Seven American Nights • 1978 • SF novella by Gene Wolfe


Meta: isfdb. This fantasy short story by Gene Wolfe was published March 1978 in Damon Knight’s Orbit. I read it as part of the collection The Best of Gene Wolfe.


A young Muslim from Iran takes down a journal of his one week visit to a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. He falls in love with a theatre actress, consumes hallucinogenic eggs, wanders the dangerous city at night, is robbed and discusses with the police.


The novella reads very easily, furthering several of Gene Wolfe’s central motifs – post-colonial world with genetic deformations and a theatrical play of the Passion around Easter.

It is structurally very interesting, as it contains several theatre play which can be read for themselves but play a central role in the de-puzzling of the story’s meaning. As usual, we have an unreliable narrator, who might be drugged with the eggs, or the journal has been forged by the police. In addition, there are several dreamfilled fictionary scenes contrasted by hyper-philosophical musings about levels of abstractions.

I loved the scenery of degenerate America seen through the eyes of a superior muslim.

The novella contains more riddles than I can count. I don’t want to resolve them, but refer to some invaluable background ressources: Timeline, resolving the ending, and some further interpretations.


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