In these chapters of Foucault’s Pendulum, Casaubon finishes looking back at his life. Intrigued? Read on.

109

“We’re the Tres, and you know more about the Tres than we do.”

That just about sums it up. This chapter ramps up the paranoid conspiracy thriller vibes from the last ones and cements the feeling that there’s no way out for Belbo at this point. Out of context, this exchange starts to veer into the stereotypical, but in context, knowing how everything led up to this point brings the mood to an absurd combination of absurd and scary. It’s like if I tried to make some emphatic gestures while talking, having forgotten that my hands were full with carrying my laptop at the time. It slips out of my hands and falls to the floor, smashed to shit. That may look funny to someone watching, but I’m sure as hell not laughing because of how much I depend on this thing.

Belbo exhausts all possible social avenues to consult on this matter. Casaubon is away with Lia, Lorenza isn’t returning his calls, of fucking course, the sergeant who contacted them about the Colonel all that time ago has been scared away by the bogeymen, and Garamond was in on the whole thing, as Belbo found out by snooping in on his phone conversation. I don’t know if this means that Garamond has been playing the fool all the time that our main characters have known him or if his mental malleability has convinced him to go along with a conspiracy that doesn’t exist.

That leaves Diotallevi, and if I were Belbo I’d be more than a little guilty considering the man’s condition and the unspoken cause.

110

This is, in all likelihood, the last we’ll ever see of Diotallevi. As I’ve said before, he often came off as a third wheel to this whole endeavor, disappearing from the narrative for several chapters at a time while Belbo and Casaubon did their thing. Even now, the only thing I can really remember about his character is his devotion to Jewish theology, and I can’t recall if this attitude is treated like it’s the real deal or if he’s meant to be a poseur. In this chapter, it’s definitely the former.

In essence, Diotallevi is positing a metaphysical cause to his cancer and Belbo’s getting caught in this trap. In formulating the Plan, they reordered the basic building blocks of the universe and Diotallevi’s body, bringing them karmic misfortune. I have mixed feelings about this development, to put it lightly.

I’m not against magical realism in stories. I’ve enjoyed plenty of stories where I get the feeling that things wouldn’t work out this way in the real world, that events are just slightly off, just strange enough that you can’t point at them and call them out because you aren’t certain you’ll get anything more than blank stares and admonitions asking what your deal is. Moreover, you don’t care because it makes its own kind of sense, albeit one you’re not accustomed to. But the thing about those stories is that they established what kind of tales they were fairly early on in their runs. They didn’t wait until the last ten percent of their content to bring this up.

Hopefully you’ll forgive me the vaguest of unmarked spoilers, because in comparing other late-game developments, I would be revealing that similar developments happened in unrelated stories and if there’s a way to rot13 this without covering up the names and making it impossible to indicate whether or not it’s safe to look, I haven’t found it. Anyway, this development reminds me most of the ones in Y: The Last Man and Infinite Jest. Both of these stories are near and dear to my heart, moreso than this one because they offered me more emotional warmth, and just as with Foucault’s Pendulum I’m unsure whether or not the sudden implication that magical realism is in play when that wasn’t as strongly implied before is a bad thing or not. In Y, it was always an optional interpretation, and though it would eventually become the most supported one, there was no hard rule that we as readers had to accept it as the truth. In Infinite Jest, while it definitely strains at the rules of what should and shouldn’t be possible in the setting, the structuring and prose of the book was so out-there to begin with that a reader could be convinced to free their mind, as I was.

Foucault’s Pendulum hasn’t quite covered itself like those other stories. I can’t definitively state that this wasn’t planned from the beginning, what with the sephirot motif the book has going on, but the possibility of supernatural reality alteration, a metaphor made literal, was not brought to the forefront of the reader’s attention until right now. I’ll have to wait and see if this really is the only possibility, but I can’t say I buy it.

After Belbo sees Diotallevi for the last time, he comes to the conclusion that he might as well face the music and tell Aglie and his compatriots the truth. It’ll most likely get him killed, but at this point he feels enough guilt to feel that it’s a necessity. His notes end here, and for all I know this is all we’ll see of him, too. Unsettling.

111

Lest ye forget, this story operated on two levels of flashbacks in addition to Casaubon hiding in the periscope. The bulk of if all took place in the earliest period, with the background of Casaubon and Belbo prior to the whole mess, with the occasional switch back to Belbo’s private computer files for a deeper peek into his psyche (which would inform and sync up with what took place in the main story, if I remember right). Both are effectively finished now, with the only gap left unfilled being between reading the files and the periscope.

What’s there left to do then? There’s only time enough for a quick scouting out of a bookshop tucked into a Parisian alleyway. The sequence has not amounted to anything concrete, at least not yet, but there was tension there as Casaubon had to decide on whether or not he was taking too much of a risk by inquiring after Belbo or Aglie. Casaubon even chides himself for thinking it was possible that he could find Aglie, that he’d just get Belbo back and they’s all shrug it off, no harm no foul. That part felt like an anticipation of my earlier prediction, and now I feel pretty silly.

Soon I’ll know how everything really ends in the last three parts of the story, now that we’re moving into the post-periscope period. I’m not sure what comes next, but I’ll leave my prediction up anyway and see if I got lucky.

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