Page 178. " Look.' Gulliver and Lilliputians. 'You're breaking the ruddy ...Anti-incarceration Act, or whatever it is.' "

A reference to Jonathan Swift's Gullivers Travels (1726) in which Gulliver awakes to find himself tethered to the ground and then lectured to by an imperious king who refuses to release him. The comparison is apt in a number of respects. 1.) Gulliver's request to be released is quite reasonable, but the response is one that has little to do with common sense and much to do with pettifogging bureaucracy. 2.) Gulliver's incarceration at the hands of the Lilliputians is defined by a kind of well-meaning coercion. Gulliver is fed, watered, patronized and subjected to a range of undignified inspections. 3.) His willingness to play their game is repaid with privileges ceded. 4.) Swift's famously scatological leanings find their correlative in Cavendish's humiliating incontinence towards the end of the book.  Gulliver's hygiene habits are called into question by the Lilluputians, who are most indignant when he urinates over the royal palace. Both texts, of course, contain great dollops of grotesque satire.

Gulliver's Travels on Book Drum

Page 179. " I was level with a lawnmower contraption when a shaggy giant in groundsman's overalls rose from the Earth like Ye Greene Knycht. "
from the original manuscript (artist and author unknown)
Public Domainfrom the original manuscript (artist and author unknown)

A reference to the fourteenth-century alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,  in which a huge green man rides into Sir Arthur's court, insults the nobles there gathered, then challenges one of King Arthur's knights to a seemingly suicidal dare.  Sir Gawain chivalrously steps up, decapitates the giant who simply gathers up his head only to remind him that in taking up the challenge he must now present himself for the return blow a year and a day hence. The Middle English is not impossible to decipher, although less intrepid readers would do well to read Simon Armitage's lively modern version.

Page 183. " In all the prison literature I've read, from Gulag Archipelago to An Evil Cradling to Knuckle Sandwich "
Prisoners working to construct Belomorkanal (1932)
Public Domain Prisoners working to construct Belomorkanal (1932)

Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the author of The Gulag Archipelago (1973), offers a detailed description of the now infamous network of labour and concentration camps that operated across the Soviet union. Some of the accounts are written from his own experiences of a system he compares to an Archipelago, not least because it is only truly understood by those who have inhabited it.

Brian Keenan's four and a half year experience of incarceration at the hands of the Islamic Jihad Organization is detailed in his book An Evil Cradling.  



Page 189. " We have nitemares, too; "
Noah Webster's influence extends even into Mitchell's fictional world
Public Domain Noah Webster's influence extends even into Mitchell's fictional world - Credit: Morse Pinx, Kellogg Sc

The first indication in An Orison of Sonmi~451 that the spelling of the future is different. The spelling of the future seems to have responded to Noah Webster's campaign to make spelling more phonetically based. Webster had always valued the simple over the complex, and was influential in shaping the way Americans spell and pronounce English words today. In its first hundred years the American Spelling Book sold sixty million copies, outstripping the sales of every other book published in America bar the Bible. In his fervour to spark a spelling reformation he simply eliminated letters he regarded as unnecessary or confusing, hence colour became color, waggon became wagon, plough became plow and so on. In Mitchell's future world, however, a lot of the old spelling forms remain, for example archivist and schedule retain the h.

Page 189. " Is it true, fabricants really dream, just like us? "

Highly and perhaps deliberately reminiscent of the question that forms the title of the cult novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick. The novel shares some characteristics with this fifth section. It deals with a dystopian future in which organically produced humanoids are designed for servitude, the most advanced of which escape and are hunted down. The novel was popularised by Ridley Scott's film adaptation Blade Runner (1982).

Page 198. " How could Papa Song stand on a plinth in Chongmyo Plaza Papa Song's and walk the Xultation's beaches at the same time? "
Jongmyo Shrine: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJongmyo: A UNESCO World Heritage Site - Credit: Jongmyo Jeyreak, flickr

Chongmyo or Jongmyo is an ancient shrine in Seoul, a building dedicated to memorial services for the long buried kings and queens of Korea. Built in 1394 it was one of the longest buildings in Asia, although it had to be built again in 1601 when the Japanese torched it during the Seven-Year War. That the Chongmyo Plaza has been built in place of the former shrine indicates a society desperate to bury the past under its new traditions. Ironically the new Chongmyo remains a shrine, just in altered form: it acts as a shrine to commerce as well as burial place for the living dead fabricants.