Over at MIT Technology Review, there's an interview with Gene Wolfe by Jason Pontin. Gene never comes to these things with an agenda, so most of the weight in his interviews falls upon the interviewer -- how knowledgeable he or she is, how interesting the questions are. So it's to Pontin's credit that he evoked such open responses as:
In The Book of the New Sun, I wanted to show a man who was raised to do terrible things and who reforms himself from inside. And so I thought up the Guild of Torturers and made the man a torturer. And in The Book of the Long Sun, I wanted to show another kind of man, brought up in a bad religion, working his way through it. So I came up with a fake religion in which the personalities of a long-ago tyrant and his family have been elevated to godhood in an artificial world.
and, when asked what self-deceptions being in the Korean War had stripped away from him:
Oh, that I was smarter than other people.
Which I am sure is going to be the source of recurrent arguments among Wolfe scholars for a long, long time to come. Because, speaking as a smart person myself and one who knows many people much smarter than I am, Gene is one of the two or three smartest people I've ever met. And yet... I can hear the sincerity in what he said. He really means that.
I've got two theories as to what's behind that. One is that he means something like "street smarts," the wisdom of one's everyday choices. The other is that he's looking on human intelligence and seeing that sub species aeternatis, the range of human intelligence is not really that broad. Both of these being valid observations.
You can read the entire interview here.