Pages 774-782, the convo between Marathe and Gompert, this is one of those sections–at least for me–that makes the slog worth it. There’s that moment when Marathe explains why he betrays his people and country for his wife, and, I don’t know, it’s just incredible. Witness pages 780-781:
‘It is for her I betray my friends and cell, the cause of my nation, which now that victory and independence of the neighbors is possible I am betraying it.’
‘You’re spying and betraying Switzerland to try and keep alive somebody with a hook and spinal fluid and no skull in an irreversible coma? And I thought / was disturbed. You’re making me totally reorient my idea of disturbed, mister.’
‘I am not telling for disturbing you, poor Katherine. I am telling of pain and saving a life, and love.’
‘Well, Ray, far be it from far for me, but that’s not love: that’s low self-esteem and self-abuse and Settling For Less, choosing a coma over your comrades. Assuming you’re even not totally lying to get me into the hay or some fucked-up disturbed sicko shit like that.’
‘Which I’ve got to tell you, saying I remind you of her isn’t exactly the way to sweep my feet off, you know what I’m saying here?’
‘This is what is hard to tell. To ask any person to see. It is no choice. It is not choosing Gertraude over the A.F.R., my companions. Over the causes. Choosing Gertraude to love as my wife was necessary for the others, these other choices. Without the choice of her life there are no other choices. I tried leaving at the commencement. I got only very few revolutions of the fauteuil.’
‘Sounds more like a gun to your head than a choice. If you can’t choose the other way, there’s no choice.’
‘No, but this choice, Katherine: I made it. It chains me, but the chains are of my choice. The other chains: no. The others were the chains of not choosing.’
I don’t know, I kind of view this as an “Ahab ‘all visible objects are but as pasteboard masks'” moment where the true measure of the character is revealed. And suddenly all that bullshit with Steeply and Marathe up on the mountain is completely forgiven.
And the way the section ends, I don’t believe Marathe’s invitation to watch The Entertainment is just to test its affects on some hapless lady in a bar. No, in that moment, it feels like Marathe is Identifying with Gompert and genuinely would like to help cure her depression. Does it work? Does that happen? I don’t remember. And I pray DFW tells us.