Against the Day Weblog

December 30, 2006

Pynchon and the Balkans (Whole or Sum of Parts II)

Filed under: Notes,Sources — basileios @ 4:30 pm

About a month ago I talked about how I always felt that Pynchon’s works have to be viewed as a whole and not as individual books, totally separated from one another. Lo and behold here is the man himself talking about the Balkans.

“Best procedure when considering the Balkans” instructed Renfrew “is not to look at components singly – one begins to run about the room screaming after a while – but all together, everything in a single timeless snapshot, the way master chess players are said to regard the board”.

page 689

Another interesting point about this paragraph is the mention of global snapshots for master chess players, something which is not always understood easily by people who think that master chess players work like computers by calculating many moves and possibilities in advance. The truth appears to be that master chess players evaluate patterns on the chessboard and judge their next moves based on the future emerging patterns. The global snapshot picture is absolutely correct here.

I think I remember reading a detailed analysis of this in Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works. Could this be the original source for Pynchon as well?



  1. nice ‘discovery’. I, too, am reading Against the Day but am not yet to this page.

    I think this is also Pynchon on History, as he wants us to understand it in this book, in all his work.

    and the ‘timeless’ snapshot relates to Time and timelessness in this novel, don’t you think?

    Comment by Mark Kohut — December 31, 2006 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

  2. yes… you are absolutely right on this. There are quite a few bits on Pynchon’s view on history (probably more Marxian than anything else) in Against the Day, and this is one of the instances of this.

    Comment by basileios — January 1, 2007 @ 8:56 am | Reply

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