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There are several underlying elements of an unseen armature (I prefer the word armature to theme) within “S” that give the book its form. Some portions of the armature are apparent…

  1. Good vs. Evil
  2. Self-awareness (“Know Thyself”)
  3. Love

Some parts of the armature, however, are harder to see until our eyes become accustomed so well to the book and its complex story that we begin to see them emerge slowly from the text. This post is about one of these.

Consider the following portions of “S” to help your eyes adjust…

  1. The Chapter 10 cipher has been solved (mostly). What is perplexing is the sixth column of letters don’t make sense. There is a column of letters that do make sense (LONOE), but we have no apparent way of knowing what specific geographical coordinates should be dialed in on the EOTVOS wheel that make sense.
  2. Sobreiro means cork oak (quercus suber) – the kind of cork that floats on water and that is used to seal wine bottles. The Portuguese word for this tree is Sobreiro. Signe Rabe was born in Perpignan, France (see page 361). The economy there depends on the cork oak tree, which grows there. More on this.
  3. Arquimedes seems a clear reference to Archimedeswho is most famous for his story of sitting in a hot bath, suddenly receiving insight into a particularly challenging problem, and shouting Eureka! (I found it!)
  4. Caldeira comes from the latin caldaria, meaning a warm bath or a cooking pot. Also used to describe an active volcanic crater.
  5. Eric goes to Brazil to find Caldeira, and he does. He finds her in Maraú, Brazil. On the postcard to Jen he writes I FOUND HER! (p. 201)
  6. One of Jen’s favorite words in “S” is palimpsest (p. 379). One of the world’s most famous palimpsests is Archimedes’ Palimpsest.
  7. What begins at the water shall end there, and what ends there shall once more begin.

These elements of “S” seem to me to be puzzle pieces that form a recognizable object, or element of the armature: Archimedes’ Principle. Archimedes’ Principle covers water displacement and, more interesting, buoyancy.

It was seeing this subtle focus on Archimedes’ Principle that led me to my own moment of Eureka!

Eric shouted “I FOUND HER!” to Jen when he discovered Caldeira (“warm bath”) in Maraú, Brazil. The geographical coordinates of Maraú are 14°06′10″S 39°00′54″W. These coordinates give us the missing column of letters for the Chapter 10 cipher: LONOE.

It appears to me that FXC deliberately left one column of letters in the cipher a mystery in order to quietly announce her eventual whereabouts to VMS in case he was still actually alive and could come and find her.

I sense there is much, much more to the armature of Archimedes’ Principle to help us understand Sobreiro and The Archer’s TalesI am interested in hearing your thoughts and findings as you read deeper into “S”.