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I'm about 1/3 of the way through Neal Stephenson's 'Anathem' and so far, I've been able to follow most of his terminology, but one thing sticks out in my mind.

Spoiler'ed for those who haven't read it yet.

At my current point, an Anathem is called, and Fraa Orolo is booted out and forced to go extramuros. What I don't understand is how this is any different from the Voco that went on maybe 20 pages previously. Unfortunately the Fraa's name escapes me, but he was also forcibly kicked out. Yet, everybody seems to think that an Anathem is way worse than a Voco.

Am I interpreting this wrong or missing something?

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  • A bit late for epsais ... But (at least in the book I got from the library) there is a glossary in the back. Including Voco and Anathem.
    – GEdgar
    Jan 17, 2015 at 16:21
  • I don't think a glossary exists in my edition, though that is based on a 3 year old memory of the book.
    – erik
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:51

1 Answer 1

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The main difference between the two is the reason for the aut. In the aut of Voco the avout is evoked by the saecular authorities because the avout is specifically needed to work on a problem in the saecular world. They are mourned during the aut because once they have left their math they will never be able to return. Think of it along the lines of the government pulling someone in from the private sector to assist in a project, only in this case the private sector is akin to a monastery or convent and the monk can't come back. The aut of Anathem, on the other hand, is when an avout is being forcibly excommunicated from the math as a punishment for crimes or violation of the laws of the mathic world.

There are also differences after the aut. Once an avout has been declared anathem they are no longer considered a fraa or suur and are no longer bound by their vows, whereas an avout that has been evoked is still expected to abide by the vows and keep their contact with the saecular world to a minimum.

See the Anathem Wiki at http://anathem.wikia.com/wiki/Anathem_Wiki for more info.

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    An avout removed from a math as the result of a voco is still expected to uphold the traditions of their math, notably minimizing interactions with the secular world.
    – TGnat
    Aug 24, 2011 at 13:18
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    Good point - I forgot to mention that once an avout has been declared anathem they are no longer considered a fraa or suur and are no longer bound by their vows, whereas an avout that has evoked must still abide by the vows. Aug 24, 2011 at 13:20
  • Yeah, "Voco" is "Called out" (because you're useful and needed) - "Anathem" is "thrown out" (because you can't follow the rules)
    – Andrew
    Apr 22, 2023 at 19:39

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