Thursday, October 9, 2008

Camp Concentration 014 - The Ladder

“I imagine Haast still does twenty push-ups in the morning and rides a few imaginary miles on his Exercycle. The wrinkly crust of his face is crisped to a tasty brown by a sun lamp. His sparse and graying hair is crew cut.” (CC, p. 23, June 3 entry)

General Haast insists in being called H. H. Why? Initials are a convenient shorthand to refer to people, especially in the case of one who sometimes, like Sacchetti, is just jotting down brief notes about a day’s events. Sacchetti is fond of creating nicknames for guards whose real name he doesn’t bother to ask, like Rigor Mortis (who is shortened to R.M.) and Assiduous (who is sometimes called just “Ass.”).

Disch once admitted that the title of his novel The M. D. was partially inspired by his own initials, T.M.D.

So, why he did choose “H. H.” for that character?

I submit here that he did so because those letters represent, visually, two stairs of a Ladder, the mystical ladder which bridges the space between Heaven and Earth, between the Spirit and the Matter. Disch, of course, was wholly aware of this meaning.

“To make the transition easier. That’s my Function”. (CC, p. 20, June 3 entry)

(Ladder -- from Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi)

Throughout the novel, Haast occupies the position of a mediator between two worlds. He is in charge of Camp Archimedes, he’s a military man, he’s a leader; nevertheless, due to his addiction to astrology and his dreams of “the elixir of life” he is easy prey to Mordecai and the inmates’ ellaborate alchemical charade. His symbol is The Ladder, but it could be, as easily, The Door or The Bridge. He is the way through which a dead man can live again and the prisoners can be taken from the Subterranean world to the world of the living. (The final revelation of his identity takes place in the open air).

No comments: