Last time on The Da Vinci Code we discovered why the Mona Lisa was smiling (no, really) via a lengthy and unnecessary flashback in which Robert Langdon went to prison and lectured a bunch of convicts. He also said ‘shit’, which is how you know he’s super cool. Then Sophie and Langdon wandered around the Louvre some more and found another anagram written in front of the Mona Lisa, but you’re not allowed to know what it is yet because we have to keep you reading this piffle somehow.
Anyway, let’s read some more, shall we? (help)
Seated at Sauniere’s desk, Lieutenant Collet pressed the phone to his ear in disbelief. Did I hear Fache correctly? “A bar of soap? But how could Langdon have known about the GPS dot?”
A moment of silence for our fallen comrade, Bar of Soap.
Also Collet is at Sauniere’s desk and that statue of a knight is no longer staring at him in a ‘Hey, I’m a plot point’ way it was before. Huh. I daresay we’ll come back to that in the foulness of time.
Anyway, the jig is well and truly up for Sophie and Langdon, because the police have figured out they’re still in the Louvre. Now, you’d think after an elaborate stunt involving soap, GPS, semi-trucks and trashcans being thrown through toilet windows, anyone with any sense would take advantage of the situation and figure out a way to skedaddle, wouldn’t you?
But guess what?
Yeah. Our heroes are still titting around in the Louvre.
Collet was flabbergasted by Sophie Neveu’s bravado. She’s still inside the building?
Yes. Yes, she is. ‘Bravado’ is not the word I would use, but consider my gast similarly flabbered.
Robert Langdon had proven an elusive quarry tonight…
Yeah, for about twenty minutes. Which you spent chasing a bar of soap and he remained…uh…exactly where you left him, actually. And he’s still there.
Incidentally, I think this was where I completely gave up trying to understand how time works in this novel.
It’s time to find out what the writing on the Mona Lisa said! Are you excited? I’m excited. I’m so excited that I’m in danger of having some kind of spasm.
“The Priory,” Langdon whispered. “This proves your grandfather was a member!”
Sophie looked at him in confusion.
“It’s flawless,” Langdon said, nodding as his thoughts churned. “It’s a proclamation of one of the Priory’s most fundamental philosophies!”
Yes, but what does it say? Get on with it.
SO DARK THE CON OF MAN
What? That’s it? So someone is a shady used car salesman?
Oh boy. We’re about to get into it, everybody. And I’m not going to hold back, because we’re going from 0-to-mansplainapalooza in less than sixty seconds. If you thought the chapter where Brangdon is explaining why the Mona Lisa smiles is the highest setting on this shithose, I’m afraid you were sadly mistaken.
There is always more. And it’s always worse.
“The Priory believes that Constantine and his male successors successfully converted the world from matriarchal paganism to patriarchal Christianity by waging a campaign of propaganda that demonised the sacred feminine, obliterating the goddess from modern religion forever.”
Yeah, I think a large percentage of the nation of India would probably take exception to that statement. And China. They’ve got quite a few goddesses, I’m told. Or are we just talking about white people here? And even if we are talking solely about Western Europe then we’re clearly talking about a parallel universe. Matriarchal paganism? As practised by the Athenian Greeks, who – despite venerating a goddess – liked to keep their own women locked up out of sight and sound, and were comically appalled by the striding, outspoken women of Sparta? Or perhaps the Romans, whose culture enshrined the right of the Paterfamilias to straight-up murder his wife if it turned out she’d been sleeping with her dance instructor?
The Priory of Sion is very bad at history.
Sophie’s expression remained uncertain. “My grandfather sent me to this spot to find this. He must be trying to tell me more than that.”
At this point Sophie’s looking for anagrams, which you would think was a reasonable assumption after she missed the last one. But not Langdon. Oh no. In this chapter about the cruel supression of the female perspective, you know what his response is to her?
He pretty much brushes her off so he can stand around and ruminate for two pages. There there, dear. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Just stand there and look cute while a man has important thoughts. There’s a good girl.
So dark the con of man, he thought. So dark indeed.
So dumb the brain of Dan, she thought. So dumb indeed.
Yes, the ‘con of man’ is the way men supposedly suppressed the sacred feminine at the bidding of the Catholic church. And it’s dark. The dark con of man. Woof. You really had to strain to get that one in, Danbert.
The Catholic Inquisition published the book that could arguably be called the most blood soaked publication in human history. Malleus Malleficarum…indoctrinated the world to the ‘dangers of freethinking women’ and instructed the clergy how to locate, torture and destroy them.
Langdon then goes on to clutch his pearls – while simultaneously ignoring the actual real life woman at his side – over the ‘scholars, priestesses, gypsies, mystics, nature lovers’ and other women who were executed as witches by the nasty old Church.
There you go. Langdon has explained the witch craze – a vastly complicated and multi-faceted aspect of history, comprising of many disparate incidents spanning centuries, continents, social classes and generations. And he’s done it in a paragraph.
Aside from absolutely everything else wrong with this catastrophic dumbing down, I have one word for him.
Like all fabulously rich and powerful institutions, the Catholic Church has done some straight-up monstrous things in its two thousand year history. And in the interests of full disclosure, I have no dog in this hunt; I’m a godless heathen and fine with it. So I’m not in the business of defending the Church that set fire to poor Joan of Arc, issued a fatwa against Elizabeth I and pulled out numerous women’s toenails in the interests of making them admit to witchcraft.
But I do find it kind of objectionable the way that Dan Brown turns the Catholic Church into this spooky Other on which everything can be blamed, especially in this instance.
Because Protestants? They fucking loved a witchhunt. The most famous Protestant translation of the Bible – the King James Version – was commissioned by an enthusiastic amateur witchfinder, for God’s sake. And Calvinism made it twice as easy to snag some poor crone and accuse her of poisoning your cow. No longer was everyone a sinner in the universal Church of sinners, but now some were Elect and some were not, and if you weren’t then you’d better have a damn good explanation for that weird mole on your left buttock.
Radical Protestantism and the ducking stool went together like ergot and hallucinations, like Salem and twitchy teenage girls. So settle the fuck down, WASPy. You don’t get to shunt all the blame on this one.
Anyway. Back to the book.
Women, once celebrated as an essential half of spiritual enlightenment, had been banished from the temples of the world. There were no female Orthodox rabbis, Catholic priests nor Islamic clerics.
We are going to conveniently ignore the fact that reform Judaism and the Anglican communion, at the time this book was written, had been progressing with the ordination of women for over thirty years. And a happy postscript – 2016 saw the arrival of the first female imams.
The once hallowed act of Hieros Gamos – the natural sexual union between man and woman through which each became spiritually whole – had been recast as a shameful act.
Well, I think we’ve just figured out why the Italian ex-girlfriend took off to hang out with manta rays. Can you imagine? You want to bang and he’s all ‘it’s a sacred act of spiritual union’ and you’re like ‘whatever, but can we not call it that thing you call it? Can’t we just fuck?’ Ugh.
The male ego had spent two millenium unchecked by its female counterpart.
Says the man still ignoring the woman tugging urgently on his sleeve.
Sophie finally gets his attention while he’s mentally rambling about the Hopi and their respect for the balance of nature, a thought so fantastically white-boy airhead that I suddenly have this hideous insight into his CD collection. And that Robert Langdon almost definitely owns a copy of the nineties What-The-Fuck-Were-We-Thinking classic, Enigma – The Cross of Changes.
Can you picture it? I can. You just know that he broke that one out when he wanted to get New Age Gregorian during a spot of Hieros Gamos.
Christ, that poor ex-girlfriend.
Anyway, someone’s coming, and this time it’s a security guard with a gun. Cliffhanger! Will Langdon get shot? Keep reading. (No. He won’t. Because there’s still over half a book to go.)
We are back at Saint-Sulpice, where Silas is once again demonstrating the kind of inconspicuous stealth that makes him such a deadly killer of men and nuns.
In other words, he’s about to smash open a marble floor with an iron candle holder.
…he realised he could not possibly shatter the covering without making considerable noise. Iron on marble. It would echo off the vaulted ceilings. Would the nun hear him? She should be asleep by now.
Wait. So Silas thinks that when the custodian of the church opens up the church at 1am for huge, angry-looking men with red eyes, she just shrugs, goes ‘Yeah, let yourself out and lock the door behind you’ and fucks off back to bed?
And also that she can sleep through the sound of someone attempting to crack open a marble floor with a large lump of iron?
I love Silas. Every time you think he can’t get worse at his job, he does.
Silas’s next brilliant plan is to muffle the iron in some sort of cloth so that it doesn’t make a noise. He doesn’t care to defile the altar cloth, so instead he peels off his cloak and goes to town on the floor in his underwear. No, stop laughing. He does. That actually happens.
Knowing he was alone in the great church, Silas untied his cloak and slipped it off his body. As he removed it, he felt a sting as the wool fibres stuck to the fresh wounds on his back…
…scattering forensic evidence all over the church.
He smacks through the floor – somehow – and finds a stone tablet with Job 38:11 written on it. Meanwhile, Sister Sandrine is watching all this from the balcony and figures out – from the wounds on Silas’s hunky monky body – that Opus Dei is looking for the keystone. She hurries back to her room, retrieves a sealed envelope and then does something that makes me want to recommend her to MENSA.
She picks up a telephone.
Are you listening, Sauniere? She doesn’t doodle on the Mona Lisa. She doesn’t arrange her bleeding giblets in some kind of scavenger hunt clue. She doesn’t write stupid anagrams all over everything. If there is information that needs to be conveyed to another person, she picks up a telephone and starts talking.
These fucking people, I swear. Talk about making everything needlessly complicated.
Of course, because this is The Da Vinci Code, Silas hasn’t found dick. He scurries to the church Bible, looks up chapter and verse and finds this.
HITHERTO SHALT THOU COME, BUT NO FURTHER.
Yeah, guess what? All those chapters were pointless. It’s a red herring. This book delights in wasting your time.