Gravity’s Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.
The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest undertaken by several characters to uncover the secret of a mysterious device named the «Schwarzgerät» («black device») that is to be installed in a rocket with the serial number «00000.»
Gravity’s Rainbow is transgressive—not only because it questions and inverts our standards of deviance and disgust but also because it breaks down, or transgresses, the hermetically sealed either/or boundaries and categories of Western culture and reason. Frequently digressive, the novel subverts many of the traditional elements of plot and character development, and traverses detailed, specialist knowledge drawn from a wide range of disciplines.
The novel has been praised for its innovation and complexity, though the acclaim has been criticized by some. In 1974, the three-member Pulitzer Prize jury on fiction supported Gravity’s Rainbow for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. However, the other eleven members of the board overturned this decision. The novel was nominated for the 1973 Nebula Award for Best Novel and won the National Book Award in 1974. Since its publication, Gravity’s Rainbow has spawned an enormous amount of literary criticism and commentary, including two readers’ guides and several online concordances, and it is frequently cited as Pynchon’s magnum opus.
Time Magazine included the novel in its All-Time 100 Greatest Novels, a list of the best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. In addition, it has appeared on several other «Greatest» lists, and is considered by some critics as one of the greatest American novels ever written.