L’arrivo in piena notte di un circo che esibisce il corpo di una gigantesca balena diffonde un’ondata di gelo e di timori tra gli abitanti di una cittadina ungherese scossa da una catena di funesti accadimenti. Una schiera di misteriose figure sta per mettere a ferro e fuoco la città terrorizzata che rischia di sottometersi a un grottesco Movimento per la Pulizia e l’OrdinL’arrivo in piena notte di un circo che esibisce il corpo di una gigantesca balena diffonde un’ondata di gelo e di timori tra gli abitanti di una cittadina ungherese scossa da una catena di funesti accadimenti. Una schiera di misteriose figure sta per mettere a ferro e fuoco la città terrorizzata che rischia di sottometersi a un grottesco Movimento per la Pulizia e l’Ordine. Su questo scenario si staglia una galleria di personaggi indimenticabili: la crudele signora Eszter, che architetta la sua avida scalata al potere e Valuska, eroe sfortunato con la testa fra le nuvole, la sola anima pura che si aggiri tra queste pagine. A questa situazione di catastrofe incombente Krasznahorkai contrappone una macchina narrativa di stupefacente bellezza e profondità, una rappresentazione dell’apocalisse fondata sulla sproporzione e sull’allegoria, una scrittura infallibile che trascina il lettore in un vortice ammaliante. Melancolia della resistenza - da cui Bèla Tarr ha tratto il film cult Le armonie di Werkmeister, su sceneggiatura dello stesso Krasznahorkai - ha raccolto gli elogi di Imre Kertész, W.G.Sebald e Susan Sontag che ha definito il romanzo "un’anatomia della desolazione nella sua forma più spaventosa e un commovente manuale per resistere a quella desolazione"....more
Paperback, 338 pages
(first published 1989)
László Krasznahorkai, I am nervous. Isn't that ridiculous? I'm actually nervous about writing a review for your novel The Melancholy of Resistance because I just finished scanning through the (few) other reviews on this site and saw that they were mostly perfunctory in their praise, somewhat soulless and academic, and insufficiently rapturous.
This is an amazing book! Don't they understand that? When you've heard the word of god (and here it is), you just don't dither around with propriety or thLászló Krasznahorkai, I am nervous. Isn't that ridiculous? I'm actually nervous about writing a review for your novel The Melancholy of Resistance because I just finished scanning through the (few) other reviews on this site and saw that they were mostly perfunctory in their praise, somewhat soulless and academic, and insufficiently rapturous.
This is an amazing book! Don't they understand that? When you've heard the word of god (and here it is), you just don't dither around with propriety or the bone-dry language of theory. You jump up and down and run up to strangers and shake them and slobber and cry and sputter, OMG OMG OMG! And let me reassure you that I am very, very stingy with my enthusiasms and my ecstasies. I'm not Gene Shalit or the Sixty Second Movie Review or some idiot naïf who's floored by the slightest registerable stimulus.
This is what this book did to me. It woke me up in the middle of the night last night -- there, on my cheap lacquered IKEA nightstand. It veritably hummed with menace (and intimacy too) and demanded to be finished. It was midnight, or whenever-it-was... because, really, who consults clocks or bothers heeling to their increments when one is summoned -- yes, summoned to follow a course as needful and endemic as one's own pulse? Krasznahorkai enslaved me. There's no better way to put it. I was tempted to say that I was spellbound by the novel -- which is true, I guess, but doesn't go far enough or address the muscularity of the novel's powers. Spells (in the vernacular) are airy and fantastic, but slavery is more consciously willful. You can feel the master's force and bearing in every word. This isn't the vague twilight of spells, but the fullest night of abjection. Krasznahorkai, I am yours.
Immediately after finishing the final eighty-or-so pages, in the middle of the night, I had to start re-watching the film based on (or inspired by) the novel, Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies, because how can you just nod off to sleep after you’ve been so dominated and terrorized by a novel? You can’t. There’s so much to think through, and the intensity does not easily yield to the evenness that sleep requires. Even though Krasznahorkai cowrote the screenplay of Werckmeister with Tarr -- and it is a good film -- it is (sad to say) lacking even as an homage to the book or its strange, all-consuming power. Tarr fails at capturing the menace or properly defining his characters. We are on such intimate terms with the characters in the novel that it comes as a rude shock that Valuska, the protagonist (played by a very Klaus Kinski-ish actor), is reduced to the status of mere cipher in the film. He seems to have no substance specifically belonging to himself. The other characters don’t fare much better as Tarr obsesses on their uncanniness rather than their humanity.
But back to the book, for a moment. I’ve failed to reveal a thing about it and only alluded to or attempted to suggest its strength. I must confess that I’ve been avoiding dealing with the brute matter of the novel because abstracted as such, it's not a very persuasive enticement. The novel is the story of the end of the world, in a way, by way of acknowledging that the world will persist, linger, drag on even after its raison d’être, its motivations, its meaning have collapsed. Valuska is an ‘idiot’ in the Dostoyevskian sense -- a young idealist still open-mouthed in his wonder at the world -- no, at the whole universe. As expected, his ‘purity’ is the subject of confusion, some admiration, but mostly ridicule and contempt. Even at the brink of civilization’s disintegration, he is invested with a passion and optimism that condemns him as the fool. His Hungarian hometown has been taken over by ‘strange’ happenings [or are they really so strange?] that the suspicious townspeople interpret as omens of terrible things to come. The culminating symbol is the arrival of a circus that scarcely deserves that name, since it seems to include only two exhibits: a giant, preserved whale in a truck trailer and a mysterious unseen Prince, deformed and rumored to reign over or impel the sinister happenings in the town… such as the arrival of hundreds of sullen men, followers of the circus, who wait, speechless, in the town square in small huddles. Waiting for what, exactly? The townspeople stay indoors and expect the worst -- some sort of provincial apocalypse, perhaps. But does the Prince bring about the mob’s menace and its chilling denouement or is he merely a convenient outside force on which to blame the worst impulses of mankind? ...more
2001. Anthology Film Archives. (one of the great places on the planet: i swear that when one studies taken-from-space photographs a faint heavenly light emanates from manhattan -- if one were to push further in, she'd see that most of it originates from the southeast corner of 2nd ave & 2nd st) a hungarian film the smart people at the newyorkpress raved about. i bought a ticket and dropped into one of those dreadful foldable chairs, fought off the stink of mold and time, and looked back to s2001. Anthology Film Archives. (one of the great places on the planet: i swear that when one studies taken-from-space photographs a faint heavenly light emanates from manhattan -- if one were to push further in, she'd see that most of it originates from the southeast corner of 2nd ave & 2nd st) a hungarian film the smart people at the newyorkpress raved about. i bought a ticket and dropped into one of those dreadful foldable chairs, fought off the stink of mold and time, and looked back to see richard hell stroll in wearing pajamas & sneakers under a peacoat. yeah, that's right. theater was empty save me and the jewboy who invented the ripped shirt and 'blank generation' -- those were the days when i fancied myself some kinda punkrocker, i'd spend massive amounts of time chugging whiskey and thrashing around to ramones & bad brains & new order in low-ceilinged bars, hoovering coke in various dumpy bathrooms, receiving limpdicked blowjobs from stoned girls and boys, etc etc, and i kinda felt that i hadda talk to monsieur hell afterwards, offer to buy the talented bastard a beer under the pretense of discussing the film we'd just seen, and pull outta him all his great nyc-in-the-70s stories we've all heard, yes, too many times... well, quickly into the film's first (loooooooooong) opening shot, i forgot all about richard hell and by the time the movie was done, i was quite the mess. one of the very few times i've been totally shut the fuck up. didn't wanna talk to r. hell, didn't wanna get a beer, didn't wanna do anything but wander the city in a daze trying to put it all together. and i've never re-seen werckmeister harmonies as i don't wanna ruin that initial experience, don't wanna see it in my comfortable bourgeois apartment on my 46' flatscreen and have it be dragged down by a pair of jaded and considerably more comfortable, less interesting, eyes.
well... ten years later i'm at the bar of the beverly hills hotel and the indian guy sitting next to me lists his 3 favorite writers as borges, bernhard, and krasznahorkai -- the latter, he explains, wrote the novels which were the source material for tarr's films. now, what the fuck. how've i never heard of this guy? seeing as how werckmeister is one of the 5 best films of the last decade* and this guy's obviously got good taste, i immediately take my cocktail out into the lobby, call up that midwestern polish bastard, and i dish...
* if yer interested, here's the list, in no particular order:
seeing as how that polish bastard has gotta get his (veiny, tiny, purple) penis into everything before me, he bought and read that shit immediately. but his dryhump for this extremely humpworthy novel is better than i could've done and he lives in south bend, so i'll let him have this one.
but i must include a few words for those morons still teetering on the edge of reading this thing: do it! this novel is a revelation. one which takes as its subject the very acts of creation and destruction, the incomprehensibility of the universe (and learning to accept and deal with this horrible fact), the subjectivity of experience, the hidden nature of all things alive and inanimate... and surpasses expectations. this book did for me at 36 yrs what dostoyevsky did 20 years prior. here we have one of the great pessimists who, like ol' dusty, can write the bleakest stuff imaginable that demands not only severe existential angst, but also giant rolling swells of laughter. check it:
"…Straightening up and walking on two legs therefore, my dear friend, are the symbolic starting points for our ugly historical progress, and, to tell you the truth, I am not hopeful that we regularly waste any slight chance we might have of that, as, for example, in the case of the moon landings, which, in their time, might have pointed to a more stylish farewell, and which made a great impression on me, until, soon enough, Armstrong and the others having duly returned, I had to admit the whole thing was only a mirage and my expectations vain, since the beauty of every single - however breathtaking - attempt was in some way marred by the fact these pioneers of the cosmic adventure, for reasons wholly incomprehensible to me, having landed on the moon and realized that they were no longer on earth, failed to remain there."
but make no mistake: krasznahorkai might have a sense of humor about all that wonderful misanthropy, but this is grim grim stuff. here we find a world of pure dread, a world at the end of its tether, a world whose only prevailing force is entropy, a world of decay and horror, a mankind whose default position is fascism and violence, a microcosmic view of the cosmos in the form of an unseen & deformed figure called The Prince who, with his traveling circus (and stuffed whale corpse), compels a town to turn on itself (or does he?), to partake in the ultimate act of creation: mass destruction. and at the heart of this extraordinary thing are a series of dialectically, head-explodingly, pants-crappingly, rip-out-your-spiningly epiphanies by the two lead characters that'll do all of the above. do yourself a favor, jackass, and read this book. ASAP. ...more
I read The Melancholy of Resistance back in early October and it still haunts me months later. Krasznahorkai creates a dark allegorical novel that is saturated with dread and overflowing with malice as he depicts a city overrun by strange happenings and menacing mobs of strangers during the icy winter. Even if you were to read this on a warms summers day, he would make you feel as if the world outside your window was frozen over and treacherous. This novel deserves a more wide-spread critical acI read The Melancholy of Resistance back in early October and it still haunts me months later. Krasznahorkai creates a dark allegorical novel that is saturated with dread and overflowing with malice as he depicts a city overrun by strange happenings and menacing mobs of strangers during the icy winter. Even if you were to read this on a warms summers day, he would make you feel as if the world outside your window was frozen over and treacherous. This novel deserves a more wide-spread critical acclaim and its infectious nature has lead me to recommend it to nearly everyone I know, and now I am recommending it to you.
Krasznahorkai employs a nearly opaque style of loquacious, dense prose, penning beautiful long sentences with no breaks. The whole novel reads as only a handful of paragraphs. Like a train, this dense prose starts to slowly pull away and the novel picks up a frightening momentum as the reactionary chain of event pushes forward on pure dreadful inertia towards an apocalyptic-like resolve. You will not be able to stop once you the momentum has picked up; this novel will have such a hold on your mind that you will be compelled to drop everything and keep reading. The reader is strapped to this and watches it all unfold in nearly real-time. It is no surprise that Bella Tar's film portrayal is built with a mere thirty nine long flowing camera shots as the novel seems to follow along the characters without ever blinking or breaking the slow grinding pace. We watch a woman ride a train, return home and be visited by Mrs. Eszter, then the 'camera' of language follows Eszter from this scene, home, through the entire evening, hovering about her room as she sleeps, and far into the next day before there is ever a break from the constant flow of the scene. Krasznahorkai's ability to keep this up and maintain an even, continuous flow is highly impressive. I understand the comparison to Herman Melville that this novel receives, and it goes beyond the mere fact that both are allegorical tales surrounding a large whale. Krasznahorkai's verbose style is as eloquent as Melville and both maintain a fluent vocabulary that will keep a dictionary by your side.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky is another author used for comparison with this novel, which also has merit. While the two authors style of writing is quite varied, their use of characters flows in a similar vein. Like the great Dostoevsky, the characters in Melancholy are often used to represent a specific idea, value, or force of nature. This is not a detractor of the characters however, as they are fully fleshed out and multidimensional and exist in a realistic sense appropriate and fitting to the world of the novel. There are many characters, each one a bit bizarre and frayed by the world, but each offers an insightful look into their humanity.
The philosophical musings that furnish the story are the real meat of this novel. Krasznahorkai has some very brilliant and occasionally controversial ideas that he is compelled to tell you, and the reader will soon realize this novel is an allegory for his philosophical thoughts on existence. In his world, order and chaos, creation and destruction are two sides of the same coin and must coexist in a proper balance. Krasznahorkai shows how all is meant to end in chaos and destruction eventually and to try and deny this is futile and foolish. Yet this is what allows for creation and rebirth. He even shows how biology is wired for its own destruction after death in a brilliant, highly medical descriptive fashion. All his discussions of heavenly bodies in space begs the question, is there a natural order, or are we all spinning at random and merely victims of empty chance and reaction. The question of faith is brought up and Krasznahorkai shakes some ideas loose upon the reader. There is an excellent passage where this question is brought about through the metaphor of musical theory. It is easily understandable by all, but a bit of knowledge of music theory and research into theory and classical composition will shed light on Krasznahorkai's stunning intellect. Also, the idea of power is a overarching theme here.
This is an incredible novel, although it should be noted that it is a bit dense and difficult and isn't a quick read. Krasznahorkai is a verbal virtuosos and this should be read if only to view his ability with language and to marvel at how seemingly effortlessly he maintains a constant, unblinking flow through the few days that make up this novel. There is plenty to read into in here, as the whole novel can be taken as allegory and you will have much to ponder for days to come. Months later I still think about this book and have revelations into its meaning. The Melancholy of Resistance is a frightening look into the world, but is at times laugh out loud funny as it pokes at humanity and the ridiculousness of it all. Please find and read this novel, Krasznahorkai should be much wider read than he is. 4/5...more
I was really enjoying this. The prose is a little dense, and there's no question that the author has a penchant for abstraction, as seen in the musings of the musicologist; but there is also wry humor and elegant surrealism, deftly handled. The opening sequence of the elderly Mrs. Plauf going into hysterics on the train is hilarious. As we move from character (Mrs Eszter) to character (Valushka), the story deepens. We see, or feel we do, their every ratiocination. I don't want to give away the fI was really enjoying this. The prose is a little dense, and there's no question that the author has a penchant for abstraction, as seen in the musings of the musicologist; but there is also wry humor and elegant surrealism, deftly handled. The opening sequence of the elderly Mrs. Plauf going into hysterics on the train is hilarious. As we move from character (Mrs Eszter) to character (Valushka), the story deepens. We see, or feel we do, their every ratiocination. I don't want to give away the fun so I'll just say that in a trice the story turns from an almost lighthearted tale to one in which we have to wonder if we aren't heading for a meeting with our maker, or ultimate darkness, or enlightenment. Call it what you will. The setting is Budapest but you only know that through mention of various landmarks. The city itself is never named. Then at about page 200 we hit this turgid wall of philosophical musing, by the musicologist again, and it stops us dead; and try as we might, we cannot, even after successive tries, move beyond it. We long for the joys of narrative pleasure. What makes a writer think he or she can abandon the reader even for a moment? A friend here on GR has a shelf called "seduced and abandoned." Thus I file this one. Recommended with reservations....more
I open the covers and am on a train. Noisy and disordered, Mrs. Plauf, a conventional middle class woman returning from her yearly sojourn to visit her disabled and housebound sisters, sits among peasants. The order of the country has been disrupted and trains no longer run on schedule. The class system is blurred and separation of class distinction disintegrating.. She thinks only of returning to her apartment and all the objects within providing her comfort.
They are all there and she relaxesI open the covers and am on a train. Noisy and disordered, Mrs. Plauf, a conventional middle class woman returning from her yearly sojourn to visit her disabled and housebound sisters, sits among peasants. The order of the country has been disrupted and trains no longer run on schedule. The class system is blurred and separation of class distinction disintegrating.. She thinks only of returning to her apartment and all the objects within providing her comfort.
They are all there and she relaxes until visited by her embarrassment of a son who lives life to study the sky, planets, to talk about the eclipse once witnessed and its meaning. Having no interest in practical life he is scoffed at and in danger of being locked up as insane. His visit is followed by a politically ambitious woman who praises Mrs. Plauf's objects while hypocritically deriding them in her mind. She wants to see who can aid her ambitions. What the people are like.
Some in this town enjoy their honest labor and family. Most are wed to a false security where repetition offers them false solace and an illusory safety of security. They readily accept and defend even if objects are reduced to the physics of their contours, the web of practicality, the skein of poetic imagery they contain abandoned. I feel the tension quietly building within the long winding paragraphs I wander. It is not clear if the town's sudden signs of instability arrived out of chance or were delivered from the heated kiln of those with authority. I join the characters in wanting reasons, someone to blame, someone to fix it. Someone to guide me through these paragraphs snaking on for a page or pages with no sign posts.
Posters herald a circus coming to town. They will bring strange people to fear. Fear brings action. Action birthed out of fear brings about what the fearful people are afraid of. A rebellion crafted by the authorities to further entrench their hollow and ever growing hunger for power which will never fill the gaping holes inside? Is the circus exactly what is feared? Is it a con-job moving from place to place with its group of hooligans readied to plunder the town before moving on? Beyond the people's fear that any change will only make life worse could the circus be an amphitheater for creation that grows and expands with the innovation of artistic creation? But the endless paragraphs? The wending serpents slime?
Here I meet Krasznahorkai. He has come upon a snake. One that coils and hisses. It only know its instinct of being and following itself. Krasznahorkai had different ideas? He has now I believe, as I search my way through another paragraph missing any anchor for me to clutch onto, cleaved onto his own earnestness, honestness, to follow the snake. It winds, slips, slithers in its direction through the paragraphs filled with simple words blending into the kingdom of deeper metaphoric meanings. Krasznahorkai's entire system of beliefs, values, and perceptions of himself and the world, of his art may be threatened. Too late, this is a story of a snake who leaves in its instinct ridden path unmarked paragraphs, leaving me within its pages unsettled. Always unsettled Krasznahorkai knows he has the heart to follow the snake to its end. The questions answered or not, the external strife of power and fear, the internal strife of the artist, the snake will not be fluted in a dance out of a hat. Krasznahorkai has risked it all. Exhausted he has followed the snake to its end. Kept on the trail without the beat of his own stride he is wending with the snake's curls and knowing juts and coils, its dark crawl into the never ending circularity of events, so brisk and innovative during its moments, but already showing its tell-tale signage of repeating that which it just replaced, never ending in its tail-nipped recurrence.
I however am left within the waves of paragraphs, not lost but returned, revisited, by the unrolling of their mystified wisdom. ...more
This not your laid back summer beach read. Don’t even think of attempting this on a train, a plane, a park, a doctor’s office or anywhere where you won’t be able to focus completely and fall face first into this absurd Hungarian nightmare.
With about three paragraphs in the entire 300 pages, and just a smattering of sentences (I’m exaggerating, but not by much), Melancholy seemed to gush out of Krasznahorkai like a drunken folklore told over a campfire in the darkest pit of a forest.
The first sevThis not your laid back summer beach read. Don’t even think of attempting this on a train, a plane, a park, a doctor’s office or anywhere where you won’t be able to focus completely and fall face first into this absurd Hungarian nightmare.
With about three paragraphs in the entire 300 pages, and just a smattering of sentences (I’m exaggerating, but not by much), Melancholy seemed to gush out of Krasznahorkai like a drunken folklore told over a campfire in the darkest pit of a forest.
The first seventy or so pages were probably the best voyeuristic writing I’ve ever had the joy to read. We simultaneously pull up a chair inside the head of a self-conscious woman riding a train while also hanging out with the fly on the wall of her apartment. If nothing else, I encourage you to read part one and treat it as a short story.
Reflective, ripe with frantic tangents and supremely dark and eerie, Melancholy is for the thinkers, the sky gazers and the carny groupies....more
There are better reviews than this one to read about this book. Here is one. And another. And a third one. (For those who don't know if they want to click, those link to David's, Brian's and Mariel's reviews).
I had very strong feelings of fondness but not love for this book. It would have been a four and a half star book, but it never had that unquantifiable something that pushes a book past the really really like category and into the love category. Maybe I'm just being a superficial bastardThere are better reviews than this one to read about this book. Here is one. And another. And a third one. (For those who don't know if they want to click, those link to David's, Brian's and Mariel's reviews).
I had very strong feelings of fondness but not love for this book. It would have been a four and a half star book, but it never had that unquantifiable something that pushes a book past the really really like category and into the love category. Maybe I'm just being a superficial bastard and if the book had had paragraphs I would have loved it. Who knows.
When I started reading this book on my way to work on Tuesday I was a little tired. When I continued reading it on break I was also feeling tired, and I felt the same way on my subway ride home. My eyes would blur on the pages of unbroken text, and I would lose my place at times as I read the first seventy five pages. At times my mind went into that strange place that borders on being awake and asleep, and the words on the page mixed with barely subconscious thoughts and memories and become something of a mix between personal memory and the story in the book. Even though I'd catch myself and re-read the parts when this would happen I'm still not positive that my memory of the first quarter of the book is very accurate.
One of my difficulties with the book (and this isn't a difficulty that would dock a star, but a difficulty meaning something that haunts my thoughts, and probably begs for the book to be re-read at a later point) is putting my finger on what the failure of the two major characters Valuska and Eszter is. I don't mean failure in being characters in the book, because they are not failures at all in that respect, but the moment when each of them experiences their downfall, so to speak. They are both idiots. Valuska is one because the town has decided that he is one with his starry eyed gaze to the heavens and Eszter is one even though he is considered the the town genius who thinks things too lofty for the town to understand. The irony of the way these two characters are viewed by the town is that Valuska's dreamy thoughts are actually grounded in science, although a wide eyed raptured view of the magnificence of just how big and awe-inspiring the world is once you have an idea of some of the reality that is out there beyond the day to day world. Against Valuska's 'idiot' is Eszter who is almost a Derrida like figure who spits out deep and profound pronouncements that are almost entirely abstract from the real world. Eszter lives as a recluse, hiding from the town and the world that he sees as a dismal failure. Not being out on the streets, as Valuska is, everyday gazing up at the sky's like Aristophanes' Socrates Eszter is given respect and people treat his rare public ramblings with respect.
The comic figure of Eszter really comes through in a scene where he is trying to board up the windows to his house. He knows that bad shit is about to go down out on the streets and he takes it on himself to barricade himself in his home. For someone who hasn't read this book, the scene is important because for years Eszter hasn't done anything for himself. He lays down all day while a Valuska brings him his food and a woman comes to keep the house in order. Barricading the windows by nailing up boards is a big step for him. The scene begins with him hammering the hand that is holding the nail for the fourth or fifth time. He has beaten his hand to a pulp and he is trying to figure out why he keeps missing the nail. Instead of going about hammering the nail like a normal person would (little taps to drive the nail in to start and then hitting harder when the fingers are no longer in the way) he works out complicated theories based on velocity and arcs and how much attention he should pay to speed and other aspects of what would normally be unconscious in a person who is able to hammer in a nail. Through a painful trial and error he finally hits upon the correct way of doing the task, and rejoices and finds an enjoyment in skillfully wielding a hammer. By the time he stumbles on the correct way to do this task he has beaten his hand to a pulp and gone through a ridiculous series of trial and error that led to the correct result but the method he took to get here is far from correct.
We never see Valuska hammering in a nail but I imagine he wouldn't have to almost break his left hand in figuring out how to do this relatively simple task.
A moment comes later in the book where Eszter sees how ridiculous he has been and in that realization he sets out to find and save Valuska. It is only at this moment that he goes from being a comical idiot figure to being tragic. His own self-awareness coincides with his downfall. His story ends with him tuning a piano from an obscure tuning system to the conventional 12 tone Werckmeister one so that he can sit down and play some Bach. He's returned from the world of his own making of abstract thoughts that might have been clever but didn't necessarily have any relevance to the real-world to the real-world but he is now a totally marginalized figure that is locked away as an embarrassing relic of the past.
Valuska has a similar downfall when he stops gazing up at the stars and 'buckles down' to the real world. When he begins to be concerned with what is 'important' to everyone else is when his own failure takes place (one has to wonder about the small act that ultimately leads to his fate at the end of the book really does point to a certain idiocy of his, that maybe everyone had been right about him all along).
Long before this happens though there is a scene where he takes Eszter out of his house on a mission for Eszter's wife. Eszter is appalled while walking at the amount of garbage that is piled on the streets. Before this scene the garbage isn't mentioned. When the scene is shown through Valuska's eyes the reader learns that it is on this walk that Valuska turns his gaze which is normally fixed on the lofty view of the sky and is aware for the first time at all the rubbish and trash that is piled on the streets. He hides his own knowledge of this from Eszter by continuing to ramble on as he had been up until this point but in his thoughts he is ashamed to discover the squalor of the town he spends so much time walking around but hadn't actually been noticing up until this point. I don't know exactly why I described this scene, it's part of what makes the character of Valuska difficult for me, something that eludes me about him. I wonder if he had kept his eyes on the heavens if things would have turned out better for him, if his own awareness that he didn't have to be the town idiot and he could think like everyone else doomed him to his own fate. Returning to an Aristophanes allusion, if Valuska had kept starring up at the heavens would he have been able to see the tortoise shell that was falling straight for his head?
The part of both of these characters that disturbs me is that there is no easy answer about what their downfall was. Each were doomed when they left their own ivory towers but the way that they each were prior to becoming like everyone else was just as problematic. Maybe when I watch the film version this weekend some of my thoughts will become a bit more substantial. Probably not though. I think eventually I'll need to return to this strange and haunting book....more
Recommends it for: M is for Melancholy. R is for resistance
Recommended to Mariel by:
David, brian and Nate
David and brian's reviews. Now no one is reading this so it doesn’t matter that I’m tongued-tied and confused how to express my feelings on The Melancholy of Resistance. (I can will myself to do anything if I tell myself that nothing I do matters. It feels like freedom. Everything I say is bullshit anyway.) I’ve been doodling whales and stars for days and days. It’s difficult to ever translate those images to outside of me. Hold on, I meant to say that ‘Melancholy’ was translated from the HungariDavid and brian's reviews. Now no one is reading this so it doesn’t matter that I’m tongued-tied and confused how to express my feelings on The Melancholy of Resistance. (I can will myself to do anything if I tell myself that nothing I do matters. It feels like freedom. Everything I say is bullshit anyway.) I’ve been doodling whales and stars for days and days. It’s difficult to ever translate those images to outside of me. Hold on, I meant to say that ‘Melancholy’ was translated from the Hungarian (by George Szirtes. It’s weird how I rarely pay attention to the translators/cover artists/interpreters names. Maybe I should). Some things I just can’t get (get or get right) no matter how it’s expressed. The words in my head, the thoughts that are images and those that are half words. (How am I going to get this right?) I’m feeling some strong shit. Talk about the movie, Mariel. But I saw it so long ago that the elusive feelings I couldn’t name are years out of my reach. (But it’s a great way to stall!)
Embarrassing confession (#1. I’m sure there will be more): I had a weirdo crush on actor Lars Rudolph that pretty much died when seeing Werckmeister Harmonies (sometime around ‘02 or ‘03). I couldn’t even tell why I’d liked him so much when in my early twenties. Probably the film Baby, or The Princess and the Warrior (and looking back I know that was just insane [I’m blocking out the look-a-like I knew who I crushed on badly. That was probably it]). If an actor made one expression that meant something to me I’d feel grateful and affectionate (even better if I could also make fun of them. It would take ages to explain my “relationship” with Paul McCartney). I take understanding where I can get it. But all that David says about him in this film is right. Anyway, I could watch The Werckmeister Harmonies again (Robert says there is a beautiful dance number in it. That alone is inducement enough for me. Don’t know what is happening to me that I don’t remember it. I live for great dance scenes). But I probably won’t because I know that it didn’t make me feel like reading The Melancholy of Resistance did. Some of the best times of my life are the times I’d see something in a movie that made me feel like I got something. Or some kind of connection. It’s really hard for me to feel like that. I remember of 2002-2003 those times. I’d take Samantha Morton in Morvern Callar, Liv Ullmann in Persona, all of these inside others heads by perfect outside translations on my walks. (Something I’ve always done is try to act out something, or put on faces for meanings, trying to understand. I’m doing that again, after a blank period.) I’m so happy to have that feeling back, after reading ‘Melancholy’. If I don’t have it all of the time it isn’t enough. I related to Eszter’s walks. I could try on Valuska’s strong inclination type urge thing (way to go, Mariel!) towards something, to reach anything. (Along with my own. It kinda sucks to do that by yourself.) Damn it. Embarrassing confession #2: (What makes me admit this kind of thing on goodreads? At all?) When I was a kid they had tests done on me to make sure that I was not retarded or disabled some way (I’m not [so she says!]. Trauma childhood stuff no one wants to hear and I don’t want to talk about). It got to me about Valuska, how people thought he was a halfwit and that it went over his head that they thought so. I’ve tried to explain before this feeling about crowds I get. I’ve got this sorta claustrophobia when things are about to begin. It’s not just loneliness (although it is certainly that too) , sinister camaraderie and melting of faces (that I could never try on). There’s this feeling I get behind what people are saying that there’s something I’m really not getting. This is a really hard review to write. Since I’m the sort of person (apparently) who admits to this kind of shit: I cried. Really hard. They can’t win. I’ve never been to Hungary. My ex has been and I’ve got postcards he sent me from there. I’d stare at the postage stamps and their money (they weren’t using the euro, at least not in 2008) for ages. I’m fascinated. Does anybody else think of gauging their place like in mob mentality situations? I think I’d stop dead in my tracks (in my heart, probably) and stare and do nothing. (Like the stampede in The Lion King. Save yourself!) Reading The Melancholy of Resistance is like being alive. It’s the seeing the life thing of others and feeling like the moments in your brain when your mental art is translated outside of you into how you are seeing others. This might be a story but it’s really not at all. It’s looking into the universe above your head and trying to break through those walls. That’s not a story that’s just trying to keep living. I lose that all of the time. Sometimes I can get it back. I gotta keep trying to get it back (they can’t win! No Mrs. Eszters!). Shout-outs to Morrissey brian and to David. I’m freaking grateful. P.s. The review I wrote in my head a bunch of times at work was better than the review I actually wrote....more
The Melancholy of Resistance is, George Szirtes says, ‘a slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type’. And because I adore Szirtes, the poet, I chose to imbue his summation with promises of a linguistic operetta of multifactorial continuo. Alas, he too must earn his daily bread, (being the novel’s translator) and so it transpires, at the end of this epic polity, that he meant what he said entirely literally: a statement of fact rather than a literary endorsement.
A vast black river ofThe Melancholy of Resistance is, George Szirtes says, ‘a slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type’. And because I adore Szirtes, the poet, I chose to imbue his summation with promises of a linguistic operetta of multifactorial continuo. Alas, he too must earn his daily bread, (being the novel’s translator) and so it transpires, at the end of this epic polity, that he meant what he said entirely literally: a statement of fact rather than a literary endorsement.
A vast black river of lava is what it says on the tin, and exactly what this novel delivers: an unrelenting pummelling of words undistracted by paragraphs or full stops: therefore, it must be stream of consciousnessness, (says the Guardian, the New Yorker, the Times, etc. All hail). A stream of consonants more like, a black morass of type which settles every inch of the mis-en-scene and piles on in thick layers, purporting an emphemeral promise of imminent unravelling which never quite crystallises.
This linguistic technique has as its main function the architecture of a frieze layering of shallow planes that work against any privileging of the center: instead, it is the oscillating viewpoint which invests the grammar of the message, a viewpoint which is not a subjective, located, space but rather bleeds off the edges of the page, chasing a ‘reverse perspective’ vantage point. It does not demand a point of identification at which the viewer is interpellated into the chronology of the image, but rather presses on, buoyed by the irreducible thickness of its hypnotic and undecipherable content. It is precisely this which makes the novel ‘difficult’: a lack of marshalling of centrifugal cohesion or ancillary anchorage of any kind.
The above is my countertake to the prevailing mantra in newspaper reviews that what we are dealing with here is a postmodernist linguistic architecture that operates like a multifacedted lens that refracts the world into multiple viewpoints simultaneously: which crops up in some derivative form ad nauseum lest the reviewer be caught with their pants down in some metaphysical great white Hungarian post soviet modernist debate. Which comes a cropper. A vast black river of type is what this is folks: no more, no less. And if ever a book needed a wee paragraph, or two, well, look no further...
The title, then: a piece of flummoxery which has nothing to do with the ominous atmosphere precipitated by the advent of a touring circus towing a leviathan pickled whale, entouraged by its groupies: ostensibly a refractory group of anarchistic revolutionaries who catalyze the host town’s entropy into a night of murder and mayhem. The literal translation of the title is apparently ‘opposition melancholy of’ which , Hungarian speaker that I’m not, still renders itself to an interpretation or two: why should it not be the opposition of melancholy, which makes infinite more sense: a galvanising of complacency into resurrection, a nihilistic, anarchistic disruption of the status quo: insert own take here: Hungary’s complacency with both Nazi and Soviet occupation: why not, JSTOR emanates have done it. A cleansing of the national palate so to speak.
But no reason to stop with mere historical reconciliations: the story serves as an overarching magnus opus(sic)of the ever enduring political zeitgeist: the exploitation of mass hysteria, and using the mechanism of violence to construct a new political hegemony. And in the meantime, brush up on Hobbes, Kafka and Kleist, Dostoyevsky, Goethe and even Dante, to name but just a few who in whose tradition this is. Now, I don’t care whose tradition this is in, all I care about is how bad it is. Nevertheless, if we’re going to name drop shamelessly here, its not like I have nothing to say (which is the case with me even when I have nothing to say). The controlling concept here is a Pavel Florenskian antinomial rendering of the truth in the nature of political systems, informed by Hans Magnus Enzenberger’s marvellous ‘the consciousness industry’ principle (that the product of the mind is the perpetuation of the existing Order of man’s domination over man).
Further, is it a coincidence that the rampaging hordes seem to be orchestrated by a nebulous persona called ‘The Prince’ and in what is the only sublime sub context-within-text coup de grace in the whole novel, and that these hordes are equally and simultaneously manoeuvred in a parallel paradigm by the Machiavellian Mrs Ezter? She, who orchestrates a series of complex machinations behind the scenes worthy of a supreme Svengali, a masterful Machievelli: given advance warning of possible unrest, she decides to let the scenario play out so that she might intervene at the precise moment and ‘save the day’: too early and the plan comes a cropper, too late and her role will be swept into the disarrange of anarchy: plotting a tight high wire act, she calls in the army just in time, incapacitates the chief of police with copious drink, dispatches Valuska (the only person who might adivine her evil intentions) on a wild good chase, and, does it eight times (eight !!!!) with the army lieutenant Commander, in one night no less, which allows her to assume chief comrade secretary leader of the people something or other status. World domination, muahaaaha! (although I remain more impressed with the eight times in one night achievement myself).
Character portrayal and deployment remains overall poor, with the exception of Valuska. Given there are only four main characters, this is a disappointment. Even in retrospect, I fail to see what purpose, message or qualia Mrs Plauf brings to the overarching narrative, apart from some comic relief in the opening scenes when she falls victim to that all too well known to ‘siteration’ in which a male specimen gets it into his head that a woman has the hots for him, and advances on a leery course to collect his dues (why is it never the Brad Pitts of the world who labour under such misapprehensions: although granted in that case it wouldn’t quite be a misapprehension, like anyone would say no to THAT). In a hilarious Bridget Jones moment poor Ms Plauff’s bra strings snap whilst she is sitting in a rickety train, and she is faced with the dilemma of whether to cover up : and bring attention to herself, or let it all go, which she does, in a wibble-wobbly concertina which drives her smarmy admirer mad with passion. (just can’t win this one, I’m afraid. Damned if you do or don’t).
Fly-away boobs and a near miss mile high club (except on a train) aside, Mrs Plauff is a catstrophe of a trope: its as if though Krasznahorkai doesn’t know what to do with her. Just as she settles comfortably into spinster stereotype lifted straight from the anals of ‘the Prime of Ms Jean Brodie’ complete with conserves, chintz and poppycock lace behind closed doors, we learn she has actually buried two husbands and kicked out her unpromising son, Valuska, the proverbial village idiot. There is no way her maidenly histrionics read true after that bit of biography. But more so, the derisory notion that that a respectable pillar of a small town community can discard her son to communal upkeeping, whilst at the same time subscribing to the social ostracization petition against Mrs Eszter for not living with her husband. Enough already. ‘Buts its all a bit of magical realism’, extols the Guardian Review. Really? Did I blink and miss that part? Magical realism is The Master and Margarita. Or Donosos’s ‘the Obscene Bird or Midnight’. Not this. (unless we are referring to the eight times in one night?) This novel: why, its the Emperor’s new clothes, after all.
Or, in the words of Charles Newman, a supreme example of 'climax inflation': pervasive in the current cultural malaise of searching out and force-finding of postmodernist recontextualizing in all kinds of verbal diarrhea so long as it was spewed in the context of the last twenty years of so: the primary sensation of our time.
Một thành phố nhỏ tầm thường xoàng xĩnh ở Hungari đột nhiên bị náo động bởi sự xuất hiện của một đoàn xiếc kỳ lạ mang theo “một kỳ quan độc nhất vô nhị”: con cá voi to nhất người ta từng thấy nằm trên cái bệ khổng lồ. Và rồi biến cố tưởng như vô thưởng vô phạt này rốt cuộc lại kéo theo một loạt biến cố càng lúc càng bất ngờ, phi thực và bạo liệt, dẫn đến sự nổi loạn toàn diện của cư dân thành phố, mà động lực là âm mưu thâm hiểm của một người đàn bà vốn dĩ bình thường nay chợt nảy ra tham vọng mMột thành phố nhỏ tầm thường xoàng xĩnh ở Hungari đột nhiên bị náo động bởi sự xuất hiện của một đoàn xiếc kỳ lạ mang theo “một kỳ quan độc nhất vô nhị”: con cá voi to nhất người ta từng thấy nằm trên cái bệ khổng lồ. Và rồi biến cố tưởng như vô thưởng vô phạt này rốt cuộc lại kéo theo một loạt biến cố càng lúc càng bất ngờ, phi thực và bạo liệt, dẫn đến sự nổi loạn toàn diện của cư dân thành phố, mà động lực là âm mưu thâm hiểm của một người đàn bà vốn dĩ bình thường nay chợt nảy ra tham vọng muốn trở thành kẻ có quyền lực cao nhất, song hành với sự đớn hèn và hám lợi của hầu hết những con người vây quanh mụ ta. Nổi bật trên nền đó cuộc đấu tranh ngoan cường không cân sức của một vài con người hiếm hoi cuối cùng còn giữ nguyên phẩm chất con người, chống lại sự tha hóa chung của cả cộng đồng dù phải trả giá bằng sinh mạng mình. “Nỗi buồn kháng cự” (tạm dịch nhan đề) là một kiệt tác về sự tha hóa – sự sẵn sàng tha hóa, tiềm năng tha hóa, khuynh hướng tự nhiên tiến đến chỗ tha hóa – của nhân loại, bài ca bi tráng về thất bại không tránh khỏi của tính người đích thực, sự “kháng cự” của tính người đó trước sự tha hóa tràn ngập kia. Tuy nhiên, dù màu sắc/âm hưởng chung của cuốn sách là đen, u ám, song, một cách có vẻ nghịch lý, khi gấp sách lại, chúng ta vẫn không khỏi cảm thấy tiếp tục tin ở con người, bởi vì, dù chỉ có một người duy nhất như Valushka mà thôi, thì vẫn còn chỗ để hy vọng ở loài người. Sức mạnh ngôn từ của cuốn sách thật khôn cưỡng. Một cuốn sách thực sự kiệt xuất.
Đã có người hỏi tôi: tôi tìm cái gì ở một cuốn sách. Nói cách khác, cuốn sách nào là cuốn sách tối hậu tôi tìm kiếm? Trả lời: cuốn sách nào chạm đến mọi cấp độ của bản thể tôi, trí óc, tâm hồn, tiềm thức, tất cả, ở mức độ mạnh nhất. "Nỗi buồn kháng cự" là một cuốn như thế. Nó như một dòng lũ nham thạch phún xuất ra từ nhà văn, một dòng lũ mãnh liệt, tự nhiên, trong đó không có sự phân biệt giữa đâu là những gì thuộc một trí tuệ cao nhất và những gì thuộc một tâm hồn lớn nhất. Tác giả một cuốn sách như thế là một trí tuệ lớn trong một nỗi đau lớn, và so với kích thước của trí tuệ cũng như nỗi đau đó thì mọi bận tâm về hình thức trở thành tuyệt đối thứ yếu, song chính vì đó là trí tuệ lớn nên nó có khả năng làm chủ cao độ tất cả những cái thuộc hàng thứ yếu ấy, cũng như một vận động viên phải có khả năng làm chủ từng bước chạy một của mình, bắt từng bước chạy một - được thực hiện đến độ hoàn hảo nhất có thể - phục vụ cho mục đích tối hậu là cái quãng đường lớn mà anh ta phải vượt qua.
"Correction" của Thomas Bernhard, "The gospel according to Jesus Christ" của José Saramago, "Too loud a solitude" của Bohumil Hrabal, "Anh em nhà Karamazov" của Dostoyevski là một số trong những cuốn sách như thế. Đọc xong những cuốn như vậy, tôi không còn có thể là tôi như trước, về mọi phương diện.
So với chúng, những "Nếu một đêm đông có người lữ khách" của Italo Calvino hay "Life, a user's manual" của George Perec chỉ là những cuốn sách hạng nhì. Chúng làm tôi khâm phục, rất khâm phục, về mặt trí tuệ; đúng. Nhưng, đọc chúng, tâm hồn tôi từ đầu đến cuối không nóng lên. Tôi cần những cuốn ấy ở một số lúc. Nhưng luôn luôn thì không. ...more
There are moments of astounding beauty in this book. My personal favourite is when Valuska,the book's holy fool, demonstrates the motion of the planets around the sun in the kind of bar only found only in Hungarian and Slav lit, 'the penny Riesling in their scratch-marked glasses...'. Dark bars they are, where tables rock on their uneven legs and pickling spices permeate the walls. I think I read this stuff for those bars. Valuska demonstrates the motion of the planets with his fellow drinkers,There are moments of astounding beauty in this book. My personal favourite is when Valuska,the book's holy fool, demonstrates the motion of the planets around the sun in the kind of bar only found only in Hungarian and Slav lit, 'the penny Riesling in their scratch-marked glasses...'. Dark bars they are, where tables rock on their uneven legs and pickling spices permeate the walls. I think I read this stuff for those bars. Valuska demonstrates the motion of the planets with his fellow drinkers, and there is this stunning realization that he does this often, and that all the patrons, drunk beasts too rough to slouch towards anywhere, all know their part in this celestial drama. They curse and take their places around the Sun. They become happy in their orbits. And when the solar system breaks up, they return to their seats. But there are no paragraph breaks. I thought I would be okay with this. It's like eating late lobster without a hammer. Egad, have I had to work for these lovely morsels. I work and work and work. I can't taste the story anymore or distinguish the characters. But there is enough joy to try again someday. I'm not really an ideas person. I read for those moments of flying around the sun; me, my shelves, and last night's cabbage in the air, around and around. I used to be able to shell a lobster with my bare hands. Can still do it for August season when they've shed their old homes. There are many pressure points. I'm only 56. Am I really reaching the point where I begin that slide where things like paragraph breaks, mise en page, occasional writerly self-indulgence, make me unable to go on with a book? Is that day coming when I can't eat lobster anymore because I can't break the shells? I am so exhausted by this book. I wish the village had one of those dark penny Riesling bars. I would settle in with a tall glass, a plate of cabbage, and a fried egg staring back at me like a little sun from the top of a piece of skirt steak. All this, and I forget to mention the whale....more
So who knew that Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies was an adaptation?
This dense, winding novel seemingly condenses much of the tumultuous experience of 20th century Hungary into a few days of carefully cryptic allegory that is stronger and more universal for its lack of easy 1:1 correspondences between its reality and the greater one. The novel was adapted for screen by Tarr with the author and its long sentences and lack of paragraph breaks are reflected in the film's long, seamless takes (ofSo who knew that Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies was an adaptation?
This dense, winding novel seemingly condenses much of the tumultuous experience of 20th century Hungary into a few days of carefully cryptic allegory that is stronger and more universal for its lack of easy 1:1 correspondences between its reality and the greater one. The novel was adapted for screen by Tarr with the author and its long sentences and lack of paragraph breaks are reflected in the film's long, seamless takes (of course, this could not be the sole inspiration for the style as long seamless takes are par for the course with Tarr). As such, it is a good companion to the incredible film, related but distinct in many ways. In particular, the precise significance of Andreas Werkmeister (whose retuning of the western musical scale from "natural" Pythagorean to its modern extended (artificial?) form is a core concept of modern convenience at the expense of perfection, perhaps) has been substantially turned back on itself. And as is often the case with such adaptations, the bits that have changed between the two versions also offer key insights into the decisions underlying them. So I am quite pleased to have found this (via Mike E, I should say).
All the same, the novel itself is somewhat caught between stretches of extreme elegance, ultra-dry eastern european wit at misfortunes mundane and terrible, and formal cleverness -- caught between all of these and a certain tedium generated by long, unbroken passages of introspection, some of which require considerable repetition to get their gradual perspective shifts across. The technique works pretty well in general, but it isn't always exactly gripping. Although perhaps I have been spoiled by the sense of urgency with which the film imbues certain sequences.
previous, now-somewhat-redundant notes: 1. Fitting source for a film with so many 10-minute sequence shots, this book runs in long sentences and endless paragraphs. Really the only paragraph breaks are the major section/chapter breaks, when action is interrupted or the perspective shifts. Of course, Tarr always loves extended shots, so it wasn't purely in response to this novel; the two simply suit eachother well. 2. I love all of the subjective interpolations in midsentence, with both dialogue and interior thoughts constantly intruding into the descriptions as brief quotations. This works most effectively and originally when stated opinion and actual opinion are at odds and yet are both included without differentiation. 3. The film stands on its own, even in all its ambiguities. That doesn't mean that I'm not pleased to see that material exapnded upon with more detailed context and character backgrounds. Particularly, all this early insight into Mrs. Ezster, whose role in the film is significant but brief. 4. And can we just talk for a minute about the Eastern European sense of humor? It is excellent. A feathering of the absurd, so dry as to be practically unnoticeable, even in deathly serious contexts, but still enough to prevent most works from seeming as stilted or self-important as some of their counterparts from elsewhere can risk. An example: the rioting mob that gradually runs out of steam until they are reduced to wandering a laundromat, milling about and listlessly kicking at a drier or two. The whole sequence caps one of the darker stretches of the novel, and compliments it with a hidden ridiculousness without undercutting....more
Luckily I found this book in a local bookstore the day after I saw Bela Tarr's film Werckmeister Harmonies. The author and Tarr have a very close relationship and have collaborated on adapting Krazhnahorkai's novels into films, but I think this is the only novel that has been translated into English.
As with other books, I read this so feverishly (and it begs to be read feverishly as the whole book is one long paragraph, and some sentences go on for pages) that I can't give any kind of detached dLuckily I found this book in a local bookstore the day after I saw Bela Tarr's film Werckmeister Harmonies. The author and Tarr have a very close relationship and have collaborated on adapting Krazhnahorkai's novels into films, but I think this is the only novel that has been translated into English.
As with other books, I read this so feverishly (and it begs to be read feverishly as the whole book is one long paragraph, and some sentences go on for pages) that I can't give any kind of detached detailed review; the only real impression I have of reading it is one of delerious thought-provoking and demanding pleasure....more
History has shown that sometimes one simple act can turn a city upside down and fuel a chain of events which leaves the populace aching to “figure it out” meanwhile trying to stick to their norms. Laszlo Krasznahorkai explores this idea in his novel, “The Melancholy of Resistance” translated from Hungarian into English by the gifted translator, George Szirtes.
“The Melancholy of Resistance” follows the fear of change and the unknown following the arrival of a circus into a Hungarian town. The reHistory has shown that sometimes one simple act can turn a city upside down and fuel a chain of events which leaves the populace aching to “figure it out” meanwhile trying to stick to their norms. Laszlo Krasznahorkai explores this idea in his novel, “The Melancholy of Resistance” translated from Hungarian into English by the gifted translator, George Szirtes.
“The Melancholy of Resistance” follows the fear of change and the unknown following the arrival of a circus into a Hungarian town. The residents’ lives are not only turned upside down; but they fear an underlying evil presence. Krasznahorkai introduces various characters (Mrs. Plauf, Mr. and Mrs. Eszter, Valuska, etc) as they uniformly interact and individually attempt to discern the changes made to the town. Using this theme and character set; Krasznahorkai examines philosophy and depth of thought making “The Melancholy of Resistance” multi-faceted and layered versus solely a singular-plot novel.
Krasznahorkai pens “The Melancholy of Resistance” in a strong stream of consciousness, ever-lasting flow style. In fact, the novel does not have chapter breaks and features a run-on sentence structure (lots of commas) which can be difficult to follow and makes it tedious to choose a pausing point. This certainly makes “The Melancholy of Resistance” not necessarily the ideal read (in terms of style) for everyone.
“The Melancholy of Resistance” begins strongly with a special ‘oomph’ and unique and vivid characters. Sadly though, this weakens at the halfway point where not only do the characters’ strengths decrease but the plot occasionally doesn’t make sense and the pace slows. It is a noticeable and drastic difference in comparison to the former half of the book.
Despite this weakening and somewhat jumbled storytelling; there is still strength in the heavy symbolism and portrayals that the various tangents express. The reader will experience many “ah ha!” –moments of enlightenment where it is clear that Krasznahorkai implores an angle of philosophy.
These philosophical meanderings reach quite an exciting apex before concluding the story in a surprising and more narrative way revisiting (almost) the beginning of the novel. The last pages, however, are bluntly: weird. Memorable, but weird.
“The Melancholy of Resistance” is a ‘different’, dense read which is “up and down” with a unique style not for everyone. However, those seeking surreal stream of consciousness novels will be pleased enough. Admittedly, it is not as strong as some other novels (and particularly Hungarian ones) in the same realm but despite its flaws, it will provide some satisfaction and intrigue. ...more
okay so i just now finished this one, and i gotta say that last 3 pg run of decomposition, from biochemical to philosophical was just astounding. the last time i viscerally reacted to an ending like that was fowles 'the collector'. of course the book is kind of like trying to speed walk through the ocean, but i set a healthy 10-20 pgs at a time pace for myself so i didn't feel like i was trying to chew peanut butter for hours on end.
these characters are amazing for their universality is centralokay so i just now finished this one, and i gotta say that last 3 pg run of decomposition, from biochemical to philosophical was just astounding. the last time i viscerally reacted to an ending like that was fowles 'the collector'. of course the book is kind of like trying to speed walk through the ocean, but i set a healthy 10-20 pgs at a time pace for myself so i didn't feel like i was trying to chew peanut butter for hours on end.
these characters are amazing for their universality is central and yet they are so unique and strange and human (think of gogol's dead souls, all those weird land owners chichikov visits). i initially thought that the circus owner was going to be the sinister one (like the judge from blood meridian) with his creepy whale, then it shifted to the factotum and "the prince", then it seems to turn out that mrs. ezster is the most sinister of all: the boredom of a housewife is fertile ground for authoritarianism. but laszlo does a good job of balancing these characters, as mrs. ezster in all her intoxication with power, has a beautiful speech at the end about facing disorder with pride, knowing that disorder will win. and at the center the book is about order and entropy: whether societal order, familial order, celestial order or biological order. we all know that order cannot last, that is the basic rule of entropy and yet our lives seem to be exersizes in battling an enemy we know we cannot defeat. and the citizens of the town all fight in different ways: valuska stares at the stars, ezster retreats from life because he sees no meaning in a system that lacks permanence; and mrs. eszter, maybe with the most heroism (which is strange as she seems the villian), wants to find civic order and is willing to plot and sacrifice for that order, given of course that she is the one doind the ordering.
thus, as far as entropy goes this is probably the best novel on that theme since gravitys rainbow and its dissolving protagonist. as for recommending i would say definitely check this novel out, but try not to read it in a day or two, let yourself savor the richness of the density, the subtle character shifts (as characters move from villian, to hero, to pawn, etc. they all seem to have some movement of this sort) and make sure you read the last 10-15 pages at one go, from the oraration to the break down, to the last word....more
Note: *How I would love to give this book 4.5 stars, if only because it starts a little slow. Granted, the ending of the book echoes the beginning in a lovely way, and when I finished I felt wholly satisfied and frankly grateful to have stumbled upon Krasznahorkai, but starting with Mrs. Plauf didn't really gun the narrative engine - it felt to me like the novel proper didn't really start until Mrs. Eszter and Valuska entered the picture.*
A strange circus exhibiting a dead whale arrives in a smalNote: *How I would love to give this book 4.5 stars, if only because it starts a little slow. Granted, the ending of the book echoes the beginning in a lovely way, and when I finished I felt wholly satisfied and frankly grateful to have stumbled upon Krasznahorkai, but starting with Mrs. Plauf didn't really gun the narrative engine - it felt to me like the novel proper didn't really start until Mrs. Eszter and Valuska entered the picture.*
A strange circus exhibiting a dead whale arrives in a small Hungarian town, changing what might have been a typical exercise in hapless Eastern European village comedy into a terrifying and really quite affectingly sad investigation of nihilism and destruction. Krasznahorkai's point here seems to be that whether we're talking about an individual or society, everybody is obsessed with their own destruction; they marvel over it, fear it, discuss it endlessly - they're even sort of hoping for it, in their own way. And his vast, looping sentences give free reign to this sort of dance with destruction, as the characters muddle over their personal apocalypses.
Maybe this sounds overly philosophical, but there are also some tip-top characterizations here, most notably the aesthetically depressed Mr. Eszter (who almost seemed like a caricature of a Bernhard anti-hero) and the mooncalf Valuska, eternal optimist, who I felt was the real (bleeding?) heart of the book. Suffice to say that when I got to the end of the book, which is a real bravura riff on human decomposition, I was moved as much emotionally as I was intellectually. What more can you ask for?
It was said that modern Mayans rolled their eyes at the suggestion of Armageddon on 12/21/12. But in László Krasznahorkai's novel, nobody is rolling his eyes as something wicked comes the way of a Hungarian village. The seriousness of the situation is evident from the ambiance of fear and foreboding as Mrs. Plauf travels by train to her home. She can't shake off the feeling that an infinitesimal change in the landscape brought something amiss to the relative peace of the village. That constrictiIt was said that modern Mayans rolled their eyes at the suggestion of Armageddon on 12/21/12. But in László Krasznahorkai's novel, nobody is rolling his eyes as something wicked comes the way of a Hungarian village. The seriousness of the situation is evident from the ambiance of fear and foreboding as Mrs. Plauf travels by train to her home. She can't shake off the feeling that an infinitesimal change in the landscape brought something amiss to the relative peace of the village. That constricting feeling of impending apocalypse suffuses the novel's introductory chapter, titled "An Emergency".
After so much gossip, so much terrifying rumour-mongering, she could now see for herself that 'it was all going down the drain', for she understood that while her own particular immediate danger was over, in 'a world where such things happen' the collapse into anarchy would inevitable follow.
The anarchy comes later in the book, but it happens after much paranoid and apocalyptic proselytizing by its characters. Like the Argentinian novelist César Aira, Krasznahorkai is a proponent of spontaneous realism, where the narratives unfold in real time and almost any scene can be considered in medias res. The characters ride a literal "train of thought", not so much in streaming consciousness, but a branching out of consciousness. They think aloud and they follow no discernible script except what insights their "walking minds" alight on.
Quotations of stock phrases (as in the above passage: 'it was all going down the drain'; 'a world where such things happen') make this narrative of constant "scenario-building" somehow realistic, somehow not hackneyed. They anchor the narrative to certain familiar tropes and avoid being too precious despite the seriousness of "the threat of end of times". At times, they provoke a certain "war on idioms and clichés" in a world where every usable concept may already have been labeled and delimited as to be "set off" and "qualified". Yet again, the quotes can be literally literal, as for example, Mrs. Eszter in front of her ex-husband's dirty laundry ("... if Valuska was willing to keep it a secret, she would like to wash her husband's dirty laundry with 'her own two hands', explaining how, through all the preceding years, she had regarded the husband who had so coldly rejected her with such unconditional fidelity and respect that it saturated her entire being.") or "cherry picking" later in the novel with real cherries in front of her.
After Mrs. Plauf, the paranoid narration is passed on to another character in a manner of a relay race. But this is a relay where, due to the almost standstill pace of real time narration, the baton is almost grudgingly passed on. The snail-paced race is continued by Mrs. Eszter, the ambitious lady who plans on leading the town as a decorated political leader; by Valuska, the half-wit and son of Mrs. Plauf, whose naivety is a contrast to the other characters' worldly cares; by Mr. Eszter, the estranged husband of Mrs. Eszter, who seems to have renounced the world and retreats into his house a physically broken man; and in between by characters who launch into monologues. These major characters perform the race according to their own slow motion and spontaneous meandering. Murphy's law is at work but there is at least one certain thing in the story: apocalypse lies at the finish line of the track and field
There is barely a plot in the story. A traveling circus is in town to showcase a very large whale and other circus oddities. It, along with some strange local occurrences, seems to have elicited the general fear of the town's "backward" populace. There's an undeniable apocalyptic flavor to the goings on behind the circus tent.
Krasznahorkai's whale seems to be a projection of all the uncertainties, pent-up anxieties, and random menace the world (or modern life or existence) is capable of inflicting on the human race. The ominous whale of monstrous proportions offends the sensibility of the provincial villagers. At the same time, the "fifty-metre truck-load" seems to have generated a cult following from the other villages it visited. These doomy attitudes ("an infection of the imagination") of the people ("spellbound mob") are bound to manifest a doomsday of their own. That doomsday is anything but joyful, except that the existential funk and angst of the characters are all too darkly and comically explored within a stylish, dense prose. Kilometric sentences within blocks of text not set off by paragraphs, a profusion of commas and dependent clauses: the tics of a handful of excellent European writers.
He recalled various stages in his frantic efforts and the fact that even then, in what was imposing itself as a general frame of mind, he had suspected that any eventual resolution would not be due entirely to taking rational thought in the matter, a suspicion that had in the meantime become a certainty, for in divorcing the heavy artillery of his intellect (so typical of him) as he was, metaphorically, edging forward, or, in his own words, divorcing the 'ostensible fire-power of a determined general' from 'the chain of practical action and reaction', he had achieved mastery not through the application of a logical experimental process but through constant, wholly involuntary adaptations to the moment-by-moment nature of necessity; a process that no doubt reflected his intellectual bent but took no cognition of it. To judge by appearances, he summarized, the clear lesson was that the serious issue underlying this apparently insignificant task had been resolved by a persistent assault embodying a flexible attitude to permutations, the passage from 'missing the point' to 'hitting the nail on the head' so to speak, owing nothing, absolutely nothing, to concentrated logic and everything to improvisation, to an ever new set of exploratory motions, or so he had thought as he set out on his tour of inspection of the house to check whether any loose boards needed more secure fixing; there was nothing to indicate that the body's command mechanism, that well-oiled part of the human organism focused on the reality principle (he entered the kitchen) had imposed itself between the legislating mind and the executive hand and remained so well hidden that it could only be discovered, as he put it, 'between, if such a thing were possible, the dazzling object of illusion and the eye that perceives that object, a position that entailed conscious recognition of the illusory nature of the object'. It seemed it was the very freedom of choice between the range of competing ideas that actually decided the angle, the height, and experimental path between the top of the arc and the point of the nail.
The character, Mr. Eszter, is here speaking literally of hammer and nails, as he learns again "to master the art of banging in nails". In the course of this intellectualizing of carpentry, he also shares some of the qualities of the narrative's spontaneous realism. This seamlessly bridging of "the legislating mind and the executive hand" is an appeal to the authenticity of fresh ideas being transcribed as they occur.
The effect seems to be an illusion that nothing is predetermined, that there is a higher intelligence at work governing the fate of plot and story. In the hands of a prose stylist, the extraordinary turns of phrase (and plot) can be pedantically funny and refreshing. It can lend playfulness to the anticipation and perception of events and a spontaneous beauty to seemingly random details "freely" selected from a "range of competing ideas".
The Melancholy of Resistance may be a philosophical novel outlining its own state of nature ("the present state of the area") but not offering a social contract.
He had been wrong, he decided a few steps from his house, wrong in assuming that steady decay was the essence of the situation, for that was in effect to say that some element of good persisted in it while there was no evidence of that whatsoever, and this walk had convinced him that there never could have been, not because it had been lost but because 'the present state of the area' never had the slightest shred of meaning in the first place. It was not meant to have a point; if it was meant for anything at all it was expressely [sic] for the purpose of having no point.
The speaker's stance is pessimistic and nihilistic and any resistance to this state of nature is predicted to fail. The failure is here dramatized as a thought experiment, with the novel's apocalyptic scenes leading to self-realization and epiphany of the characters yet nonetheless consuming them. The whale has been likened to Hobbes's Leviathan but Kafka's looming Castle may also be an appropriate template. It is more a symptom of one's inability to comprehend things at a glance. When the idiot Valuska sees the whale, he is at least aware that his perception of it will be hopelessly incomplete.
Seeing the whale did not mean he could grasp the full meaning of the sight, since to comprehend the enormous tail fin, the dried, cracked, steel-grey carapace and, halfway down the strangely bloated hulk, the top fin, which alone measured several metres, appeared a singularly hopeless task. It was just too big and too long, Valuska simply couldn't see it all at once, and failed even to get a proper look at its dead eyes.... [I]t was simply impossible to see the enormous head as an integral whole.
Perhaps there is something there about the danger of populist/mass thinking, its innate lack of foresight, and its consequent savagery arising from the inability to see the forest for the trees, the whole for the parts. Our yearning for the end of the world is but our failure to exact meaning from existence: our own enactment of intellectual mass suicide.
It's not surprising that W. G. Sebald contributes a blurb to the book which states that the novel's universal vision "rivals that of Gogol's Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing". He and Krasznahorkai are priests of a sort of European "literature of doom". Thomas Bernhard also belongs to that company. The Hungarian novelist seems to share in the Austrian's laments: "the whole of human history is no more ... than the histrionics of a stupid, bloody, miserable outcast in an obscure corner of a vast stage, a kind of tortured confession of error, a slow acknowledgement of the painful fact that this creation was not necessarily a brilliant success".
That is a quite depressing worldview, but there may be comedy in the delivery. Plus, we can take comfort from the fact that the end is nigh.
I hate to say it, but this has become one of those books that depresses me whenever I see it. For months I kept it by my bed, a constant reminder that I’d stopped after two chapters and should get back to it. (Chapter Two: thirty pages of skewering petit bourgeois values – like shooting fish in a barrel.) Then I started it over again and got halfway through before putting it aside. For more months, it lived on my desk, bookmark in place. But I’ve conceded defeat and put it on the shelf, bookmarkI hate to say it, but this has become one of those books that depresses me whenever I see it. For months I kept it by my bed, a constant reminder that I’d stopped after two chapters and should get back to it. (Chapter Two: thirty pages of skewering petit bourgeois values – like shooting fish in a barrel.) Then I started it over again and got halfway through before putting it aside. For more months, it lived on my desk, bookmark in place. But I’ve conceded defeat and put it on the shelf, bookmark removed. At one point I had a critique of it ricocheting in my head for a few days – a justification of my negligence. Something about flashy, needlessly complicated prose, riddled with all manner of punctuation as if to prove its author’s mastery. To me, it too often (at least in this translation) seemed ugly, not to mention tedious and overdramatic given the extreme mundanity of the scenes it too often describes. I was impressed by the first chapter; it was vivid, and funny. And maybe, eventually, I’ll read the rest of it. But for now I’m over it. Sorry all....more
This book felt very similar to many novels I've read, but there was still something intangibly different. As you've already read if you've seen any reviews, he has a similar flow to authors like Bernhard, Marias, and other purveyors of long sentences, but I felt something distinctively strange about this book. He's fascinated by humans surely, and does a good job surveying the rabble that constitutes the majority of folk, but his interests also lie in the fact that we are floating around in a coThis book felt very similar to many novels I've read, but there was still something intangibly different. As you've already read if you've seen any reviews, he has a similar flow to authors like Bernhard, Marias, and other purveyors of long sentences, but I felt something distinctively strange about this book. He's fascinated by humans surely, and does a good job surveying the rabble that constitutes the majority of folk, but his interests also lie in the fact that we are floating around in a cold dead corner of the Universe. Because of this, he isn't afraid of bringing up rather big questions that we all probably smoked too in college. But where we were predictable and cliched, he is cold and merciless, yet entertaining somehow. Enough vague bullshit; let's talk book. It's very dense and basically written as a long paragraph with no breaks. It can be tough, but I found it nimble. A good test would be to try to read the intro. It's a 40-page march into anxiety and jumpiness that will either make you want to keep reading or set it aside. Either way, it's a tour-de-force and will make you not want to ride Eastern-European trains for awhile. ...more
"This" "Author" "Loves" "To" "Put" "Things" "In" "Quotes"...I am not sure the point of this, but it can get kind of "annoying"..."See" "what" "I" "mean".....As far as the story goes, pretty good so far, though I do not know what's going on really...I hope it will reveal itself to me...As far as I know, some old woman was being chased on a train and harassed by an unshaven man in an overcoat..(this was a pretty interesting scenario and well described)...then she is at her apartment and some frien"This" "Author" "Loves" "To" "Put" "Things" "In" "Quotes"...I am not sure the point of this, but it can get kind of "annoying"..."See" "what" "I" "mean".....As far as the story goes, pretty good so far, though I do not know what's going on really...I hope it will reveal itself to me...As far as I know, some old woman was being chased on a train and harassed by an unshaven man in an overcoat..(this was a pretty interesting scenario and well described)...then she is at her apartment and some friend she hates comes over and is harassing her...then she went for a walk, gets harassed some more and then sees a huge trailer driving through the town with some weird circus...then she has a monologue about some revolution shit and apathy or something while walking near the center of town while some dudes hang around fires and harass her yet again. Something tells me this character is prone to harassment...
Anyways, I am pretty lost right now...I think she is thinking to herself about things...or its the friend that's thinking...I am totally confused and you probably are too by this review... I am not sure what's going on as of now..I am having difficulty reading the book, not because the author is bad, convoluted, or difficult to follow due to long and drawn out scenes; but because I did not properly learn to read and comprehend until roughly the 9th grade...This should come as no surprise to you all...Apparently reading/writing is still an issue with me that has gone unresolved and unforeseen for all these years and has been masked behind condescending snide remarks to anyone that brings it to my attention...I suppose this is a defense mechanism...My apologies to those I have hurt in the past...
Anyways, the author elaborates on situations, thoughts, and events in an almost obsessive/long winded way, which is a bit cool and original, though confusing sometimes... At times, the writing seems a bit amateury(?) I think ...Though in the very next sentences, it has windows of beautifully written work (see below quotes)... I can't make heads or tails of this book...I don't know...I am being "patient" though. This is something I have been meaning to work on...Hopefully I can maintain this "patience" much like I can maintain the patience of balding and getting fat and old...
Wow, disregard everything earlier. This book just got a whole three times better starting on page 63 "the werkmeister harmonies"...Unfortunately, this review got a hundred times worse...Whatever you write one then, lazy asshole...I'm going to the western bar in town tonight... its ladies night.... Perhaps I will get lucky...I can't believe you have read this far...
OK, I didn't get lucky at the shitty western bar, fuckin' bullshit...Anyways, the story has started to fuckin' (sorry, I am in a sweary mood) suck again and be boring and drawn out. All that misanthropy shit has vanished. I don't know... I can't follow this shit! I am going to finish though, for all you people that follow my wonderful reviews (no one cares...)...I will suffer to get through it! Mark my words!!!!(no one cares, no one is even reading these shitty reviews, you jackass). I know how important this is to everyone!! (people don't find this important at all, get off your high horse, you pompous retard)...
Shit, now it is good again. There is a lot going on here with comparing reality to what is ideal. Coming to terms with reality and our fantasies. This is well illustrated with the reference to trying to hit a nail with a hammer and the results. The actual hitting of the nail and what we visually in our minds. How I say it sounds trite and dumb, but it is well explained in the book... Quite interesting and some profound, deeply philosophical stuff...Some Nietzche stuff and some Kant stuff come to mind (like I know who those people are and what they wrote)...Why is this review so goddamn long, Jesus...Remember when I had a girlfriend and a healthy and active social life and didn't have to resort to writing these shitty reviews?
Anything involving the Professor of Musicology (Professor Eszter) is cool. Every time you read his name or read him speaking, cool shit is about to happen...
Well, nothing really matters and people get swept up in things (revolution in this case), I guess that’s the Melancholy of Resistance. It’s kind of all bullshit or something. I feel the idea was that people were swept up in political ideology and couldn’t fully express this in reality so it turned to violence? I don’t know…They needed a leader, but didn’t have one and couldn’t think for themselves in how to express their lack of individual power so in frustration, they turned to violence?? Striving to search for humanity in life, but usually the opposite occurs?? Striving for perfection, ideology versus reality and the escape from boredom and banality of life? People not knowing why they do things, and just do them for no good reason? I don’t know…The story never clearly defined why people were acting violently and revolutionary the way they were, which left it a bit mysterious to what drives certain movements…conformity? Emotions? Magic? All that was defined was the charismatic cigar wielding circus master and the whale…these where reasons for the revolution??? They came to town and whipped the town into a frenzy…from boredom?? I don’t know, I am making this probably way more complicated than it should be and asking open ended dumb questions… sorry…We don’t define what is happening until after the fact and in retrospect (Mrs. Eszter becoming a powerful figure in the end)…I don’t know…This was some dense shit at times……sorry…I will stop trying to be analytical…
Anyways, the book jumps around a lot and can be hard to follow… Also, the translation is amazing (done by George Szirtes). I could not find one error, which is pretty impressive considering most translations blow and are done very half assed… Somewhere I read that Melancholy of Resistance is comparable to Gogol. I guess this is most apparent in the last 20 pages or so. A situation occurs involving a man, an overcoat, and getting stabbed. This is very similar to “the overcoat” by Gogol. I feel it was a nod to Gogol during this part. However, this is the only similarity I can make between Gogol and this book. I could be wrong, I am no Gogol expert…
The last 4 pages of the book are absolutely genius…It touches on the Plato’s writ at large, about politics, revolution, death, life, decomposition, chemical changes…Everlasting life…Everything and all will change form and stuff alike…And nothing really make’s sense…sorry for dumbing this part down and stripping it of all artistic merit, I am not a genius writer…what I read is just shitted out here absent of any redeeming quality…sorry…The book ends with some pleasant meta stuff… I would give it four stars but between the beginning and the ending, there is a whole lot of bullshit to tolerate… for the most part (except quotes below and when Professor Eszter is in the picture). Because of that, I feel I wasted a lot of time when this book could have been way shorter…I felt obligated to finish the book because I lived in Budapest for a year and felt somewhat connected to it…Not that you care….Anyways, the movie is better…Below is the link…Watch it!...Anyways I am glad it is all over...Jesus...
"...such things would serve no purpose since the world will quite happily fall apart by itself and go to wrack and ruin so that everything may begin again, and so proceed ad infinitum and this is as perfectly clear,' he raised his eyes to the ceiling, 'as our helpless orbiting in space" once started it cannot be stopped.' Eszter shut his eyes. 'I'm feeling dizzy; I'm dizzy and, God forgive me, bored, like everyone else who has succeeded in ridding himself of the notion that there is any suggestion of rhyme or reason in making or breaking, in birth or death, in this constant and agonizing going round in circles, postulating some enormous wonderful plan rather than a cold, mechanical, blindingly simple movement..."
"Because he wanted to forget everything he had had to suffer during the decades of his so-called directorship of the academy of music: those grinding attacks of idiocy, the blank ignorant look in people's eyes, the utter lack of burgeoning intelligence in the young, the rotten smell of spirtual dullness and the oppressive power of pettiness, smugness and low expectation under the weight of which he himself had almost collapsed. He wanted to forget the urchins who eyes unmistakably glittered with a desire to set about that hated piano with an axe; the Grand Symphony Orchestra he was obliged to assemble from the ranks of assorted drunken tutors and misty-eyed music lovers; the thunderous applause with which the unsuspecting but enthusiastic public, month after month, rewarded this scandalous, unimaginably awful band of incompetents whose slender talents were not fit to grace a village wedding...in short, 'the whole breeding ground of dark stupidity'..."
"we are simply the miserable subjects of some insignificant failure, alone in this simply marvelous creation; that the whole of human history is no more, if I may make myself clear to you, than the histrionics of a stupid, bloody, miserable outcast in an obscure corner of a vast stage, a kind of tortured confession of error, a slow acknowledgement of the painful fact that this creation was not necessarily a brilliant success."
"the exclusively human capacity for mind numbing levels of neglect and indifference was, beyond a doubt, truly limitless."
"No trumpets, no riders of the apocalypse but mankind swallowed without a fuss or ceremony by its own rubbish? 'not an altogether surprising end,'"
"The only revolutionary feeling he was aware of, or so he considered while standing in the doorway, was pride, his own pride, a pride that did not allow him to understand that there was no qualitative difference between things, a presumptuous over-confidence which condemned him to ultimate disillusion, for to live according to the spirit of qualitative difference requires superhuman qualities."
"He adjusted his deep-claret-coloured smoking jacket, linked the fingers of his hands together behind his neck, and, as he noticed the feeble ticking of his watch, suddenly realized that he had been escaping all his life, that life had been a constant escape, escape from meaningless into music, from music to guilt, from guilt and self-punishment into pure ratiocination, and finally escape from that too, that it was retreat after retreat, as if his guardian angel had, in his own peculiar fashion, been steering him to the antithesis of retreat, to an almost simple-minded acceptance of things as they were, at which point he understood that there was nothing to be understood, that if there was reason in the world it far transcended his own, and that therefore it was enough to notice and observe that which he actually possessed."
“…it simply didn’t exist; and thinking this he fully acknowledged for the first time the justice of Mr. Eszter’s contention that chaos really was the natural condition of the world and, this being eternally the case, you simply couldn’t begin to predict the course of events. It’s not even worth trying, thought Valuska, and wiggled his aching toes inside his cold boots; it’s as pointless to predict as to judge, since even the words ‘chaos’ and ‘outcome’ are entirely redundant, there being nothing one can posit as their antitheses, which further implies that the very act of naming is enough to put paid to them, for ‘there is simply one damned thing after another’- this was etched into their very meaning- so any connection they might appear to have with each other is wholly based on a series of confusing contradictions.”
“Anyone who believes that the world is maintained through the grace of some force for good or beauty, dear friend, is doomed to early disillusion.”'
This part is after the person speaking committed some brutal crimes….“I dunno how you see it, I mean whether, what with my record, I could still be a policeman, but when Vulture came round to see if I felt like volunteering, provided I told you everything dead straight, I thought…yea, Ill volunteer…’cause, me, I think I could be a useful member of society, though I dunno what you think about this couple of mistakes I made, I mean, well…”
**“…that, beside its own ignorance, the public prized nothing so much as novelty, the greater the novelty the better, and the thing they treated in such a whimsical fashion was the very thing they most voraciously demanded.”
This was insane. There's already so many good reviews that I'm not sure what I can add besides this was one of the best books I've read this year, and I've gone through some pretty great ones. A book that starts off with the population of a town that's already given up on the things that govern society, and just keeps spiraling into a chaotic occurrence involving a circus and its followers. There are no heroes in this narrative, just people who try to cling to the few comforts they have in an evThis was insane. There's already so many good reviews that I'm not sure what I can add besides this was one of the best books I've read this year, and I've gone through some pretty great ones. A book that starts off with the population of a town that's already given up on the things that govern society, and just keeps spiraling into a chaotic occurrence involving a circus and its followers. There are no heroes in this narrative, just people who try to cling to the few comforts they have in an ever degenerating world where even nature seems to have given up, and a tyrant who engineers the situation to her own brand of fascism....more
On the heels of Lszl_ Krasznahorkais victory this year for winning the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) two years in a row, ever astute critic Scott Esposito has assembled a crash course in all things Krasznahorkai. The gist is that one can begin with Krasznahorkai anywhere, and, while I do agree with this, I also believe that my own journey through the work of the great Hungarian master of apocalypseto use Susan Sontags remarks on his work, and The Melancholy of Resistance in particularhas proOn the heels of L��szl�_ Krasznahorkai���s victory this year for winning the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) two years in a row, ever astute critic Scott Esposito has assembled a crash course in all things Krasznahorkai. The gist is that one can begin with Krasznahorkai anywhere, and, while I do agree with this, I also believe that my own journey through the work of the great ���Hungarian master of apocalypse������to use Susan Sontag���s remarks on his work, and The Melancholy of Resistance in particular���has proven a wise move. Consider this, then, less a review proper then an account of a personal reading journey through the bleak and labyrinthine prose of one of the greatest writers in world literature today.������
When Satantango was finally published in 2012 by New Directions, in a brilliant translation by poet George Szirtes, Anglophone readers finally held in their hands the very first novel by the mysterious Krasznahorkai. While The Melancholy of Resistance was the first of his novels to be translated into English, it is in fact Krasznahorkai���s second novel with which Anglophone readers commended their journey through his oeuvre. Indeed, beginning with Melancholy might not be a bad move: the opening section dealing with one Mrs. Plauf���s public���and increasingly private���struggles while on board a delayed train as she believes she is being watched, stalked, and finally harassed contains one of the most succinct introductions to the macabre mix of humor, pathos, and terror that readers find on every page of Krasznahorkai���s fiction. Read by itself, Melancholy���s introduction would, in my view, best serve as a summation of Krasznahorkai���s major themes, and allow reader to get a sense of his prose style: how it saturates; how it alienates; how it buries one within it (a veritable ���lava flow of narrative,��� as Szirtes has commented).������
However, when I reviewedSatantango for the Los Angeles Review of Books (on Goodreads here), it was all I had read of Krasznahorkai���and I���m glad of this now. I stand by my review even if I refuse to re-read it now, fearful of resorting to the same adjectives to describe both the technical aspect and the experience of reading Krasznahorkai���s prose (e.g., ���labyrinthine,��� ���ornate,��� ���claustrophobic,��� and so on). Structurally, Satantango is extremely well-conceived���and I would invite you to read my review of the novel where I consider the M�_bius strip narrative in some depth���and this carries over into his subsequent work. It often seems that when one encounters a review or a piece on Krasznahorkai, one is faced with an exploration of his almost obsessive themes, these recursive dynamics to which he returns again and again; however, I think this does a gross injustice to Krasznahorkai���s more technical side as it obscures it from most discussions of his work and his work���s resonance. Melancholy���s structure is not as complex as Satantango, but it shows Krasznahorkai moving forward: as such, it would do him a disfavor to read Melancholy (again, his second novel) before Satantango which, as a first novel, shows an erudite skill in uniting both schematic and thematic approaches to a small village on the brink of change.
And these schematics (structural and otherwise) as well as the much-discussed thematics span the breadth of Krasznahorkai���s work. While I had read Animalinside, his collaboration with artist Max Neumann (and which I reviewed here), after Satantango I had not opened another novel of Krasznahorkai���s���without really being able to answer why. Perhaps I recalled the harsh extremes in his first novel, the long sentences that leave no room to breathe, the unrelenting dissection of individual and collective psychological states���and boy, does Krasznahorkai know and channel his Freud���that leave little room outside the narrative space. Perhaps I wasn���t ready to immerse myself in a textual zone from which I would have no easy way to escape.������
But that is also the wonder of Krasznahorkai: that he is able to create these textual spaces so charged with violence and intimacy, with pessimism and yet an underlying humanity, with an eye keen on critiquing avarice in all its forms just as much as it is extremely interested in those who are marginal to mass culture: the outsiders, the downtrodden, those who are all too often used as scapegoats by those in positions of power. Satantango thematizes this throughout, so it was no wonder, as I began to read The Melancholy of Resistance in earnest that I felt like I was returning to a familiar space, a canny and known zone. It was only after settling back into Krasznahorkai���s rhythmic prose that I realized I had been keeping him at bay for all the wrong reasons.
The Melancholy of Resistance deals, like Satantango does, with life in a small, unnamed Hungarian town; in both novels, the locals are waiting for the appearance of visitors. In Melancholy, the circus troupe that enters the town, offering the greatest spectacle on earth (the Leviathan figure of an embalmed whale) for the poor, cold, hungry, and bitter denizens to escape the shackles and desolate deprivations of everyday existence. But there is an interesting dualism at work here: that which offers escape is also a venture rooted in consumerism; it is, in effect, profiting from the immense unease and unrest of the public, all in the name of spectacle, art, and performance.
Likewise, the townspeople cling to all measures of ���order��� when faced with a world thrown into utter chaos. Mrs. Plauf orders her flat, meticulously, priding herself on her flowers; Eszter, the local intellect and music scholar, immerses himself in the harmonies of Andreas Werckmeister, trying to find the perfect tuning of piano keys that would best echo the music of the heavenly spheres; Valuska, our hapless hero of sorts, clings to cosmology even if his speeches about orbits and plants result in a tavern full of drunks labeling him ���the village idiot,��� for they come to rely upon these enactments of planetary movements as much as he does himself; and, finally, Mrs. Eszter, the composer���s estranged wife, who clings to institutionalized forms of power with claws sharpened so that she can take anyone down who will stand in her way.
Krasznahorkai pits these individuals against one another and the result, as one can imagine, is sinister, bloody, and downright impossible to read at times, so enveloped in the prose (this never-ending ���lava flow��� of black text) that any exit is entirely blocked from view. And in doing so, our position as readers mirrors those of the main characters who are similarly trapped, not only geographically, but in their attempts to apply order to a world that resists these attempts. If chaos reigns���to use a phrase plucked from Lars von Trier���s film Antichrist���then the sole purpose of fashioning order from the planets, the musical scales, law and carceral codes is, in effect, pointless despite how our lives are so governed by these very attempts to fashion sense by creating cleanly demarcated lines of order.
When order collapses, Krasznahorkai is the master at providing readers with the effects at the individual and social levels. And because Melancholy opens up a bit wider in terms of its structure than the earlier novel Satantango, one can see Krasznahorkai���s evolution as an artist more clearly when they are read in order of composition, not of translation. Personally, the imprisoning and shattered world of Satantango helped me to see more clearly what Krasznahorkai was doing in both his collaborative text Animalinside as well as here in Melancholy. It is my understanding, too, that the world of War & War opens up schematically and structurally a notch more as well, and so, for me, it makes sense to follow the progression of Krasznahorkai���s work at it was written.
������To see alone how he has woven in more philosophical strands of thoughts, more fleshed out characters, and mastered���even more so, for he was master to begin with���the mood and tone just from Satantango to Melancholy was a rewarding experience, one I would have never had had I read them back to front. It is my hope that, when I turn to Krasznahorkai again, War & War will continue this progression, this evolution, this me-learning-from-Krasznahorkai as a sort of pupil to a questionably dark shaman who is as acquainted with and schooled in the brief amount of light as he is with the immense amount of dark. Further into the darkness, then, so that we may emerge: enlightened maybe; still surrounded by pitch black, perhaps; but selves later and selves beyond the first journey���that, at least, is a certainty....more
A complete attack on the senses of the reader. You can't talk about Krasznahorkai and not talk about the Bernhard-ish refusal to parse and section. Instead, the reader is led from one idea to another, back and forth in time, through the eyes of multiple people. But you can't stop reading. You are entirely within Kraszahorkai's universe.
And there's a blue whale a scary mob and an extended discussion of music theory and this is what would have happened if Kafka had taken the most evil fucking speeA complete attack on the senses of the reader. You can't talk about Krasznahorkai and not talk about the Bernhard-ish refusal to parse and section. Instead, the reader is led from one idea to another, back and forth in time, through the eyes of multiple people. But you can't stop reading. You are entirely within Kraszahorkai's universe.
And there's a blue whale a scary mob and an extended discussion of music theory and this is what would have happened if Kafka had taken the most evil fucking speedball the world has ever seen and you don't know what's going to happen next other than that you probably won't like it very much in your gut but you're going to keep reading because that's what you do and at the end you know you're glad you did....more
It starts with a long, nearly entangled sentence, then it runs from that. AT times when you think you will lose interest, it comes back with a uncanny scene, or a mental space you don't encounter often. I doubt one could ever learn about Hungary or about whales. The two main characters are an idiot and a cynic, and that can make for good conversations. I half-way liked it to really liking it, but it is a very heady book, a kind of book you might read to keep fluffy exclamists away.
When I encounter writers who have such a mas-ter-ful command of language, it makes me tremendously utterly unabashedly depressed dejected disheartened because I wish I could write half as well as they do and it makes me feel like a mediocre hack but I just had to settle for reading this book ( . . . which is the next best thing I suppose!), an experience akin to wading through quicksand or possibly sinking into a warm sea of words on the back of a whale - a whale, awhale, a w h a l e - "They keeWhen I encounter writers who have such a mas-ter-ful command of language, it makes me tremendously utterly unabashedly depressed dejected disheartened because I wish I could write half as well as they do and it makes me feel like a mediocre hack but I just had to settle for reading this book ( . . . which is the next best thing I suppose!), an experience akin to wading through quicksand or possibly sinking into a warm sea of words on the back of a whale - a whale, awhale, a w h a l e - "They keep saying whale but my name's Wale" - I had a whale of a time reading this revolutionary book with its circus-like atmosphere, the equivalent of reading four books because it is so dense? with very long sentences with very few breaks or transitions but really good writing, some of the best I've ever read, just pages and pages of words and though it seemed to take me forever to read it I was so disappointed when I reached the end and realized I had no more to read because I wanted it to go on and on forever and ever and because I am also a fan of Mrs. Faulkner ('Mr. Faulkner' she says correcting me) and writers of that ilk I feel that as long as a person can read and comprehend words then correct grammar and proper punctuation and brevity and paragraphs are not essential elements for capturing and transmitting an idea - I think as I sit here typing this - there was a lot going on in this book and the story moved seamlessly between characters and situations so I am still a bit fuzzy on the plot especially in the middle and the last few pages which made me feel like I was studying for a test in Anatomy & Physiology but I give MUCH RESPECT to the translator for capturing the mood and the essence of the original language (When I dislike a book that was originally written in another language I always find myself wondering if the fault lies with the writer or the translator because I realize how important a good translator is for capturing the feeling and mood of the original book and I must say this translator did a fantastic job as it must not have been an easy feat to interpret this very difficult book). thE eNd...more
When thinking of how to write a review for this book, my mind goes to so many places, thinking of so many things I could say, that I don't know where to start, and doubt that anything I do say possibly gives this book the true credit that it deserves.
With The Melancholy of Resistance, a relatively short but very dense book, Laszlo Krasznahorkai has crafted a most unique, localized, yet undeniably powerful story of apocalyptic proportions. It takes place in a small town which is the stage for, inWhen thinking of how to write a review for this book, my mind goes to so many places, thinking of so many things I could say, that I don't know where to start, and doubt that anything I do say possibly gives this book the true credit that it deserves.
With The Melancholy of Resistance, a relatively short but very dense book, Laszlo Krasznahorkai has crafted a most unique, localized, yet undeniably powerful story of apocalyptic proportions. It takes place in a small town which is the stage for, in a specific and unique sense, an apocalypse of sorts. The town, which is filled with inhabitants who are all faulted and ugly and often malicious or sinister in their actions and ways of life, is shaken by the arrival of a traveling circus, which claims to feature the stuffed body of the world's largest whale, and is run or owned by a mysterious being--nearly an entity--known as the Prince. And the circus's intentions in the town, while mysterious, are neither innocent nor good.
The main character, Valuska, is a man who is the pinnacle of innocence. Aloof, and in a Dostoyevsky kind of way, an idiot, he wanders the streets of the town in a daze, his mind ever in the clouds as he contemplates the big picture of life, relating everything on a cosmic level, and thus lives his life in a kind of content, confused state of constant wonderment and thoughtfulness. He is the only pure person in the town, as is described on the back of the book.
To say more of the story would be to give more away than needs to be. The Melancholy of Resistance is, beyond that, in my opinion, impossible to really describe. Escalating gradually into apocalyptic chaos, Krasznahorkai weaves his story with precision and mastery unlike I have ever encountered in any writer except, perhaps, Edgar Allan Poe. Like Satantango, his first book, Krasznahorkai's style of writing lacks paragraphs of any sort except to mark the end of a chapter, so really, the story is one long paragraph. His story moves along in awe-inspiring ways, when sometimes the smallest or even most trivial events somehow have cosmic and universal significance, and amid chaos and violence and genuine terror, there's always some sick kind of humor to be found.
Not for the impatient reader or for the faint of heart, this book is one that left me speechless for some time, utterly amazed, and as glad to have finished it as I was glad to have read it. It's worth the read, yes, but it's by no means easy to get through, and I would be lying if I said that I comprehended and understood every last bit of it. However, it has left me with many thoughts and many impressions that will last for a very, very long time, and it's also the kind of book I hope to revisit someday, just as it is with Satantango, for me. Krasznahorkai is a gift to the world of literature because there is no one out there like him, and no books quite like this one. A true, incomparable masterpiece....more
I have just spent a fascinating couple of weeks in the outer reaches of Hungary, with an excellent novel entitled “The Melancholy of Resistance” by acclaimed Hungarian author László Krasznahorkai.
Krasznahorkai, it must be said, stands out as a hugely significant writer whose importance has been rightly recognised outside of his native country. According to Susan Sontag, he is “the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville”. W. G. Sebald had thisI have just spent a fascinating couple of weeks in the outer reaches of Hungary, with an excellent novel entitled “The Melancholy of Resistance” by acclaimed Hungarian author László Krasznahorkai.
Krasznahorkai, it must be said, stands out as a hugely significant writer whose importance has been rightly recognised outside of his native country. According to Susan Sontag, he is “the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville”. W. G. Sebald had this to say: “The universality of Krasznahorkai's vision rivals that of Gogol's Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing.”
I have to agree. The key premise of this novel is deceptively simple – a strange circus rolls into a small, run-down town, purporting to show a huge whale carcass as its main exhibit, along with a shadowy figure known as ‘The Prince’. This character appears to have a sinister hold over previous towns’ audiences – many of whom have travelled into this town with the circus… with a possibly nefarious intent.
Against this backdrop we are concerned with the machinations of three main characters:
Valuska – a hapless and pliable, but essentially good-natured individual who is widely seen as the town idiot and is caught up in events with tragic consequences.
Mrs Eszter – a totalitarian individual who is plotting a take-over of the town, with both the circus and Valuska as key tools for realising this.
Mr Eszter – the downtrodden academic husband of Mrs Eszter: a recluse who has removed himself from the disintegrating society around him, yet is spurred into action in defending Valuska; who he alone can see merit in.
My initial thoughts as the plot unfolded were that Krasznahorkai was depicting a scenario with strong echoes of the US author Ray Bradbury. Bradbury’s works are shot through with similar gothic depictions of small town values being challenged by the appearance of sinister circuses (such as the short story collection “Dark Carnival”, and his seminal novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes”)
However, whilst Bradbury tends to use this device as a means to affirm positive small-town social values in the face of external threats (the threat is generally overcome by the wholesome US protagonists), no such succour is afforded here. Rather than a challenge to be overcome, the circus here is more of a mirror that is held up to an already rotten society (graphically depicted by the descriptions of refuge-strewn streets and roaming packs of feral cats who have gained ascendancy over their human neighbours). Furthermore, it is a catalyst to a scenario which – given the downbeat but also ironically humorous first half of the book – is genuinely shocking in its impact on both the town and the main protagonists.
I won’t elaborate further on this; as to do so would be to spoil the excellent plot, but suffice to say that Krasznahorkai does not compromise in his apocalyptic vision of events in this work. Related to this point I cannot help feeling that perhaps I am missing out on key allegorical points that are being made in this novel. As a non-Hungarian I feel that maybe the relevance of the whale is passing me by in some way, as is the dilemma of Valuska’s character in the face of the circus driven mob. And indeed the enigmatic role of “The Prince” (which is, for me, the least satisfactory character in the book as he is altogether too enigmatic – although that is possibly the point!).
I should also make a reference to Krasznahorkai’s wonderful use of grammar and language in this book. Whilst this is not a stream-of-consciousness work, his elongated sentences are beautifully constructed and unique in their delivery. As the translator George Szirtes puts it: “a slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type.” Yet this is an eminently readable work – and due respect should also be given to George Szirtes in his excellent translation here.
All in all, a dark, difficult, but extremely rewarding and enjoyable book. I didn’t want the novel to end and I reread the final chapter several times for the sheer pleasure of it. You can’t really give higher praise to a book than that. ...more
The style of this book employs ultra-long sentence construction which enables the reader to develop guided multiple understandings of a segment as it's progress is tracked by one's retina possibly causing intellectual dizziness and furthermore may lead one astray from a point of origin that as it turns out was only put in place as a jumping off point from which to throw the author's fellowmen into an engaging role play reminiscent of a enlightened drunk riding on a sharply tuned rollercoaster amThe style of this book employs ultra-long sentence construction which enables the reader to develop guided multiple understandings of a segment as it's progress is tracked by one's retina possibly causing intellectual dizziness and furthermore may lead one astray from a point of origin that as it turns out was only put in place as a jumping off point from which to throw the author's fellowmen into an engaging role play reminiscent of a enlightened drunk riding on a sharply tuned rollercoaster amid women with children. 11 years ago I watched the Hungarian film "The Werckmeister Harmonies" by Bela Tarr, based on this book which I've just now read. Loving Krasznahorkai's style! Reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard. The voice and third person narrator displays intense descriptions of everything; from the effect of a large breasted passenger on a train and its effects, the quest for a harmonic scale beyond the well-tempered one dominating the western world since the 17-hundreds, traditional hooligan herds, cataloging of existential tendencies and the lack of satisfying resolutions in the process. Lots of humorous reports. Although I don't speak Hungarian at all, George Szirtes' great translation made it an engaging read. Well worth the time! ...more
“Catastrophe! Of course! Last judgement! Horseshit! It's you that are the catastrophe, you're the bloody last judgement, your feet don't even touch the ground, you bunch of sleepwalkers. I wish you were dead, the lot of you. Let's make a bet,' and here he shook Nadaban by the shoulders, ‘that you don't even know what I'm talking about!! Because you don't talk, you "whisper" or "expostulate"; you don't walk down the street but "proceed feverishly"; you don't enter a place but "cross its threshold", you don't feel cold or hot, but "find yourselves shivering" or "feeling the sweat pour down you"! I haven't heard a straight word for hours, you can only mew and caterwaul; because if a hooligan throws a brick through your window you invoke the last judgement, because your brains are addled and filled up with steam, because if someone sticks your nose in shit all you do is sniff, stare and cry "sorcery!”
“you have every cause for anxiety. we are on the threshold of a more searching, more honest, more open society. there are new times just around the corner”