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Typically, when FXC embeds a cipher in a chapter of Ship of Theseus, she includes a deliberately incorrect fact in a footnote that indicates where to find the enciphered message and what type of cipher it might be. And the chapter title typically is some sort of keyword to help break the cipher.

For example, in Fn1 on p70, FXC says that something happened in five days in Straka’s The Square when in reality it was ten days, as Eric Husch points out in the marginalia. Jennifer Heyward correctly deduces that the error “five” points to the fifth footnote. And FXC uses the word spotted on p70 to indicate that the “spots” in the fifth footnote highlight the message to be deciphered. The chapter title, The Emersion of “S”, indicates that the letter S-es that have spots should emerge and we are to take the two letters on either side of it to produce the message ARP IS BOUCHARD IS HW (see p80).

If we are to trust that FXC is consistent with this pattern, then there are still ciphers to be discovered in the Foreword, the Interlude, and Chapter 9: Birds of Negative Space. It could also be that there are additional ciphers (see Fn6, p84 – where FXC uses an incorrect name).

This blog is meant to stimulate conversation that might lead to the discovery of a cipher in the Translator’s Note and Foreword.

Consider Fn2 on p vi

The newspaper Le Monde did not exist until December 19, 1944 – well after the so-called interview with Ernest Hemingway appeared in print. Beyond that error, Eric points out that there is no evidence to support anything FXC claims about Hemingway’s admiration, request for a personal audience, or later criticism.

What might we deduce about a possible cipher, its location, or the key to its solution? A few thoughts to get the conversation started…

  • December 19, 1944 – the date Le Monde actually did begin its life in print is the same date that author Kurt Vonnegut was captured and became a POW. His experiences would ultimately lead to his masterpiece Slaughterhouse Five. And Vonnegut was influenced heavily by Hemingway. But this may just be an Easter Egg from Doug Dorst since at the time Ship of Theseus was published, Vonnegut was still an unknown literary figure.
  • FXC uses the phrase Hemingway’s about-face. Is this a play on the word Foreword? Go forward and then do an about-face somehow?
  • Since 1935 is an impossible year for anything to be printed in Le Monde, perhaps 1935 refers to FNs 1, 9, 3, and 5 in the Foreword. Perhaps just 3 and 5. Perhaps 3-5. Or something else?
  • Since part of the title of this chapter is Translator’s Note, are we to translate Le Monde (“The World”) and with that phrase make discoveries? For example, in Fn11 on p xiii, FXC twice uses the phrase “mundanely literal.” The word  mundane comes from the same root as Monde and means “world.” And this: the second sentence of the Foreword – the one that starts to answer the question in the first – begins with the two words The world. And this: on p x (X marks the spot?), FXC says “I saw the world through the eyes of his characters; I heard his voice in his letters and in our discussions in the margins of his typescripts.” Eric underlines the entire sentence and points to it as proof that FXC was “a hack.” Does this sentence explain how we are to see “The world?” And this: the first underlined sentence in the Foreword (and thus the entire book) is the world never knew Straka’s face (pp v-vi). The associated marginalia is from Jen, who asks “So why’d. You have to leave the library in such a hurry the other night?” Contrast this with Doug Dorst’s tweet that “the answers you seek may be found in the library” – implying that to see Straka’s face we must be in the library. And this: Straka’s work often contains shadow-world occurrences (vi). And this: Hemingway had room 511 all to himself at the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana, Cuba between 1932 and 1939 – including 1935, though he was not there much. Ambos Mundos means both worlds, celebratin Cuba as a bridge between the Old World and the New World. And this: our friend Archimedes has the famous quote…

Give me a place to stand and I shall move the world.

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