A Paranoid Companion to Thomas Pynchon: The Early Stories and Novels
Chronology of Events Real and Imagined in Pynchon’s Paranoid History of the V
The real historical events are highlighted in bold face type.
Darwin’s Origin of Species is published, leading to Social Darwinism and Imperialism (in V).
Friedrich August Kekulé, German chemist, discovers in a dream the structure of benzene. He envisions eroborus, a snake with its tail in its mouth—the benzene ring—giving birth to the field of organic chemistry (in GR).
Khartoum, Egyptian Sudan: British forces are wiped out by Muslim forces under the Mahdi. General Gordon is killed. Sudan Wars 1884-1891 (in GR).
Fashoda Incident in Egyptian Sudan. French and British Empires clash in Africa over who would build a railroad, leading to an unintended showdown in the middle of nowhere (well, somebody’s somewhere) (in V).
Florence, Italy. Vheissu crisis materializes, involving Godolphin’s Vheissu, the attempted theft of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” from the Uffizi, and a Venezuelan patriot called el Gaucho. Vheissu emissaries may be trying to silence Godolphin.Victoria Wren, the Lady V., “attends” the riots and loves every minute (in V).
General Lothar von Trotha of the German Army commits the first recorded genocide of the twentieth century, wiping out the Herero natives of German Southwest Africa (in V).
Paris in the “accursed hour” before World War I. V. is in love. Paris is decadent (in V).
The Great War of 1914-1918. V. is rumored to be in Valleta, on Malta, during the war (in V).
Gabriel D’Annunzio, Italian super-patriot, with a private army, seizes Fiume, a port city in northwest Yugoslavia. He rules over the city as dictator until removed by the Italian government. This is the first recorde instance of a private, political hallucination being inflicted on an actual European population. V. on Malta as Veronica Manganese meets Stencil, Sr. La Manganese is a friend of D’Annunzio and Mussolini. A revolt breaks out in Malta. Stencil, Sr. mysteriously disappears aboard a small ship sunk while headed from Malta to the mainland of Europe (in V).
Dr. Laszlo Jamf, at Harvard as a psychologist before turning to organic chemistry,
conditions “Infant Tyrone” Slothrop to respond with an erection to a “Mysterious
Stimulous,” heralding brave new possibilities for programming human behavior.
Only incidentally involved in the education business, Harvard is one of the major
V. appears as German agent Vera Meroving, along with Lieutenant Weissmann and Kurt Mondaugan at Foppl’s place in German Southwest Africa during a siege as part of the Bondelswart Uprising. In retaliation the Germans subject the Bondels to perversion, torture, and hanging (in V).
Kurt Mondaugen returns to Munich where he finds the same “soul depression he
encountered in Southwest Africa. The Lady V. returns to Germany where it is
rumored she stays throughout the 1930s (in V). Hitler attempts his first bid for power in Munich. His “Beer Hall Putsch” fails, and he is thrown in jail,
L. Jampf creates Oneirine, the addiction-free pain killer that causes psychotic paranoid delusions (in GR). Fiume is ceded to Italy by a treaty between Italy and Yugoslavia.
IG Farben, which would become the largest chemical cartel in the world, is established—through Wall Street financing. In the middle of the decade, young enthusiasts in Germany are drawn into “control work,” leading to the creation of the guidance systems of the V-2 rocket (in GR).
In the late 1920s, Weissmann, recently back from Southwest Africa with his Herero aide Enzian, is seen at the home of Peter Sachsa, a medium. Later, IG Farben executives appear at Sachsa’s for a séance with the late Walter Rathenau, a German Jewish industrialist who opposed nationalization of cartels. Germany’s only (ever) Jewish Foreign Minister, he was murdered by right-wing former army officers in 1922, probably on the orders of the emerging Nazi Party, which saw him as an agent in a vast Jewish-Communist Conspiracy against Germany (in GR).
Peter Sachsa is clubbed to death in the street by police. He is taken over to the other side, where he communicates freely with the world he has just left. Franz Pökler devotes fulltime effort to rocketry at Kummersdorf outside Berlin, along with his friend Kurt Monaugen, under the direction of Lt. Weissmann (in GR).
In the early 1930s, Joseph Schleim, who works for IG Farben, is assigned to the
American desk, gathering intelligence through IG Farben’s licensees such as Chemnyco, General Analine and Film (GAF), Ansco, and Winthrop. In
1936, goes to England to work for Imperial Chemicals (ICI), which has
Franz Pökler and ninety others move from Kummersdorf to Peenemünde to continue research and development of V-1 and V-2 rockets (in GR).
Imipolex G is developed by L. Jampf for IG Farben (in GR). Jampf is working
for Psychochemie AG in Switzerland, which was formerly Grossli Chemicals, a
spinoff from Sandoz (of LSD fame), Ciba, and Geigy. Jamf’s achievements
oddly parallel the work on superpolymers by Wallace Carothers of DuPont.
Germans launch the V-2 against London. Imipolex G shows up on an “insulation device” on a V-2 rocket fired with the help of a transmitter atop the headquarters of Dutch Shell, co-licensee for marketing Imipolex. The V-2 rocket’s propulsion system bears an uncanny resemblance to one developed by British Shell at about the same time. The data gathered when the rocket hits are sent to London, to Shell Mex House (used as headquarters of the Ministry of Supply during the war). Coincidence? (in GR).
Wernher von Braun surrenders in Germany to the US Army and is taken to the USA, where is develops the US rocket program at White Sands, New Mexico and Huntsville, Alabama. Tyrone Slothrop encounters Major
Duane Marvy, US Army, who is working for American GE to get rocket parts
Norbert Wiener publishes Cybernetics or Control and Communication in theAnimal and in the Machine, thus inventing the term cybernetics. Thomas Pynchon found inspiration from the book for his story “Entropy” and his novels The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity’s Rainbow.
Oedipa Maas, on a paranoid quest to explain her own life, meets Bloody Chiclitz at his aerospace plant, Yoyodyne, in San Narciso, California. Oedipa does not recognize the connection (in CL49).
|1972||V-rocket 00000 launched in Germany in 1945 lands, symbolically, on America.|