Westwind • 1973 • Fantasy short story by Gene Wolfe


Meta: isfdb. This fantasy short story by Gene Wolfe was published July 1973 in The World of If. I read it as part of the collection The Best of Gene Wolfe.


A scarred man meets by chance a blind woman at a hotel in a dark society. The benevolent ruler of this society seems to love everyone but most of all a secret agent called „Westwind“. Both go their rooms, and the man contacts the ruler, reporting to him – he is Westwind. The blind woman is in his adjoining room, also contacting the ruler. Now, everyone seems to be Westwind.



This is a straightforward allegorical tribute to Chesterton’s The Man who was Thursday with Catholic Wolfe showing up.

Only one character is named – „Obie“, a variant of „Obadiah“, meaning the Servant of God. Also, the west wind is a strong religious allegory, e.g. it dissipates the plague of locusts into the Red Sea in Exodus. Contrast this with the destricutive eastwind which only brings hardships: Wolfe named a protagonist from  „A Story by John V. Marsch“ Eastwind, the ancestor of the aborigines who greeted the incoming humans on St. Anne.

Wolfe brings in lame, scarred, and blind characters – all those should be loved. The story has a very nice ending, where all those disabled but privileged persons show pity on others.


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