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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > 2009-08 Consider Phlebas - epigraphs - probably a few spoilers

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message 1: by Ron (new)

Ron (ronbacardi) | 302 comments "Consider Phlebas" begins with two epigraphs. One is from the Koran: "Idolatry is worse than carnage." Although this may seem a pretext for wars of conversion, in context it seems to mean one may (or even must) fight back against those who would impose false beliefs on one (aggressive war is clearly ruled out in adjacent passages).
How do you think this applies to the book?

The second epigraph is from "The Wasteland":
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Phlebas the Phoenician has drowned and experiences no transfiguration, only the nibbling of fishes. Since Horza also ends up dead, without accomplishing his mission, what is Banks getting at?

The two epigraphs seem to set up an opposition between Muslim (Koran) and Jewish or Christian ("Gentile or Jew..."). Do you think the Middle Eastern religions are behind Banks' novel of Idiran faith versus secular Culture?

message 2: by Cliff (new)

Cliff I think the translation that Banks used for the Koran passage speaks for the first interpretation as a justification for wars of conversion. The translation that I like better is by Muhammad Asad it is "For oppression is even worse than killing." If this translation was used in the epigraph I think the second interpretation would be more reasonable as it relates to the book. Although the very ambiguity of the passage from the Koran and the fact that some people may use it to justify war is probably important.

message 3: by Ron (new)

Ron (ronbacardi) | 302 comments Yes, Banks' quotation is taken from the Penguin edition translated by N J Dawood, and it (the translation) has been somewhat controversial.

message 4: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine Ron wrote: Do you think the Middle Eastern religions are behind Banks' novel of Idiran faith versus secular Culture?

Banks' use of the word jihad in the historical notes at the end of the book would seem to link the Idirans with Islam, in my mind. (Sorry I don't have a page reference; the book was on hold for someone else at the library.)

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