February 22, 2006

From Sword & Citadel (Gene Wolfe):

I asked ... if the Ascian were composing his remarks or quoting some literary source with which I was unfamiliar.

"Just making it up, you mean?" Foila asked. "No. They never do that. Everything they say has to be taken from an approved text. Some of them don't talk at all. The rest have thousands -- I suppose actually tens or hundreds of thousands -- of those tags memorized."

"That's impossible," I said.

Melito shrugged. ... "They do it, though."


[O]f Ascia itself I had no idea. I did not know if it had great cities or none. I did not know if it was mountainous like the northern and eastern parts of our Commonwealth or as level as our pampas. I did have the impression (though I could not be sure it was correct) taht it was a single land mass, and not a chain of islands like our south; and most distinct of all, I had the impression of an innumerable people -- our Ascian's populace -- an inexhaustible swarm that almost became a creature in itself, as a colony of ants does. To think of those millions upon millions without speech, or confined to parroting proverbial phrases that must surely have long ago lost most of their meaning, was nearly more than the mind could bear. Speaking almost to myself, I said, "It must surely be a trick, or a lie, or a mistake. Such a nation could not exist."

And the Ascian, his voice no louder than my own had been, and perhaps even softer, answered, "How shall the state be most vigorous? It shall be most vigorous when it is without conflict. How shall it be without conflict? When it is without disagreement. How shall disagreement be banished. By banishing the four causes of disagreement: lies, foolish talk, boastful talk, and talk which serves only to incite quarrels. How shall the four causes be banished? By speaking only Correct Thought. Then shall the state be without disagreement. Being without disagreement it shall be without conflict. Being without conflict it shall be vigorous, strong, and secure."

I had been answered, and doubly.

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