In these chapters of Foucault’s Pendulum, the story comes to a grand spectacle of a climax with six chapters left to go. Intrigued? Read on.

112

It feels odd, having come back full circle to where the story began. I remember when the story began, with Casaubon staring up at the pendulum in the museum and then hiding in a periscope from a threat we knew nothing about. We didn’t know anything about him, either, not even his name. The vast bulk of the story leads up to that in medias res moment in retrospect, filling in blanket information we’d need to know to make the upcoming climax of the story worth reading from a dramatic perspective. Without the extensive flashbacks, the characters would be meaningless.

This brings up the question of why the story started with this event instead of in a strictly chronological order. After all, when this structure is used badly, with a tense scene from further along in the chronology used to offset a more placid beginning, it comes across as an insult to the audience, implying that they don’t have the attention span to stick with a story unless they can be promised that there will be intense parts later.

I think that what legitimizes this choice the most in Foucault’s Pendulum is the multiple layers of flashbacks, and how the events prior to everything coming apart are occasionally paralleled by files Casaubon finds on his computer. Also, if there wasn’t this second layer to the plot, we would not be graced with The Return of Saint Germain, and that would be a shame indeed.

But I digress. This chapter mostly gets Casaubon into place, from the periscope to a vantage point where he can see the ritual that the Tres disciples have planned. It’s tense and it works well, doing what it needs to while letting the chapter after it burn into the reader’s memory.

113

This is probably the longest chapter in the entire book. I’ve given Eco a bit of grief for breaking up the flow of the story in order to fit in the desired amount of chapter breaks, but at least he knows to let the entire scene of the right, which has to be the climax of the story, all in one chapter. He gets a gold star for that, and another one for killing off Lorenza. I briefly questioned the morality of celebrating the death of a fictional character, but fictional characters are not real people, and I can’t get away from real people like Lorenza fast enough for my tastes, so I’m glad that she didn’t just leave the story but was instead dispatched in cheesy exploitation fashion.

In fact, the entire rite takes on an exploitation movie vibe, where events get cheesy and ridiculous. I don’t make the comparison just to be funny, because according to the enthusiasts of the genre, one of the appeals of it is to see what over-the-top, creative ideas that the writers and directors can potentially come up with in this sort of environment. Here we have Belbo’s being hung from a pendulum by the neck, identical triplets who serve as spirit mediums by secreting this milky white fluid from their mouths and pores, and the disciples admitting that they didn’t know that they were all part of this mystical order but going through with it anyway because of reasons. While it doesn’t really top Belbo’s attempts at fanfiction, it’s not a bad climax, either. Even Belbo has to laugh at how ridiculous this is, giving Aglie a rare moment of ruined composure before he forfeits his life. I’m sad to see him go, but at least he screwed the disciples over in the process.

114

Punctuating the bizarre turn of events last time, this chapter’ epigraph is a mathematical formula designed to predict the movement of a pendulum composed of a hanged man swinging from a wire. If this is a real source, then knowing that Eco got the idea from this instead of making it up himself somehow makes it even more bizarre.

Anyway, I should mention that I’m making an about-face on the issue of magical realism as has been recently brought into the foreground. For one, did you see the thing with those creepy mediums puking up spirits in order to get a consultation? Ain’t no way that can be explained without some kind of magic. Also, there’s the matter of the symbol that apparently got drawn with Belbo’s body hanging from the pendulum, and I’m curious enough to see where that goes that I’m willing to accept that this was sufficiently lead into.

In terms of events, Casaubon escapes from the museum through the sewer, carrying a copy of that symbol, though I’m not entirely sure how he got it. Did he get the exact symbol or did he just calculate it based on the whole formula involving a pendulum with a joint that doesn’t necessarily signify a human body as part of it.

I also feel conflicted about his conclusion that Belbo went out the way he wanted to. It did seem like he was triumphant at the end, denying them their prize and insulting Aglie to his face. But I’m not sure how well I feel about his character being empty and, well, suicidal. Did he seem like this at any point before that one chapter where he explained his motivations for the plan? I suppose his relationship with Lorenza, and why he kept pursuing it despite her being a horrible person would hint at something deeper than that, but I don’t know.

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