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Web of Dreams

March 5, 2019

She wove a web of dreams
made of love and sex
trapping his heart to the spells
of witchcraft brewing
in the dark cauldrons
of the forbidden realms
hidden within the colours
of seduction swirling
in the magic of her eyes

his blood was poisoned
with a desire for the hands
he would never hold
his soul infected with a longing
for a heart he would never touch
helpless to burn in a love
he could only feel

a love she would never see

or touch

or know

and he lays trapped
in her web of dreams
forever lost
to the charms and spells
of her magic and witchcraft

helpless to the madness
of the rhythm of voodoo
drumming and beating wildly
under the bones of his ribs
his heart burning
for the song of her name
both forever and never hers

Akira Chinen

Appeal

June 30, 2017

Pin Cushion…

April 3, 2015

pincushion

FOUCAULT’S PENDULUM

June 19, 2014

Eco

FOUCAULT’S PENDULUM
Umberto Eco

I struggled through “Il pendolo di Foucault” shortly after its publication in 1988. The novel (but is it really a novel?) is in ten segments and is replete with references to alchemy, the Kabbalah and, of course – because this is Eco, conspiracy theories abound.

When I say “I struggled through” the book, the problem was my Italian. I was perhaps not proficient enough, my vocabulary not yet large enough to make reading this novel an easy exercise. Thus, it was far from plain sailing.

A little later, when the novel was published in an English translation by William Weaver, I read it again. Subsequently, I’ve read the book three or four times – which if nothing else shows what a sad individual I’ve become!

The novel, let me say to begin with, is written very much tongue in cheek: it is, in part, an ironic satire on the absurdity of conspiracy theories, and on those who believe in them. It is an intellectual conundrum, full of semiological obsession: books within books, self-mockery, obscure facts – both real and fictitious. It nods its head to Post Modernism, yes, but then moves beyond any such simple concept. It is a very humorous book, full of jokes at the expense of intellectuals and the literati…

Why is Eco drawn in particular to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? He says:

“As a scholar I am interested in the philosophy of language, semiotics, call it what you want, and one of the main features of the human language is the possibility of lying. A dog doesn’t lie. When it barks, it means there is somebody outside.” Animals do not lie; human beings do. “From lies to forgeries the step is not so long, and I have written technical essays on the logic of forgeries and on the influence of forgeries on history. The most famous and terrible of those forgeries is the Protocols.”

He says quite clearly, it isn’t conspiracies that interest him, “but the paranoia that allows them to flourish.”

“But the paranoia of the universal conspiracy is more powerful because it is everlasting. You can never discover it because you don’t know who is there. It is a psychological temptation of our species. Karl Popper wrote a beautiful essay on that, in which he said it started with Homer. Everything that happens in Troy was plotted the day before on the top of Olympus by the gods. It’s a way not to feel responsible for something. That’s why dictatorships use the notion of universal conspiracy as a weapon. For the first 10 years of my life I was educated by fascists at school, and they used a universal conspiracy – that you, the Englishman, the Jews and the capitalists were plotting against the poor Italian people. For Hitler it was the same.”

Eco has said about his books and their critics:

“You are always shocked by how different critics’ opinions are. I think a book should be judged 10 years later, after reading and re-reading it. I was always defined as too erudite and philosophical, too difficult. Then I wrote a novel that is not erudite at all, that is written in plain language, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, and among my novels it is the one that has sold the least. So probably I am writing for masochists. It’s only publishers and some journalists who believe that people want simple things. People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged.”

And Foucault’s Pendulum certainly does just that!

“Only for you, children of doctrine and learning, have we written this work. Examine this book, ponder the meaning we have dispersed in various places and gathered again; what we have concealed in one place we have disclosed in another, that it may be understood by your wisdom.”

This quotation from the “De occulta philosophis” forms a fitting epigraph for Eco’s novel: it tells us in advance what to expect; the complexities, the erudition. We have been suitably warned.

Foucault (pronounced foo-KOH boys and girls, and not to be attempted when intoxicated) was a French physicist who created an experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. And Eco’s novel opens with a quotation from the Hebrew of Berg’s “The Kabbalah” :

“When the Light of the Endless was drawn in the form of a straight line in the Void… it was not drawn and extended immediately downwards, indeed it extended slowly – that is to say, at first the Line of Light began to extend and at the very start of its extension in the secret of the Line it was drawn and shaped into a wheel, perfectly circular all around.”

Foucault’s harmless and practical experiment becomes something more sinister by the end of the book.

So, our narrator, a man called Casaubon is walking through a museum (it is near closing time). He moves with difficulty amidst bicycles and horseless carriages; enters a hall of distorting mirrors, all the while growing more apprehensive of the machines – “their panting, their heavy, telluric breath, skinless bones, viscera creaking and fetid with black-grease drool.”

He conceals himself in the cubical of a periscope. He wishes to avoid the night guards after the museum is locked down for the night.

The rest of the novel is told in flashback.

To quote from Anthony Burgess:

“Casaubon, who has written his doctoral thesis on the Knights Templar and, after a sojourn in Brazil, is back in Milan as a kind of Sam Spade of information. For a price, he will track anything down, but he already seems to know everything, except that he is named for the etiolated scholar of George Eliot’s ”Middlemarch,” who also knew everything, though it did him no good.

He is found useful by a firm of publishers, for which Jacopo Belbo, a commonsensical Piedmontese, works. Belbo’s favorite comment on pretentiousness is ”Ma gavte la nata,” which means something like ”take out the cork and let the wind blow away.” For all that, Belbo earns a living in what is termed vanity publishing, which allows cranks and obsessives to see their work in print so long as they pay for it. His associate in publishing is one Diotallevi, whose obsession is the cabala and who insists that, although his forebears were not Jewish, he is, and that he has an ”exquisite Talmudic understanding.””

Thus the adventure begins…

And conspiracy theories abound: Francis Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare, but no – wait. Bacon wrote Cervantes Don Quixote, and a man named Kelley wrote the works of Shakespeare at the behest of Dr Dee – and in the midst of anamorphic irregularity, we encounter lines from Elliot’s Prufrock, and Madam Sosostris, the famous clairvoyante, from the Waste Land. Literary references abound.

Casaubon, Belbo and Diotallevi in creating their own ridiculous conspiracy theory, attract the unwelcome attention of various conspirators…Fiction becomes, well, reality (whatever that is). And we, the reader, follow into a labyrinth of entwined and interconnected mysteries – the dissolution of the Templars, the Rosicrucians, the Masons, Nazism, Voodoo. At times it feels as if we are mired in esoteric knowledge!

In an interview Eco told us:

“Maybe only cheap fiction gives us the true measure of reality… Great Art makes fun of us as it comforts us, because it shows the world as the artists would like the world to be. The dime novel, however, pretends to joke, but then it shows us the world as it actually is – or at least the world as it will become… What has taken place in the real world was predicted in penny dreadfuls.”

Certainly Eco uses the trappings of pulp fiction in this novel. However, its pages are crammed not with action but with information. As Anthony Burgess once said, ‘No man should know so much.’ Eco has been a voracious reader all his life. He owns in excess of 50,000 books in his two homes. Is it any wonder then that he should engage in fictional games? I think not. Intertextuality is the name of Eco’s game.

So in closing, I recommend this book with a simple warning – it’s profound, very complex and one of the longest, most erudite jokes I’ve ever encountered.

Read and enjoy.