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Locating Yourself

S spends his life trying to locate himself.

  • “Follow the monkey” (p352)
  • “Keep going. Keep paddling and you’ll find yourself.” (p337)
  • “Int na time f’excursin allwheres jus’ so y’ can solve y’self.” (p337)
  • Upon discovering the very first S symbol at the tavern, S thinks This is where he’s supposed to be. (p14)
  • “We’ve ‘structs. To take y’. “Take me where?” “No where.” (p33)
  • “He – this alleged S – has no control over who or where or why he is.” (p34)
  • “The ship has docked at a decrepit-looking pier on a small, gray island that looks to be the very definition of Nowhere.” It is here – Nowhere – where S meets The Lady, reads The Book of S, and learns that he has choices, even when he thinks he does not.

Much of the book is focused on locating someone or some thing.

  • CEASE EFFORTS TO LOCATE ME (V. M. Straka, telegram insert, p54-55)
  • “Tell us where they are. Tell us where they are.” (p73)
  • “If Straka is dead, then where is his body?” (p xiii)
  • “Where’s the man with the scar?” (p33)
  • “Y’ ought be more heedin where y’put y’spires.” (p55)
  • “WHERE ARE THE ZAPADI THREE?” (p75)
  • At the location of the second S symbol in the book, as S is looking for Sola, he thinks Where did she go? (p100)
  • “Without intuition, the world becomes a flat place, a stunted place. A place where change is impossible.” (p117)
  • “Every story comes from somewhere.” (p149)
  • “Dive, stroke, rise. Where is she?” (p199)
  • Just before S receives the valise that changes his life, Ostrero asks Where is Abdim? (p244)
  • Corbeau searched her entire life for the location of the caves of the K–, but did not find them until she was with S.
  • The location of the storehouse in El H– was a secret, until Agent #26 discovered it. (p314)
  • The Winter City’s location is a mystery. (p380)
  • The location of the pirate Juan Blas Covarrubias’ richest cache of treasure is a tantalizing mystery. (p410)
  • Vevoda’s location is too difficult for S to foresee in his writings in the orlop, and he realizes that he will not find Vevoda until he descends into the dark maze himself. (p412)
  • Vevoda and his Agents spend their lives trying to locate S and kill him.
  • The location of B–, G–, El H–, and the city with the Old Quarter where S begins his journey are all still mysteries.
  • The EOTVOS Wheel reveals messages when you correctly determine and order various locations.
  • The Obsidian Island’s location is a mystery. It’s not on maps. It’s referred to as Nowhere. (p397)
  • At the third appearance of the S symbol in the book, S asks Corbeau to try and remember where she may have seen the symbol before. She finally remembers – It was on Stenfalk’s valise. (p192-195)
  • The 57 photographs that S receives in the valise have the numbers of each agent, along with dates and locations of where they were spotted and perhaps involved in wrongdoing (p261-262). S then spends his years planning and locating these agents to assassinate them.
  • The location of Vevoda’s chateau is a mystery until a woman dies after providing a map to the estate in the south of France in the foothills of the Pyrenees. (p402)
  • The location of the Bouchard estate is a mystery, but Filomela Caldeira outs Bouchard with the map to Vevoda’s chateau, pinpointing both as the same (see margin notes p312 “Nobody seems to have realized she outed them” and p402).
  • FXC reveals her location to a hopefully-still-living-S in the Chapter 10 cipher as Marau, Brazil.
  • When Eric Husch finds FXC still alive and “impossibly old” he writes on a postcard to Jen I FOUND HER(p201) This hearkens back to Archimedes when he shouted Eureka (or “I found it”).
  • S uncovers a plaque that shows where Archimedes de Sobreiro fell in 1625. (p386-387)
  • The first time S gets close enough to Sola to touch her, it is in the flat where Archimedes de Sobreiro lived – and died. (p390)
  • When S asks Sola how he managed to find her in the Winter City she said simply, “It was the only place left.” (p391)
  • S “exerts this influence from an estate located in the principality of Rumor” (p316). FXC mentions in the footnote that the original working title for Ship of Theseus was Principality of Rumor.
  • Several time there is a reference to the hunters: the detectives who hunt our friends as they escape from B– and then into the caves. In reference to this hunt the text says of our friends: They are all simply playing their roles in humankind’s oldest, simplest, truest story (p173). The Lady on Obsidian Island mentions that The hunters are close and closing in. They’ve found us on the waters. S then intuits that Maelstrom’s bleeding map shows this and The Lady confirms it (p288).
  • As S approaches The Territory with Anca and Waqar, he notices the symbols etched into the hillside (p344).  He asks what they mean, and to his surprise Anca responds, “Our stories. Who we are and how we are here.”  Later, on p350, S notices the S-symbol, partially destroyed. S himself is a story that explains who we are and how we are here.
  • S spends much of his time hoping to locate a copy of The Archer’s Tales. 
  • As the margin notes on p431 explain, It all goes back to Calais. Straka’s entire life is somehow defined by what happened there in the 1912 massacre.

The footnote on p415 is the most telling of all.

Straka’s phrasing here is no accident; though the characters have a map to the Vévoda estate, they still must view the location through the fog. As the essayist Norman Bergen discussed in the third volume of his Spinning Compass series, there is a powerful human need to locate evil—that is, to contain it by assigning it a specific, bounded place (in some cases, a particular person)—even though this is impossible. The boundaries of evil, Bergen argued, are blurry and porous, if they can be said to exist at all.

This continued emphasis on location, coupled with the overt emphasis on identity, exposes the possible purpose of the S-collective’s methods.

Secrecy must be total, or all is lost. (Marginalia, p187)

The S knew that if the author of the subversive books were known, Bouchard and others could then target that person and pursue him/her and eradicate the threat. But if the author’s identity were unknown, and his location kept secret, then Bouchard would forever be lost, chasing an unknown, moving target.

Straka was lost, too, for a time. His life was defined by a location – what happened there.

It all goes back to Calais. (Marginalia, p431)

Straka experienced that “powerful human need to locate evil” – and once he located it in Bouchard and his cohorts, he spent his days thinking he would never be happy again unless he eradicated the evil he had identified and located. S’s life parallels Bouchard’s with Vevoda. And it all culminates with the discovery of the location of the chateau and with the location of Vevoda himself within the cellars.

Perhaps the point is that trying to physically locate evil only serves to misdirect S’s life. S has choices, though he thinks he does not (p287). And the xebec’s condition reflects the result of those choices. The condition of the xebec worsens only as S reacts to the evil that has befallen him with the continued pursuit of agents and Vevoda himself.

It is only when S let’s go of his pursuit of Vevoda and leaves the location he so desperately wanted to find – and leaves Vevoda alive and well – that S sees…

Not a ghost ship, no; she is a ship with flags flying and sailors working on deck, sails trimmed and humming in the wind, a glorious wake churning out behind her, and what looks like two people standing on the quarterdeck and sharing the wheel. (p456)

Is it a coincidence that the very last sentence of the book has 57 words? And that S spent so much of his life trying to locate and assassinate 57 people? Perhaps not…

He can’t see their faces through the glass, can’t really see much about them at all, but he slides the glass closed and tells Sola that the ship is one of theirs, and as for the identities of the two people at the wheel, well, both Sola and he will let their imaginations fill in their features.

 

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