“Perpetual Interwar” reads Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow as a novelistic antecedent to this book. Adapting the formal strategies of Ulysses and its genre-mates to the frames of colonial genocide, species extinction, area bombing, and nuclear war, Pynchon’s novel surfaces what is often latent in its precursors: the links between metropolitan and colonial violence, the relationship between total war and totalizing form, and the apprehension, well before 1945, of a traumatizing anticipation we still associate almost exclusively with the post-Hiroshima era. Gravity’s Rainbow’s fixation on the 1920s and ’30s reads the Cold War moment of its writing as a perennialized interwar period. The conclusion ends with a discussion of the interwar as the normative time of national sovereignty—as the temporality par excellence of a state defined by its claim to past and future monopolies on violence—and of how political collectivities might imagine an alternative to perpetual interwar.
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