Abbreviated Sources
and References

Annotations: title,
epigraph and

Part I

Part II

Part III
III.1 Synopsis
pp. 723-732
III.2 Synopsis
pp. 733-768
III.3 Synopsis
pp. 769-791
pp. 792-823
III.4 Synopsis
pp. 824-855
III.5 Synopsis
pp. 856-878
pp. 879-900
Epilogue Synopsis
pp. 901-937
pp. 938-956

A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions


III.5 pp. pages 856-878

856.epigraph] Run now [...] II Kings 4:26: from the story of the prophet Elisha and the Shunammite woman. In return for her hospitality, he had granted the barren woman a son, who later dies. Going to Elisha to report his death, she overtakes him on the road. Elisha sends his servant to ask if all is well, but she answers falsely (4:26), only later confessing the true situation to Elisha, who then returns to her home and restores the boy to life. The episode has been interpreted as a prophecy of Christ's resurrection. (In light of Gaddis's acquaintance with Robert Graves, the choice of epigraph may owe something to the latter's novelistic treatment My Head! My Head!, "Being the History of Elisha and the Shunammite Woman; with the History of Moses as Elisha related it, and her Questions put to him" [1925]; there, Elisha sacrifices his own life to bring the child back to life.)

856.1] Day [...] a treated corpse: cf. the opening of Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": "Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherised upon a table."

857.20] He was a comfortable man [...] referred to by his publishers as distinguished: based to some extant on successful Scottish novelist A. J. Cronin (1896-1981), whose article "What I Learned at La Grande Chartreuse" (Reader's Digest, February 1953, 73-77) is quoted and parodied throughout this chapter (858.29-41, 863.40-44, 889.1-890.28). The editorial headnote to the pious essay reads "A distinguished novelist visits the famous monastery of the Carthusian monks."

858.6] his hostess [...] Moorish ascendancy: the Convento de los Jerónimos (Gaddis's Real Monasterio) contained "the 'Virgen de Guadalupe,' a figure of the Madonna said to have been carved by St. Luke. It was presented by Pope Gregory the Great to Archbp. Leander of Seville, was hidden away during the Moorish period, and found again at Guadalupe by a shepherd in 1330" (Baedeker 461).

858.17] Boccaccio: Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75), Italian writer, best known for his story cycle The Decameron, the more lascivious episodes of which have fired the imaginations of many illustrators.

859.5] Fr. Eulalio: cf. 10.13.

859.8] Somos españoles [...] en el mundo [...] José Antonio: "We are Spaniards [...] which is one of the few serious things to be in the world" - José Antonio Primo de Rivera (1903-36), founder of the Spanish Falange, a fascist movement. [Julian Rios]

859.29] Como Ganar Amigos y Vencer Todos los Otros: Carnegie's HWF; see 862.35 for a comic mistranslation.

859.44] Se puede?: "May I [come in]?"

861.24] Se ruega [...] cristiana: "Our guests are requested, therefore, to observe the strictest moral behavior in all their acts and conversation. For the ladies it is recommended that their attire be in accordance with Christian modesty."

861.32] Virgin of Rimini: one of Marsh's objects of scorn:

A few years ago, the Virgin of Rimini, which represents a numerous class, the automatic or pantomimic Madonnas, was in high repute; but the profane hands of the Piedmontese civil and military authorities have detected and exposed the springs, cords, pulleys, and other contrivances by which so many sacred pictures and statues were made to roll the eyes, to shed tears, and make puppet-like gestures, that they have fallen rather into discredit. The Virgin of Rimini is a picture of some merit, given by the family of the artist to a church at Rimini in 1810. It manifested no signs of life until 1850, when it was observed by three ladies to roll its eyes upward until the pupil disappeared beneath the upper eyelid, nothing but the white remaining visible. This graceful and expressive movement was repeated during the following days, and after some weeks' practice the image acquired the valuable additional accomplishments of turning the eye-balls laterally, and even rolling them in different directions at the same time. The prodigy excited great attention, the bishop took the matter in hand, and it was swiftly laid before the pope himself, by whose orders an ecclesiastical commission was organized to inquire into the genuineness of the miracle. [...] The pope authorized the coronation of the image in his name, and bestowed upon all who should visit the Church on the day of coronation, or within fifteen days afterward, and perform the required services, plenary indulgence and remission of all sins, transferable, per modum suffragii, to any of their friends in purgatory. (MMSM 150-51)

861.37] having come, like a vulgar Greek, seeking a sign: perhaps an allusion to the same text "Dick" had used earlier (718.13): "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:22-23).

862.2] Fr. Manomuerta: cf. 11.2.

862.12] chasubles worked with thread of gold [...] the gothic cloister: compare Baedeker's description: he notes that the Convento de los Jerónimos

was one of the richest monasteries in Spain. The building, in the plaza, resembles a castle. Adjoining the vestibule are the Sagrario, with the votive chains of Christians freed from slavery, and the Chapel, containing the 'Virgen de Guadalupe' [...]. The Gothic Church is very imposing, though the effect is somewhat marred by the over-massive coro. The latter has a superb reja by Francisco de Salamanca and Juan de Avila (1520). The Renaissance retablo in the capilla mayor is by Juan Gómez de Mora [...]. The tombs of Henry IV. of Castile and Constable Alonso Velasco are also interesting. - The beautiful Sacristía contains eight good pictures (scenes from the life of St. Jerome [...]) by Zurbarán. - There are two Cloisters, one in the Gothic style, the other, with its charming well-house, in the Moorish style. (461)

862.17] Zurbarán: Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), Spanish artist who executed paintings for churches and monasteries in southwest Spain as well as the New World; known for his austere depiction of saints' lives. Baedeker devotes half a page to his work (lxxxiii).

863.40] Sierra de G - - [...] bridle path [...] Logrosán: a small village near the Sierra de Guadalupe; Baedeker (461) notes the bridle path that leads from it to the town of Guadalupe, where the monastery is located.

867.3] painting showed [...] in midair: later identified as a portrait of Saint Dominic by Navarrete (see next note).

869.43] Navarrete . . . Juan Fernández [...] He learned from Titian: (1526-79), called "El Mudo" (The Mute): Spanish artist, court painter to Philip II. Baedeker notes "after the king had commissioned him to paint the Apostles (in the church) and other extensive works at the Escorial, he remodelled his style by a study of the paintings by Titian he saw there, and showed that he understood the grand old master better than many of his immediate pupils" (lxxix).

871.18] Saint Dominic [...] Ganssenio's Vita [...] ejusque efficacia: "Our Lady Herself revealed the Rosary to St. Dominic, who may truly be said to be the Author of this Devotion, and a possessed person (however unwillingly) was compelled on one occasion to confess that all who are constant in their love of the Rosary will receive the reward of Eternal life" (PPM 39). This statement carries the following citation: "Vita S.P. Dominici Ordinis Praedicatorum Fundatoris, Auctore R.P.E. Nicholas Ganssenio . . . Antverpiae M.D.C. XXII. Liber I. Cap V. De auctore Sanctissimi Rosarii, ejusque efficacia, pp. 31-40" (PPM 51 n.105). The detail that follows about enclosing nuns is also from PPM (34). Hughes notes his thrice-daily habit in W (157).

872.8] El Greco's: his portrait of Saint Dominic is reproduced in EB's article on El Greco (22:opposite p. 70).

872.16] Descent of the Holy Spirit [...] He studied with Titian too: an Annunciation. Baedeker notes that he was a pupil of Titian (lxxix).

872.25] "all art requires a closed space" [...] Homunculus: in essay "Goethe's Dramatic Works," Andre Gid é writes: "There is nothing more exceptional and bizarre to the point of being absurd than little Homunculus in his crystal prison; in the flask where Wagner, Faust's disciple, has just created him. Only the tiny image of a man, he still has life, he still is able to express himself. And what he says is a maxim of such general application that one begins to suspect Goethe of having seized upon this truth long before and of having imagined Homunculus merely in order to express it. 'Was künstlich ist verlangt geschlossnen Raum.' All art requires a closed space: it is an aphorism that soon became famous" (Imaginary Interviews, trans. Malcolm Cowley [NY: Knopf, 1944], 92-93; repeated on p. 105).{Mark Hale}
For Homunculus, see  I.1 epigraph and 262.17-18.

873.21] Valdés Leal: see 381.5.

875.22] Cicero, in the Paradoxa: see 124.6.

875.41] Casa con dos puertas, mala es guardar: "A house with two doors is difficult to guard," a Spanish proverb.

876.18] Sigismundo [...] La Vida es Sueño: in act 2 of Calderón's play (see 820.37), Sigismundo throws an impudent servant off the balcony into the sea - the play is set in an ahistorical Poland, indifferent to its actual geography - after which he laments "Vive Dios, que pudo ser!" ("I'd see it literally as 'Live, God, that I may be' [WG/SM]).

876.38] she comes to him carrying lilies: Alessandro Serenelli, Saint Maria Goretti's murderer (see 16.12), was sent to prison for his crime and for many years was a difficult, unrepentant prisoner. Then he had a dream or vision in which Maria gathered flowers and offered them to him. He became repentant and a model prisoner and was released after twenty-seven years in prison and performed penance in a Capuchin monastery.

876.43] two thousand years ago, thirty-three was old, and time to die: cf. 229.12, and see Frazer for the ancient practice of putting a king to death at the height of his powers (GB 265).

876.44] "A curse on youth, that age must overcome [...] could they be forever enchained!": the Buddha's decision to retire from the world and formulate his philosophy was confirmed, writes Saltus, after the following episode: "On the high-roads about Kapilavastu he encountered a man bent double with age, another stricken by fever, and lastly a corpse. 'A curse,' he cried, 'on youth that age must overcome; a curse on health that illness destroys; a curse on life which death interrupts! Age, illness, death, could they but be forever enchained!'" (AN 15-16). Saltus goes on to discount this legend.

877.2] Buddha's immaculate conception, and dead of an indigestion of pork: "The accounts of his life are contained in the Lalita Vistâra, a collection of fabulous episodes in which the supernatural joins hands with the matter-of-fact. It is said, for instance, that he as born of an immaculate conception, and died of an indigestion of pork" (AN 14).

877.15] J'ai le Cafard: Fr: "I've got the blues," but "cafard I associate with something [...] nearer total despair" (WG/SM).

877.20] ghoum: a native policeman; "with ghoum I associate elements of sadism, depravity" (WG/SM).

877.22] "Et toi, divine Mort [...] Leconte de Lisle [...] la vie a troublé": Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle (1818-94), French poet. Quoted here is the first stanza of his poem "Dies irae" (from Poëmes antiques, 1852), which, like R itself, concerns alienation, suffering, the loss of God, and nostalgia:

Et toi, divine Mort, où tout rentre et s'efface,
Accueille tes enfants dans ton sein étoilé;
Affranchis-nous du temps, du nombre et de l'espace,
Et rends-nous le repos que la vie a troublé!

("And you, divine death, where all return and obliterate themselves, / Welcome your children into your starry breast; / Free us from time, from number and space / And give us the repose that life has disturbed!") These lines are quoted at the beginning of Saltus's AN as a motto, and Leconte de Lisle is the subject of his final chapter, "A Poet's Verdict."

877.43] Ouled-Naïl: an Afro-Arab tribe noted for its sensuous exotic dancers.

878.3] "Défense de raser," [...] "les médicastres français e'entendent": Fr. "Don't shave, [...] the French medicasters (quacks) are in the know."

878.32] Sir-reverence: an Elizabethan corruption of "save your reverence," used before saying anything indecorous.


home || e-mail || site search
 William Gaddis:  Life & Work || Tributes, Obituaries, Memorials
The Recognitions || JR || Carpenter's Gothic || A Frolic of his Own || Agapé Agape essay
Gaddis Nonfiction || The Gaddis Discussion List || Gaddis on the Web || Gaddis Remembered
A Gaddis Bibliography ||  Gaddis in Fiction  || The Gaddis Annotations Project