So Part II – “Fire—The Descent” – arrives, and it arrives with an amping up of the difficulty, arriving with sinewy sentences, going on for pages and pages, interminable pages and pages that sometimes find the prose arrested by flights of poetry cum philosophy that leave a reader mystified and unsure of meaning but with a fear or maybe dread that something important is being said but that you don’t really understand it but could if you had read a library of German and Greek philosophy, but you were of course too busy raising kids or washing dishes or watching NCAA basketball so you don’t really understand it and even feel kind of guilty and this kind of guilty feeling makes you loathe to criticize it because so many great critics have found Broch’s novel praiseworthy but also have done so in the most discursive of fashions, discursive because you suspect they did not have the temerity to explicate the damn thing and so they leave their plaudits like Fermat’s jottings, asserting that what was nearly impossible was in fact simple, so simple as to need no proof, seemingly impossible but in fact so simple its apparent greatness could be noted in the equivalent of intellectual marginalia, so that generations after that are left to ponder what they themselves could be missing, how they could have overlooked the obvious, without even contemplating that maybe Fermat couldn’t do it himself and that all of these titanic titans of art-artistry maybe just couldn’t do it themselves either and that an epigrammatic style is just cover for a lack of courage but in the end you are left knowing that the Gasses and Steiners and Blanchots and Arendts, the Gasses and Steiners and Blanchots and Arendts who love the book so much, who love the book so much but are there really as self-projected witnesses to and judges of your own obtuseness, your own inability to put into eclipse the sphere of your imaging-image and the sphere of your real-reality, the futility of it all enough to make you laugh out loud, to really laugh out loud, to laugh out loud except you know Broch thinks laughter to be the Devil’s work, or would be if there was a Devil, but there isn’t, so laughter becomes some kind of portal into a psychological hell, that’s why the laughter of those three drunks, the three drunks who yell profanities about Caesar Augustus, play such a big part in Part II, play a big part in the psychic fugue of Virgil’s last days, play a big part if only because there is no other action in the whole long section, as it begins with Virgil laying in bed contemplating his curled-up knees and moves to Virgil at the window, from which he sees those three drunks, their laughter practically an affront to the Teutonic seriousness of the novel, but really made serious in the way only such a writer as Broch can do it: laughter is not one of the sham-infinities, nor the infinity, an infinity which is in part manifested by beauty, but laughter, the drunks’ laughter, is like a “language that is no longer a bridge between people, like an extra-human laughter, its range of scorn playing about the factual worldly-estate as such, that in reaching beyond the realm of all things human no longer derides humanity but simply destroys it by exposing the nature of the world;” and if you don’t know what this means I don’t either but it is exactly what Broch/Virgil says/thinks and so it must be important in some way or the other and I think it is important in that the three drunks’ laughter marks a turning point of some kind, a turning point related to the breach of a “pledge” by the drunks and by Virgil too, a pledge whose obligee is never specified, whose terms are never delineated, but which leads to the poet concluding that the only duty on this earth is “helpfulness” and also that poetry, his own art, is not too helpful, and as a result Virgil the poet is as much of a perjurer (of what?) as were the drunks – is this helpful in its helpfulness?- no? – and I would remind you that the concept of perjury, like that of laughter, did I mention that no one laughs in dreams (or so Broch says), but if there are no dream-laughs then there are life-laughs and you don’t want these because they are the rumblings of the void (or so Broch says) and this rumbling, while long sensed, is made clear only on page 175 at which time, at which surly time, in what might be called a climax, Virgil makes the decision to burn the Aeneid, to destroy the Aeneid, to immolate the Aeneid, and all his other works too, although these have maybe been already published and in so doing he reflects on Aeneas killing Turnus and for the life of me I wish I could fully remember that episode from the actual epic, not this modern one, but I think Aeneas almost doesn’t killed Turnus but then decides he must and he’s in a full fury when he does so and this is somehow connected with the founding myth of Rome and while Aeneas killed to found a state Virgil will kill his book to found, what? a religion of some sorts? well, Broch doesn’t say as much but as Nicole has pointed out there’s a lot of quasi-Christian mysticism here and Broch did convert to Catholicism late in life so a proto-Christianity is present, a proto-Christianity that might seem ridiculous but which is after all what the Church Fathers also saw in Virgil, and what maybe the Church Fathers chose to punish, the mystical parts that is, but maybe the mysticism is needed to reunite here and beyond which is Broch’s task, and only then can come the homecoming, the homecoming of time and space, the homecoming of here and then, the homecoming of the spheres of physical and spiritual, and lots of other homecomings too that I didn’t all understand except that the repetition of the word homecoming so many times means it must be important and maybe it is the laughter again, which blends into the night’s harmony, blends in but is not absorbed, blends in only to taint the whole thing, showing that beauty too contains within itself a taint, and that is why the Aeneid must be sacrificed, sacrificed with full pomp, but no! with no pomp but right now instead and then Virgil is transported to a world beyond men, beyond language, a second world, a second language, pre-creational, ageless pre-creation, but he only does this after his boy-servant gives him wine, so maybe he’s drunk, because he envisions a savior of some kind, but this time one that will redeem man and God too, and this savior is overcoming fate in the form of the holy father-summons, revealing itself as the tone-picture of the annunciating deed: “Open your eyes to Love!” and this brings forth an angel of some species to seemingly say: “Tough luck” but in a way that Heidegger would have uttered such a commonplace and meaning that the book’s sacrifice just won’t cut it at all, for now Virgil is in the creation that once was and again is, and Virgil lays exhausted and the section ends and I’m exhausted too, and Nicole is probably mad that it took me this long to write the post but if there was ever an excuse its name is Broch because the whole crazy thing is written like this post, and if you made it through then you might be ready for Broch, or a drink, or maybe you’ll secretly wish Virgil had burned the Aeneid because if he had we’d have lost not one epic but two, and maybe that’s a fair trade.