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Chapter 1: When the light of the infinite...

First person narrator name unknown, gender as yet undeclared. Goes by “I.” The text begins with an epigraph written in ancient Hebrew and whose translation begins, according to the book’s index of first lines, “When the light of the infinite…” (Wikipedia translates “infinite” as “Endless”[1].) In the first sentence of the text itself, the narrator focuses attention: “And that’s when I saw the Pendulum”—saying it as though we know exactly what he’s talking about and are as obsessed with it as he is. (It is a he; I’ve read ahead.) He waxes poetic about the relationship between the period of the Pendulum’s swing and various trigonometric variables, seeming very Pythagorean by considering those mysteries available to anyone attune to the “magic of that serene breathing” (3). (I assume he’s connecting the periodicity of respiration with that of the Pendulum. Incidentally, Samuel Beckett does a similar thing with the variable intensity of light in Breath.) But the crazy comes out in his identification of various disparate things via some loose connection with the succession of the natural numbers: (1) the Pendulum’s “point of suspension”; (2) the 2-D plane it swings in; (3) pi’s “triadic beginning”; and (4) “the secret quadratic nature of the root”… Thus begins the narrative's unbridled extraction of meaning and patterns from… anything whatsoever. The jump from one to two dimensions isn’t so arbitrary, but what could the triadic beginning of pi have to do with the next step? And sure the concept of quadrature regards four-sidedness (at least in the plane), but that’s not exactly the same as 4-dimensionality. Who knows, there may be a weird connection, though it seems tenuous to me. And I think that’s the point.

Our narrator visits the Pendulum on purpose: his friend and colleague Jacopo Belbo has often spoken of it. He describes Belbo as somewhat prone to neurotic ramblings, but identifies his discourse on the Pendulum as having “hit upon the truth” (6). He also mentions a “Universal Plot” in which the Pendulum is purported to play a central role. The Pendulum is being displayed in Paris at the Conservatore des Arts et Metiers, placed there (along with a bunch of other cadaverous metal objects that once formed the cutting edge of technology) “to offer the masses an accessible shrine of all the arts and trades” (8). So it lives in what is basically a meticulously curated techno-cultural junkyard. The language used to describe the museum and its raison d’etre, though, our narrator condemns as hypocritical and compares it to that used “to describe the House of Solomon in New Atlantis” (8). Such is his intense paranoia: the Pendulum he considers part of a plot and the conservatoire a sinister menagerie. He therefore resolves to evade the guards by hiding in one of the vehicles on display and stowing away until midnight, at which time he expects the Pendulum somehow to reveal to him its truth.

[1] When the Light of the Endless was drawn in the form of a straight line in the Void... it was not drawn and extended immediately downwards, indeed it extended slowly — that is to say, at first the Line of Light began to extend and at the very start of its extension in the secret of the Line it was drawn and shaped into a wheel, perfectly circular all around. (Wikipedia’s_Pendulum)


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