Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Chapter 58: Sarajevo Spring

Pynchon’s reference to “an entire branch of spycraft known as Applied Idiotics” (823) here reminds us of other references (T.W.I.T., Cyprian’s helper Bevis) and other idiots in the novel. Is Pynchon recovering the Shakespearean fool?

Bevis’s fascination with Jacintha Drulov is another one of Pynchon’s Humbert Humbert moments. It must be remembered that he studied with Nabakov at Cornell.

The references to Virgil, who accompanied Dante into the Inferno, and the Argo, reminds us that Cyprian may be on a tragic quest.

We also learn of Colonel Kautsch’s fate as his homosexuality is discovered.

Danilo lets Cyprian know that “You have come to Sarajevo on a dummy assignment” (832), and the Serbian terrorist organization “The Black Hand” helps Cyprian avoid the Austria-Hungarian attempts to assassinate him. Ironically, the organization is often credited with starting WWI with the assassination of one of this novel’s minor characters, the Hapsburg heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The seal of the Black Hand looks a lot like the mysterious seal on the cover of the novel’s dust jacket.

Cyprian, the former sod who suddenly seemed to be on his way to achieving a kind of Buddhist enlightenment, achieves a sort of Spring Awakening. And by the end of the chapter our flaneur paraphrases Oscar Wildes’ mythical last words (“My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death”) when he tells Jacintha, “her own Ultraviolet Catastrophe” that “I am offended only by certain sorts of wallpaper” (848).

Wilde and Nabakov—inspirations for this chapter.


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