Proverbs for Paranoids

Es gibt fünf dieser wunderbaren Sprichworte für Paranoiker in Gravity’s Rainbow.

Man beachte die absolute Binärstruktur in den Aussagen der ersten vier Sprichworte (master vs. creatures, innocence vs. immorality, questions vs. answers, hide vs. seek) und wie diese Struktur durch das fünfte Sprichwort doppelt (inhaltlich und formal) aufgebrochen (dekonstruiert) wird.

Episode 26, p. 237/375:

Proverbs for Paranoids, 1: You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.

Sinnsprüche für Paranoiker, 1: Der Meister mag dir verborgen bleiben – doch seine Kreaturen kannst du kitzeln.

Episode 26, p. 241/381:

Proverbs for Paranoids, 2: The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.

Sinnsprüche für Paranoiker, 2: In der Arglosigkeit der Kreaturen spiegelt sich die Amoral des Meisters.

Episode 28, p. 251/397

Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.

Sinnsprüche für Paranoiker, 3: Wem es gelingt, dir falsche Fragen einzureden, dem braucht auch vor der Antwort nicht zu bangen.

Episode 28, p. 262/412

Proverbs for Paranoids, 4: You hide, they seek.

Sinnsprüche für Paranoiker, 4: Du versteckst dich, sie suchen.

Episode 30, p. 292/459

Paranoids are not paranoids (Proverb 5) because they’re paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.

Paranoiker sind Paranoiker nicht etwa (Sinnspruch 5), weil sie paranoisch wären, sondern weil sie sich, verdammte Idioten, andauernd vorsätzlich in paranoide Situationen begeben.

(in der offiziellen Übersetzung steht «freiwillig» für «deliberately»)

Marca’s Proverbs for Paranoids:

Proverb 1Proverb 2Proverb 3Proverb 4Proverb 5

— Original Message —
From: Dave Monroe
davidmmonroe@[omitted] to:
Sent: Monday, January 22, 2001 6:48 PM
Subject: O'Donnell, “Postmodernity and the Symptom of Paranoia”

Bersani, Leo, “Pynchon, Paranoia, and Literature.”
Representations 25 (1989): 9–118
… which I do not have at hand
— End of Message —

For Dave Monroe

So some quotes and thoughts. The essay is great fun and indicates that our shared interest and making theories about Pynchon’s novels here shows to some degree we’re all paranoid (he he he). Moreover it seems to suggest that paranoia is the natural state of affairs.

Bersani begins with a comparison of how Freud and Pynchon define paranoia, stating that any “(…) novel that uses the word paranoia as frequently (…) is likely to make the reader somewhat paranoid about the very frequency of its use” (99) and he remarks that Pynchon even made a verb out of the word (GR 295).
But if Bersani is right then this must go for other words too, and the most frequent word is, “as if everyone knew: “death.”” (GR 32). So paranoia and death, the paranoia of dying is (at least partly) what GR is about?

“Freud explained paranoia as a defense against a desired homosexual “attack,” (…) potential benefits of interpretative control are dramatically illustrated by the ease with which Dr. Schreber, the subject of Freud’s most celebrated analysis, transcends his paranoid anxiety and even changes a plot of cosmic hostility into an epic of cosmic self-centering. God’s desire to use Schreber as a “wife” in order to engender a new race rewrites catastrophe as apotheosis (…)” (99).
Interestingly this guy Schreber is mentioned at the very beginning of the “Anti-Oedipus” by Deleuze–Guattari too: “Himmelsarsch” (italics by D-G, Anti Ödipus: Kapitalismus und Schizophrenie I, Frankfurt, 1974, 1977, p. 7) and his paranoia looks a bit like Slothrop’s, who realizes that he might been under surveillance for long (GR 333) and fears that there’s someone/thing out there in heaven/sky who/that is after him (GR 25).

We get the nice binary opposition of truth and delusion here, Freud, in defending himself against the accusation “of having lifted his theory from Schreber’s book” (100) asks if a theory developed out of the delusions of a paranoid person can deliver any truth. Bersani quotes his answer and we have to thank him for this remarkable binary sentence from Freud’s pen, making theory a synonym for truth:

“It remains for the future (…) to decide whether there is more delusion in my theory that I should like to admit, or whether there is more truth in Schreber’s delusion than other people are as yet prepared to believe.”
(Psychoanalytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia [Dementia Paranoides], in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey, 24 vols., [London, 1953-74], 12:78-79, Bersani p. 100), [S. Freud: Über einen autobiographisch beschriebenen Fall von Paranoia, GW Bd. VIII, S. 285].

Bersani remarks that if Freud’s theory about paranoia is the “truth” about this delusion it necessarily must be a replication of those delusions. More, if he hasn’t “stolen” the theory but developed himself does this mean that he himself is paranoid too? The making of theories already a symptom of paranoia – what a nice conclusion:

Freud’s concluding remarks bizarrely suggest that there is some ordering truth of paranoia–of paranoia as distinct from the classificatory and theoretical discourse that in fact constitures it–different from both paranoid ravings and theories of paranoia (…) as if the “truth” of paranoia might turn out to be that theory is always a paranoid symptom (…) that (…) psychoanalytic discourse (…) may be nothing more than a manifestation of paranoid behavior” (100-101).
This is, according to Bersani, exactly how Pynchon deals with the concept of paranoia. It’s a “reflex of seeking other orders behind the visible” (GR 219), the noteworthy discovery of the paranoid that “everything is connected, everything in the creation” (GR 820) is put into comparison to and shown as the symptoms of a disease. What Pynchon is doing here too is showing how all those transcendental beliefs of cosmic unity and connectedness which were very prominent among his readers when the book came out first have another side too. On the other hand this goes for Puritanism with the concept of predestination too from which all the hippies tried to escape. All these theoretical constructs can be deconstructed to paranoid symptoms this way, in fact are doing so themselves (like Freud‘s theory itself does) if taken seriously.

But what would be the consequences for our lives if we knew for sure there is no such thing like transcendence, Bersani asks:

“Would we ever want a life without paranoid terror? “If there is something comforting–religious, if you want–about paranoia, there is still also anti–paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long” (506). Not only that: to escape from paranoia would be to escape from the movement that is life” (103).
Pynchon may call this comforting thought religious, in my opinion he means it in fact the other way round: he is speaking about the agnostic modern feeling of absurdity because if nothing is connected where is the sense of it all? Technically he’s speaking about chaos, no order at all, the end of the universe if it’s an open and not a closed system, one of those questions that can’t be answered by scientists, minus 273° — the possibility of an “Absolute Zero” (GR 3) we’ve encountered already at the beginning of the novel, or, as Bersani later says:
“(…) the major anxiety provoked by Gravity’s Rainbow is ontological rather than epistologocial” (107).
Bersani calls to attention a piece of text where Pynchon speculates about the possibility that through technology a degree of control could be attained that up to now, at least in the imagination, was limited to the Gods or that subconscious area we are not controlling according to Freud. Strange enough a priest, the jesuit Father Rapier says this:
“Once the technical means of control have reached a certain size, a certain degree of being connected one to another, the chances for freedom are over for good” (GR 627).
I’ve mentioned Slothop’s Puritan forefathers, Bersani hasn’t forgotten them and relates their belief to modern information techniques. The undeniable, according to Bersani inevitable paranoia they can emerge echoes older models and patterns:
The Pychonian opposition between They (IG Farben etc.) and We (Slothrop, Mexico, Pirate Prentice, etc.) is a replay of the opposition of Slothrop’s Puritan forefather’s polarity of the Elect and the Preterite. Information control is the contemporary version of God’s eternal knowledge of each individual’s ultimate damnation or salvation, and both theology and computer technology naturally produce paranoid fears about how we are hooked into the system, about the connections it has in store for us.” (103)
There’s some more about the text behind the text (105ff.), about “what happens when data resist the ordering process” (104) like the novel itself which “resists analysis-that is, being broken down into distinct units of meaning” (113), what Bersani calls the main result of any interpretation of this novel.



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© Otto Sell – February 6, 2001
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