale. There are already some contradictions in his story pertaining to his "infallible" memory, but I don't think those are deliberate lies. – tobiasvl Jun 8 '17 at 20:34

I'm mostly through the fourth sub-book of the novel and I believe that while the narrator is often confused and unsure about what he as experienced, Severian doesn't appear to outright intentionally lie. At least not in a way that is verifiable since almost the entire narrative comes from him.

I think the Severian's intention is to layout his story to the best of his abilities. I don't think there is any motive for the character to intentionally deceive the reader. At times and in many cases, the narrative reflects badly on Severian's character. He sometimes acts cowardly or foolishly, and while sometimes he is almost selflessly heroic, at other times he appears pointlessly selfish. As someone would imagine a real person would act, rather than how someone might sanitize their autobiography to exclude the things they are ashamed of.

So I don't think the main character lies, as he doesn't appear to be concerned with how he appears to the reader, in order to maintain his ego. He would rather state his story as he recalls.

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