Monday, March 11, 2019
The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week Three
The tomb of Virgil in Naples, mentioned in this section of the novel. Creative Commons photo by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta.
This week, please read from page 43, "It was only a day later that 'Mr. Drake' contacted Sigismundo" to page 68. "Uncle Pietro guessed his thoughts. 'It is always that way in conquered nations,' he said sadly." As I am giving passages as well as page numbers, readers can purchase the Hilaritas ebook and use that, if they wish.
In a comment for Week One, Eric Wagner wrote, "This novel has seven sections, each with the name of a tarot trump. One could model these chapters as corresponding with the seven chakras, the seven days of the week, the first seven circuits, etc."
This section is named "The Fool," and it is in this section that Sigismundo realizes he is a fool and learns the Cosmic Schmuck principle.
After Sigismundo learns that he is a fool, Uncle Pietro lectures Sigismundo on the first three circuits in the Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness: "Actually, there are potentially at least eight souls" (page 66).
Many of the characters in this novel are the ancestors of characters in the Illuminatus! trilogy -- Sigismundo Celine and Hagbard Celine, Mr. Drake and Francis Drake, and so on. Neal Stephenson did something very similar later with Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle. Probably just coincidence, although there is no way to know as Mr. Stephenson makes himself essentially unavailable to questions from fans, journalists and other such nuisances.
Eric also remarked in the first week, "Everything in these first couple of pages seems in-between. The book starts with the protagonist,Sigismundo Celine, half asleep, in-between a dream and awake to his environment. The priest appears in-between changing the material of a wafer of bread into the spiritual body of Christ. When the Uncle gets assassinated, for those few moments until it finishes, he goes between life and death. In-betweenness seems an important concept, to me."
Sigismundo is a teenager, in between being a child and an adult, and is therefore working particularly hard to emerge from Dante's dark wood and figure things out, with Uncle Pietro serving as Sigismundo's Virgil.