Hello there, people.
I'm new to this group, as to be honest I'm still reading House Of Leaves, (I'm up to page 246 and enjoying every page,) but I thought I'd come here and mention something noticed early in the book and which has resolutely failed to come up since, and ask whether anyone else has realised its significance.
On page xxii of Johnny Truant's introduction in the 2000 Pantheon edition of HOL, he notes that:
"Zampano had seven names he would occasionally mention: Beatrice, Gabrielle, Anne-Marie, Dominique, Eliane, Isabelle and Claudine. He apparently only brought them up when he was disconsolate and for whatever reason dragged back into some dark tangled time. At least there's something more realistic about seven lovers than one mythological Helen. Even in his eighties, Zampano sought out the company of the opposite sex."
And maybe he did, but that list of names doesn't indicate this at all. That list is important, but I don't think it is a list of lovers at all, and in another, completely different context, (and in the company of an eighth name, not mentioned in the book,) makes a very strange connection that may shed some light on Zampano's past.
The connection is that these seven names relate to seven of the eight strongpoints which made up the perimeter of the French military base of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. The story goes that the seven bases, (along with the eighth, which was named Huguette,) were named after the former mistresses of the original base commander. All were destroyed to a greater or lesser extent during the battle for the base, during which the Viet Cong methodically captured the strongpoints and eventually the entire base.
Once this fact becomes clear, (and it is a fact - the chances of these names having been chosen at random is practically nil, and the spellings are exactly the same,) then some interesting themes becomes clear.
1.) The battle of Dien Bien Phu took place in 1953-54. If, as he suggests, Zampano dies at "the end of '96", if he was 80 when he died then he would have been 42 in 1954, when the base fell. This would probably indicate that he was an officer.
2.) Truant also suggests that Zampano may have been a nom-de-guerre, or a 'fighting name', (I'm not sure about that, as I don't what context the phrase is supposed to be used in). This may relate to the fact that many of the men at Dien Bien Phu were foreign legionnaires. Truant presumes that Zampano is American, but in reality, if he was at DBP, he could have been from any number of countries.
3.) There are numerous and constant references to warfare in the book, including references to the Maginot Line, command posts and the like.
4.) Truant says that Zampano "hadn't seen a thing since the mid '50s". This would tally with the end of the battle in '54.
I have just checked Google and learned that I am not the first person to make this connection, which is a little upsetting to my ego. But then I have only just started reading it seven years after it came out, so I guess it would be a little unlikely to imagine I would be. All the other explanations are in French, though, so at least I have the satisfaction of being the first to expound it in English.
What I can't understand:
Why the first seven names, but not Huguette?
What has this odd connection got to do with the rest of the book?
I have a very comprehensive book on Dien Bien Phu, so when I have finished HOL I am going to read it again and try and find more links between the two.
I'll report back anything I find.