Blackballed is a racist term
The clean pigs
We cannot avoid dealing with such uncomfortable physical things as formulas, laws, sentences etc. if we want to understand the history of the Enlightenment and the 20th century. And that is Pynchon's oeuvre. Lichtenberg reverses the binary oppositions human (pure) and pig (dirty) in order to explain the pair of terms chaos and order. It seemed appropriate to me because Pynchon works in a similar way and - because it concerns pigs.
Pynchons Pig Farm, Springfield, MA
Pigs play a big role in "Gravity’s Rainbow". Pynchon has processed a large number of references to pigs and the biological similarity and relationship between humans and pigs. But not only that, one must also not forget the social context that the word "pig" had in America during the years of the novel's creation. “Pigs” were the brutal, racist American police officers who beat people up at anti-Vietnam or civil rights demonstrations, treated them with water cannons and tear gas, and used live ammunition more than once.
But the politicians were also pigs. The actual counterforce in real America in 1968 had tried to make the absurdity of the presidential election apparent by having a pig as a presidential candidate for the Pig Nation was set up. In Abbie Hoffman's book "Woodstock Nation" it says in the chapter: Thorns of the Flower Children:
"Once upon a time, about a generation ago, right after the thirteen – thousand – seven hundred – and sixty – fourth demonstration against the war in Vietnam, young people started to congregate in an area of San Francisco known as the Haight Ashbury. They were sick of being programmed by an educational system void of excitement, creativity and sensuality. A system that channeled human beings like so many laboratory rats with electrodes rammed up their asses into a highly mechanized maze of class rankings, degrees, careers, neon supermarkets, military – industrial complexes, suburbs, repressed sexuality, hypocrisy, ulcers and psychoanalysts. The world they came from was a world of Double Speak. A world where Lyndon Johnson and his fabulous wife Lady Bird sat in their Miami – modern ranch house, drank their bourbon, and led the nation in a marathon game of Scrabble. The victor, Natu rally, would donate the winnings to his or her favorite charity.
"Mah fellow pigs, this land of ours is the most peace-loving nation in the history of the world. This government stands for peace. It does not believe social change can come through violence. Oink-oink." "(P. 15 -16)
In the 14th episode, Pynchon tells how the Dutch pigs of Katje's ancestor Frans van der Groov exterminated the flightless dodos (didus ineptus) on the island of Mauritius in the middle of the 17th century. The ecological approach of Pynchon's novel is just as obvious as its political and cultural-historical dimensions. What fascinated Pynchon about the example of the Dutch colonists in Mauritius, he formulates in the novel; the only thing the failed colonization achieved was the first documented human extinction of an entire species.
In episode 15, it's just a phrase which, like most idioms, is pretty much untranslatable. In German we actually bring our "sheep into the dry" when we have achieved a good deal, but that shouldn't be a criticism of the translators at this point, I find the word "horse trading" for "arrangement" to be appropriate in this context good choise:
"() the old woman’s arrangement to get her pig over the stile." (114)
"() so of the caliber of the horse trade with which the old woman brought her pig into the dry." (185)
The pig farmer under Tyrone Slothrop's Puritan ancestors, William Slothrop, to whom he pays tribute in his disguise as the pig hero Plechazunga at the "Pig Hero Festival", had a very special relationship with his animals (episode 54):
"William must've been waiting for the one pig that wouldn't die, that would validate all the ones who'd had to, all the Gadarene swine who'd rushed into extinction like lemmings, possessed not by demons but by trust for men, which the men kept betraying... possessed by innocence they couldn't loose... by faith in William as another variety of pig, at home with the Earth, sharing the same gift of life. "
In episode 57, Tyrone Slothrop meets Frieda, the pig with whom Franz Pöckler has built a very special relationship.
"A pig is a jolly companion,
Boar, sow, barrow, or applies—
A pig is a pal, who'll boost your morale,
Though mountains may topple and tilt.
When they’ve blackballed, bamboozled, and burned you,
When they’ve turned on you, Tory and Whig,
Though you may be thrown over Tabby or Rover,
You'll never go wrong with a pig, a pig,
You'll never go wrong with a pig! "(575)
Jules Siegel reports that in late 1966 or early 1967 (Siegel avoids defining a definite date, or at least cannot be found in his article), Pynchon lived in a converted two-room garage where there was little besides a large number of books on pigs. One of these books could be David Coopers The death of the family (1971), its fifth chapter Fatten your pig (64-69) means:
“Of course people are pigs. And human institutions are of course pig stalls or pig production farms or slaughterhouses for pigs. It is certainly no coincidence that young American revolutionaries refer to the police and their collaborators, the psychiatrists, and the lying authorities as "pigs" in the first place. The pig is a unique identifier. That other expression, "mother-fucker", is more ambiguous in that it can mean either the restriction of one's own sexuality to one's own mother or an exemption from incest taboos. Despite its cannibalism, the pig is the most anal-genitally inviting animal in the world. It stretches its asshole with the protruding anal lower lip towards everyone who comes there. When we recognize this invitation to sexual intermingling, we may be able to find a way out of our animal behavior towards others. ()
If pigs had wings, as the old English saying goes, anything would be possible. But maybe pigs really have mysterious, invisible wings and we may not see these wings BECAUSE we are afraid that "anything could become possible".
(Cooper, p. 65-65)
That the pig has such a proverbial bad reputation among the people (for the Muslims it is unclean) is actually incomprehensible. In addition to being a food source for the non-Muslim part of humanity, pigs and humans share a lot of genetic traits, the metabolism is so similar that the pig is the preferred donor animal for xenotransplantation, the transfer of organs from other species to humans. Pynchon's treatment of the subject of pigs and humans is enough to look at this noble animal with different eyes.
Thomas Pynchon's ancestors had it with pigs, especially Mr. John Pynchon, whose pig farming experience is reported in the Chronicle of the Puritan Church of Springfield, Massachusetts:
An interesting, typically Pynchon reversal that Mr. John Pynchon uses.
"In 1656 John Pynchon set out on a pork-raising speculation, on Freshwater river, now in Enfield, Conn. - at that time within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. He procured a grant of land, 20 acres for himself and 10 acres for George Colton and Benjamin Cooley. When granted it was with the agreement that "if they doe not make use of it themselves it is to return into the Townes hands agayne - they are not to sell it to any other."
The sequel was not recorded until October 8, 1660, when it appeared that Cooley had with drawn, Pynchon taking his portion. The record give the conditions and the results:
"According to order by the Selectmen there was granted parsell of land at fresh water brooke, to Mr. Pynchon, George Colton and Benjamin Cooley, in proportion as they carry on their design of keeping swine there. In all forty acres of upland, ten acres to each quarter part, and this on condition that they doe within two years carry on the design of keeping swine there. If they fail in carrying on that design within two years, or such of them doe faile, they forfeit the land & it remains to the other or them that do keep swine there; or else falls to the town, if none carry on that design of keeping swine. The design of keeping swine there was accordingly caryed on & within the tyme limited, and continued until Windsor corne fields eat up ye swine. "
This quotation is in the handwriting of John Pynchon, and what he probably intended to say was that the swine ran out of the Enfield woods, in which they were fattening on acorns, and other nuts, into the Windsor corn-fields and ate so much that they consequently died from the effects and not by being eaten up by the fields. "
The First Century of the History of Springfield. The Official Records from 1636 to 1736, pp 59-60.
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