Spoiler-free, since I don't actually intend to say anything about the book. I read it in January, assisted by the Pynchon-Wiki (I link to the first page of annotations rather than the start/index page, as the latter uses an illustration which is a spoiler for an episode fairly early on in AtD). Some of the information I found there was either wrong or irrelevant, but maybe things have improved by now as more people will have read the book and made their contributions to the wiki. Even so, I found the site very useful in handling the characteristically overwhelming amount of data and trivia contained in AtD. On the other hand, at times I found myself not concentrating on the novel as such, but rather waiting for the next thing to look up. I also wonder which, if any, repercussions the existence of such a resource might have had for Pynchon's writing process. Bombarding the reader with obscure information like an antlion* bombards its prey with sand is such a trademark Pynchon method, and back in the day when Gravity's Rainbow was published, the reader would have had no choice but to struggle along (either that or give up), which was part of the experience. Granted, "getting" many of the small things with the help of the wiki doesn't necessarily bring you much closer to actually understanding the big picture, but it does at least alter the way you feel lost. The "if" a few sentences back is a big one, however, since ignoring it would assume that at least an important reason why Pynchon includes all these minutiae is in fact that he tries to disorientate the reader. Maybe he just doesn't care if readers get it.
Viktor Pelevin: Shlem uzhasa
Translated into English as The Helmet of Horror, which is the literal translation (or as close as it gets, see below). I don't know, I'm not sure about the quality of the English. Maybe because of the alliteration, maybe because it reminds me of the title of a comic by Ralf König, "Das Kondom des Grauens" (translated as "The Killer Condom", literally "The condom of horror"), a sort of gay sci-fi splatter parody, if you will, by Germany's most widely known gay comic artist**. But then, my English is too vague to pass such judgements.
Again, I can't say much about the book itself; I just picked it up the other day on the new acquisitions shelf at the library (I had my final exam in Russian literature on Pelevin, essentially, and I still like his books, imagine that). HoH has the form of an internet chat between people who are locked up in identical hotel rooms with this particular chat as their only connection to the outside, and who have no idea how they got there.
šlem is an interesting word. With some elementary word magic, it isn't too hard to posit an etymological connection between šlem and helmet, and indeed it seems to be there: Černych's etymological dictionary (Černych, P. Ja. (1994): Istoriko-ėtimologiceskij slovar' sovremennogo russkogo jazyka. Moskva: Russkij jazyk) reconstructs "one of the early Germanisms in the common slavic language", *šelm''. It points to, but doesn't explain in detail a connection to Old High German hullan and its modern German cognate hüllen (to cover, to wrap (cf. Engl. hull; cf. also a recent GPotD).
Helmet, šlem and German Helm, thus, are cognates, but they also form a triangle of what translators call "false friends", i.e. words or structures whose similarities lead you up the garden path. Their meanings overlap to a high degree, but they are not identical. A šlem, to paraphrase what my dictionaries tell me, is either the ancient metal military headgear or some of the 20th century kinds of headgear usually made from leather: pilots' or motor cyclists' helmets, also those worn by some parts of the Red Army. Would you even call those flappier things "helmets" in English? In German, "Helm" feels not quite right in these cases, what's annoying me is that I can't think of a better translation. Haube, perhaps, or Kappe, depending on the context.
If, as I expect, I am in for another sleepless night, I might waste a bit of it in The Antlion pit (besides hoping for some clear sky so I can watch the eclipse). Looks interesting; I got there by way of checking how the usage of the German word "Ameisenlöwe" maps to the English "antlion" (which are the literal translations of each other). It seems to be a German peculiarity that our word doesn't stand for antlions as species, but only for the larvae. The species, as well as the imagines (adult insects), are called "Ameisenjungfern", literally "ant virgins". I guess the explanation for the "virgin" part is that adult antlions, just like other Neuroptera, f.ex. lacewings, superficially resemble dragonflies, and several dragonfly species have "-jungfer" as part of their names. Don't know why that is. Perhaps the wings made people think of veils. And if this isn't true, it's at least a nice invention...
**Suck my duck
Looking at König's web site, I was reminded of CRwM's recent stroll down artists' alley. Gallery, generously sized scans, advertising signed drawings between 250 and 390 € (You do realise this link is possibly NentirelySFW, don't you?).
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