|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions|
I.3 pp. pages 78-93
78.epigraph] First of all [...] Clementine Recognitions: see 373.1 for The Recognitions. In a short chapter entitled "Self-Love the Foundation of Goodness" (book 3, chap. 53), Peter explains why Simon Magus, "whose thoughts are against God, is able to do so great marvels":
"First of all, then, he is evil, in the judgment of God, who will not inquire what is advantageous to himself. For how can any one love another, if he does not love himself? Or to whom will that man not be an enemy, who cannot be a friend to himself? In order, therefore, that there might be a distinction between those who choose good and those who choose evil, God has concealed that which is profitable to men, i.e., the possession of the kingdom of heaven, and has laid it up and hidden it as a secret treasure, so that no one can easily attain it by his own power or knowledge. Yet He has brought the report of it, under various names and opinions, through successive generations, to the hearing of all: so that whosoever should be lovers of good, hearing it, might inquire and discover what is profitable and salutary to them; but that they should ask it, not from themselves, but from Him who has hidden it, and should pray that access and the way of knowledge might be given to them: which way is opened to those only who love it above all the good things of this world; and on no other condition can any one even understand it, however wise he may seem; but that those who neglect to inquire what is profitable and salutary to themselves, as self-haters and self-enemies, should be deprived of its good things, as lovers of evil things."
78.3] Esther: contributing to her name may be the biblical Esther, the young Jewish woman who becomes queen of Persia and saves her people from destruction (subject of Handel's oratorio Esther); Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of sexual love with whom Frazer associates the biblical Esther (an identification Lang questions); and, less likely, the protagonist of Henry Adams's novel Esther (1884), a free-thinking young painter who falls in love with a clergyman named Stephen Hazard but later breaks their engagement (a curious mirror image of the Wyatt/Esther relationship).
78.5] women in love: title of a well-known novel (1920) by D. H. Lawrence, an author Esther "trusts" (82.28).
79.38] comrades who eat their victims: a practice noted by both Frazer and Haggard (DDD 318).
79.44] vagina dentata: the "toothed vagina," prevalent in myth and folklore both as a symbol of ravenous sexual appetite of the female and of male fears of castration.
80.5] animus: in Jungian psychology, the masculine component in the female psyche (IP 19).
80.12] but not for love: cf. the words of Rosalind quoted at 503.11-13.
80.29] Call him louder! [...] Like a hammer that breaketh the stone: from German composer Felix Mendelssohn's (1809-47) oratorio Elijah, first produced in England in 1846. The first quotation is from section 12, where Elijah taunts the priests of Baal to call upon their unresponsive god (from 1 Kings 18:26); the two that follow are from section 17, in which Elijah glorifies his own god's wrath (based on Jer. 23:29).
80.31] Handel: George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), German composer; many of his works will be mentioned later in R.
80.36] Mozart: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91), Austrian composer.
81.1] Tosca: opera by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica (based on a play by Victorien Sardou), first performed in Rome in 1900. Like R, it features an irreligious painter involved in criminal activities; lines from the opera are sprinkled throughout the novel. (Gaddis once told me he disliked opera, with the exception of Tosca.)
81.7] Diogenes Laërtius: fl. early third century; his Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers is valuable in that it is the sole source of information on many of the philosophers it treats; a number of his epigrams are in The Greek Anthology.
81.8] No Orchids for Miss Blandish: trashy, cliché-ridden detective novel (1939) by British writer James Hadley Chase (pseud. for René Raymond, 1906-85); "while trashy & cliché I recall it being regarded as seminal in the wave of sex/sadism (Justine notwithstanding)" (WG/SM; see 183.40 for Sade's Justine). In his essay "Raffles and Miss Blandish," George Orwell points out the great similarity (approaching plagiarism) between the novel and Faulkner's Sanctuary (1931).
81.9] Berkeley's New Theory of Vision: George Berkeley (1685-1753), Anglo-Irish philosopher; his Essay towards a New Theory of Vision (1709) maintains that material objects are only ideas in the mind with no independent existence, and that all "reality" consists, finally, of ideas in the mind of God.
81.10] Charles Fort: American "phenomenologist" (1874-1932), author of four unusual books that tabulate oddities ignored by scientists. The first and best known of his works, The Book of the Damned (1919), from which Wyatt quotes below, is an eccentric attack on dogmatism in science. It records unusual objects that have fallen from the sky but have not been adequately explained, and is written in a unique style that combines epigrammatic quasi-philosophy and a droll sense of humor with exhaustive listings of data. The principal feature of his "supercelestial geography" is a hypothetical cosmic Sargasso Sea floating above the earth.
81.11] Les Damnés de la Terre: The Wretched of the Earth (1935) by French popular writer Henri Poulaille (1896-??).
81.14] Fort says, "By the damned, I mean the excluded": The Book of the Damned begins:
procession of the damned.
(Reprinted in The Complete Books of Charles Fort [New York: Dover, 1974], 3.)
81.16] "By prostitution, I seem to mean usefulness": from chap. 3 of The Book of the Damned; Fort chides scientists for not pursuing "pure science" and instead tempering their findings to the needs of society, as if "nothing has justification for being, unless it serve, or function for, or express the relation of, some higher aggregate. So Science functions for and serves society at large, and would, from society at large, receive no support, unless it did so divert itself or dissipate and prostitute itself. It seems by prostitution I mean usefulness" (38).
81.23] Mozart's Symphony Number 37, Köchel Listing 444: long attributed to Mozart, the symphony was actually written by Michael Haydn (1737-1806), Joseph's brother. Mozart furnished only the slow introduction.
82.6] a book on mummies: see 84.28.
83.21] Boyle's Skeptical Chemist: Robert Boyle (1627-91), English physician and chemist. The Skeptical Chemist (1661) challenged the two prevalent chemical approaches at that time (Aristotelian and alchemical) and helped alchemy mature into modern chemistry.
83.22] Jalland's The Church and the Papacy: a historical study (1944) by Catholic theologian Trevor Gervase Jalland (1898-??).
83.22] Cennino Cennini's Libro dell' Arte: Cennini's (c.1370-c.1440) technical treatise on painting emphasizes tempera technique. Otto reads from it on the bottom of p. 146.
83.24] La Chimie au Moyen Age: Chemistry in the Middle Ages (1893) is an important three-volume collection of alchemical texts with commentary by French chemist and historian Marcelin Berthelot (1827-1907); cited often in Jung's IP.
83.24] Grimorium Verum: the True Grimoire is a spell book, of uncertain date, based for the most part on the Clavicula Salomonis (The Key of Solomon, also known as The Book of Pentacles) and uncritically attributed (like many similar works) to King Solomon. It is cited throughout Waite's Book of Ceremonial Magic (see 139.15).
83.25] Turba Philosophorum: the Uproar (or Crowd) of the Sages is a medieval alchemical work in the form of an allegorical discussion between Greek alchemists and their Platonist forerunners, all filtered through Sufism. It is cited in IP.
83.29] an arm in dissection from a woodcut in the Fabrica of Vesalius: reproduced on p. 148 of DDD. Andreas Vesalius (1514-64) was a Belgian anatomist condemned by the Inquisition. His De Humani Corporis Fabrica is a treatise on the structure of the body.
83.31] Surgery of Paré [...] "the wound man": Ambroise Paré (1517-90), French surgeon, often called the father of modern surgery. His career is treated at length in Haggard's DDD (31-43), where several illustrations from Paré's Surgery are reproduced, including his first-aid chart "the wound man" on p. 134.
83.34] Melozzo da Forlì: (1438-95?), Italian painter of the Umbrian school, known for his skill in perspective.
83.35] Leptis Magna: city in Tripolitania (Libya); EB notes its lavish public swimming pool (3:205).
84.28] Royal Mummies: by Sir Grafton Elliot Smith (1871-1937), published in Cairo in 1912. It is cited in a discussion of Egyptian mummies of the New Kingdom in EB (15:954), one of Gaddis's sources for the mummification details later in the novel.
87.8] Charles Fort says maybe we're fished for: Fort's tongue-in-cheek response to a report of a triangular-shaped UFO with chains attached to the bottom, which was dismissed by the authorities as a partly collapsed balloon. Fort wonders if "something was trawling overhead?" then wryly speculates: "I think we're fished for. It may be that we're highly esteemed by super-epicures somewhere. It makes me more cheerful when I think that we may be of some use after all" (Book of the Damned, 264-65). The phrase "maybe we're fished for" will recur throughout the novel.
87.12] Orientation sidérale: navigation based on the position of astronomical bodies relative to the horizon.
87.13] man who experimented with ants in the desert in Morocco: Felix Santschi (1872-1940), Swiss entomologist; in his notes, WG cites his article "L'Orientation sidérale des fournis . . ." (1923). More information about Santschi's work in Miriam Lehrer's volume here. See also 110.17-19. [SM/KM]
88.43] egg yolk rolling from one palm to another: this method of using egg yolk for tempera painting is from chap. 6 of A. P. Laurie's Technique of the Great Painters (London: Carroll and Nicholson, 1949), a book Gaddis quotes a few more times (pp. 239, 660) and probably the source of further technical details in the novel about painting and the detection of forgeries.
89.32] auswendig wissen Sie: Ger.: "by heart, you know."
91.8] Rilke: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), Austrian poet. The first of his famous Duino Elegies (1922) will be quoted later (277.34 ff., 622.16 ff.).
91.13] faces and lanterns and the prows of boats: from Picasso's Night Fishing in Antibes (below).
91.17] soprano singing [...] mia preghiera: from Puccini's Tosca (81.1). In act 2 the tyrannical police chief Scarpia tells the singer Floria Tosca that he will lift the death sentence on her lover only if she agrees to have sex with him. Bewailing her position, Tosca delivers her famous "Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore" aria, from which the present quotation (and many others to follow) comes:
d'arte, vissi d'amore,
(Trans. Winston Burdett)
91.26] Picasso's [...] Night Fishing in Antibes: a 1939 work, now in New York's Museum of Modern Art, where it was first seen in the exhibit "Masterworks Acquired through the Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund" (29 January-23 March 1952). In a letter Gaddis admitted "I'd probably have seen it just then (1952) & in similar sleepless circumstances" (WG/SM) and allowed the anachronism to stand even though R's chronology suggests Wyatt sees it some five years earlier.
92.5] all of a sudden everything was freed into one recognition: cf. Berenson's A&H (84-85):
In visual art the aesthetic moment is that flitting instant, so brief as to be almost timeless, when the spectator is at one with the work of art he is looking at, or with actuality of any kind that the spectator himself sees in terms of art, as form and colour. He ceases to be his ordinary self, and the picture or building, statue, landscape, or aesthetic actuality is no longer outside himself. The two become one entity; time and space are abolished and the spectator is possessed by one awareness. When he recovers workaday consciousness it is as if he had been initiated into illuminating, exalting, formative mysteries. In short, the aesthetic moment is a moment of mystic vision.
92.23] Questo è il bacio di Tosca!: as she stabs Scarpia at the end of act 2, Tosca hisses: "This is the kiss of Tosca!"
92.25] Don Giovanni: famous opera by Mozart, libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, concerning the last days of the Spanish libertine Don Juan; cf. 941.11.
92.26] seven [...] Magic number!: see R 265 and notes there; Lethaby records a number of instances of the universal sacredness of the number (AMM 122 ff.).
93.1] Spinoza: Baruch Spinoza (1632-77), Dutch philosopher (of Portuguese-Jewish parents); excommunicated for transgressing the Law (see 536.31 ff.). Saltus's AN contains a digest of his life and teachings (110-19).
93.4] Sleigh Ride: a piece by Leopold Mozart (1719-87), Wolfgang's father.
93.14] Zero doesn't exist: Vaihinger (see 120.16, 530.19 ff.) cites the nonexistence of zero as an example of a fictional construct in mathematics (Philosophy of "As If," chap. 12).
93.16] bad money drives out good: Gresham's law: see 364.6.
93.22] Egmont: overture composed by Beethoven (1810), intended for Goethe's drama of the same name dealing with the Netherlands' struggle for independence.
93.22] Der Fliegende Holländer: Richard Wagner's (1813-83) first major opera The Flying Dutchman (1843) concerns an old Dutch sea captain who, having sworn an impious oath to round the Cape of Good Hope even if it takes an eternity to do so, is allowed to make port only once every seven years until he can find a woman willing to sacrifice everything for his sake. He finds his salvation in the young Norwegian woman Senta. See 551.3 ff. and 895.7-8.
93.23] Die Ägyptische Helena: a rarely performed opera by German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949), libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The Egyptian Helen, first performed in Dresden in 1928, is a fanciful drama on the Helen and Menelaus theme.
93.30] Han: in a section that was cut from the final version, Han was Wyatt's companion in his student days in Munich studying under Herr Koppel. "What we cannot get from the published version," Koenig says (but see 877-78), "is that Han was a totally brutalized and brutal companion of Wyatt in Germany. Han, a homosexual, was to be the first of many characters who would try to use Wyatt. [...] In the deleted section, Wyatt and Han travel from Munich on an excursion to the Jungfrau [a mountain resort] in Switzerland, where Han attempts to make love to Wyatt. Wyatt leaves Han and goes to Paris, where we actually find him in the published version of the novel" ("The Writing of The Recognitions," 29-30).