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This is a theory about how we might discover S’s name.

If you haven’t already, read this older post called Is S on a Fugue Walkabout? The post below is a sequel to it and reveals more about the song lines discussed there.

First, let’s walk through the following references that reveal a consistent juxtaposition of two things: the earth/world and letters/words/sounds/writing.

  • The first words of the book of the Foreword say WHO WAS V.M. STRAKA? The world knows his name.
  • The last page of the book contains the EOTVOS wheel, where different series of letters are associated with geographic coordinates around the world.
  • Page x in the Foreword: I saw the world through the eyes of his characters.
  • Twice in the Foreword on xiii, FXC uses the phrase mundanely literal (Fn11). Mundane means world. Literal means of or belonging to letters or writing. 
  • On page xiii of the Foreword: If his remains are in the ground anywhere, they have become part of the earth in its entirety.
  • Translator’s Note and Foreword: Is this a pun? Translate means to relocate – to move from one place to another – like moving around the world. Note could mean a musical note. Foreword could be a pun on forward. Does Translator’s Note and Forward mean, literally, Musical Movement Forward Around the World?
  • The orlop is a key place on S’s ship where mysterious writing takes place when you are part o’ the tradition. Orlop means, literally, overloop. Letters/words/stories being written in the overloop by the crew and eventually S himself as the ship loops its way around the world.
  • S. returns to the world, to the literal space of the secret room on the orlop deck (p297).
  • The cave in the Chapter Down and Out has the story of the K__ people told in images/writing painted onto the earth itself.
  • In the petroglyphs of The Territory – the symbol S was carved into the earth (p350). Anca says that these petroglyphs are our stories. Who we are and why we are here (p344). S is a story written into the earth.
  • Regarding The Tradition: For the first time, he understands the tradition,or at least recognizes the most essential of its constituent parts. The stories that move outside time—that divert, oppose, resist. His life of words, of pictures and sounds that contemplate what the world is or could be. (p404-405)
  • In the climax – S kneels down and touches the earth and all the voices in his head go silent. Settled. Voices and narratives, reabsorbed into the ground on which we walk. And this is the key, he realizes, the thing that makes the purpose of all that work on the ship… and in all of the places he’s visited …worthwhile.
  • There was a key in Zepadi’s window box, where earth/ground would have been present to help the flowers grow there (p109). The window above that box had two S-symbols etched into the scrollwork of the shutters (pp130-131).

Second, with all of this in mind about the earth, let’s remember that in the climax of the story of Eric Husch and Jennifer Heyward, our two friends are in the PSU planetarium when Moody apparently cuts the power to the projector and attacks Eric during some sort of important demonstration. Eric hits back and Moody likely flees into the steam tunnels. Jen comments that Serin may have had people there (p453). Eric and Jen then leave almost immediately for Prague – home to one of the world’s oldest and most famous astronomical clocks. Why would the planetarium be a location for the climax of a story about Eric and Jen’s search to discover the identity of Straka – and of S? And why on earth would Serin be there – unless the answer had something to do with planets? The earth? With that in mind, consider these references…

  • Arquimedes de Sobreiro is a sailor who travelled around the world on a ship – perhaps S’s ship. And his arrows fly around the world and land at his feet (p381). The author of The Archer’s Tales has two references to going around the world – sailing and arrows flying. Archimedes of Syracuse is known for creating the world’s first planetarium.
  • The barrel organ in Chapter 1, where we first meet the monkey, is a device that creates music when the organ grinder (root word ground) rotates it around a central axis. Highlighted portions of the drum translate into notes that play music as the drum is rotated.
  • The climactic story of the people who attend Vevoda’s gala in Chapter 10 revolves around Edvar Vevoda VI: He is the planet at the center of the gala, the axis around which the party whirls and time passes (p410).
  • The Chapter 10 cipher solution uses the EOTVOS wheel and locations around the world to translate letters on the wheel into a message.
  • As “the music plays” in the interlude Tocatta and Fugue in Real Time, S sails around the world poisoning people (p359). It’s as if we are to understand that S’s travels around the world are musical in some way.
  • Cruzatte (the name of the park where Jen wandered away from her parents when she was young) is certainly named after the fiddle player who accompanied Lewis and Clark as they traveled around their world of North America in search of a water route to the Pacific Ocean. The Territory, as S climbs the monkey path up to meet the Governor, is compared to Cruzatte on p351 by Jen. On that path that S travels, he catalogs many sounds, including a monkey and several birds: a Merlin (Stenfalk), a crow (Corbeau), an oystercatcher (Ostrero), and a magpie (S).
  • Birds sing – often as they fly – leaving a different note hanging in the air in different locations as they traverse the earth.
  • V.M. Straka’ S obituary, as it appears in the Baltimore Bugle-Dispatch on June 14, 1946, has an article whose headline has all but been covered up. Careful analysis reveals, however, that it is an early article suggesting that one day the earth could be orbited by hundreds of tiny moons – or satellites.
  • Calais (it all goes back to Calais) is the birthplace of the worldwide wired telegraph – where the first undersea cable connected two countries. From then on, letters/words/messages could be communicated across the earth. Literally, letters travelled around the globe.

So what does all this mean? Two last things to consider before we put it all together…

  • Bach, in The Art of the Fugue, left an obviously incomplete piece with his own name encoded musically in the final four notes. Written in the margins of this piece is a note by one of Bach’s son claiming that the author died while writing the piece. All of this sounds hauntingly familiar to V.M. Straka’s unfinished tenth chapter of Ship of Theseus, and his untimely death while trying to compete it while we try to determine his name. Did he also encode his name/identity in the name of S? What makes this even more interesting is that the latest theory concerning BACH’s mysterious piece is that he did not die while writing that piece, but instead deliberately presented this piece as an enigma that  ultimately points to The Harmony of the Spheres – a philosophical and spiritual belief that the planets create a form of music as they dance around the sun.
  • Doug Dorst once tweeted a clue – it was nothing more than the image of fingers forming a chord on a guitar. That chord turned out to be A-flat diminished, often written as AbDIM.
    AbdimChordThis turns out to be the name Abdim, musically encoded. Abdim is the character in Ship of Theseus that handed S the valise (p244-245).

Bach’s name was musically encoded in an unfinished manuscript that he is thought to have died while writing – a remarkable parallel to Straka. And a character in Straka’s novel is also musically encoded in a guitar chord by the meta-author, Doug Dorst.

Is Dorst just having a bit of fun with us or is our meta-author giving us a meta-clue?

Here is the theory.

  • S’s name is encoded musically within Ship of Theseus.
  • The letters/characters of his name are musical notes represented by locations on earth.
  • The musical staff is created by the lines of latitude.
  • The musical notes are determined by the differences in longitude.
  • The earth, in essence, is like a barrel organ. As it rotates, different points on the earth indicate the sound to be played in order to hear the music. The earth becomes a musical instrument revealing and promoting harmony on our own sphere.
  • The locations themselves are the yet undiscovered locations of B__, G__, El H__, P__ (Prague), The Territory, and perhaps other known/unknown locations, that S navigates on his journey.
  • The first location is Calais, France. Because It all goes back to Calais.

If we listen closely, perhaps we can hear the music and discover the song line that reveals the name of S and the identity of both he and V. M. Straka.