Chapter 00 (Prologue)

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Chapter 00 (Prologue)

Post by Freakzilla »

This prologue is set far in the future of the events that take place in the rest of the book and is an excerpt from a speach given by the archeologist who discored Dar-es-balat, Leto II's invisible storehouse for his Journals.

A popular poet reads a sample from the first page of the first volume Leto's Journals:

I ASSURE you that I am the book of fate.
Questions are my enemies. For my questions explode! Answers leap up like a
frightened flock, blackening the sky of my inescapable memories. Not one answer,
not one suffices.
What prisms flash when I enter the terrible field of my past. I am a chip of
shattered flint enclosed in a box. The box gyrates and quakes. I am tossed about
in a storm of mysteries. And when the box opens, I return to this presence like
a stranger in a primitive land.
Slowly (slowly, I say) I relearn my name.
But that is not to know myself!
This person of my name, this Leto who is the second of that calling, finds other
voices in his mind, other names and other places. Oh, I promise you (as I have
been promised) that I answer to but a single name. If you say, "Leto," I
respond. Sufferance makes this true, sufferance and one thing more:
I hold the threads!
All of them are mine. Let me but imagine a topic, say . . . men who have died by
the sword-and I have them in all of their gore, every image intact, every moan,
every grimace.
Joys of motherhood, I think, and the birthing beds are mine. Serial baby smiles
and the sweet cooings of new generations. The first walkings of the toddlers and
the first victories of youths brought forth for me to share. They tumble one
upon another until I can see little else but sameness and repetition.
"Keep it all intact," I warn myself. Who can deny the value of such experiences,
the worth of learning through which I view each new instant? Ahhh, but it's the
past. Don't you understand? It's only the past!

-The Stolen Journals
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Re: Chapter 00 (Prologue)

Post by Freakzilla »

Paul of Dune was so bad it gave me a seizure that dislocated both of my shoulders and prolapsed my anus.
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Re: Chapter 00 (Prologue)

Post by harqalada »

I think this is an extremely interesting way to begin a book, and I've always wanted to really work through some of the implications of this prologue for how "God Emperor" should be read. After all, we, as Frank Herbert's readers, are sitting down to read the same thing everyone in the prologue is sitting down to read. As that McNelly interview says, "Dune" is meant to be written aloud - Benotto says the same thing about Leto's journals here.

OK, I'm gonna take a stab at this.

The journals Benotto is introducing were discovered from the first no-globe, and thus from a kind of void. I think this suggests that Leto's journals could be thought of as coming either from nowhere (utopia?) or as being mined out of living rock (what the globe is disguised as), almost as a deposit of some natural mineral. I think the journals could also be taken as a metaphor for instinct or fate, given that they are buried much deeper than either myth or oral history/language can fathom. Consider this quote, which comes from somewhere in GE (I found it on the Dune wikiquote):
What is the most profound difference between us, between you and me? You already know it. It's these ancestral memories. Mine come at me in the full glare of awareness. Yours work from your blind side. Some call it instinct or fate. The memories apply their leverages to each of us — on what we think and what we do. You think you are immune to such influences? I am Galileo. I stand here and tell you: "Yet it moves." That which moves can exert its force in ways no mortal power ever before dared stem. I am here to dare this.
Here Leto equates his OM with "instinct or fate," and claims that he is trying to "stem" (we can probably take this to mean direct or control as well) the functioning of these forces.

There's probably more to chew on here, but I'm going to move on to Leto's part of the preface. Besides whatever else I have to say about this passage, it's just about the most powerful writing I've ever read.

OK, so the first interesting thing about Leto's preface is that it parallels Benotto's: Leto calls himself a book, and describes the experience/process of entering (descending?) into himself. Like Benotto et al, Leto approaches himself with questions. Just as the seeking of those in the first part of this prologue have led them to the secret cavern that holds Leto's journals, Leto's seeking leads him into the bottomless pit of his OM and his prescience. But unlike Benotto, Leto harbors no illusions that the answers he'll find will help him: his questions only provoke "a frightened flock," or "prisms," or "a storm of mysteries" that he barely survives. In a sense, there's even doubt as to whether he survives, or is only reborn (he returns to the presence, he re-learns his name). Precisely because of this doubt, he reassures the reader/listener that he isn't abomination, that he answers to only one name (though that does not mean he knows himself). Then he glosses his composite personality again, explaining that it functions through two mechanics: the first is his brute persistence ("sufferance"), his continued willingness to subject himself to the pain and exhaustion and terror that is his own experience of himself, and the second is the heart-stopping "All of them are mine" passage. Leto seems to be implying that he alone of all the personas that exist within and through him has lived every life/memory in his vast repertoire. His two examples are birth and death/killing.

I'm trying to express what I think these two traits of his selfhood mean. Basically, his existence is in one sense very tenuous and paradoxical: he has no life of his own, but only exists as the unity of all other lives. He's more than the sum of his parts, but if you took away all his parts, nothing would remain. He's a shape, but not the matter that makes up the shape, and he exists only in the exercise, the event or practice, of himself. He's the "fluid mechanics" (to reference the McNelly interview again) that create a dune, but none of the sand.

IRL I'm working to become a historian, so all of this seems very powerful and important to me. The historians in Benotto's time imagine that they've found the greatest source in a thousand thousand years - and they have. But that source experiences itself as an endless depth that can only be made into something coherent through a paradoxical unity that can never be reduced to something static and is mostly comprised of suffering and persistence.

Well, I dunno if I managed to do anything but summarize the prologue in a pretentious way, but if anyone has any thoughts I'd really enjoy reading them.
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Re: Chapter 00 (Prologue)

Post by georgiedenbro »

Just began another re-read of GEoD after a hiatus following CoD, and I hope to have a few questions I've been pondering answered.

What I like about this prologue is that it immediately addresses a question we want to ask about the powers of OM. We already know the issue of abomination, but what we don't know is what kind of fine line there is between abomination and merely using OM 'properly.' What is its proper use? Here Leto tells us that OM isn't merely some data he has access to; it really is a part of him, and in fact everything he is can be said to be the accumulation of memories and genetics from his lineage. If it's good to know oneself fully then surely an extensive study of one's own past lives would be the way to go. But here Leto gives us a reason why this is not actually a good idea, and it's captured in his emphatic "it's only the past!" This isn't a denial that the past really does make us what we are, but I think what's being hinted at here is that it isn't actually useful or healthy to know too deeply every single thing about ourselves. A lot of what we might find is true, but also counter-productive to living well. What is the "I" when any person speaks of himself? Is it the summation of particles in his body, the organization of them, the things they've done, the thoughts that appear to come from them? Something else? In the end in order to live we must know something about ourselves but not too much, because in order to act we must recognize an "I" and in order to be an "I" we need to forget all the details that suggest there is no "I" but just a collection of cells and systems. Absolute truth has to make way for a kind of fantasy - about ourselves, and about the future we want to create but that doesn't exist yet. Dwelling on a level of too much detail perhaps drags us down into the past of how we came to be, and as useful as that information may be at times it can go too far. Maybe this is what abomination is: the lack of being able to accept the fantasy of an "I" and to act as a unified whole organism rather than a collection of parts. Maybe years of living without access to OM trains the fantasy into a BG so that she can use that idea as a life raft when the memories flood in.

I should say that when I call the "I" a fantasy that doesn't mean that it's false or fake. Indeed, even though it may be a fabrication created by the individual, it can still be quite real. Consider the future an oracle like Paul sees when he chooses paths. None of it is 'real' in the sense of existing tangibly, and yet the future path Paul chose was certainly real enough that it could be counted on just as much as any fact presently in evidence. The thought was his alone, but its existence wasn't merely some piece of fakery he pretended was so. Similarly I think Leto is saying that the "I" that he must always remember as "Leto" is a conscious choice rather than an evident physical fact, but no less real.
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