Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Profane’s instincts win against his attempts at making a life for himself, however. With seemingly nothing better to do, he tags along when Herbert Stencil, who is obsessed with finding V., goes to Malta to investigate a tenuous lead about her presence there.
*Malta. Island republic on the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily, that has historically occupied a strategic position on sea-lanes, and thus became the object of a long siege during World War II, in which it suffered constant attacks from Italian and German bombers. Amid this incredible ruin, V. appears as a woman dressed as a priest. Trapped under some rubble after a bombing, V. is disassembled by the children to whom she preaches her gospel of despair and death. The children remove her false eye, teeth, and other body parts, in a nightmarish reflection of what mechanized war is doing to human beings and their souls on Malta (or perhaps of what mechanized people and souls have created in World War II). Malta, midway between Europe and Africa, also stands as the intersection of the rational, mechanistic mentality symbolized by Europe and the irrational, corporeal mentality symbolized by Africa. Malta also symbolizes the confluence of opposites in that it is essentially a barren stone outcropping in the middle of a fertile sea.
One chapter of the novel is devoted to the story of a Maltese man who witnesses the siege and the agony of V. Additionally, the Mediterranean region figures in the experiences of Profane while he is in the Navy, before his days with the Whole Sick Crew. After World War II, it appears that the United States is reprising the historical role played by other empires that occupied the Mediterranean earlier in history. The novel leaves unresolved questions such as whether the whereabouts of a loser such as Profane and the rise and fall of empires are predetermined or matters of human volition.
*Africa. One chapter follows British colonialists engaging in a spy mission laced with slapstick and menace. Traveling across North Africa, V. assumes various disguises while apparently keeping a godlike watch on the antics of the spies, who seem less like conquerors than bumbling, murderous tourists.
*South-West Africa. Mandated territory (now independent Namibia) administered by the neighboring Union of South Africa after World War I. There, V.’s malignant presence is felt during the 1920’s, where a castle full of Europeans closes its gates to the outside while an African rebellion is put down. This small war, as one of the castle’s residents remarks with pleasure, recalls the horrors of the savagely suppressed Herero rebellion during the colony’s German period in 1904. The collective insanity of the Herero genocide and the decadent civilization represented by the castle are explicitly analogized as precursors to the Jewish Holocaust and World War II.