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6/01/2020 10:22 pm  #1


Foreigner series observations

This topic is about things about the entire series that I’ve noticed. It’s not about any particular book.

It could be discrepancies like Geigi's niece changing to a nephew between books or a question. The observations aren't about one book but about trends between books. 

 

6/01/2020 10:58 pm  #2


Re: Foreigner series observations

I like the changes in how Bren got to be the Paidhi in Invitations.

In the first three books there were three humans who could speak the Atevi language, Bren, Wilson and Hanks. That never made much sense to me.
1) The Paidhi is a very, very important job. It can mean war or peace. Having just one backup makes no sense at all, especially when it takes many years to train a Paidhi. Bren said it took him 15 years to learn. 
2) I can't see the government allowing a system where there is only one person available to interpret. It would be like there was only three people in the US able to speak Chinese.

In Invitations, it says that the Aji chose Bren out of several possible candidates. So C.J. changed the story for the better imo.

Here's my head canon.

There are two levels of interpreters. The first level is the Paidhi track. Only the best of the best make it. There are an odd number of people on the list, never an unfortunate number like 8. These are the people eligible to be Paidhi.

Below that list are interpreters. They cannot speak Ragi well but they can understand it up to a point and they can read and write it. The students we met in the later books were in this group. They work with written material. There's a bureaucracy to any business communication between the island and mainland. Business sends order to the state department for approval. State sends order to the interpreters to write the order in Ragi using a very strict dictionary. Then it is sent to the mainland. Orders coming from the mainland go through the same process. 

The Paidhi's track people have three jobs. Wait to be Paidhi. Translate Atevi speeches and news reports for the state department. On rare occasions when they need an interpreter on the island, such as an Atevi ship runs aground,they can interpret for the ship if the Paidhi and backup Paidhi are not available. 

 

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6/01/2020 11:07 pm  #3


Re: Foreigner series observations

I believe that both Tabini and the Dowager believe that Bren set up Hanks. They believed that he didn’t want to kill her but if it turned out that he had to he’d wait for her to make a mistake which would take her backers down with her. Tabini has done the same thing on occasion. Wait for just the right moment to kill a fool. Use them to take down other fools at the same time.

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6/01/2020 11:15 pm  #4


Re: Foreigner series observations

How I believe Bren actually got the job of Paidhi.

When Wilson was Paidhi, Bren was something like 10th on the list and Hanks was 11th . Hanks was on the list because she met the minimum requirements. She was last on the list because she barely met the requirements and would have been thrown out if she hadn’t had powerful backers. Bren had by far the best scores on the tests but they people who made the decisions wanted a bureaucrat in the position like Wilson. Bren was just a little too opinionated for them but he was so good and never really crossed the line he wasn’t thrown out of the program.

When Tabini took power, he wanted a real Paidhi like the Atevi define Paidhi. Humans thought that they had another 80 years before parity but the Aji believed that change was happening faster and faster and parity was almost certain to occur within the next 20 years or so. Well within his lifetime. He needed an advisor who understood humans and who could work both for his benefit and the humans benefit. He wanted the humans to prosper because that would help stabilize things.He fired Wilson and called for a replacement. #1, just like Wilson. #2 same… Then he got to Bren. Bren actually spoke to him. He made a few mistakes but nothing really bad and he learned quickly. He was very polite but he also stood up for himself. He didn’t back down on something he considered important and would tell Tabini if he thought Tabini was making a mistake regarding humans. He had potential. The books make it clear that Bren is very good at attracting Manchi. I believe that Tabini noticed this right away. Being a good judge of character is one of Tabini’s greatest strengths. As he got to know Bren, he realized just how good Bren was as a diplomat.
 In book one, Tabini sent Bren to his grandmother because he realized that he was the only one who could possibly influence her.Bren didn’t just happen to become the Paidhi. There were probably a few Paidhi just as good as he was in the past but they never actually got to be Paidhi because the government didn’t want them to. They wanted bureaucrat’s. People who avoid actually making a decision at all cost. 
 

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6/02/2020 1:23 pm  #5


Re: Foreigner series observations

The short story Deliberations adds quite a lot of background, set just before Tabini declared for the Aijinate. It is also in the POV of Tabini and Ilisidi. It paints Wilson as manipulative, not as incompetent. 

 

6/02/2020 1:44 pm  #6


Re: Foreigner series observations

Aja Jin wrote:

The short story Deliberations adds quite a lot of background, set just before Tabini declared for the Aijinate. It is also in the POV of Tabini and Ilisidi. It paints Wilson as manipulative, not as incompetent. 

I never thought of Wilson as incompetent. I thought of him as a by the books, imagination is a menace type guy. When the Paidhi job first started it was to slowly and carefully transfer technology to the Atevi. But the Atevi in book 1 are like humans were in the middle of the 20th century. A time of accelerating change. 

50 years before it was better to gather information and then go back to the island and have everyone think about it for a few months or years before doing anything with it just to be sure. By the time of the first book, change is accelerating. Sometimes decisions need to be made fast. 

Wilson and the entire system except for Bren and a handful of people who actually worked with the Atevi still lived in the old days.  

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6/02/2020 5:20 pm  #7


Re: Foreigner series observations

But in Deliberations, when Tabini first meets Bren, he notes that Bren is very fluent in Ragi, although with a few mistakes.  He asked Bren if Wilson-paidhi were as fluent as Bren.  Bren's answer was that he wasn't as quick with the numbers, which explained why Wilson NEVER spoke directly to Tabini, and everything was submitted to Tabini in writing.  That way, Wilson could polish it and ensure that it was grammatically correct.   Wilson couldn't adapt to the change that overtook both atevi and humans, and a lot of atevi couldn't, either.  I believe that Tabini had had enough of Wilson fairly early on in their interactions, and Tabini refused to deal with him.  Probably suited Wilson just fine....


"Those who can give up essential liberties in order to purchase a little extra security deserve neither liberty nor security." - Benjamin Franklin
"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." - Marcus Aurelius
 

6/02/2020 5:35 pm  #8


Re: Foreigner series observations

The job of Paidhi in Deliberations didn't require humans to actually speak to the Atevi. I got the impression that most didn't. They wanted ultraconservative (small c conservative) people who didn't take any risks at all. Speaking off the cuff is risky. They want as much as possible in writing where you can spend days polishing it up. If you had to speak, they would only do prepared speeches. That doesn't make him incompetent in a world where change is glacially slow. 

Bren may or may not be telling the whole truth. He can't say that Wilson didn't speak much at all because the human government didn't want the Paidhi to talk. Bren was actually breaking the rules by talking to Tabini. 

Wilson never got good at speaking because he so rarely spoke, he didn't get the practice he needed to learn. 

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6/02/2020 6:25 pm  #9


Re: Foreigner series observations

A few things. I think Tabini's (and Ilisidi's) negative attitude about Wilson is based mostly on Wilson's hostility towards Atevi. Wilson dislikes them, doesn't trust them. He interprets all their actions as aimed at controlling humans or wiping them all out. He is right that there are some atevi like that. His mistake is not seeing that there are also Atevi with more reasonable agendas.


Wild about cats, handmade lace, CJ Cherryh.   politics junkie
 

6/02/2020 6:43 pm  #10


Re: Foreigner series observations

The 2nd thing is Dave's idea about Bren attracting man'chi, being a mini-aiji. I've been thinking about that idea since Dave posted it, more than a year ago. Here is what I see.
We keep hearing that aijiin do not have manchi downwards, they have their own agenda and do not adopt anybody else's point of view. That is exactly what Bren is. He doesn't follow Tabini or Ilisidi out of emotional/instinctive compulsion, but because their agendas largely match his own. Tabini is the only man who can hold the aishidi'tat together, Bren says. Ilisidi and Tabini together created the aishidi'tat, and Bren supports it not because they created it, but because he sees that it is the only way for atevi to keep control of their own futures, and to act together so humans can't take over. (Aparently humans have organization and institutions that make them very good at taking over.). Atevi react to Bren with manchi and a desire for association with him because they see what Bren's agenda is and the magnetism of his intentions and ideas compel them to want him to speak for them. ("Speak for us" is a thing atevi say to a prospective lord.) Bren speaks for atevi before anybody even asked him to. He speaks for their autonomy. Bren acts as an aiji, even from the very first. In book 2, in his speeches to the atevi legislature, he puts forth his own ideas, not words Tabini told him to say. And his own ideas are about how to out maneuver the human presidenta and the human legislature. The evidence of his injuries are also a powerful statement about his honesty in doing that.


Wild about cats, handmade lace, CJ Cherryh.   politics junkie
 

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