“What is this place?” S. asks Osfour.
“This is where you meet the people you’re here to meet,” Osfour replies.
“Why is it all here in the first place? Is this a library? A museum?”
“A safe place for beautiful things. That’s all.”
In the Chapter A Sleeping Dog, S. finds himself hurried into a large room where many men and women are rushing significant objects (books, scrolls, paintings, etc.) underground into a safe place from the imminent attack on El H—. This is where S. obtains his valise – the significant object that will remain with him throughout the remainder of the book.
Ostensibly, the coming invasion is on the entire city of El H—, and the people in this room are merely trying to protect one part of that city. However, we have two clues that this room is much more significant…
- Osfour tells S. on p226 that he is taking him to the resistance. On p241, as S. watches the people shuttle treasures underground, he thinks This is the resistance? It seems tragically insufficient. Osfour explains It’s not that kind of resistance.
- On p314, Agent #26 is mentally reviewing his long list of accomplishments in the name of Vévoda. He recalls that he is the Agent who located the storehouse in El H—. This accomplishment alone seems enough to Agent#26 to earn him an invitation to the Château.
If this single room houses the entire resistance and El H—’s most precious objects, and if Agent#26 expects special recognition from Vévoda for locating it, then it seems to imply that the entire reason for the attack is to destroy the storehouse, its objects, and everyone in it.
Why would Vévoda care so much about this single location? Why is it so central to Ship of Theseus? Vévoda appears to have both stolen items from it (p430) after Agent#26 discovered its location and then destroyed it (“the repository is no more” p260).
Here is one thought. This storehouse is “a safe place for beautiful things” according to Osfour. Another word for such a place is a thesaurus. Before Roget borrowed that word to indicate a book that connects words to its synonyms and antonyms, thesaurus meant storehouse of treasure.
J.J. Abrams refers to “S.” as a love letter to the written word. Is it possible that we, the readers, are meant to see the storehouse at El H— as a thesaurus in both meanings of the word?
A thesaurus is a book of connections. It connects words to a spectrum of synonyms and antonyms (point and counterpoint). This takes us back to the idea of the Glass Bead Game (hinted at in Fn5 p52) and its challenge for us to create meaningful connections between otherwise disparate subjects. “S.” appears to be a book of connections as well. We as readers are meant to explore those connections.
A few attempts at using the storehouse as a thesaurus to make connections. The first example is a verified connection from the marginalia…
- The painting of The Sleeping Dog shows a writer at work at his desk and a dog not asleep, but ready to attack an apparent intruder that may interrupt the artist.Jen Heyward connects the chapter title to use as the key to solve the Chapter 6 Nihilist cipher, using SLEEPING and DOG to get MAC WAS JUDAS NOT TIAGO (p236).
- When S. asks Ostrero what this place is, Ostrero responds This is where you meet the people you are here to meet. The most prominent person S. meets is Khatef Zelh. She is preparing a painting for storage when S. notices that the girl in the painting looks just like Sola. When S. asks who is in the painting, Khatef Zelh replies Samar.Samar is the first island spotted in what we now call the Phillipines by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on the first successful expedition to circumnavigate the globe. Is this a nod to we explorers of “S.” that Samar in the painting is the first of many more discoveries?
- As S. notices Sola in the painting, he notices that he is standing in the precise location that the artist must of stood in order to paint Sola beneath the columns and arches on this balcony.Are we to infer that S. is somehow the artist that paints Samar (Sola) – and her story?
- Standing in this location, where the artist once stood and painted Samar, S. receives the all-important valise. A study of the etymology of valise leads to an extinct city in Italy called Valesio, where the center point of the community was the hot baths, or the caldeira.Is this a connection to FXC? Filomela Xaldera Caldeira later returns S’s valise to him in the Winter City. It is the only object in the room besides S. and Sola as they connect together in the same room where S. learns he is somehow connected to Sobreiro, who once lived in and died from defenestration.
What connections do you see?