Footnotes from Beyond the Zero, part III

This is yet another in what will likely be a long series of posts cataloging some of the interesting little footnotes I’ve been making while reading Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Gravity’s Rainbow. The prose is beautiful and thick with historical references, and so when I come upon a particularly interesting passage or historical tidbit, I note it here. See also: [part I | part II]

  • Rundstedt offensive : Gerd von Rundstedt (1875-1953) was one of Adolf Hitler’s most respected military leaders in World War II. In 1944, this German field marshal directed the Ardennes offensive (most famous for the Battle of the Bulge). General Dwight D. Eisenhower called him the ablest of the German generals of World War II.
  • Pierre Janet : A psychologist and neurologist, Janet was influential in bringing about in France and the United States a connection between academic psychology and the clinical treatment of mental illnesses. He stressed psychological factors in hypnosis and contributed to the modern concept of mental and emotional disorders involving anxiety, phobias, and other abnormal behaviour.
  • German Communist Party (KPD) : After WWI, some socialists and communists began to form more radical groups. In December, 1918, a group of radicals established the German Communist Party (KPD). One of the more influential leaders of this revolution, Rosa Luxemburg who was executed in an attempt to cull the rebellion, is referenced in the book quite a bit. Throughout the 1920s the KPD was very much under the influence of Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Germany’s KPD became the largest Communist Party outside the Soviet Union and was fairly successful in elections until Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party came to power, at which point the KPD was banned and its leaders imprisoned.
  • A nice quote: “Yet who can presume to say what the War wants, so vast and aloof it is… so absentee.
  • Another quote: “…look at the forms of capitalist expression. Pornographies: pornographies of love, erotic love, Christian love, boy-and-his-dog, pornographies of sunsets, pornographies of killing, and pornographies of deduction — ahh that sigh when we guess the murderer — all these novels, these films and songs they lull us with, they’re approaches, more comfortable and less so, to that Absolute Comfort.”
  • One of Pynchon’s interesting talents is his ability to sum up a character with a single sentence: “He has, had, this way of removing all the excitement from things with a few words. Not even well-chosen words: he’s that way by instinct.” I’ve known people like that, and I knew everything I needed to know about this character from reading this one sentence.

That does it for this installment of Footnotes from Beyond the Zero. For more riveting info: [part I | part II]