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Achim Hescher (Berlin)

From Modernism to Postmodernism: (E)motion Pictures in Proust, Eco, Barth and Pynchon

In the novel, emotion is not just subject to representation in or through its characters, neither is it solely a stylistic means, employed in order to affect the reader. Emotion constitutes above all a structural dynamic that motivates the narrative from within. As a sequence of images running past the narrator-protagonists' consciousnesses, (e)motion pictures, like films, move characters as readers and thus drive the narrative to its full effectiveness. From Proust we learn that they do so because the images reproduced by the characters pass in short intervals. When the emotion has reached its climax, the subject happens to experience a jubilatory moment of (imaginary) self-recognition, similarly to the toddler in Lacan's mirror stage. Furthermore, the dynamics of the (e)motion picture draw metaphors into play such as reason and passion or fact and fiction.


This paper does not classify a body of novels in terms of genres, based on a commonly underlying structure – which would mean to generalize from an all too limited number of works. Postmodernism, more so than modernism, I understand as a period rather than a genre term under which the contemporary works in question (notably Umberto Eco, John Barth, and Thomas Pynchon) are generally subsumed.

'(E)motion pictures', if I posit this playful neologism in the first place, refers to the intentional process of remembering which, as subject to representation in a specific i.e. literary discourse, is known as remembrance in Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27). Remembering, in real life as (thematically) in Proust, is based on images that a person or a character reproduces or retrieves from under more or less numerous layers of various mental material, of which images represent but a part among the sensual impressions of smell, sound, taste, touch. Anything that passes through the senses may be remembered, though merely a very limited number of vivid impressions have the potential to trigger off the mémoire involontaire.

As a non-phenomenologist I refuse to blurr the borderline between fact and fiction (or life and art, as the postmodernists have it). It is my concern to analyze a specific dynamic structure and its specific variations in forms of literary discourse which are specific in their own right – and which are exclusively at stake here, not minds or their contents as they are subject to psychology or to the philosophies of consciousness. The proceedings of the various forms of phenomenology from Edmund Husserl via Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, through Edward Casey pop to the mind as soon as there is talk of 'images', 'imagination', or 'remembering'. However, Sartre's famous dictum, for example, "L'image est un acte et non une chose" (1936: 162), is radically disjunct from the findings in and about the novels selected for this paper. If fiction is the vital element of phenomenology, as Husserl had it in his Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie (cf. Sartre: 141), then literary analysis may forthrightly dispense with phenomenology.

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In a similar way, it may dispense with the studies of 'emotion' in the respective (and 'objective' or experimental) sciences – it is in no way denied, however, that scientific knowledge may principally be subject to novelistic representation, as for example in Edgar Allan Poe's prose poem Eureka (1848), in the visionary Jules Verne, in Italo Calvino's often re-edited Cosmicomiche (first published in 1965), or rather performatively, in the authors associated with OULIPO.

If I admit such a dynamic as an (e)motion picture on which Marcel elaborates in the Recherche in the form of a meta-discourse, then any instance of narrated emotion may be read as a figure of the literary text and its driving dynamics: in Eco's Nome della Rosa, a similar meta-discourse constitutes a narratological frame or, according to Genette, the auteur extradiégétique (cf. 1972: 238-40), who instigates the writing of the book – on the sheer basis of emotions: "Proprio non so perché mi sia deciso a [...] presentare come se fosse autentico il manoscritto di Adso da Melk. Diciamo: un gesto di innamoramento." (NR: 15, my emphasis) Figurally, all of the novels in this paper read as (e)motion pictures: Proust, Eco, as well as Barth's Tidewater Tales and Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow – "Tell me a story of women and men / Like us: like us in love for ten / Years, lovers for seven ..." (TT: 21), thus begin The Tidewater Tales, whereas Pynchon opens with a state of fear:

A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now. / It is too late [...] There are no lights inside the cars. No light anywhere. [...] glass far above that would let the light of day through. But it's night. He is afraid... (GR: 3)

In addition to this anxiety dream of one of the novel's many secondary characters, Gravity's Rainbow in its large chapters sets apart every change of setting or point of view by a series of printed frames, like the perforation on the celluloid strip:        – and thus passes the literary text off as a film in its own right, as an (e)motion picture in the most illustrious and illustrative sense.1

But let me argue the case from the point where I first came across the metaphor of the (e)motion picture.


In his famous closed room, Marcel retrieves his memories of the Bois de Boulogne (then at a considerable distance from down-town Paris) and the impression left by the dying leaves' changing color in the autumn-light:

l'exaltation que j'éprouvais n'était pas causée que par l'admiration de l'automne, mais par un désir. Grande source d'une joie que l'âme ressent d'abord sans connaître la cause, sans comprendre que rien au dehors ne la motive. Ainsi regardais-je les arbres avec une tendresse insatisfaite qui les dépassait et se portait à mon insu vers ce chef-d'œuvre des belles promeneuses qu'ils enferment chaque jour pendant quelques heures. (R 1:415-6)

The exaltation and the joy are epiphenomena, that is, effects or products of an esthetic desire which creates its own object as a work of art, the "chef-d'œuvre des belles promeneuses", depicting ladies who are taking a walk amidst the trees of the Bois:

[les arbres] me rappelaient le temps heureux de ma croyante jeunesse, quand je venais avidement aux lieux où des chef-d'œuvres d'élégance féminine se réaliseraient pour quelques instants entre les feuillages inconscients et complices. Mais la beauté que faisaient désirer les sapins et les acacias du Bois de Boulogne... n'était pas fixée en dehors de moi dans les souvenirs d'une époque historique... (R 1:416, my italics)

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The linking of the light and the trees with feminine elegance (which is later allegorized in Mme Swann alias Odette de Crécy) comes about in a closed space typical of Marcel's remembrance:

Dans ma chambre fermée, [les feuilles mortes] s'interposaient depuis un mois, évoquées par mon désir de les voir, entre ma pensée et n'importe quel objet auquel je m'appliquais... (R 1:414, my italics)

Note that in the last two quotations, Marcel speaks of "foliage" and "leaves" (feuillages/feuilles), first "unconscious and complicit" (i.e. 'closely linked' or, in a modern sense, 'associated'), then "dead" – metaphors of the layered mental material in the process of being retrieved.

Note also that the respective object is not outside ("n'était pas fixée en dehors de moi") but inside the subject, whose process of intentional remembering is geared toward those few moments of mémoire involontaire, represented for the first time at the beginning of the novel when his mother offers Marcel tea and madeleines. The pleasure procured by the taste of the soaked pastry invades him [envahir] and connects to a precious essence: "cette essence ...n'était pas en moi, elle était moi. [...] D'où avait pu me venir cette puissante joie? Je sentais qu'elle était liée au goût du thé et du gâteau..." (R 1:44). What formerly was subject to thoughts has given way to the mindful and joyful pleasure of finding or rather creating the self "toutes les fois que l'esprit se sent dépassé par lui-même" – "Chercher? pas seulement: créer." (R 1:45) Remembrance being a creative process, its pleasure resides not in a supposedly authentic finding, but in the making of a self of egocentric images: "Certes, ce qui palpite ainsi au fond de moi, ce doit être l'image, le souvenir visuel..." (R 1: 45) The images are decisive in the making of the self as well as in setting off emotion (i.e. pleasure, exaltation, etc.).

Reading a novel, Marcel philosophizes, we are moved as we assimilate what the writer has replaced by images on behalf of their specific quality: "...dans l'appareil de nos émotions, l'image étant le seul élément essentiel.... La trouvaille du romancier a été d'avoir l'idée de remplacer ces parties impénétrables à l'âme par une quantité égale de parties immatérielles, c'est-à-dire que notre âme peut s'assimiler." (R 1:84)

By assimilating the images, by incorporating the other, a self is created that was originally intended as the object of the mind. According to Lacan's theorem of the mirror stage, this self is imaginary in that it represents the mirror in which the subject recognizes himself in a jubilatory moment ("...elle était moi...") as center of his wholistic universe. (cf. Lacan: 90) Thus all the women that Marcel utilizes as medium and sources for his remembrance (Gilberte, Albertine, Mme de Guermantes, and to a certain extent, Odette) represent self-made mirrors in which the narrator-protagonist joyously recognizes himself – as the image of the other. Emotion thereby occurs as an image-effect or by-product in the creative process of remembering, which in turn is instigated by a pleasurable esthetic desire ("une tendresse insatisfaite").

There is a similar constellation in Umberto Eco's novel Il Nome della Rosa (1980), a book which from the beginning is fully inscribed in the tension between the figures of passion and reason. In the first narratological frame already, shortly before the author-persona gives us notice of his book being the 'Italian version of a version of another version etc.' we learn that "Vi sono momenti magici, di grande stanchezza fisica e intensa eccitazione motoria, in cui si danno visioni di persone conosciute in passato... Come appresi più tardi... si danno altresì visioni di libri non ancora scritti." (NR: 12-3)

The erudite author-persona's mental and physico-physiological symptoms of weariness (grande stanchezza fisica) and intense emotional excitement (intensa eccitazione motoria) stand in a causal relation to the protagonist's later vision consisting of a sequence of images.

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Hence it is equally exciting to write the yet unwritten book for the former – who actually revises his rough translation of the French translation by a Benedictine abbot, who again translated Adson's lost Latin manuscript – as for the narrator-protagonist Adson of Melk to put down in writing the remembrance of his youth, which in turn is set off by a vision he had when he was contemplating the tympanon of the monastery portal:

E tramortito ... e a stento trattenni il pianto, e mi parve di udire (o udii davvero?) quella voce e vidi quelle visioni che avevano accompagnato la mia fanciullezza di novizio ... e nel deliquio dei miei sensi debolissimi e indeboleti udii una voce potente come di tromba che diceva "quello che vedi scrivilo in un libro (e questo ora sto facendo) ... (NR: 52)

Adson is so powerfully moved that he finds himself on the verge of losing consciousness. The vision here is coupled with dubious sound impressions ("o udii davvero?") which drive Adson to an almost total mental and physical exhaustion. To be true, he actually has a double vision: the vision of the tympanon figures coming alive connecting to the vision of his youth at Melk. What is happening here is comparable to a film running before the mind's eye (of the protagonist), a sequence of images passing at a certain velocity which creates the impression of motion and liveliness responsible for Adson's exhaustion – in Proust we have learnt about the interrelation of emotion and images as something immaterial, assimilated by the soul and made into something of its own. We further read:

Et une fois que le romancier nous a mis dans cet état, où comme dans tous les états purement intérieurs toute émotion est décuplée... à la façon d'un rêve... voici qu'il déchaîne en nous... tous les bonheurs et tous les malheurs possibles dont nous mettrions dans la vie des années à connaître quelques-uns... parce que la lenteur avec laquelle ils se produisent nous en ôte la perception... (R 1:84, my italics)

Velocity is the decisive parameter in the making of the psychic audio-visual 'motion-picture' whereas in life, in reality, slowliness prevails, the long intervals between the images that prevent emotion – which again belongs to the realm of fiction, as the metaphors of the novel writer and the dream suggest. Note that Marcel's novel is not just about emotion, rather emotion is the primary dynamic that drives the remembrance, constituted by reeling image sequences. In Marcel's instance there are few moments of involuntary memory which are particularly impressing in their releasing the essential or most valuable sequences of his life.

The same dynamic prevails, though not as intensively, in Eco. Adson's narrative represents a remembrance of times lost in its being equally of and about emotion, of which the most moving image sequence is to be seen in the night the novice remembers himself sleeping with the unknown village girl. The questions 'What happened to me that night?', 'Was I acting sinfully?', which occupy Adson, play a part only at the thematic level of the novel. It proves more rewarding to analyze the "passione terrestre della rimemorazione" (NR: 284), which after all appears sinful to the narrator in his trying "di sfuggire al flusso del tempo, e alla morte." (284) When on the fourth day of his stay in the monastery Adson once more contemplates his 'sinfall', he concludes that he was not seduced by the girl but by something running its course inside himself: "E da questa passione ero naturalmente sedotto, perché in questa passione [sic] appetitus tendit in appetibile realiter consequendum ut sii ibi finis motus." (NR: 283) What Adson quotes in Latin according to the dottore angelico, Saint Thomas Aquinas, means that desire strives for a really desirable consequence so that the motion end there. Knowing from Lacan about the ever perpetuated dynamics of desire that never come to a halt because of the object's being endowed with a lack, it is 'sequence' rather than 'consequence' (both translate the Latin consequens): a sequence of images, a remembrance in the form of a(n) (e)motion picture which is putting Adson, the subject, in a mirror situation – similiar to Marcel's tasting the madeleine soaked in tea – in which he recognizes himself in the (mirror) image of the other (self): "Infatti io ora vedevo la fanciulla meglio di quanto l'avessi vista la sera prima, e la capivo [sic] intus et in cute perché in essa capivo me e in me essa stessa." (283, my italics).

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Adson is seduced less by the girl than by his emotions in the form of an image sequence that reaches its climax at the moment of self-recognition: a reeling mirror-stage, to speak with Lacan. After all, Adson, like Marcel, has incorporated (capire intus et in cute) and assimilated ("in essa capivo me e in me essa stessa") the object of his remembrance. – E il dottore angelico? St. Thomas' dictum appetitus tendit in appetibile realiter consequendum is subverted by the figural dynamics of the novel's discourse which caters to the (e)motion picture (sequence) rather than to a consequence in which the motion would end (ut sii ibi finis motus).

Let's reconsider the nature or status of the (e)motion picture. As for Proust's narrator, real life is too slow in creating the images, their intervals – due to the time-consuming nature of live impressions – too long to generate a moving image sequence necessary for emotions to come about.

John Barth's Tidewater Tales (1987) generate (e)motion pictures with 'real' sound – unlike Adson's dubitable sound impressions: "...mi parve di udire (o udii davvero?) quella voce...". It is the eighth day of the boat trip through Chesapeake Bay, initiated by Katherine Shorter Sherritt to stimulate her husband-writer Peter Sagamore (i.e. sage mehr, say more), who has run out of stories. Kath's strategy to cure Pete's story anemia is geared to taking turns in telling each other stories while sailing their boat which, significantly, Pete called Story. Kath is nine months pregnant and her twin delivery due any time. That day it is decided to break up the trip and to return to Nopoint Point, the residing place of Kath's family and their friend and obstetrician, Jack Bass. Yet, just at that moment Peter refuses to leave the boat, for he has the feeling that his story-labor will soon get under way (TT: 452.). This refusal is to set off a fight over emotions. Kath2, who brought this trip on the way for Peter's sake, feels that he should now put back his interests for the sake of their children-to-be:

Damn it! Damn it. She won't say Damn him, or even Damn his damn writing: Look how reasonable she's being, even in her distress! Nor will she forbid him to ride with her down to Easton... She's going to be reasonable all the way, damn her. / And even her reasonableness she doesn't make a great fake show of, to get at him, does she. (TT: 456)

Kath, the narrator of these lines, is involved in an inner fight about her emotions which she wants to be under the control of reason – a similar predicament as Adson's, who remembers Saint Thomas Aquinas' dictum about passion to be regarded as evil when out of the control of reason.3 What is being reasonable or unreasonable, however, stands in close connection to 'fact' and 'fiction'. When Kath's and Pete's friends Frank and Lee "agree with Katherine that [Peter] is being awfully unreasonable [i.e. passionate]" (TT: 456), something is at stake: 'his' writing-passion vs. 'her' babies-reasonableness. From the beginning, literally and figurally, the human offspring is linked to the conception and birth of the novel and thus to the reason/fact and passion/fiction metaphors. In the first place, Pete's and Kath's fight is about what should have the priority: fact, as connected with the babies and with reason, or fiction, linked to Pete's story writing and passion. As quoted, Kath finds herself in a double-bind: her reasonableness is made of her being (emotionally) set up about her reasoning ("Damn it!... She won't say Damn him..."), whereas Pete continues to deal reasonably with his passion: he remains committed to his writing and decides to stay put to have his 'story-babies' on the boat. The Tidewater Tales' tour de force lies not in opposing reason to passion (as it is the case in Eco) or fact to fiction, but in showing on a figural level that they are not at all contradictory, that there is no static antagonism. The novel is the locus where these metaphors come close, and in this context 'emotion' is not just their semantic force field.

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Rather, it constitutes the figural dynamics in which the metaphors are set in motion – which affects as well the content level as the characters: the fight will be settled 'reasonably reasonable': after a short period of separation, Pete and Kath 'independently' though intuitively decide to get on their way back to the other and both of them meet, significantly enough, at about mid-distance from Pete's boat and Kath's staying place (cf. TT : 495-8). Literally and figurally the two are set in motion like the metaphors 'passion', 'fiction' (or writing stories, Peter's favorites), 'reason', and 'fact' (or the babies-to-be-born, Katherine's favorites). As yet there are no signs of an immediate birth, and so P & K decide to return on board together (cf. TT: 501). Although Katherine's child birth is due any time, the interrupted trip continues thereafter – reasonably unreasonable, or passionately ficticious?

I have shown that in the field of emotion, the fact/fiction metaphors are called into play together with reason/passion. But what about the image sequence, the (e)motion picture? What about the imaginary self to be recognized in those images? – The heading of the chapter we are analyzing is "HITS" (TT: 452). In the second line of the chapter the readers learn that this refers to "a whole new ball game", a metaphor used throughout the novel every time the protagonists are confronted with a new situation or constellation. The Tidewater Tales indeed proceed like a ball play: hit after hit, move after move, every story told, interrupted, and continued to be told represents a new game, a new situation, a new picture. Emotions culminate when Peter replies that "he can't go back to Nopoint Point. / K turns up the volume: Read won't! / Okay, won't. No, damn it, can't... / Kath's eyes are wet, but she's really pissed..." (TT: 455) As if this scene were rehearsed and simultaneously watched by the two players, Kath "turns up the volume" like one turns up the volume of a running sound film. Hit after hit, with short intervals in between ("Ready, won't / Okay, won't / No, damn it..."), the image sequence moves on and the sounding (e)motion picture is brought to life. In The Tidewater Tales, stories, events, and characters are set in motion in which former literal and figural antagonists come so close that they almost connect (though not in a static binding), like Kath and Pete: "their connection hasn't yet been made", says the text, "...she can't help feeling that now it's time he gave something up for her, for the kids, for us – ... for the sake of the capital-U Us. God damn it, Peter!" (455) Yet their connection 'has been made' figurally and dynamically: their approximation is maximal when hit after hit, as figures in the metaphor play starring reason, passion, fact, and fiction, they eventually recognize themselves in the (e)motion picture "Us" with "the capital-U".

Hit after hit as in a ball play – or hop after hop as in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973) does the image sequence move on. When after the octopus incident Slothrop has a midnight date with Katje Borgesius, the girl he 'saved' from the tentacles of the beast, they literally and figurally jump at each other:

Slothrop undoing belt, buttons, shoelaces hopping one foot at a time, oboy oboy, but the moonlight only whitens her back, and there is still a dark side, her ventral side, her face, that he can no longer see, a terrible beastlike change [...] as they fuck she quakes, body strobing miles beneath him in cream and night-blue, all sound suppressed, eyes in crescents behind gold lashes, jet earrings, [...] his face above her unmoved, full of careful technique – is it for her? [...] thinking she might be close to coming he reaches a hand into her hair, tries to still her head, needing to see her face: this is suddenly a struggle, vicious and real – she will not surrender her face – and out of nowhere she does begin to come, and so does Slothrop. (GR: 196-7, my italics)

The image sequence is constituted step by step, at first with longer intervals, "...he topples in slow-motion toward her mouth..." (GR: 196), then in shorter ones, "one foot at a time, oboy oboy", so that the protagonists become players of their own (e)motion picture, whose dynamics draw into play the metaphors reason/passion and fact/fiction – as in Barth's Tidewater Tales. During their spontaneously passionate sex act, Slothrop feels the need to look at Katje's face, the locus where emotion becomes visible, which would indicate to him if her passion is "real" (factual) or just play-acted (fictional). Yet, the need to find out about real or fake passion is beyond the control of reason: it is generated by the desire for knowledge about fact and fiction, the driving force of all the characters in Gravity's Rainbow.4

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Slothrop's struggle to see Katje's face, which "she will not surrender", represents the desire to recognize oneself, or rather one's self in the facial form of the other – like Adson in the Rose and Katherine in Peter (and vice versa). The moment of recognition, however, is not for Slothrop whose desire-fulfillment is precluded by Katje's and, consecutively, by his own orgasm – no jubilatory moment, and no happy end.

Contrary to Katje, Margherita Erdmann, who is on the search for her daughter, will surrender her face. She and Slothrop meet up in a dilapidated film studio in Berlin where Margherita used to shoot "vaguely pornographic horror movies" with the ominous director Gerhardt von Göll. She explains: 'I never seemed to move. Not even my face. [...] Even running away [...] still I was so [...] monumental. When I wasn't running I was usually strapped or chained to something.' (GR: 394, my underlining) It is of importance that move is italicized in Pynchon's text. Margherita seems frozen, deplete of emotion as her unmoved face suggests. Film appears as reality when it dispenses with motion and, as a consequence, with emotion. In her excitement Margherita, as she is again strapped and chained, wants Slothrop to perform sado-masochistic practices on her and asks him to be cruel: "'Could you be? Please. Find something to whip me with. Just a little. Just for warmth.' Nostalgia. The pain of a return home.'" (GR: 396) Emotion comes about when Margherita's body is set in motion with the quick and consecutive beats of the whip: "He tries not to... whip too close to her stretched vulva, which shivers unprotected... amid movements of muscle erotic, subdued, 'monumental' as any silver memory of her body on the film." (GR: 397)

The "movements" of the body are again "subdued" to another (e)motion sequence, the "silver memory" of the film in which the "monumental" is carried away (and therefore put in quotation marks): memory as "pain of a return home." Here we realize in what way the (e)motions picture draws in its play the fact and fiction metaphors: the film in play 'Max meets Margherita' is unemotional and 'real' (Margherita bound and still, i.e. unmoved) as well as emotional and 'ficticious' (Margherita unbound when stirred by the whip). – The opposite version is no less pertinent: unemotional and ficticious as well as emotional and real, when the play becomes a recapturing, a remembrance of the past.

Margherita makes Slothrop act like her former movie partner Max Schlepzig, who during the shooting of the movie Alpdrücken fathered Bianca on her in the sado-maso scene that is now to be re-played with Slothrop. Thus during their intercourse Margherita imagines Slothrop to be Max : "Margherita whispering God how you hurt me and Ah Max . . .". At the climax she cries out "Bianca. . ." GR: 397). The emotion culminates when the whipped body has reached its peak motion capacity. On the figural level, fact and fiction, the former antagonistic metaphors, come closest when most vehemently set in motion by the discourse of the novel: as a body in motion in a sequence of images Margherita comes, or rather a Proustian involuntary-memory moment comes about; she remembers times lost represented in the images of her film-child Bianca, a "pain that is not in play..." (GR: 397). In the images of her daughter she authentically recognizes herself ("pain of a return home") – like Marcel in his moments of auto-referential memory, or like Adson in the image sequence of his night spent with the Rose.

When Franz Pökler meets his supposed daughter Ilse for the first time in Peenemünde,

the vacuum of his life [is] threatened to be broken in one strong inrush of love. He tried to maintain it with seals of suspicion, looking for resemblances to the face he's last seen years ago over her mother's shoulder [...] pretending not to find resemblances. Perhaps pretending. Was it really the same face? [...] He was afraid now even to hold her, afraid his heart would burst. He said: 'How long have you been waiting?' (GR: 407, my underlining)

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Ilse's face does not hide or reveal emotion but triggers it off in Franz in the form of love: it could and could not be the authentic Ilse's face – which is therefore not to be taken at face-value. It could be, in fact, a fiction: is she really his daughter, with whom his ex-wife Leni ran off many years ago, or just some other brat the Nazis gave him to fill his emotional vacuum?

In Ilse's and Franz's case the fact and fiction metaphors do not move around vehemently enough as before in Max's and Margherita's: Franz simply cannot authentically remember and therefore he cannot recognize himself in his daughter, who, he suspects, is rather unreal: "So, to stand between him and this impossible return, he had his anger – to preserve him from love he couldn't really risk. He could settle for interrogating his daughter." (GR: 408, my italics) Love and anger represent two equally valid metaphors of an emotional dynamic that drives the narrative to run its course. After their visit to the fairy park Zwölfkinder, Franz and Ilse return to the hotel where his daughter asks her 'father' to sleep next to her. When she huddles up, "He hit her upside the head with his open hand, a loud and terrible blow. That took care of his anger. Then, before she could cry or speak, he had dragged her up on the bed next to him..." (GR: 420, my italics). Contrary to Katherine's and Peter's (e)motion picture, in which hit follows after hit (see above), Franz's unemotional farce is confined to one angry blow in Ilse's face, followed by hours of amazing 'incest'.

For six years Ilse, or the person named so (by the Nazis?), will be turning up every summer at Peenemünde to compensate for Franz's never tiring efforts in the rocket project: the only continuity will have been her name, and Zwölfkinder, and Pökler's love – love as something like the persistence of vision, for "They have used it to create for him the moving image of a daughter, flashing him only these summertime frames of her, leaving it to him to build the illusion of a single child . . ." (GR: 422, my italics)

"They", the conspirators, may resemble Proust's novel writer who luckily found the image as a means to generate emotion ("in the apparatus of our emotions, the image [is] the only essential element...") to enthrall the reader. As in Proust, it is of cardinal importance that the images move with a certain speed ("flashing", like Ilse being given as a "moving image" to Franz), or be moved by some other instance (as by "Them" in Pynchon). Yet the intervals between the images are too long ("only these summertime frames of her"), their velocity insufficient to produce an involuntary-memory moment in which emotion would reach its peak and in which the remembrance of times lost would be achieved in a mirror image of Franz's self. He must hang on to an illusion: "A film... [I]sn't that what they made of my child, a film?" (GR: 398)

Yes and no. Ilse is a real film child.


Barth, John, 1987. The Tidewater Tales. A Novel. New York: Putnam, cited as TT.

Caviola, Hubert, 1991. In the Zone. Perception and Presentation of Space in German and American Postmodernism. Basel.

Eco, Umberto, 1990. Il Nome della Rosa [1980]. Milano: Bompiani, cited as NR.

Genette, Gerard, 1972. Figures III. Paris: Seuil.

Hescher, Achim, 1996. Vom "postmodernen Roman" zur postmodernen Lesart - Theorie und Praxis metaphorologischer Lektüren von euro-amerikanischen Romanen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Essen: Die Blaue Eule.

Lacan, Jacques, 1966. Ecrits I. Paris: Seuil.

Proust, Marcel, 1987. À la recherche du temps perdu. 4 vols. Paris: Gallimard (Pléia-de, ed. J.-Y. Tadié), cited as R.

Pynchon, Thomas, 1973. Gravity's Rainbow. London: Picador, cited as GR.

Sartre, Jean-Paul, 1936. L'imagination. Paris: PUF.

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1"Present as a movie, [Gravity's Rainbow] constantly plays with the ontological status of its cast, making them partake in a fictional and a 'real' world at the same time." (Caviola: 106)

2In The Tidewater Tales, Barth plays with a variety of short forms and even abbreviations of 'Katherine' and 'Peter'.

3 "L'angelico dottore dice che le passioni in sé non sono cattive, salvo che van moderate dalla volontà guidata dall'anima razionale. Ma la mia anima razionale era in quel mattino sopita dalla stanchezza..." (NR: 283)

4In another respect, this has generally been interpreted as 'paranoia' (see my overview and analysis in Hescher: 323-327).