In these chapters of Foucault’s Pendulum, I can no longer think of Casaubon and Belbo as heroes or protagonists. Intrigued? Read on.

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And with Hitler’s involvement in the Plan, the Holocaust is sure to follow. I read this chapter with a wince after practically every paragraph, expecting the worst once I knew what it was going to be about. But I’ll give the chapter this: it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Belbo’s explanation of how the Holocaust was a part of this conspiracy does not attempt to absolve Hitler of the atrocity he set in motion. It doesn’t try to ascribe it to being in service of a greater good. Mostly it just exchanges one irrational, destructive, psychotic motivation for genocide with another, which isn’t too bad. I wouldn’t put anything past Hitler, including searching this thoroughly and obsessively for some sort of mystic secret for world domination, in case it was on a random Jew’s body or in his possessions.

Also, quite the coincidence that Diotallevi starts to feel the serious onset of illness as Belbo explains all of this, his sickness caused not by disgust at the turn the conversation has taken but at actual physical symptoms. But it’s not entirely coincidental, since the story gives no reason for him to be ill other than psychosomatic reasons. His obsession over the Plan has caused him to neglect his physical health, and it’s starting to get pretty damn scary.

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With Diotallevi’s hospitalization, the Plan is officially on hold. Though this is yet another microchapter in the grand scheme of things, it did a decent job tugging at my heartstrings. Casaubon and Belbo’s jokes get to the heart of the matter, hinting that they realize the cost of what they’ve been doing with their lives lately, and also making them seem warm and human to boot. In addition, the brief involvement of Lorenza at the end, with Belbo acting distant and shaky with her, makes their relationship briefly seem touching instead of one party jerking the other around.

Quiet moments like these are always appreciated, both because they help make the characters in them seem more real and because they give the audience a break, an opportunity to contemplate the weight of recent events and think ahead to what might come later.

Let’s get to ruining this moment, shall we?

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Time has passed. It might be a bit hard to notice if you’re reading fast enough to skip lines, but that’s definitely the case. Casaubon’s life has returned to a semblance of normalcy when Salon reenters it like a car turning onto a street, putting itself in your path without either of you checking to see that the way was clear.

The brief exchange they have is all the incentive Casaubon needs to fall off the wagon again, rushing off to Belbo’s to tell him that everything they put into the Plan regarding the Jews is wrong and it all needs to go. Now, normally a narrative that flat-out tells you that a significant chunk of what came before was completely pointless would risk the audience getting hopping mad at them. I’d certainly get exasperated at either a complete lack of forethought or the author deliberately taking his audience’s loyalty for granted. But in this context, I’ll let it slide, because this whole thing is basically a narrative of characters planning another narrative. Anyone who’s tried to tell a story will tell you that sometimes ideas for plot lines have to be thrown out. It happens. My favorite movie, Adaptation, has quite a bit of this.

No, what infuriates me about the occurrences of this chapter happens at the end, right here:

“We let ourselves be influenced by Diotallevi, who was always cabalizing. He cabalized, so we put the Jews in the Plan. If he had been a scholar of Chinese culture, would we have put the Chinese in the Plan?”

“Maybe we would have.”

“Anyway, let’s not rend our garments; we were led astray by everyone.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

Maybe my anger at this latest development is unjustified, and I’m sure some of you won’t see where I’m coming from here, so let me explain. Diotallevi has been hospitalized. He could be down with an illness as serious as cancer for all I know. I seem to recall that he’s dead as of the flash-forward at the beginning of the book. And what do these two do? They blame him for leading them astray and hijacking their bullshit history, cutting him out of the loop now that his expertise and contributions haves fallen out of their fickle favor.

I knew something like this would happen, too, something that would pull them back in even after Diotallevi got hospitalized. I knew that nothing short of the roof caving in around their heads would be able to slap some sense into these two and make them cut their losses. Oh sure, there was the possibility that this would genuinely be the last straw for them and that some sort of awful coincidence would still make it too late to take back, but that was always a long shot. These two guys aren’t going to see sense now. They are the ones who knock, they’ve basically made their bed at this point, and their obsession has just started crossing the line into disgusting territory. Can’t wait to see what they fuck up next time around.

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