Sunday, December 17, 2006

from The Melancholy of Resistance

I am in the middle of the Laszlo Krasznahorkai's Hungarian novel The Melancholy of Resistance and really enjoying it. Though it deals with such subjects like apocalypse, end of the world and nihilism and its misanthropy runs really deep, it is also very funny, odd and gripping. That doesn't mean it is easy to read though. The long sentences and unbroken paragrapsh are disorienting and it is difficult to read more than twenty pages at one stretch.

Here is a sample sentence from the book. The narrator/author treats all the dialogues in the novel as stock expressions, as cliches. The quotes feel almost like a mark of contempt! It is like how Thomas Bernhard uses his "so-called's" and quotes too...

Of course, the person he most devoutly wished to remain ignorant of was Mrs Eszter, his wife, that dangerous prehistoric beast from whom he, 'by the grace of God', has separated years ago, who reminded him of nothing so much as one of those merciless medieval mercenaries, with whom he had tied that infernal comedy of a marriage thanks to an unforgivable moment of youthful carelessness, and who, in her uniquely dismal and alarming essence, summed up all that 'multifarious spectacle of disilusionment' the society of the town, in his view somehow succeeded in representing.

My favourite passage though occurs early in the novel. Mrs Eszter is sleeping in her bed and Krasznahorkai is describing the adventures of three rats in her room in the middle of the night. This goes on for almost three pages. This really had me in splits. Here is a small part..

And, as if they had been waiting for just this moment, as if this utter immobility and complete calm had been some sort of a signal, in the great silence (or perhaps out of it), three young rats ventured out from under Mrs Eszter's bed. Carefully the first slithered past, shortly followed by the other two, their little heads raised and attent, ready to freeze before leaping; then, silently, still bound by their instinctive timidity, they proceeded, hesitating and freezing at every few steps, to a tour of the room. Like intrepid scouts for an invading army apprising themselves of enemy positions before an onslaught, noting what lay where, what looked safe or dangerous, they examined the skirting boards, the crumbling nooks and corners and the wide cracks in the floorboards, as if mapping out the precise distances between the bolthole under the bed, the door, the table, the cupboard, the slightly teetering stool and the window-ledge--then without touching anything, in the blinking of an eye, they shot off under the bed in the corner again, to the hole that led through the wall to freedom. It was no more than a minute before the cause of their retreat became apparent, for their intuition had warned them something was about to happen and this faultless, naked and instinctive fear of the unpredictable was enough to drive them to the option of immediate flight. By the time Mrs Eszter moved and disturbed the up-till-then-unbroken silence, the three rats were cowering in perfect safety at the foot of the outside wall at the back of the house; so she rose from the very ocean bed of sleep drifting for a few minutes up into the shallows through which consciousness might faintly glimmer, and kicked off the eiderdown, stretching her limbs as if about to wake.

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