Doin' "The Idiotic"
Head like a pin? drool down your chin?
To give it a spin, tho'
It sounds neurotic,
It's just 'The Idiotic'!
Cyprian and Bevis Moistleigh depart Trieste on the ship John of Asia on a putative mission to rescue an operative in Sarajevo.
Everyone on board is, apparently, a spy for at least one of the competing world powers, a Nabokovian array of butterfly hunters, bird-watchers [...] photographers, schoolgirls and their guardians, examples of the latter two categories being the sprightly young creature Jacintha Drulov, an orphan under the care of her guardian, Lady Quethlock. (And here we note in passing that perhaps Pynchon is writing the espionage story which his old European Lit. prof never got around to doing himself.)
Anyway, after an up-tempo dance number (see above) featuring Jacintha and Bevis, and considerations, via Lady Q., of an alternate, recondite Adriatic geography, we land, after another dreamy passage by train, with our two foppish British ops in Sarajevo, yet a hidden city of minarets and blond Muslems on the firing line of East and West, North and South. There they find the polyglot Danilo Ashkil, a Shephardic Jew, the agent they've come to get out from harm's way.
As the lads discuss old history and recent Austro-Hungarian politics in a cafe, the Russian agents Misha and Grisha - those gay blades who introduced Cyprian to the world of espionage and Max Kautch way back in Vienna - reappear, as does the old Colonel, in disgrace at headquarters and a fugitive from Vienna, now a seedy barroom bore, who probably has several tricks, so to speak, left up his sleeve.
Time to skip town and Danilo reveals what we've felt all along, that Cyprian, and probably Bevis too, are in far more danger than he, having been shopped by Theign to the Austrians. With Ashkil they make their escape wearing fezes which can't, or won't, fit either of them.
Two weeks later, Bevis has vanished (like Kit and Hassan, right?) from a moving train. In looking for him, Cyp and Danilo travel up a spur rail line to Jajce, a small mountain resort resembling the Austrian variety, where they find waiting for them two members of the Black Hand underground, Batko and Senta, who warn them that they'd best walk across the mountains to Split (Ha!) on the coast for a boat out, a dangerous trek of ravines, diverging paths and hidden enemies, which they have undertaken as our episode (in mid-chapter) ends.
Not much to add. In all candor I have to admit to persistently wondering why Cyprian's tale is in the same novel with Lew Basnight, the Chums and Kit Traverse. But I suppose we'll hash out the whys of this as the book narrows at last to the destined quay (821:15). Or not. For there is also beginning the moment all lines are singled up, an unloosening of fate as the unknown and perhaps the uncreated begins to make its appearance ahead and astern. (821:17-19)
There is what strikes me as another key passage at pg. 828:5-34, where Danilo explains an idea of history as being endemic to culture and geography: "[...] try for a moment to imagine that, except in the most limited and trivial ways, history does not take place north of the forty-fifth parallel." That latitude is the northernmost historic reach of Islam, a cultural and climatic high tide mark that has spooked Europeans and vexed the Turks since the 17th century.