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Dear Mr. Pynchon,

Don’t worry, I am not here to say a single critical word about any of your novels. They are like my bible, they give me constant comfort in a world where noisy illiterates find million readers of their daily 140 letter diencephalic excretions. I am sure that you might be the most prominent person living in an inner emigration in the US, but your are not the only one.

But despite all my respect for you and your oevre, a respect that started with a deep confusion when I as a physics student in the closed East Germany got hold of “The crying of lot 49“, I have to complain about one sentence that I just read in “Against the Day” (in its German translation, Rowohlt 2008). On page 123, line 9/10 you describe photography and alchemy (which perhaps includes the science of explosives) as “…being two methods to achieve the same: to free light from the inertia of precious metals“. I know what you wanted to say here, in particular regarding silver, which as a nitrat in photographic emulsions is converted by single photons into metallic particles, or which  can be in the form of its acetylide salt an initial explosive.

light

The point I want to make here is just the following: These two methods (photography and alchemy) do not enable light to lose its inertia of precious metals, rather it is the other way around:  Light and alchemy can both free precious metals from their (chemical) inertia.

You don’t have to argue with me, because every scientist will agree that my line of reasoning is precise, even if it may sound more poetic the way you (or the German translator) formulated it. Maybe you could send me the part of this chapter in the original English as you wrote it.  I’d like to check if maybe (and what I strongly assume) this incorrect phrase is due to the Germany translation or editorial work.

Sincerely, Michael (external member of the  The Chums of Chance)

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