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One thing I noticed after finishing The Book of the New Sun is that early in the narrative Wolfe has included several places where the reader familiar with current human culture and technology can tell what Severian is describing even if Severian does not know what something is.

  1. The Matachin Tower is a rocketship. Actually Severian does seem to be aware of this on some level as he mentions that a certain room was "the propulsion chamber of the original structure".

  2. Severian sees Rudesind cleaning a picture that is clearly of an astronaut from our times on the un-terraformed moon. (This is as far as I know the only concrete reference in the story to anything that is conclusively a relic of the current era.)

  3. Some people interpret the sun dials in the Atrium of Time as derelict satellite dishes. See, for example, Sam Weber's illustration in the Folio Society edition of the BotNS.

These are all that I know that are cannonical and notably all of these are from the beginning of the story, all from the first 100 or 200 pages of Shadow of the Torturer.

Are there any more that I missed later in the story? There was, for example, a section of Sword of the Lictor in which Severian is descending the mountains north of Thrax and describes a cliff face that cuts through strata of various eras and in particular describes some kind of gigantic geometric pattern that to me feels as though I am supposed to be able to figure out what he is talking about but I draw a blank.

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  • They aren't from current era, but more of era equivalent to ours. On the other hand, what they seen in the garden of time, was perhaps our iteration of the universe, not their own.
    – Mithoron
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:02
  • oh yeah he sees a normal airplane from the Jungle Hut, i forgot about that ... idk, we can conclusively say that they are all from alternate universe because the moon landing picture really seems like he is describing one of the famous photographs of Neil Armstrong.
    – jwezorek
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:17
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    It sure sounded like this one, but that could be, say, Paul Armstrong ;)
    – Mithoron
    Aug 23, 2021 at 17:48
  • @Mithoron More realistically, in an alternate reality it could easily have been Gus Grissom.
    – DavidW
    Aug 23, 2021 at 19:11
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    The photograph was taken by Neil Armstrong, but is of Buzz Aldrin (although Armstrong’s reflection is visible).
    – Buzz
    Aug 23, 2021 at 21:08

2 Answers 2

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If cultural Easter eggs count, then parts II and III of the story that Severian reads to little Severian, "The Tale of the Boy Called Frog", is very closely based on Kipling's "The Jungle Book". (The Sword of the Lictor, chapter XIX, page 147 in my edition)

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There is also a passage in Citadel of the Autarch in which Severian makes a distinction between what he calls "true roads" and the kinds of roads he typically walks on:

At last the path joined a true road, something I had heard of often, but never trodden except in decay. It was much like the old road the uhlans had been blocking when I had become separated from Dr. Talos, Baldanders, Jolenta, and Dorcas when we left Nessus, but I was unprepared for the cloud of dust that hung about it. No grass grew upon it, though it was wider than most city streets.

I think he is talking about are actually ancient highways for cars.

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