|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
Pages 647-99; Saturday night, 24 December 1949.
This chapter, which takes place concurrent with the previous chapter, opens with an interview between Mr. Inononu, a Hungarian secret agent, and Valentine, also involved in some kind of espionage for the Roman church and the Hungarian regime. Inononu has been sent to assassinate a Rumanian scholar named Yák (who specializes in ancient Egypt) and hopes to find him by posing as a scholar in the same field (under the name Kuvetli). As they conclude their interview, Wyatt arrives pounding on Valentine's front door, wanting to retrieve the forgery fragments so he can expose them at Brown's party. (Wyatt has already been at the party, "comportin himself very calm as he go about among the guests talkin very diligent to them" Fuller reports afterward, but he has failed to convince anyone, just as Valentine had predicted earlier.) Valentine and Inononu sneak out a back entrance and go to Brown's.
Brown's business party, though attended mostly by new characters, includes Crémer, the art critic from Wyatt's Paris days. Brown has gathered a number of art collectors for a viewing of Wyatt's last forgery, a van der Goes Death of the Virgin. (Valentine has attempted to restore the damaged face of the Virgin himsel, with amateurish results.) After showing the painting, Brown, drunk and restless, climbs into his treasured suit of armor and, just as Wyatt returns, crashes down the stairs to his death. Wyatt has discovered that Valentine has burned the fragments, making it impossible for him to clear himself. The other guests quickly find excuses for leaving, and finally only Wyatt, Valentine, and Fuller remain. Significant references to Tosca and to the killing of the wren precede Wyatt's stabbing Valentine (though not fatally), but not before Valentine again tells Wyatt that all his concerns are ridiculous fantasies. Wyatt leaves him to die and decides to leave the country, just as Fuller, having killed Brown's malevolent poodle, prepares to return to his native land. Reminded that his Stabat Mater perished in the fire, Wyatt goes off in search of Esme.
Otto is also looking for Esme, but, unable to get into Bellevue Hospital at that time of night, he goes down to Horatio Street in search of Wyatt. (Agnes Deigh is shown in a hotel, beginning over and over her letter to Dr. Weisgall.) Before finally meeting Wyatt, Otto is accosted, then forgiven, by Stanley, just released by the police. (Another vignette features Mr. Pivner finding in the office boy Eddie Zefnic the son he never had in Otto.) In front of Esme's apartment building, Otto finally sees Wyatt. Otto does not tell him where she is, so Wyatt leaves him like Dante at the bottom of the icy inferno.