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Repeatedly throughout Ship of Theseus, the word absurd is used to describe something that seems improbably or impossible. However, there seems to be a tease in each of those cases, as if we should look further…

Absurd, on the face of it, but true somewhere beneath. (p72)

Below is a catalog of these absurdities. Perhaps the truth is somewhere beneath…

Straka Candidates (ix)

A little girl receiving messages from a fourteenth-century nun! An ancient Nazca king, originally from a distant planet! Grand Duchess Olga, writing both before and after her murder!) and other absurdities (A murderous Serbian nationalist known only as “Apis’s Amanuensis”! The almost-certainly-fictional “Last Spanish Pirate” Juan Blas Covarrubias! The proverbial million monkeys!), which merit mention only to be scoffed at.

A Connection Between Sola’s Drink and the Waterspout (72)

He remembered, then, that flash of connection—the waterspout, her drink. A message from some deep recess of his mind: he was not a stranger to her. Sola? Absurd, on the face of it, but true somewhere beneath, and when he pushed off from the harbor mine, that truth helped drive him to shore.

S Swam Many Degrees of Latitude after the Ship was Destroyed (73-74)

The air has an autumnal feel, much cooler than it was earlier today on the ship—such a radical change that S., for a moment, imagines he has swum across many degrees of latitude. Of course such a notion is absurd; it may even be a sign that his mind is slipping, that the long, cold swim has gravely compromised him, that he might be at risk of blacking out anddeparting this world as an anonymous bit of humanjetsam pinned under a wharf beneath a strange city. 

The Detective in the Browncoat Recognizes S and Winks at Him (83)

When he sweeps his gaze across the factory, his eyes are drawn to the brown-dustered Detective swiveling a spotlight on the roof. He lets his gaze settle too long, though, and gets a shock in return. The browncoat seems to meet his eye directly, may even have brushed the brim of his fedora and nodded in his direction. S. feels his stomach tighten. He might be mistaken—he must be mistaken—but what if he is one of them?No, he tells himself. Absurd. More absurd thoughts from a mind that is in no condition to be trusted. 

The Harbor in B__ is Mined (122)

“They’ve accused us of mining the harbor, too. To interfere with Vévoda’s business.”           

“That’s absurd. Again, I would have known.”

“For what it’s worth,” S. says, “the harbor is mined. Well, there’s one mine, anyway. I ran into it as I was swimming.”

Corbeau is Indirectly Responsible for the Bomb in B__ (132-133)

“Are you and Stenfalk—” He pauses to consider his phrasing. “A couple?”

“What makes you ask?”


“Well,” she says. “Not formally. But yes, we are, in a way that has scandalized some of the more limited minds around us.”

“Ostrero’s wife?”           

“You noticed? I’m certain she blames me for all of this. Some sort of free-floating carnal witchery, I suppose, that plagues all the men around me. And, apparently, that detonates explosives in crowded places.”


 The Valise S Receives from Abdim at the Storehouse in El H__ is Stenfalk’s Valise (246)

It reminds him of Stenfalk’s valise, the one he left behind in the hills, although it seems smaller, the leather thinner, the handle made from a lighter-colored wood. It looks enough like Stenfalk’s to give pause, but of course it could not be the same one. Could it? No. Absurd.

S’s Job is to Find Vevoda’s Agents and Poison Them

His task, it would seem, is to seek out these people and poison them. This, of course, is absurd. He does not know where these people are. He does not know where—or even when—he himself is. He has no idea how to track a person who does not want to be found.

Strange Details about the Territory 

Absurd Territory