The Counterlife - Part 2 Basel, pages 13-49 Summary & Analysis

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Part 2 Basel, pages 13-49 Summary

Nathan tries to understand Henry's recent situation. Henry has died, and the preceding text in italics began as Nathan's attempt at a eulogy. Many people attend Henry's funeral. Nathan notices a girlish looking young woman sitting toward the back, and he recognizes the woman as Wendy from a photo that Henry had once showed him. As Nathan looks at Wendy and fails to find her attractive, he thinks he should have tried harder to talk Henry out of having the surgery. Nathan thinks about his childhood with Henry, and then he thinks about Henry's affair with Maria. Perhaps Henry regarded his affair with Wendy as a consolation for having to end the affair with Maria.

Nathan sits with Carol and Henry's children. Carol tells the children that Nathan is too shaken to deliver a eulogy, so she will speak at the funeral. During the funeral, one of Henry's daughters plays the violin, and while listening to the music, Nathan thinks of all the notes he took after conversations with Henry. Some of this notes recorded intimate details of Henry's affair with Maria.

Carol delivers the eulogy, and Nathan notices how calm and composed Carol appears. Carol tells the funeral attendees that Henry's surgery was not necessary. Henry had decided to have the surgery so that his married life would be complete, including sexual relations.

After the service, the family goes to the burial. During the burial, Nathan thinks about notes he took after conversations with Henry. He thinks about a time that Carol and the children were away visiting Carol's parents and Maria came to Henry's house. Nathan comes out of his wondering about Henry's motivations and speaks to one of Henry's daughters. She says that now she has only one parent.

Nathan looks around to see if Wendy has attended this portion of the funeral. He thinks about how Wendy knew of Henry's recent visits to Nathan, but Carol did not know. Again, Nathan thinks that he should have tried harder to dissuade his brother from having the surgery, and he thinks about what Henry told him of his first interview with Wendy. Henry and Wendy had a discussion about techniques in dentistry full of innuendo. Six weeks later Henry and Wendy began their sexual affair. Nathan thinks he was stupid not to talk Henry out of the surgery.

Nathan speaks to various relatives, but he also spends a great deal of time thinking about past conversations with Henry, and how they lead to Henry's death. Nathan recalls a conversation with Henry about how he once considered moving to Switzerland with Maria. Henry had been surprised to learn that Maria celebrated Christmas. Nathan hears some relatives discussing conditions in Israel, and he wonders if Maria's celebration of Christmas had anything to do with Henry's decision to end the affair. Nathan thinks it is unlikely that Henry, born into a Jewish family but also a college educated atheist, would have been so put off by Maria's observance of a Christian holiday. Nevertheless, Nathan cannot stop thinking about the implications. If Henry did break off the affair because of Maria's observance of Christmas, and if losing Maria did cause Henry's heart condition, then it was being a Jew that killed Henry.

As Nathan is leaving, he wonders how much Carol really knew about Henry's situation. He wonders if she is really naïve and does not know about the affairs. When Nathan arrives home, he reviews some notes that indicate that Carol knew much more than she let on.

Part 2 Basel, pages 13-49 Analysis

After the italicized text ends and the subsequent text begins, there is again a third person narrator, but it is unclear if it is from the same narrator. The preceding italicized text was composed by Nathan Zuckerman, brother of Henry. Henry has died as a result of failed bypass surgery, and Carol asked Nathan to deliver the eulogy.

Nathan is a well-known author, and this seems to be the reason for the poor relationship with Henry. In fact, it seems that Nathan regards nothing as sacred or trusted information. He has copious notes on conversations he had with his brother. And during events of the funeral the narrative alternates between the ongoing action and Nathan's notes. The amount of detail in Nathan's notes is shocking. He recorded details not just about times and places and people involved, but also minute details about specific types of sexual activity.

Nathan wonders at the end of the funeral how much Carol really knows. Once he gets home he consults his notes in an effort to find the answer. This action could be significant to Nathan's character and to the plot of the entire novel. It seems that Nathan regards the written text, in this case notes on a conversation, as real as the actual people the characters are based upon.

This section contains 821 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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