Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Footnotes and Ciphers

The footnotes below were imported from ebook of Ship of Theseus as text and without formatting found in actual book or ebook. The formatting may be important to understanding some of the ciphers, so please refer to published versions for exactness.

This post may containing spoilers, notes on ciphers solved and those on which we are working. Color coding as been added for better understanding.

You can reach us at sfiles22blog @ gmail dot com.

Translator's Note and Foreword

v.1 “This book was to have been published by my former employer, Karst & Son—as all of Straka’s previous books were. However, that firm has shut its doors abruptly and without notice to its employee. I have — at considerable personal expense (financial and otherwise) — begun my own publishing venture so that Straka’s capstone work can be appreciated by the public.”

vi.2 “ Ernest Hemingway expressed his admiration for Straka’s books in a 1935 interview in Le Monde. It is well-known that Hemingway later became one of Straka’s harshest critics. What is less well-known is that Hemingway’s about-face came shortly after he begged for a personal audience with Straka and his request was met with indifferent silence”

ix.3 “Durand is a particularly foolish suggestion. All available evidence indicates that V. M Straka was a man.

ix.4 "Do I think he was a dangerous man? Perhaps, if you posed a danger to him.”

x.5  “I shall not speculate in print as to who might want Straka dead. Suffice it to say that there are several possibilities—individuals and organizations—and that they all have a long reach.  ”

xi.6 “I had spent the better part of a year working on my translation of the first nine chapters from the original Czech but felt I could go no further even on these without knowing how the novel would end. I had sent him a telegram that urged him to complete the book, as I (and, of course, his entire reading public) was desperately awaiting it. His response, in the message referred to above,hinted that he could not write the final lines without the two of us discussing them in person.

xi.7  "The finest of these, in my opinion, are The Spotted Cat (1924), The Black Nineteen (1925), Washington & Greene (1929), The Night Palisades (1934), Wineblood’s Mine (1939), The Winged Shoes of Emydio Alves (1942), and Coriolis (1944). No translator has ever been credited with work on Straka’s first six novels.

xi.8  "Those who would seek to read or acquire our letters should know that they no longer exist. A condition of correspondence with Straka was that the recipient burn all materials after reading them.

xi.9  "Certainly I have been tested enough. No amount of money could remunerate me for all the threatening encounters, harassment, burglaries, break-ins, pursuits, and surveillance[…]”

xiii.10 “It should be noted that, unfortunately, the very last page—the one containing the true ending of Straka’s masterwork—was not among the pages that were retrieved.

xiii.11 "In the most mundanely literal sense, the answer to this question is probably “in an unmarked grave in or near Havana.” But no discerning reader of Straka’s work would be satisfied with the mundanely literal.”

xiv.12 “Let me reiterate: I possess no personal information about Straka. I have made tremendous sacrifices and put myself at grave risk by collaborating with him, and I am disinclined to invite more of these foul attentions.”

Chapter 1 What Begins, What Ends

[First, last cipher, Argosy every 19th 1900 hrs. - page 27]

3.1 “A sense of spatial disorientation afflicts characters throughout Straka’s body of work — most notably in Coriolis, which features a character afflicted with a fictional ailment called “Eötvös Syndrome.” The illness causes his sense of disorientation to intensify as his travels take him closer to the equator.”

8.2  “Given the public’s fascination with Straka’s refusal of the “prestigious” Prix Bouchard in September 1912 (sending a tufted capuchin monkey to Chamonix to accept the award in his stead), I should clarify an element of the story. The note pinned to the monkey’s jacket was not, as the newspapers reported, a gentle declaration that the author found no joy in receiving such prizes, but rather an accusation that the Bouchard family had routinely arranged for the murders of syndicalist agitators in order to protect their vast and varied business interests, and in fact orchestrated the brutal massacre of striking factory workers in Calais in early 1912. (I have seen, but am no longer in possession of, a carbon copy of the note.) Why the confusion in the news accounts? Because the newspapers printed what Hermès Bouchard told them to.”

10.3 "Straka was attuned to the histories of places; he mentioned in a letter to me that he often had dreams that took place on several archaeological strata simultaneously.

12.4 "Endings and beginnings were particular preoccupations of Straka’s. After I made this observation, he scoffed. “Beginnings and endings are the preoccupation of every serious storyteller,” he wrote, “whether man or woman, prodigy or elder, Briton or Turk or Zulu or Slav.”

16.5 “Every critic of this book, I suspect, will offer one hypothesis or another about what this character represents and/or whom Straka may have used for a model. I doubt any of these guesses will prove to be more credible than any other. ”

26.6 "Young Straka was a violin prodigy, and musical references abound in the novels. (He quit the instrument, he told me, after he performed in a competition and the judge told him that, in the field of nineteen entrants, he had come in 19th.) ”

30.7 “1900 saw the anonymous publication of a poem called “La Foi en Eau” (or “Faith in Water”). It is possible that Straka was making a reference to it, but there is no clear evidence of such.”

34.8 "Readers will note that, as the book continues, each of these sailors' faces will be described in such a way that it resembles on of the authorship controversy's most popular candidates."

Chapter 2 The Drifting Twins 

[Playfair cipher, OH HU BW HA MG SY, keyword gemini, page 42]

38.1 “The character’s question here echoes one that the author often asked about his publishers. The adversarial relationship between them is one of the few elements of Straka’s life about which there is universal agreement. (After the second disappearance of Straka’s agent, Lewis Looper, in 1930, I was the one most often asked to play the role of go-between.)”

42.2 “Several commentators of limited acumen have pointed out that overcoats figure prominently in many of Straka’s books and have argued in favor of one grand metaphorical interpretation or another. (I humbly observe that an overcoat, most often, is simply an overcoat. Its function is to keep its wearer warm.) This sort of pedantic nonsense set Straka’s teeth on edge, particularly when its purveyors were strident critics of his work and/or politics who steadfastly refused to play fair, as it were. Among the worst offenders—Oskar Heilemann, Herbert Uhler, Bolingbroke Wadkins, Helmer Aasen, Martin Gonçalves, and Sydney Youngblood.”

45.3 “Often in our correspondence, Straka would lament how exhausted he was and enumerate his physical ailments. (For example: chronic ear infections left him unable to hear sounds in the frequency range of 2710 Hz. to 2760 Hz.) Although staying ahead of creditors, state organs of repression, covert operatives, and would-be exploiters of his work, reputation, and identity obviously took a toll on him, the prolificacy and vitality of his writing demonstrate conclusively that he was a man of uncommon vigor and perseverance.”

47.4 “In a 1942 letter postmarked from Basel, Straka described a recent dream in which a similar phenomenon occurred. I am no longer in possession of the letter, but I can quote the relevant portion from memory: “What if the constellations no longer held?” he asked. “Would it not cause one to scrutinize the totality of one’s surroundings carefully? Would it not terrify?”

52.5 “Possible source material for this detail is a traditional children’s play performed on Ash Wednesday in the Bavarian village of Fünfherzen, in which the protagonist is compelled to don the Belastunghemd, or “burden-shirt.” The origins of this curious play are unknown.”

55.6 "Careful readers will here recall the "Plague Morning" section of the priest's monologue in Part IV of The Spotted Cat.

64.7 “For this sequence, Straka may have used as source material an account of a terrible storm in The Tortugan Journals of Juan Blas Covarrubias (which, despite the howls of some deluded readers, has been proved time and again to be a hoax). If this is the case, Straka must certainly have been having a laugh at the expense of the even-greater fools who believe he and the fictional pirate were one and the same.”

Chapter 3 The Emersion of S. 

[taking letter to either side, Arpis Bouchard is HW (reference to Horst Wechsler, page 80]

70.1 “Cf. the character of Franzl in Straka’s The Square: a solitary man with no possessions, he is potted for the first time in Chicago as he emerges from the waters of Lake Michigan just five days before the infamous massacre at Haymarket Square.”

71.2 “Had Straka lived to review my final revisions of this translation, he likely would have quarreled with my choice to use oblivion here. His original phrasing translates directly as not-being, which I find nonsensical. How can one fail to be? If one is, one is. (Of course, the philosopher—and curiously popular Straka candidate—Guthrie MacInnes could no doubt fill up several volumes addressing such matters. I have concluded, though, that it is far better simply to be than to obsess over what, who, or even whether one is.) ”

72.3  “A typical Strakean tragedy: the epiphany that comes too late to be shared. The critics Torremolino and Holt have both written extensively on this subject, although without any noteworthy insight. ”

75.4  “Those who believe the young, ill-educated factory worker Vaclav Straka was the Straka will no doubt point out that young Vaclav worked in a munitions factory prior to his untimely plunge from the Charles Bridge. They would be well-advised to remember that the sources are not in agreement. One asserts that Vaclav’s employer, Novacek & Sons, produced ladies’ shoes, and another is equally certain that it was a facility in which pencils were made. ”

80.5  “It is interesting, perhaps, that history ha recorded that very few of the most often-mentioned candidates for authorship (illy as some of those theories may be) were married or had children. (Guthrie MacInnes, Béla Álmo Ujváry, and Tiago García Ferrara are the only ones of which I am aware.) It is as if the reading body-politic hares, across cultures, an aversion to believing that men could produce works (and live a life) of such intensity and integrity (and gravita, really) without cutting themselves off from spouses, children, and intimate friend. I feel compelled to stres how vigorously I reject such stunted and antiquated view.

84.6  “It was Gaspard-Serge Coriolis, of course, who first detailed the mathematical principles that govern the function of kinetic energy. Much of Straka’s work evinces an understanding of, and appreciation for, the work of innovative practitioners of the sciences. Straka was particularly impressed by some of the lesser-known of these people, like Wolfgang Spatzberg, Samuel Quinn-Collier, and Sagittario della Caduta. Careful readers of Book V of Coriolis will discover the roles each of these men’s findings play in the develop-ment of the narrative. ”

98.7  “Here I am reminded of the theories of identity posited by Guthrie MacInnes’s philosophical nemesis, the American Orpheus Clementson Wayne. According to Wayne (whose work I find persuasive), S. can be said to be suffering from the problem of the Identity Parallax: it is only from S.’s perspective that the identity of Sola is mutable—in an objective experience of this world, she in fact is her, her is she, she is she (and always has been, and always will be).”

Chapter 4 Agent X

["those that quickly follow... next word, "Avoid Grand Central Key Stolen Assume Bag Gone I Failed, page 122.]

113.1 “Expect the expected,” as Straka was fond of saying. He wrote this in the first letter he sent me, and in those that quickly followed—indeed, throughout the years of our professional relationship.”

114.2 “ Every writer must stand behind his work,” Straka told Otto Grahn in a letter, “and do so completely and forever. He should expressly avoid acknowledging that any challenge issued by an editor, a reader, or—heaven forbid—a film-studio panjandrum is of any merit. It has never been more obvious to me that no one but the writer can understand what his story is or what it requires in the telling.” The Swedish director chose to publish this letter in a magazine ”

117.3 “These words are, in fact, Hemingway’s, quoted from the letter he sent to Straka. He said that after reading The Cordillera, he felt an intuitive sense that he and Straka would be “simpatico” as “artists and men.” Again, Straka did not respond. He had little interest in (or tolerance for) the American expatriate’s grand and puffed-up pronouncements about art and life and manhood. One wonders if Mr. Hemingway, should he deign to read this book, ”

119.4 “Straka was fond of extracting central images from earlier works for re-use in current  projects. Careful readers will recall that in Winged Shoes, when Emydio Alves is captured by the Viscount’s army, he is stripped of the titular shoes and put to work in the fields wearing "a dead man's boots. ”

122.5 “Exiling key figures in labor movements was and is a common strategy used by the ownership class. The Hobo Preacher’s homily in Wineblood’s Mine contains Straka’s most scathing indictment of the practice. ”

125.6  “After the Calais Massacre, authorities declared that the bomb had been fashioned from explosives stolen from the Bouchard factory. This was, to a degree, true. They had been stolen from the factory by workers encouraged to do so by an Agent who had infiltrated their camp. The Agent then stole the dynamite back from them, and because it was traceable to the workers, Bouchard’s thugs were free to use it to do their worst, with little risk of Bouchard’s plans being discovered.  ”

131.7 "Reader, lets explicitly assume that this relationship is meant as one of comradeship and support in the face of a common and devastating enemy. Straka had little patience for those who demand en epic romance if male and female characters simply glimpse one another, let alone hod hands. Straka emphatically did not intend to position S. as a romantic rival to Stenfalk.

135.8 “In many dime novels of the 1920s and 1930s—including several written by Straka “candidate” Victor Martin Summersby—a physician’s examination bag nearly always contained some nefarious item—weapon, bomb, dismembered corpse, stolen state secret, and the like. I suspect Straka was winking at the practice here.”

146.9 “This is absolutely central to Straka’s theory and practice of writing. This line appears almost verbatim in one of the first letters he sent me. ”

159.10 “Straka was convinced that his nemesis Bouchard had stumbled upon a most destructive weapon in an experiment gone awry. Serendipitous for Bouchard and his industrial cohorts; foul luck for all else. To date, this weapon is not known to have been used, but Straka often worried that there might soon come a day when it was. We shall see. (Or perhaps we shall not.) Readers, if I should suddenly disappear from this earth, you can be certain that this footnote was the proximate cause of it. ”

160.11  “In a letter, Straka apologized to me for Pfeifer’s language here. “I know your sensibilities are more delicate than mine,” he wrote, “but the character simply must utter this line.” I assured him there was no need for him to seek exculpation. “I am made of stronger stuff than you seem to think,” I responded. ”

166.12  “Many well-known writers and editors joked that Straka “must live in a cave some where,” mocking his need for solitude and privacy. What these publishing-industry extraverts failed to understand is that many more people in the world share Straka’s feelings than theirs. (I observe as well that throughout history, caves—including the caves in the hills above my birthplace of Lençóis—have provided safe shelter for those in need of it.) ”

Chapter 5 Down, and Out

[This puzzle is within the text, refers to The Painted Cave, Jen solves, Will wait ten years then home, the glyphs are on page 184, maybe they will be used elsewhere? Also, noted that the Pollard tunnel system map was exchanged page 190]

[need The Painted Cave to solve glyphs code, page 184, will wait ten years then home]

167.1 “It should be obvious that this chapter draws heavily from The Painted Cave, which was one of Straka’s most successful and well-regarded books, and one that showed the evolution of his style. He had become much more methodical and meticulous, for one thing. In the letter to me that accompanied the manuscript, he wrote that his new approach to his writing had brought him “numerous revelations—every page, every line, every word—which made me feel as if there were an unseen hand guiding me, showing me and my story where to go.”

179.2  "The late Amarante Durand received much credit for serving as an “expert” upon whose experiences Straka drew for The Painted Cave. A careful reading of the text will show, though, that none of the details of the titular cave are unique to “her” caves in the Dordogne. Having seen the caves of Lençóis as a young person, I could have, with very little effort, offered just as rich an assortment of details to the writer. ”

180.3 “For several decades now—ever since the S symbol appeared on the title page of the first edition of Miracle at Braxenholm—discoveries of the same symbol in other locations (many far-flung and/or incongruous) have been reported. These may be homages to Straka (the mostlikely possibility), or the work of pranksters, or mere coincidence, or occurrences of the fantasticthat are far beyond my ability to grasp. I can offer no opinion on the subject, other than to attest that Straka never showed any sign that he was even aware of the phenomenon.”

191.4  “For all Corbeau’s accomplishments and tenacity, she appears to lack a degree of gravitas. ”

192.5  “I often served in an editorial capacity as I assembled the translation. I strongly recommended that Straka cut this passage, which reads far more sentimentally than I believe he intended. He insisted that the passage remain, and I am honoring his wishes, under mild protest. ”

Chapter 6 A Sleeping Dog

[Nihilist Cipher, code words, sleeping, dog, plus the last two digits in dates, MAC WAS JUDAS NOT TIAGO], one date not used 1859, page 229]

205.1 “The only argument one needs to dismiss the notion that Guthrie MacInnes might have been Straka is this: that Straka—while perhaps subject to moments of despair, just like the rest of us—can in no way be mistaken for a Nihilist; every page of his extensive oeuvre demonstrates a passionate, even anguished search for (and commitment to) value. MacInnes’s theory of multitudinalism, in contrast, is merely a fancy-sounding cover for the blackest Nihilism of all. Consider, reader: if there is nothing durable in identity, there is no reason for any of us to value anything—not people, not principles, nothing. And yet, years and years and years and years have gone by without anyone’s pointing out the fundamental emptiness of MacInnes’s philosophy. ”

207.2 “This may be an allusion to the anonymous 1866 novel Les Démons en Haut, a scathing rebuke of the contemporary Parisian bourgeoisie. While the book is not well-known — indeed, it was banned almost immediately—one can easily imagine that Straka felt a  kinship with its author. ”

208.3 “N. B.: Upon Reinhold Feuerbach’s death in a bathroom fall at 64 Heagy Street in Dublin, where he lived after fleeing the Nazis, his protégé Horst Wechsler was asked whether he thought Feuerbach had been V. M. Straka. “If there were answers inside him,” Wechsler told the Sunday Independent, “those answers are gone.”

210.4  “Here again, Straka may have drawn material from the spurious Tortugan Journals of the pirate Covarrubias. According to the journals (which, I must point out again, are obvious fakes), the French barque Belette struck a reef and sank near Martinique in 1647, but was spotted again in 1683, risen like Lazarus and sailing briskly through the waters off the coast of Peru.”

214.5  “Here, Straka appears to be paraphrasing a particularly dismissive review of the Estonian composer Ragnar Rummo (b. 1864) and his 1933 Fantasia for Strings and Whistles. Though Straka’s prose was reasonably straightforward (with Coriolis containing his most radical experimentations with language), he greatly admired artists whose work was too challenging for the orthodoxies of their time. Rummo’s musical career was a short one; he was employed as a low-level bureaucrat in his home city of Tallinn until his early sixties,  when a series of seizures left him unable to perform his clerical duties and he took up composition. The Fantasia was, as far as I am aware, the only piece of his that was ever performed in public.”

219.6  “Readers may be interested to know that, just as sailors refer to ships with feminine pronouns, so, too, would Straka use them when referring to the principles of political and  economic reform that were the foundation of his writing, his acts of resistance, and his revolutionary spirit. Readers may not be surprised to discover that this idiosyncratic use of pronouns sometimes caused confusion in his communications with others.”

222.7  “As the profusion of avian imagery in Ship of Theseus would suggest, Straka was an avid bird-watcher. In one letter to me, he stated that among his most prized possessions was a copy of the first edition of P. T. Russell’s Compendium of Birds (1846). He owned— but was much less enthusiastic about—the subsequent edition (1886) in which Russell corrected many of his earlier mistakes.   ”

223.8  “Straka was adamant that different words should be used to distinguish between the thugs of Vévoda’s early years (Detectives) and the more polished but no less deadly Agents who came later. This was a matter of some contention during our discussions of the translation—I found it needlessly confusing—but he was not the sort of person who was easily swayed about anything."

225.9 “This distinction informs the work of the Polish philosopher Mariusz Mytych (b. 1853 or 1854),  who wrote of the “Circumstantial Self” and the “Fundamental Self” as defined by T. I. Alt (1752–1843). He argued that while these were separate conceptions of individual identity, they were equally true, as were seventeen other “Lesser Variant-Selves” between those two endpoints. Guthrie MacInnes (purported philosopher, purported Straka) scoffed at Mytych’s work, but then, MacInnes showed respect only to people whom he could use to advantage.

225.10  "The Japanese writer Fukuzawa Yukichi, in an 1872 speech at the Keio Gijuku school,  discussed this tension between the artistic and personal lives of the writers, arguing vociferously that they must be kept perfectly separate. I do not know whether Straka would have agreed, but one could argue that this conflict is at the very heart of the book you are now reading. ”

227.11  “More than once, Straka wrote that he believed Hermès Bouchard had the ability not just to turn nobodies into somebodies but also to turn somebodies into nobodies. Whether  he was speaking literally or metaphorically about the latter was never clear to me, but one has one’s suspicions. ”

229.12 “Straka believed in the existence of such groups, including at least one that specialized in dispatching artists deemed troublesome to the ruling classes. He claimed to have documents proving that this group (the name of which was unknown to him, if it even had one) was based in London and had been operating as early as 1859. In one of his last letters to me, he said he had come into possession of a letter, purportedly authored by Sir Aston Cockayne in December 1685, in which Cockayne hinted that such a group was responsible for the murder of Christopher Marlowe as well as a brutal campaign of intimidation that caused Shakespeare to retire from the world of the London stage and to live his last  years unremarkably (though safely) in Stratford. Straka allowed that the letter may well have been a hoax, but he planned to investigate its provenance more thoroughly. His life likely ended before he reached a firm conclusion on the matter. I have not been able to locate the letter or even any references to it in other literature. ”

231.13  “Here Straka may have been winking at what he saw as MacInnes’s quirks and pretensions.  The Scotsman is reputed (though, of course, I have no first-hand knowledge) to be an enthusiastic sharer of the nuances of his bowel health, a tea-drinker so persnickety about its preparation as to cause his café companions much embarrassment, and a self-styled Casanova who believes that a bottle of 1866 Château Hirondelle des Granges guarantees him the favor of anyone with whom  he shares it. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that he attempted to ply Amarante Durand with this very vintage one night in Torremolinos and received the coldest of shoulders in response.”

234.14  “Here Straka may have been loosely paraphrasing a saying attributed to the Persian mystic Bayazid Bastami (b. 846 AD).”

236.15  “This passage is one that ought to raise doubt in the minds of anyone who believes Tiago García Ferrara was the “real” Straka. An uncommonly sensitive man who could not abide the sight (or even the story) of a child in even the most trivial state of suffering. I find it unfathomable that he would have conceived, let alone written, such lines as these.  It was the cruelest of blows to him, I believe, when one of his sons was killed in a Fascist  air raid in the war’s last days, and he lived the rest of his years with a shattered heart.”

242.16  “Some minor details are different, but Straka appears to be referring to De Schrijver Vermoedt Niets, a 1764 painting by the Dutch artist Gerrit van Swygert (1844–1872).  I believe he was aware that I enjoy this important work very much. ”

248.17  “How like Straka to cut off the line of dialogue before Abdim can tell S. who he is (or might be)!  ”

257.18 "I feel similarly about Straka. He has been dead for three years now, and I feel Time taking me farther and farther away from this marvelous writer, my professional relationship with whom has defined by life for decades.  I worry, too, here on the cusp of new decade, with a new set of troubles in the world – that Time will take his readership farther and farther away from him as well. I shall do my best to keep him alive, if only though his words."

Chapter 7 The Obsidian Island 

[Running key cipher, key word, impenetrable, solution via 0bFuSc8: SUM LOSING HOPE PLEASE GET IN TOUCH

  • FN1 (p259) -- Jen makes note of the use of the word “impenetrable”.
  • Margin note (p263)  -- Eric (green ink) notes that FN1 uses “impenetrable” as does the obituary mentioned in FN1. He then quotes that part of the obituary:


259.1  “The emphasis on death in this chapter is noteworthy, and it is reflected in the chapter  title. Straka’s choice of obsidian for the island’s composition was not an accident, as obsidian shares an etymological root with obituary. Perhaps it is also fitting that there is a similar connection to obstreperous and obtuse and at least five other pejoratives I would use to describe the anonymous writer of the Straka obituary that ran in a Baltimore newspaper. For reasons that remain impenetrable to me, the notice devolved into a series of insults  about Straka’s later, and more personal, works. (The most-maligned of these, The Winged Shoes of Emydio Alves, was battered by critics and by the book-buying public, as well as by the radical left, which regarded it as the work of a self-satisfied apostate. Even so, I believe that it was precisely the book Straka had intended to write.)

259.2  "I am told that a French aficionado of Straka’s work is seeking to memorialize the writer with a cenotaph in Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery. I lack the financial means to contribute to this effort (and the defunct Karst has nothing to give), but I would be pleased if it were successful. ”

260.3  “Consider, too, the presence of death here in what I call S.’s “mediated” or “transposed” writing on the bulkhead. No more becomes la mort. City becomes cenotaph. This, clearly, is a character concerned with his mortality, perhaps even more than he is aware. ”

263.4 “Latin for “silver fills the throat.” Those Straka devotees who have scoured the recorded accounts of the Prix Bouchard/monkey incident may recall that Straka, in his statement, opined that while Hermès Bouchard was often said to have a silver tongue, “he has consumed so much of the world’s wealth that he now may well have a silver throat, a silver ileum, a silver colon, even a silver arse.”

263.5  "I suggested that Straka include a line or two of example text, thinking it would both  engage and disorient readers—putting them, as it were, in S.’s shoes. He rejected this suggestion out of hand, even though he had, in fact, written all twenty-five pages of this puzzling text. (That is the sort of compulsive artist he was.) Perhaps he decided that any sample of it would take too much of the reader’s attention away from our hero and his predicament. Still, he did produce a few lines of sample text to help me understand what he believes the character S. experiences while contemplating these pages. I shall reproduce that sample here, for the benefit of readers who are as curious as I was:


264.6  “I am bracing myself for the mob of Straka theorists who will read this line and race to   the conclusion that Straka was, in fact, the murderer some legends have made him out to be. One wonders if universities—particularly the American ones—even bother to teach the concept of the metaphor anymore.”

266.7  “Let the speculation begin about whom Straka used as a model for the pouting sailor.  Allow me to prime the pump with a few suggestions: Floris of Bruges! A little British girl!  Mary Queen of Scots! Zelda Fitzgerald! Juan Blas Covarrubias’s favorite serving-wench on all the Barbary Coast! Grand Duchess Tatiana! The first Mrs. Bouchard!”

269.8  “Another comment on the nature of identity—closer in spirit, I think, to Mytych’s view (and to O. C. Wayne’s view as well) than to Guthrie MacInnes’s.”

270.9  “Straka once forwarded to me a letter he had received from Lewis Looper, the tough-talking and famously grumpy American who held himself out as Straka’s agent during the writer’s first decade of work, receding from public view shortly after Straka hired me to translate his novels, and finally vanishing in 1930. In that letter, Looper was urging Straka not to take me on, arguing that I was an unknown quantity, and probably a money-grabber with no commitment to safeguarding either Straka’s privacy or the quality of his work. I would very much like to hear Lewis Looper’s opinion of me now, though I doubt I ever will.

270.10  "This is pure speculation on my part, but it is possible that Straka was alluding to Eötvös Syndrome—that illness of his own invention—but modifying its suite of disorientations to  include the additional dimension of Time.”

272.11  “I have often been asked if I know what became of the monkey that took the stage at the Prix Bouchard ceremony. I do not know. The one time I asked Straka about it in a letter, he responded, “It’s on my goddamned back. Where else would it be?”

274.12  “Straka did make more frequent use of dream sequences in Coriolis and in this book than in his earlier works. I do not know if this was a conscious aesthetic decision. I suspect, though, that it might have been a consequence of his exhaustion with the difficulties of  the “real” world, in which he had to spend great amounts of time, energy, and concentration not just on his work but also on the maintenance of the privacy and anonymity he craved, perhaps even needed”

288.13  “Some readers might wonder: is this a hint, perhaps, of what the real Straka may have  looked like at this point in his life? To them, I say: readers, do you think that a writer of  Straka’s calibre is incapable of imagining a character’s physical being? Must you assume that a writer borrows every trivial detail about a character from himself? ”

292.14  “In this scene is all the proof we need to conclude that Guthrie MacInnes was not Straka. There is no possible way that MacInnes could let pass such an opportunity to discuss identity theory without offering an exegesis on history’s most inane, soporific, herniated, and self-indulgent attempts to address such questions (one or more of which might be MacInnes’s own) that would culminate in a smug and self-righteous burst of pedantry.”

295.15  “Cf. the slaughterhouse scene in Chapter 1 of The Cordillera. ”

296.16  “Cf. Wineblood’s Mine, p. 322 (in which the dying Caswell decides to write his last words in his own blood on the side of the mine cart, and all he can think of to write is an inventory of his meager possessions; he dies before even specifying who will inherit them). ”

Interlude {Toccata and Fugue in Free Time}

300.1  “For a few years after the publication of Straka’s The Black Nineteen, a bloody tale of political intrigue in the Habsburg Empire, there arose a theory that Straka’s works had been written by “Apis’s Amanuensis”—the mysterious, rarely seen, never-photographed (and possibly not-real) aide to Dragutin Dimitrijevic (“Apis”), who led the Serbian secret military society the Black Hand. (Rumors flourished that the so-called amanuensis was really the brilliant, murderous tactician behind the group’s rise.) However doubtful it may be that this man wrote the Straka books, it is obvious that Straka is playing with that notion here in the Interlude. Strikingly, though, the author turns the tables on the Black Hand agent in this first section. But is this the Amanuensis-Straka killing off his past self? Rejecting a former ideology? A different Straka, killing off one of his rumored identities? None of these?

300.2  "An identical description of Princip, the real-life assassin of the archduke, appears in The Black Nineteen (p. 262 of Karst’s English-language edition).”

300.3  “The same might be said of Straka’s attitude toward distractions of any sort.”

305.4  “See fn 8, Chapter 7."

307.5  "This page of the manuscript, which is an inky mess, shows Straka agonizing over defining the musical mode in which there notes occur–a detail that, to me, seems less than trivial. This "tumble of notes" began as Phrygain, then became Mixolydian, then Locrian, then Dorian, then Locrian again, and it returned to being Phrygian just in time for printing.  The tonal differences, he explained in a letter, were significant, and they were important to the "fee" of the detail. I confess I have a tin ear, and I think the detail would have worked just was well if he had made up a musical term for it, or if he had omitted mention of it entirely."

308.6  “In my opinion, far too much has been made of the purported connections between Straka and the “Santorini Man” deaths. If you, reader, are interested, you will quite easily find a variety of sources full of spurious information on the subject.”

311.7  “Interestingly, this section marks the only use of true second-person narration in Straka’s entire oeuvre. (He did, of course, make occasional use of the direct-address you.) In my notes to him, I suggested that he try his usual third-person here instead, but he was adamant. If I—or anyone—ever again advocated changing the point of view in this section, he vowed, he would pull the manuscript from the publisher and throw it into the closest fire.”

316.8  “The Principality of Rumor was, I believe, Straka’s original title for this novel; he mentioned it in a 1944 letter to me, in which he said he was working on a suite of literary caprices and that he had no idea what shape it would eventually take.”

318.9  “This would appear to be a reference to the murder of Trotsky, whom Straka admired. There is no evidence of which I am aware, though, that the two men ever met or corresponded”

320.10  “Allow me to revisit an earlier observation: we cannot necessarily identify the real life models for characters based on textural details alone. Here, Straka chose clary sage as Sola’s scent, but he just as easily could have chosen rose-geranium or kaffir lime or bougainvillea. ”

324.11  “Many of Straka’s characters find themselves confused by the notion, the feelings, the responsibilities, and the practical applications of love. As repellent as Agent #41 may be, this is a moment that reminds us that she has in her not just a bit of humanity but also a lost-child bewilderment about the world she imagines herself to have mastered.”

327.12  “This line is an echo of one uttered by the cruel Wineblood in Chapter 6 of Wineblood’s Mine. (Minus the sunnydags.)”

328.13  “Compare S.’s different responses to his experiences with “mediated writing.” In Chapter 7, he seems flummoxed by it, but one senses a bit of wonder in him as well. Here, though, we see S. resisting it, straining to overcome it, as if he is more certain of what he wants to say and cannot abide not being able to say it. Is it possible that Straka himself  was grappling with a similar conflict—between artistic intention and execution? Between  desire and the ability to express it? My correspondence with him offers no guidance on the matter, but as these seem like fairly commonplace struggles—the sort that beset many people, not just artists—I will venture to proclaim that it is more than possible; it is certain”

Chapter 8 The Territory

[Rail Fence cipher, 19, hva aevhy eroy euohe utve euecv orne bga raihsg vc tne aoine pka sp nnle iyed h oetn 

Have you ever stopped thinking about her. Have you ever given anyone else a chance.]

332.1  “An earlier draft of this chapter contained a much longer and more detailed history about the Territory. While the vast majority of that history was tragic, there were some  comic elements in it as well, including a sequence about escalating governmental attempts to contain, and thus possess, the area. What began with a hundred-mile-long painted  stripe evolved (or devolved, depending on one’s feelings about private ownership of land) into an army of effigies painted with fierce-looking facial expressions and posi tioned at regular intervals all around the boundary; which were replaced by a waist-high stone wall; which was replaced by a ditch; which became a moat; which became a moat           filled with carnivorous eels, which were quickly eradicated by harpy eagles; whereupon the moat was allowed to dry up, the ditch was filled in, and a dizzyingly high rail fence was erected, and to that fence were nailed the old and rat-nibbled and much-less-fierce-looking-than-before border-scarecrows, and from there, the measures became absurd. I suspect that Straka made the wise decision not to distract readers with such an extended (if clever) comic set-piece at this point in the[…]”

333.2  “While he never confessed such a thing to me, I believe that Straka somehow had  access to information contained in files maintained by several of the world’s most fearsome intelligence agencies—including dossiers that had been compiled about him.”

334.3  “Here we see S. rejecting naming as being an essential component of identity. He first explored this idea in Triptych of Mirrors, an overlong, solipsistic, and commercially- stillborn novel that was published shortly before he and I began working together. In retrospect, though, that book seems to have served as a study for Ship of Theseus.”

335.4  “This is a moment that crystallizes one of the most interesting features of S. asa character at this point in his development: while he is capable of killing cold-bloodedly, he also seeks social connection (but feels insecure about his ability to succeed in doing so).”

336.5  “In Waqar’s action, we see that selves—specifically, iterations of our moral selves—can           be effaced quickly, easily, and without a second thought.

336.6  "I can imagine Straka offering an argument that this is all that any reader has when he or she is presented with an author’s story. His language would be deadly serious, but between the lines one would be able to detect a winking acknowledgment of his own jesting self-deprecation contained in Maelstrom’s statement.”

338.7  “In February 1946, there were reports of strange indigo-colored flashes in the sky near the Dutch town of Wolvega. While the weapons manufacturer Arp Syndikat maintains a factory in the area, no firm connection between the phenomenon and their activities has been shown—or even remarked upon in print.”

340.8  “I will not be surprised if Anca’s baby becomes the subject of much debate and conjecture amongst readers of this book. Clearly Straka intended to suggest something with the nameless baby’s presence, although precisely what he meant is far from obvious. Mysense is that we are to infer that S., in this moment, sees the baby—with whom he begins and ends at a distance, perhaps even at a mysterious impasse—as proof that there is noplace for him in a conventional family life, that he has no choice but to continue with his dangerous work and his rootless life. ”

342.9  “An interesting moment here, as S. slips back into the traditional assumption that thereis something meaningful and durable about names. (Consider the ship: while it is nameless,and while it undergoes small changes almost constantly, its identity is never in question.)”

343.10  “Many of these images appear on walls in the titular cave of Straka’s fourth novel.There are some subtle but significant changes in their appearances here, though. See pp.48–55 of the English edition.”

346.11  “There is a similar dynamic at work in Wineblood’s Mine. As Hieronymus Wineblood explains to the man who produces the propagandist newspaper distributed in his mining empire’s tent-cities, you can starve a town, figuratively, by luring away its most adeptbreadwinners, which then allows you to get down to the business of starving them literally until they come to you, prostrate and begging for work.”

347.12  “Straka confessed to me—in a note in the margins of the Winged Shoes manuscript, no less—that he had begun to suffer from this very feeling, as a group to which he belonged (uneasily and/or tangentially, I assume, given his social limitations) had been losing its constituents rapidly.”

348.13  “As Straka explored so deftly and memorably in 1932’s vastly-underrated Lopevi, even   the most progressive, visionary, cooperative, and well-intentioned societies can be undone— with astonishing speed by cataclysms unleashed by both nature and man. Cultural identity,  Straka argued, should not be considered any more durable than individual identity”

349.14  “Cf. the character of Jerry Frost in The Santana March. Plagued by fatalism about the prospects of his shallow, corrupt culture and in his ability to effect change in anything so much bigger than himself, he finds a form of redemption in an ostensibly pointless expedition into the legendarily dangerous mountain terrain through which the Devil’s Winds blow.”

351.15  “A reference, perhaps, to the “Sudden City” of Coriolis (Book Six), which was itself a reference to the “Sunken City” from which Emydio Alves hails in Winged Shoes.”

353.16  “Straka was never more outraged than when he was contemplating the exasperatingly endless condescension imperial outsiders have shown throughout history, boasting of cultural and spiritual superiority while bringing their “inferiors” little but death (both physical and spiritual), disease, and despoilment. See The Brigade, his fictional history linking contemporary (and real) suppressions of indigenous movements in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Many current leaders of revolutionary movements have cited this novel as inspiration”

354.17  “Many commentators have remarked upon Straka’s frequent use of birds to define a fictional landscape and wondered if he might be a trained ornithologist or at least a passionate bird-watcher. I do know he was at least the latter; several times he cabled to inform me that he would not be able to respond to any of my questions about a manuscript for a week or two, as a particularly beloved species was migrating through his area andhe simply had to watch them. And no, reader, he never specified the area or the species.”

355.18  “Cf. the grape-crushing by guests at the gala in Chapter 10—an example of this work-as-leisure, leisure-as-work dynamic, a luxury afforded only to the monied and powerful”

365.19  “Cf. A Hundred Aprils in Amritsar, a novel that exposes grievous acts of misrule and collaboration in colonial India, culminating in the events surrounding 1919’s infamous massacre. Here, as in that novel, we see a powerful character “punishing” a population, with horrific results, and refusing to acknowledge culpability for his choice to serve as an instrument of slaughter.”

367.20  “A complicated reference here. It is, to my eye, the moment in which S. is most clearly functioning as an alter ego for the writer, who long struggled with the intrinsic tensions  between art and commerce, between purity of intention and pragmatism (or, farther downthat road, cynicism). These conflicts are difficult for everyone, though, and they are certainly understandable—merely evidence that one suffers from the affliction of being human. I pointed this out in a bit of marginalia in my working-copy of the Ship of Theseus manuscript, but I do not know if he ever saw it.”

Chapter 9 Birds of Negative Space 

388.1  “In the original typescript, there are numerous strikethroughs and handwritten corrections which show that the author changed his mind repeatedly about which voice should utter which line—so often, in fact, that the page becomes a smudged, illegible mess. I have reproduced the line as it was originally typed—a decision more archaeological than editorial.”

Chapter 10 Ships of Theseus 

[by using the eotvos wheel, line up all five letters and read from the left, top to bottom: I HAVE LOVED YOU FROM THE BEGINNING. I WILL LOVE  YOU TO THE END.]

415.1 “Straka’s phrasing here is no accident; though the characters have a map to the Vévoda estate, they still must view the location through the fog. As the essayist Norman Bergen discussed in the third volume of his Spinning Compass series, there is a powerful human need to locate evil—that is, to contain it by assigning it a specific, bounded place (in some cases, a particular person)—even though this is impossible. The boundaries of evil, Bergen [Bergan] argued, are blurry and porous, if they can be said to exist at all.”

416.2  "In February 193, after Karst & Son had delegated to me the task of informing Straka of the dial sales figures for Lopevi, he responded–in a letter which I did not retain–that if only he could locate on of Covarrubias's treasure caches, neither he nor Karst nor I would ever again need to worry about "the tedious and inherently contradictory business of selling stories." He had discovered a map, he said, showing one buried near Biabou, on the island of St. Vincent, and would be proceeding there forthwith. This was one of the rare occasions on which I understood Straka to be making a joke. 

418.3  “I care little about reviewers or reviews, but I would like to acknowledge the work of  one K. R. Simmons. In a review of The Winged Shoes of Emydio Alves in the September 10, 1942, edition of an Oregon newspaper called the Portland Clarion, Simmons proved him or herself to be one of the few people—perhaps including Straka himself—who understood that the book was not a failed novel of world politics but an exceptional and revelatory work of personal emotion. Perhaps unsurprisingly in this world where literary gifts go unrewarded, the Clarion folded weeks later, and I have not discovered any further work by the astute Simmons.”

420.4  “One of the more entertaining rumors about the author’s place of residence held that  he spent six months of each year in a remote cabin near Thunkar, Bhutan, where he busied himself with mountaineering in addition to writing. While this is almost certainly untrue,  I have no doubt that even the Straka of advancing age had the vitality to scale the forbidding peaks of the region.”

422.5  “This moment recalls one from Winged Shoes in which Alves finds himself alone with the           fifth daughter of the Prince of Santiago.”

431.6  “How fitting that in the final chapter of his final book, Straka includes such a clear allusion to the event that shaped his literary career and, indeed, his life: the 1912 massacre at the Bouchard factory in Calais.”

433.7  “Careful readers will note that this line echoes one from Chapter 26 of The Viper’s Humor. Just before Dr. Hull disappears into the jungle to distribute his vaccines to the hostile indigenous tribes, he tells the priests in the Morondava mission that “[i]t does not matter what one man wants.” In the thoughts here attributed to S., Straka seems to have been acknowledging that his feelings on such matters had changed”

437.8  “As mentioned in the Foreword, there were several pages from the original manuscript that were never located amid the chaos and bloodshed in Havana. I have chosen not to specify where Straka’s words end and mine begin in this reconstructed tenth chapter. Though literary scholars will no doubt howl about this decision, I believe it is sound; to define such boundaries would be to portray the work as a mere pastiche, rather than a collaboration that maintains the unity of Straka’s intentions for the novel.”

440.9  “There is no greater sin, in the worlds of Straka’s stories, than acquiescence to the limits that power (whether political, economic, or social) imposes upon the individual. It is less clear how Straka viewed acquiescence to the limits an individual imposes upon himself. The dialogue between Viktor and Sofia in Book Two of Coriolis offers some evidence on the matter but is far from conclusive”

446.10  “As I write this final note, sitting in the cramped and dusty office of Winged Shoes Press on New York’s East 33rd Street, it occurs to me that hearts and souls and lives can themselves be sites of unimaginable suffering. ”


  1. This is a work in progress. I will update as often as time allows.

    The intent is for quick reference to footnote ciphers and chapter titles were presented in the book. I'm making the assumption we will be using these ciphers elsewhere.

  2. Thanks for doing this. It's a MONSTER of a post.

    It's a bit easier for me to keep track of the Chaper FN ciphers by using a separate page for each one, though I can see that this single post makes it easier to search for words across all of the FN's.

    I'm not too far along yet, but all of these UNUSED FN's are driving me a little batty. Especially with stuff that really looks like it wants to be ciphertext.

    I haven't come up with anything concrete, but thought I'd post some thought's I've had so far, by chapter, as a starting point to brainstorm & try to decipher.

  3. Translator's Note and Foreword

    FN7, {xi}

    "The finest of these, in my opinion, are The Spotted Cat (1924), The Black Nineteen (1925), Washington & Greene (1929), The Night Palisades (1934), Wineblood’s Mine (1939), The Winged Shoes of Emydio Alves (1942), and Coriolis (1944). No translator has ever been credited with work on Straka’s first six novels."

    I thought the book #'s, years, or titles may work into a cipher -- but nothing yet. I haven't tried the last 2 digits of the years in a Nihilist style cipher yet though since I haven't come up with a keyword.

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  7. Chapter 2: The Drifting Twins

    -I'm not sure what significance LOOPER AGENT has here as a message from FXC to VMS. I wondered if it was meant to indicate "LEWIS" as a keyword to decipher something (either in this chapter or another, Playfair or other cipher) but haven't gotten that work for anything.


    FN 2 p42: (I humbly observe that an overcoat, most often, is simply an overcoat. Its function is to keep its wearer warm.)

    -This line is so odd, that it seems like it should be, well, something. Though it's referred to as pedantic nonsense immediately afterward.


    FN 3 p45 “Often in our correspondence, Straka would lament how exhausted he was and enumerate his physical ailments. (For example: chronic ear infections left him unable to hear sounds in the frequency range of 2710 Hz. to 2760 Hz.) ...”

    -ENUMERATE seems to draw attention to numbers, 2710 & 2760, and possibly elsewhere within this chapter FN's. There aren't a lot of numeric ciphers where both a 0 and 1 can appear. M Del Vayo is a modfied checkerboard cipher, but it only yields "TB TVM". I tried 27N, 10 E; etc. on the Eotvos wheel as well, but again nothing.
    -1930 in FN1 & 1942 in FN4


    FN5 p52: “Possible source material for this detail is a traditional children’s play performed on Ash Wednesday in the Bavarian village of Fünfherzen, in which the protagonist is compelled to don the Belastunghemd, or “burden-shirt.” The origins of this curious play are unknown.”

    - Fünfherzen >> Fünf herzen >> FIVE HEARTS
    I'm not eally sure what to do with that since this IS the 5th FN & the Chap5 code can't be applied.

    -Belastunghemd does translate to "burden shirt" though "load" is another synonym that came up.


    FN6 p55: "Plague Morning", Section IV, The Spotted Cat. Spider God mentioned. I guess ANANSI could be a keyword.


    FN7 p64: The Tortugan Journals of Juan Blas Covarrubias is mentioned again in the Chap 6 FN's.

    1. Regarding Ch2 FN5, I'm wondering if there is a playfair cipher involving hyphenated words (example: burden-shirt = BS). The note does reference a play, and there are a LOT of hyphenated words in this chapter. Have tried many keywords and not having any luck.

    2. As to why LOOPER AGENT, I had assumed FXC was suggesting that Lewis Looper was actually an Agent, for as much sense as that makes. Suppose he could have been tasked with keeping track of Straka and trying to locate him.

    3. Yep, Mr. Toasty, I typed that when I was still only part way through the book. It still seems pretty naive on Straka's part not have realized Looper had been flipped after all the trouble they seem to have had, and especially after Looper's disappearance. Or maybe he knew & just never let on to FXC.

      Thanks Lady Lobster! Since the text is written by Straka (except Foreword, parts of Chapter 10, & additions indicated by J&E) and the FNs by FXC, I have been careful not to combine them. There's not a whole bunch you can make of the hyphenated words from the Chapter 2 FN's. But since I wrote the comment above, I've noticed that there are a LOT of hyphenated words throughout all of the FNs. I suspect there may be a code with letters from hyphenated words/phrases, that ranges across chapters, but I haven't had time to go through and list all of them yet.

    4. Thank you for the leads, ObFuSc8 - much appreciated! RE FN3 p. 45 - seeing the reference to 2710 Hz, my first thought was RadioStraka - the third show / broadcast is aligned with 27.10 kHz. (though I have not yet had time to listen to the full broadcast...)

    5. The playfair code does not really work. If Gemini is the key word (GEMIN), you obtain LPPQERAGENTX

      Same as the mistake for Ilford HP5... Sloppy :(

    6. http://rumkin.com/tools/cipher/playfair.php

    7. Sorry, but you've been a bit too quick in dismissing them as sloppy.

      The Playfair decryption works just fine if you construct your 5x5 table omitting Q instead of combining I and J. This is a lesser used but still possible alternative and just doesn't appear on the Rumkin decoder. The BRAINGLE DECODER includes this option, though I encourage you to try decrytping by hand to familiarize yourself with different codes/ciphers.


  8. Sorry about the multiple posts. I had issues signing in and didn't realize this posted so many times.

  9. Chapter 3: The Emersion of S.

    FN3 p72: "...The critics Torremolino and Holt have both written extensively on this subject..."

    -Torremolinos pops up again in Chap 6 FN13 p.231. It's actually a (real) place in Andalusia, Spain, on the Coast del Sol west of the city of Málaga.

    -I've tried anagrams of Torremolino and Holt (with some silly results: He tills moron root, hero monitors toll, Hitler moron stool, Lost torn heirloom, hello inmost rotor...)


    FN4 p75: "...One asserts that Vaclav’s employer, Novacek & Sons, produced ladies’ shoes, and another is equally certain that it was a facility in which pencils were made. ”

    -Eric notes that it seems unproductive to state what exactly Vaclav's employers manufactured.

    -It seems like there are 3 terminal s's in those products, but I haven't been able to come up with anything from that.


    FN6 p84: “It was Gaspard-Serge Coriolis, of course, who first detailed the mathematical principles that govern the function of kinetic energy. ... Wolfgang Spatzberg, Samuel Quinn-Collier, and Sagittario della Caduta. Careful readers of Book V of Coriolis will discover the roles each of these men’s findings play in the develop-ment of the narrative. ”

    -As Eric noted, it is indeed Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis, and he did outline the mathematics of kinetic energy in his paper, Du Calcul de l'Effet des Machinespublished in 1829. He later went on to describe kinetic energy/transfer of energy in rotating systems (with regard to waterwheels, but later applied by others to the rotation of the Earth).

    -There rest of the names do seem made up. FXC may have been trying to draw attention to hyphens/letters around them, null cipher/ middle letters, middle names, or double letters. Also "della Cadute" is "the fall" in Italian.

    -The references to books #'s of books within FN's is a cipher across Chapters.


    FN7 p98: "...S. can be said to be suffering from the problem of the Identity Parallax: it is only from S.’s perspective that the identity of Sola is mutable—in an objective experience of this world, she in fact is her, her is she, she is she (and always has been, and always will be).”

    -Identity Parallax seems to be a creation of Orpheus Clementson Wayne. Parallax does have 2 L's (if we end up needing to look for double letters).

    -That 2nd bit I highlighted in bold is interesting. Poetic (ref. Orpheus), though it could be part of a key for a substitution cipher.

    1. Hmmm... Spatzberg = Sparrow Mountain

      None of the rest have any bird related meanings though Sagittario della Caduta is Sagittarius of the Fall, which could be a constellation reference.

    2. Ob, thanks for all these thoughts, there is one other that jumped out at me regarding music, or tones.. see Interlude (musical reference). I'm a bit behind in doing the ciphers that are in the footnotes. The running cipher needs some help, don't know how that works, and I would love to see the rail cipher done on paper, I can't make that work. Additional frequencies are via radio straka?

      I think you have something there on Sparrow (which candidate was that?), Sagittarius (the Archer!!) dies by falling..

      All of these cypers need to be applied to the inserts. I know there are clues there. Then there is the glyphs, both from the painted caves and within the book.

      tooooooo much info!

      My best guess is that we are in search for the lost treasure of the pirate... as visioned by S. in chapter 10, so that we need coordinates, a map, and maybe code to open lock. That is where Jen and Eric have gone.. or maybe I had one of those multidimensional dreams...

    3. How about this for Wolfgang Spatzburg?:

      WOLFGANG Amadeus Mozart
      The SPATZenmasse (The Sparrow Mass)
      He wrote it in SalzBURG

      "The Sparrow Mass is the first of five Mozart wrote in the same key, C major, as if he was setting himself a compositional challenge.[4] Furthermore, Mozart wrote four other missae breves in C major.[5]"


  10. Classical Ciphers

    let's check them off as we go... rail fence, running

    1. Thanks! There are a lot of codes/ciphers on that list that are either just of historical significance or not really feasible for us.

      There are a couple reference sites I like to use which are nice because they list common cods/ciphers & have brief descriptions as well as online decoders that make things easier:

      BRAINGLE - Codes, Ciphers, Encryption and Cryptography

      RUMKIN - Cipher Tools **Make sure you take all the spaces out before using the Rumkin tools - there's a text manipulator link at the bottom of the page that will do it for you.

    2. Poem Codes are simple & I've wondered if one may have been incorporated into the minipoems / offset writing in the book.

      There are also at least 2 references FXC makes to "mediated "or "transposed" writing in the FN's referring to text in those offset areas. Which makes me think of transposition ciphers in general, though I haven't actually found anything in them...yet.

  11. Jen mentions that she bought a book, Eric had it as well... this suggests a book cipher. Do you remember books that they have in common? It's mentioned somewhere in the margins. Darn that I can't search the margins! I'm thinking we might need to go to the library?

    1. The only one's I recall are the Straka books, and specifically Lopevi (p348).

      They also talk about some papers or possibly books when they discuss Jen having papers due. I'll have to go back and check those.

      The thing that becomes problematic with book code is that we'd have to have the same edition or the pagination & formatting would vary enough that it wouldn't work for us. And we'd still need to find ciphertext to use it.

    2. Could the book be the SOT? It would solve the format and edition issues...

    3. Definitely, but I haven't found anything I can use. We'd be looking for groups of numbers -- page, line, word (or letter). Alternatively, we may find ciphertext enciphering groups of numbers.

  12. Chapter 8 cipher does not work, footnoted letters are missing, T and Y. and 19 rails only reveals part of the message that Jen claims to have discovered. If you have any thoughts/insights on this, please reply. (via ObfuSc8)

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  14. Chapter 8 FN Cipher / The Territory / Rail-fence cipher *** UPDATE - GOT IT TO WORK***

    I went back and took another pass at this (OK a few passes) and finally "Sherlocked" it out with a magnifying glass (because the print is so small & my eyesight is that questionable) and found the letters I had missed. The ciphertext IS COMPLETE as printed.

    Here is the ciphertext I found: hva aevhy eroy euohe utve euecv orne bga raihsg vc tne aoine pka sp nnle iyed h oetn

    There are 67 letters of ciphertext and the letter count/frequency does matches the message Jen deciphered.

    The thing is, there are 2 versions of a rail-fence cipher. In the "standard" version the rails are straight and in the "zig-zag" version the plaintext is written out in a "wave" pattern. I had tried both, by hand.

    I've now gotten it to work with the zig-zag style rail-fence, though I ended up using a online decoder.

    Here's the decoder I used - there's a brief description of cipher at the top too.: RAIL-FENCE CIPHER (zig-zag)
    **Make sure you take the spaces out of the ciphertext or that decoder will not work.

    Here's a description and online decoder for the "standard" rail-fence (with straight rails): STANDARD RAIL-FENCE (straight rails)

  15. Thank you Latha. That broke my eyes..

  16. Interlude [Toccata and Fugue in Free Time]

    Both the title and subtitle contain musical terms:

    Interlude: a piece of music composed of one or more movements, to be inserted between sections of another composition. (An intermezzo, in the most general sense, is a composition which fits between other musical or dramatic entities)

    -A virtuoso piece of music (typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument) featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered passages/sections
    -From Italian toccare, "to touch"

    -A contrapuntal compositional technique with 2 or more VOICES.
    -Derived from the Italian fuga. Latin -- fugere "to flee", fugare "to chase"

    Free Time: type of musical meter free from musical time and time signature. It is used when a piece of music has no discernible beat. Instead, the rhythm is intuitive and free-flowing.

    The subtitle itself Toccata and Fugue in Free Time, is similar to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which I think many of us have heard before (at least the beginning passage, if not the entire piece).

    All of the references to musical terms, seems to draw attention to FN5, which I think contains a cipher. I'll put that in the next comment as this is getting loooong.

  17. Interlude [Toccata and Fugue in Free Time] -- Footnote 5 (p307) ***Part 1***

    All of the references to musical terms in the title and subtitle, seems to draw attention to this 5th footnote:

    "This page of the manuscript, which is an inky mess, shows Straka agonizing over defining the musical mode in which there notes occur–a detail that, to me, seems less than trivial. This "tumble of notes" began as Phrygian, then became Mixolydian, then Locrian, then Dorian, then Locrian again, and it returned to being Phrygian just in time for printing. The tonal differences, he explained in a letter, were significant, and they were important to the "feel" of the detail. I confess I have a tin ear, and I think the detail would have worked just was well if he had made up a musical term for it, or if he had omitted mention of it entirely."

    I spent a chunk of time reading about basic music theory, and came to the conclusion that I don't know or understand much at all about music theory, but I really think there's a cipher here.

    So, who fancies a trip down a rabbit hole with me? I'll promise to bring plenty of chocolate...

    Phrygian, Mixolydian, Locrian, and Dorian are all MUSICAL MODES or SCALES. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_(music)

    What complicates things a bit, is that there are 3 versions of musical modes: the Greek scales, Medieval (or Western Church) modes, and Modern Modes. To further complicate things, all 3 systems use the same names for their scales (Dorian, Phrygian, etc.) BUT they do not represent the same sequences of intervals -- that is the Greek Dorian mode IS NOT the same as the Modern Dorian mode. [In fact, the Greek (diatonic) Phrygian mode is equivalent to the Medieval & Modern Dorian modes and the Greek (diatonic) Dorian mode is equivalent to the Modern Phrygian mode -- but I think we can skip that, at least for now.]

    Given Straka's purported fondness for and knowledge of music, I initially thought any of the 3 systems was a possibility. However in reading through the scales in each system, the LOCRIAN mode only exists within the Modern modes, so I thought this would be the system Straka (or FXC) would be using.

    Each of the modes has "formula" -- 7 notes, with a specific pattern of semitones (half tones) and tones (whole tones), and a base set of notes [ s = semitone, T = tone]

    Ionian --------- T-T-s-T-T-T-s ------ C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

    Dorian --------- T-s-T-T-T-s-T ------ D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D

    Phrygian ------ s-T-T-T-s-T-T ------ E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E

    Lydian ---------- T-T-T-s-T-T-s ------ F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F

    Mixolydian ---- T-T-s-T-T-s-T ------ G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G

    Aeolian -------- T-s-T-T-s-T-T ------ A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A

    Locrian --------> s-T-T-s-T-T-T ------ B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B

    Writing the sequence for the "tumble of notes" from FN5 in tones / semitones yields something that could be ciphertext:

    Phrygian ------ s-T-T-T-s-T-T

    Mixolydian --- T-T-s-T-T-s-T

    Locrian -------- s-T-T-s-T-T-T

    Dorian --------- T-s-T-T-T-s-T

    Locrian -------- s-T-T-s-T-T-T

    Phrygian ------ s-T-T-T-s-T-T

    ***continued in next post ***

    1. Interlude [Toccata and Fugue in Free Time] -- Footnote 5 (p307) ***Part 2***

      The Baconian cipher is technically a method of (old school) steganography where each letter of the plaintext is encoded with a group of five of the letters 'A' or 'B' (or 1's and 2's). There are 2 versions of the Baconian cipher -- one version uses the same code for I and J, and the same code for U and V. The second version uses distict codes for every letter.
      Baconian cipher
      Baconian cipher -- DECODER

      So, I tried putting the sequence above into the online decoder, and it did decipher some letters, but they don't seem to mean anything, at least not to me. The decoder lets you swap A's and B's with a simple click, and quickly switches between the 2 versions of the Baconian cipher.

      The ciphertext I used: 0111011 1101101 0110111 1011101 0110111 0111011

      The results I found:

      -Distinct codes: OVX O --------> Swapped: RBFEEKI R

      -Combined codes: PXZ P --------> Swapped : SBFEELI S

      Yeah, so none of that means anything. I tried putting those letter sequences through a Playfair decryption with the keyword TIN EAR, but that didn't seem to yield anything useful either. I may try a keyword of "feel" next, since it's in quotes.

      Using the numbers for the "tonic relative to the major scale" (see the table inn Wikipedia I linked above) yields: 3 5 7 2 7 3 which could be C E G B G C which put through Playfair (keyword tin ear) is D N H R K R -- more nothing.

      There's also a method of converting a series of notes from one mode to another (ex. Phrygian to Dorian) but I don't understand it so don't see how we can apply it here. Properties of Musical Modes

      It would if people could check my work. And any ideas are appreciated.

    2. What if you just assign the modes numbers, 1-7:

      Ionian: 1
      Dorian: 2
      Phrygian: 3
      Lydian: 4
      Mixolydian: 5
      Aeolian: 6
      Locrian: 7

      This "tumble of notes" began as Phrygian, then became Mixolydian, then Locrian, then Dorian, then Locrian again, and it returned to being Phrygian just in time for printing.

      So, 3, 5, 7, 2, 7, 3. I dunno. Maybe something can be done with that sequence of numbers?

    3. Thanks melvillean, I tried the number sequence as I said above.

      Even though PMLDLP seems is too simplistic, I put it through a Playfair decryption before I started all of this. I didn't get anything I thought was useful (either with key word TIN EAR, or FEEL), or I wouldn't have gone down the rabbit hole at all.

    4. Yeah, I saw after I posted. That's what I get for skimming.

    5. No problem, it happens to me more than I'd like.

    6. That is some thinking going on there, I wish I could add anything useful to it.

    7. Ok, given the recent twitter clue:

      Jen Heyward ‏@JenTheUndergrad
      @EricHusch My head just popped off the pillow. Had to write this down. Chiff. Organ pipes. The barrel organs. There were 19 of them.

      What if this refers to a "tin whistle" (puleld from "tin ear" comment from FXC:307.5). A google search for chiff gives us a pretty encompassing website called Chiff & Fipple, which includes a detailed post on tin whistle keys: http://www.chiffandfipple.com/whistlekeys.html. I am music illiterate, but maybe someone that knows something can chase down and see if there's any thing here.

    8. A couple other random thoughts.

      1) I was trying to figure out if tin whistle had anything to do with the boatswains whistle. They appear to be totally different devices. There's also the whistles in Chapter 10 (which are more complex then a boatswain whistle).
      2) I was trying to figure out if FN 45.3 which mentions 2710-2760 Hz would be a high pitched whistle (or has anything to do with this). So looking into the physics I stumbled across the notion of musical temperament and then equal temperament - which includes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19_equal_temperament. Again, I have no idea how/if this might relate; we need someone who knows something about music theory to help on this.

    9. I stumbled on the 19th equal temperament as well but via different line of thinking. I came across the musical code that was discovered in Plato's Republic. It was found at each 12th of the book, he would have a musical reference. On that note, (no pun intended), I checked every 19th of SoT since 456 pages divides evenly into 19 as 24. So at the 24th page, 48th page, etc. This did no work. I checked every 19th page as well. As far as musical references, I didn't see it, however I have not finished scanning them for possible other similarities. Very quickly, music is on 12 though it could have been any number (as my husband the musician says it just became the standard) but he said there are instruments that are based off the 19th equal temperament. 12 means your standard C to C including the flats and sharps for the 12 notes we all know to make one octave. 19 starts at a B flat and works its way up 19 notes to C# and those 19 notes would be a complete octave under 19 equal temperament. That's the gist of the difference. I have started cataloging any musical type references in the book to see if there might be a coded message around these words or sections in this post, the Music of S . Nothing so far. My husband remarked that a sitar is an instrument that is tuned to the 19th but any instrument can be with some renovations. Even a guitar. Here is my post on 19 and Music, the Plato Code , and my jumbled thoughts on the Spaghetti Wall. I'm really excited that someone else is thinking along these lines. I didn't want to share my thoughts because I thought I might seem like the raving lunatic that I am... I will check on what notes would be in that hz range in the 19th temperament.

    10. Debbie - awesome thoughts! Thank you for sharing.

    11. Well, I tried to write up more cohesive thoughts on this. So here it is: 19th Equal Temperament - Is it a wagtail? By wagtail, in another ARG community, we called misleading information or misleading connections, wagtails. Generally, a wagtail causes the ARG'ers to do extreme and insane work and it turns out the solution so much simpler. I often think I'm chasing wagtails. I like them anyway. It's how I learn something new!

    12. Oh, just really quickly to get back @Brian McKay, that note between 2710 to 2760 hz, is E sharp. It doesn't exist in the 12 notes but it does exist in the 19 notes. So yeah, that's a weird coincidence. Add to it that my husband said Bach is responsible for the 12 note standard and the title of Interlude, it makes for another weird coincidence. Still could be a wagtail or Dorst having a bit of fun.

    13. @Debbie Tam: Wow, amazing post and link. Thanks for the insight. Whether it's a wagtail or not, I certainly learned a something new. A good number of interesting thoughts and references on your website.

      BTW: My train of thought went something like this: organ pipes -> pipes vs whistles -> pipes and chiff -> chiff + tin ear -> tin whistle website -> boatswain whistles -> are boatswain whistles on range of 2710 -2760 Hz -> physics of 2710-2760 Hz -> musical temperament -> 19th Equal Temperament. So definitely a convoluted path with a good measure of free-association and wikipedia along the line.

    14. I was reading the Cipher entry on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cipher#Modern) and noticed that the French and Germans both used the word 'chiffre' for 'cipher' or 'zero'.

      Whether or not that has any relevance is moot.

  18. There are about 19 place names in the footnotes that may go into the Eotvos wheel perhaps. Jen and Eric say on pg 270 that they are sure FXC had a wheel- so she was the one coding messages through lat/long it seems.

  19. I'm sorry, i'm might be foolish but I don't understand why the cipher of the chapter 2 page 42 is "gemini" then looper agent. English is not my mother tongue (i'm french). Anyone can explain to me ? Thanks.

    1. “There: Aquila. There: Cygnus. There: Gemini. ” p. 46 Ship of Theseus Chapter 2 "The Drifting Twins"

      Welcome to SFiles22. Ciphers found in the footnotes are, in some instances, related to the chapter titles that FX added to the book. Take a look at our tab "Footnotes" to see all the footnotes in one place and highlighted clues. We have not solved all of these ciphers. Yet. :-)

    2. Thks, so for now nobody founds out why and how jen founds "Looper Agent" ? I stop reading at page 42 because I was searching to solve is but I understand now that I did a mistake :). Anyways thanls for the reply.

    3. Seems Jen as a knack for solving ciphers. I believe the point of the footnote ciphers is to teach us ways to decode messages. Maybe we will need these to solve the cipher in Chapter 10 or in the ephemera between the pages? In the case of the Chapter 2 Playfair cipher, Q needed to be omitted from the sequence.

  20. Here's something that struck me. The Forward is divided I through VI- which seems unnecessary for just a few pages. Noticed a book V in a footnote- so thought I'd look to see if there was 1-6 that way. Got these:

    pg 84, fn 6- Book V of Coriolis
    pg55 fn6- Part IV of Spotted Cat
    pg295 fn 15 - Chapter 1 of The Cordilera
    pg327 fn12 - Chapter 6 of Wineblood
    pg 351 fn 15- Book Six of Coriolis
    pg 415 fn1- third volume of Spinning Compass
    pg 440 fn9- Book Two of Coriolis

    So there were references for 1 - 6 of parts of books. Not all in Roman numerals though. And some duplicates of the numbers, some of the book.

    Maybe a way to tie Forward and notes together?

    1. I've noticed all of the Book/Chapter references in the FNs too. They may just be there to make everything plausible, but then I don't quite get why they are sometimes listed as roman numerals, other times as European (regular) #s, and yet other times spelled out.

      I think it's possible this is another code that may range across chapter FNs. Since we don't have access to Straka's previous novels, it could be that the Book/Part/Chapter/Page indicates the letter in the title of the indicated book. (Ex Book V of Coriolis = O). We'd need to compile a list of all the references, and include page # references (Ex p322 of Karst's English Language Edition) that appear within the FNs as well.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Jen mentioned (on a margin) that Fukuzawa Yuichi (Footnote 9 Chapter 4) existed and that there was no evidence of him discussing the tension between the artistic and personal lives of the writers. Well I have found a collection of books he had written and one of the books was his autobiography. I haven't actually read through all of it, but there could be a chance Jen might be wrong.
    Here is a link:

  23. RE: Chapter 2 footnotes.
    The last footnote of Chapter One says that all of the descriptions of the sailors to follow are each similar to one of the suspected VMS authors. The marginalia indicates that's not true.
    My working theory is that in fact it is all the FOOTNOTES that follow in Chapter 2 that describe candidates. Working off of this list of candidates, some seem like very good fits-- but I can't make a good argument for all of them

    1. Lewis Looper (mentioned by name)
    2. ??? Mention of overcoats
    3. ??? Mention of Hz and teeth
    4. ??? Letter about constellations. It was a letter for FXC, so maybe her?
    5. Tursten Ekstrom (this footnote is about a fake children's play; Tursten was apparently a prolific author of children's plays)
    6. Sulivan Dunn (or the 19th Prince of Spiders) - Apparently the speech referenced was actually about praising the spider god
    7. Juan Blas Covarrubias (again mentioned by name)


    1. A few things to add. The more I think about this the more positive I am that each of the footnotes is referring to one of the most popular Straka candidates. The marginalia pretty much explicitly say so next to the last FN in chapter one, and a lot of the marginalia around Chapter 2 FNs discuss candidates. And the remaining footnotes are definitely too weird to not be some sort of code

      My instinct is to try to keep things simple and move out from there. It seems like the simplest way to solve would be to use play-fair, to use the initials of each candidate, and to use GEMINI, as demonstrated in the solution to footnote 2. So far not yielding anything, so here are some theories that would require a little more complexity
      1. for candidates with three initials, use all three. So, VAS and FXC become VA, SF, XC
      2. Use the first and LAST initial of each name, like the solution to Chapter 1 footnotes (FXC = FA)
      3. Use a different password (Some potentials: STRAKA, SAILOR, MONKEY, AUTHOR, AGENT, LEWIS, LOOPER, LOVE, TWIN, DRIFT, maybe other constellations?)
      4. Maybe its a different type of cipher altogether, although without a very leading clue as to which one to apply I don't think I'll ever crack them if that is the case

    2. That's a great theory, let us know if you get any further with it.

  24. Ch. 9. I wonder since the palimpsests reference isn't referring to any hidden text whether the page may need to be folded and overplayed on itself or even the next page - like the back cover of a Mad magazine. This would create new sentences and paragraphs. I'm less skilled but I'll play with this tomorrow.

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  27. Has anyone noticed that some letters in the footnotes are slightly raised above the horizontal (as if the typewriter had a faulty key)?

    1. Hi, yes this is part of the chapter 3 Cipher in the notes above

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