Notes on Ignota
A collection of notes and queries on ‘Too Like the Lightning’ compiled by CAMESTROS FELAPTON, at the Request of Certain Parties.
Page numbers and text are from the 2016 Tor US hardback edition. Errors and typos are mine except where indicated. The notes are not authorised by the author or editorialised by the editor. I’m speculating people! Latin translations are my best guess from Google translate and I don’t really know much Latin – corrections welcome.
Page 14 Chapter the Second: A Boy and His God
Oh, thank goodness. The story has actually started! Hopefully, this note taking lark will settle down after awhile…but not yet! The good news is, that while the novel does keep referencing things, it loops back to the same people, myths, places etc. so later chapters need shorter notes. This first page proper of the story has quite a few though.
• ‘Carlyle Foster’ – another first name that derives from a surname (a variant spelling of the North of England town that is near the Scottish border). Most likely [later confirmed by the text] a reference to Thomas Carlyle 19th century Scottish philosopher and essayist. Carlyle expounded the great man/hero view of history (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Heroes,_Hero-Worship,_and_The_Heroic_in_History ) At times seen as a liberal, he also later became notable for his reactionary view particularly on slavery https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occasional_Discourse_on_the_Negro_Question The character of Carlyle in the novel seems to be quite unlike Thomas Carlyle in most things other than intellectual curiosity.
• ‘March the twenty-third was the Feast of St. Turibius, a day on which men honoured their Creator’ – There are several St. Turibius but the one mentioned is probably Turibius of Lima who died on March 23 1606. A Franciscan missionary who notably sided with the indigenous population of Peru (up to a point obviously – he was also trying to convert them to Christianity. The Fansciscans were one of the three major Catholic orders that swept through South America along with Spain’s invading armies. The other two were the Dominicans (aka Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition) and the Jesuits. When dragging a pair of teenagers around the churches of Cuzco I differentiated the three orders as Franciscans = Gryffindor, Dominicans = Slytherin and Jesuits = Ravenclaw. Yes, trivialising but it works surprisingly well.
• ‘Fisher G Gurai’ – note another first name derived from a surname. ‘Fisher’ is a common name in English and in German ‘Fischer’. I note it is a noun from a verb from a noun (fish – to fish – a person who fishes) and we’ll meet other names like that (Bridger, Sniper). Don’t know why.
• Cousin – My note here says ‘A sensayers title? Like ‘father’ or ‘brother’ for a priest or monk’ This is incorrect but it is explained later in the text.
• ‘Thisbe’ – a main character, whose name you may recognise from the play within a play “Pyramus and Thisbe” in Shakespeare’s a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. However, the story of frustrated lovers is actually from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. One of the great trio of ancient Roman poets (the others being Virgil and Horace), Ovid notably found himself exiled by Emperor Augustus and ended up living in what is now Romania (the Black Sea port of Constanta has a very statue of him. For extra bonus trivia: the influence of Rome goes beyond statues of poets in Romania, the language is also a Romance language appropriately enough. Later writers influenced by Ovid, relevant to these notes, include Petrarch and Cervantes (and Shakespeare obviously).
• ‘each five centimetres tall’ – approximately two inches and suggestive of the standard 54 mm size of 1:32 scale toy soldier scale (1 inch of toy equals 32 inch of real person). Larger than the small plastic soldiers but smaller than the GIJoe/Action man style.
• ‘Bridger’ – another noun-verb-noun name and surname as first name.
• ‘Voltaire’ – The pen name of Francois-Marie Arouet. The name is an anagram of Arovet-Li a latinised pun on ’The young Arouet’. In 1700, Voltaire would have been 6, so the learned crowds that Mycroft mentions would have been right to be sceptical and Voltaire probably wasn’t a wordsmith at that point or called ‘Voltaire’ but I’m just being picky. We all get Mycroft’s point. By the end of the century that 1700 presages, the dynasties of Europe would be much more worse for wear than the start including missing a few heads and/or colonies.
• ‘Thou too, Mycroft Canner?’ – reputedly the last words of Julius Caesar after being stabbed by his former friend Brutus. Widely cited prior to Shakespeare, but the use in the titular play is probably the most famous use of it. Caeser was stabbed March 13 (the ides of March) 44 CE, i.e. 10 days and 2410 years before the setting of the story – which is nice if you like round numbers. Note that Mycroft makes us speak to him using the familiar ‘thou’ perhaps to better match the Latin (although he sticks with it). Thee’s and thou’s are now archaic in English but they lingered on in some dialects e.g. the “tha” in Northern English (increasingly vanishing).
• ‘How can your servant answer you, good master?’ Mycroft casts himself as the servant and us as his master
• ‘…the priests of Pharaoh when Moses’s snake…” – I assume you all know this one but the biblical story is notable as it implies that Moses’s god was one of many gods but more powerful than the gods of Egypt. Also, in the context of the story, an overt BIBLICAL reference is possibly a tad scandalous given the way people of this era avoid things that suggest ‘cult’ associations.
• ‘Ockham’ – William of Ockham 1287-1347 was a Franciscan monk (another one!) and logician who lived in Britain in the fourteenth century. Most famous for his principle of parsimony known as Occam’s razor.
• ’No!’ Spanish punctuation
• ‘a polylaw’ – explained later in the text
• ‘a Mason’ The freemasons attempt to date their movement back to many time periods including antiquity. However, the movement really sprang up in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. In context, it’s spread through Western Europe and Britain’s North American colonies is contemporaneous with The Enlightenment.
• ‘Sensayers live for metaphysics’ – Metaphysics is the study of being and what it is to be named after the main topic of the book by Aristotle that followed “The Physics”. By back-formation “meta’ has become a prefix to describe a subject beyond that of another, for example “meta-mathematics” is study of the structure of mathematics. Aristotle is, as you all know, the three of the big trio of Greek philosophy: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
• ‘the nonexistent Latin verb senseo’ – Latin, verbs turned into names and what ’sensayer’ means all appear here.
• ‘Mertice McKay’ – I’ve got nothing, sometimes I guess a name is just a name.
• Romanova – looks like New Rome [text later confirms this but also looks like Romania.
• ‘Let us create a new creature’ – which reminds me of Frankenstein aka The New Prometheus by Mary Shelley, which you all know as a central text in the origin of Science Fiction. Written in 1818, it is also a work of the Romantic aesthetic movement in the arts, which was to some extent a reaction against some aspects of the Enlightenment (e.g. Frankenstein as a man whose spirit of natural inquiry dehumanises him). In this case the ‘new creature’ is also a reaction to a social movement and comes in the form of the sensayer – a secular priest-like person. [Yes, I wrote this before Frankenstein makes a less subtle appearance later!]
• ‘to diagram the derivation’ – ‘to diagram’ is usually applied to the grammar of a sentence than to the derivation of a name but Mycroft has a point.