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Courtesan and Knight Companion

A particularly interesting book club question:

There is a theme of duality running through this novel: double identities, conflicting forces of light and dark, matched pairs. Was there any instance of duality that struck you as particularly surprising, or insightful? Do you agree with Elza’s description of herself as “courtesan and knight companion both,” both roles being equally valuable?

What do you guys think?

This is one of my favorite bits:

Bonaparte smiled as though I had passed some hidden test. "I would not put a price on your loyalty, Madame. Or your affections." He shrugged. "And aren't our bodies all for sale? Whether we sell them for sex or for cannon fodder? A recruit is less expensive than a prostitute."

"How much is a general?" I asked.

He lifted his glass to me, still smiling. "About the same as a companion. They used to be the same word, you know. Hetairos. Hetaira."

So here's my other question for you guys -- how much does Bonaparte know? How much does he remember?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 14th, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
Hm. Is this an entirely fair question, as I seem to remember you writing somewhere else that Napoleon remembers almost everything (as well as a few of his closest circle)? I might be mistaken...

I find Elza's identity very multi-faceted, greater in scope and ambition than a duality would suggest. I like Napoleon's juxtaposition of prostitutes and soldiers, as I hadn't considered them in relation to each other like that. It introduces a curiously interesting Marxist analysis, which explores the manner in which people get the material necessities of life, even while suggesting that loyalty isn't part of that dynamic. That loyalty transcends money.

I wonder if that is entirely true, or if it is a characteristic of the justice-focused karmic circle around Napoleon. That is, if there were to be another karmic circle in the world somewhere, focused on another virtue (love? compassion? knowledge?) and if loyalty would occupy the same transcendent position as in this one.

Heh. I sense the possibility for numerous Numinous World novels. :-)
Nov. 14th, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
if there were to be another karmic circle in the world somewhere

I assume there has to be! A lot of momentous stuff happens all over and the Emperor and Companions can't have been there for all of it. There've gotta be other players.
Nov. 16th, 2012 01:11 pm (UTC)
Oh yes! There are a whole bunch of Great Stories. But because we're following Gull, we're seeing the story she's usually in.
Nov. 14th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
I think he does remember more than he lets on. But certainly Michel remembers a great deal! He's not telling Elza everything because he thinks she'll think he's creepy. "Hey, baby! I think I knew you in a past life and we're destined for each other!" He thinks she'd run so fast!

I think in the Numinous World there are any number of Great Stories, and sometimes they cross and sometimes they go their own ways separate from each other. I think one, The Alchemist's Tale, crosses this one via Dion, who acts in both stories. But since Gull is the main character, we've been following her and the story she's associated with.
Nov. 14th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
I remember you implying in some post somewhere that Napoleon remembers, but I'm not sure he remembers here. I don't interpret that scene as necessarily requiring that he remembers anything. He's the kind of person who is very sure of his role in the world and that he has a capital-D Destiny. Whether or not he knows or believes that he's literally an incarnation of some of the great forces of history, he certainly believes he's in their mold.
Nov. 16th, 2012 01:10 pm (UTC)
I think that's true. I'm not sure how much he believes what he remembers, either. I certainly don't think he's talked about it with anybody. I think he's likely to dismiss it as daydreaming, but he plays the hunches. And he has a hunch about her.
Nov. 17th, 2012 04:55 am (UTC)
The one thing I really noticed with your dualism is that unlike most dualistic thought, the dualities are not at odds with each other. They are, for lack of a better word, companions, and build each other up rather than oppose each other.

I think Napoleon remembers a great deal, but that he doesn't dwell on it. He strikes me as the person who would wish to know and remember, but who simultaneously wouldn't hold on to the past life too much. He's far more focused on this life's goals.
Nov. 17th, 2012 12:14 pm (UTC)
Oh yes! *beams* And that's one of the hallmarks of Hermetic thought, the language that Elza is learning to understand her abilities. Duality is complimentary. Death and birth are different sides of the same coin, the gates of life and all pass through both in turn. War and sex are linked, death and generation. Creation and destruction are linked, the old giving way to the new in a cycle. Neither can exist without the other. In a very real sense, Michel is a priest of Death. If that follows? It's all part of the same dance.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )