Saturday, February 03, 2007

Two Extracts from War and War by Laszlo Krasznahorkai

I am now in the middle of reading Laszlo Krasznahorkai's Hungarian novel War and War. It is baffling and exasperating and lacks the satirical humour of The Melancholy of Resistance but still it is a great read. Structurally it is even more extreme than Melancholy. Every chapter in the book is one single sentence. The chapters are on average three pages but a few extend to almost five and a few are only a few lines short. I think he definitely deserves more attention, specially since the translation by George Szirtes, an award winning poet himself, is something to marvel at in itself.

Anyway, two passages here. I will write in more detail about the book once I am done reading.

A beautiful air hostess has come to an office and this is how he describes her appearance and the reactions of people in the office. It is at once a great descriptive writing and a hilarious parody of such writing too...

The nipples delicately pressed through the warm texture of the snow-white starched blouse while the deep decolletage boldly accentuated the graceful curvature and fragility of the neck, the gentle valleys of the shoulders and the light swaying to and fro of the sweetly compact masses of her breasts though it was hard to tell whether it was these that drew all eyes inexorably to her, that refused to let the eyes escape, or if it was the short dark-blue skirt that clung to her hips and bound her long thighs tightly together while indicating the lines of her belly, or indeed it was the lush and sparkling black hair that tumbled over her shoulders and the clear high brow, the beautifully sculpted jaw, the thick soft lips, the pretty slope of her nose, or those shining eyes in the depths of which two unquenchable spots of light glowed and would glow there forever, that arrested them; in other words men and women caught in that moment in the office were quite unable to decide what it was that had such a spellbinding effect, so spellbinding that they could do nothing but stare at the several parts constituting this fever-inducing beauty, and what was more--bearing in mind the contrast between such a bountiful display of loveliness on the one hand and their own commonplace existence--they stared at her quite openly, the men with crude, long-suppressed hunger and naked desire, the women with a fine attention to the accumulation of detail, from top to bottom and back again, dizzy with the sensation but, driven by a malignant jealousy at the heart of their fierce inspection, surveying her with ever less sympathy, ever greater contempt, remarking once the thing was over, or rather once this scandalous pair had disappeared separately through the exit of the MALEV office, the women first, that it wasn't a matter of prejudice, for they too were women, and one woman always regards another in that light, so there could be no question of prejudice, but it was little too much the way this little strumpet of a stewardess, as one or two of them quickly interjected, pretended she was an innocent little angel, a meek, ready-to-please little princess, while so the women in the office snorted once it was possible to get together behind the desk and address the subject properly, that tight blouse, the ultra-short skirt clinging to her ass giving an occasional glimpse of her long thighs and the white panties between the thighs, and the very fact that every part of this body, literally everything, was clearly on display, and was practically screaming for attention...well, they had seen quite enough of such apparent artlessness before and knew all too well how to work the little dodges that brought out the best but hid that which should be invisible, nor would they say anything but, really! the shameless deception of it, a blatant whore parading herself like some refined regal presence, that! they all agreed, no one would be taken in by nowadays, [..... one more page]

And this interpreter character had brutalized and raped his wife the last night and see how he brags about art next day...

I am a video artist and poet, the interpreter told Korin over lunch next day at the kitchen table, and he would be most grateful if Korin remembered once and for all that it was art alone that interested him, art was his raison d'etre, it was what his whole life had been about, and what he would soon be engaged in again after an unavoidable breaking of a couple of years, and what he would then produce would be a truly major piece of video art of universal, fundamental significance, a statement about time and space, about words and silence, and, naturally, above all, about sensibility, instincts and ultimate passions, about humankind's essential being, the relationship between men and women, nature and the cosmos, a work of indisputable authority, and he hoped that Korin would understand that what he had in mind was of so immense a scope that even as insignificant speck in the human consciousness such as Korin will have been proud to have been acquainted with its creator, and will be able to tell people how he sat in the man's kitchen and lived with him for some weeks, that he took me in, helped me, supported me, gave me a roof above my head, or so he hoped, that was what he so fervently hoped Korin would say, because nothing could stop it now, the success of the venture was guaranteed and it was impossible that it should not be, for the project was for all systems go, the whole thing was about to get under way and would be accomplished in a few days, [....... and on to three pages]

8 comments:

Cheshire Cat said...

Another book comprising one-sentence chapters: Friedrich Durrenmatt's "The Assignment, or, On the Observing of the Observer of the Observers". A title so fantastic that one would have to invent it if it didn't exist.

Alok said...

Haha. True, thats one of the best book titles i have ever heard :)

let me see if my library has it...

jyothsnay said...

Can anyone beat Gabriel Garcia Marquez's “The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship”?

Alok said...

Marquez had a great gift for titles too...

His latest is the best I think.. "Memories of my melancholy whores" :)

jyothsnay said...

umm..highly descriptive of the identified goods and has not acquired distinctiveness...I am amused at the short skirt that has become ultra-short around the corner, the next string of words...
A human body is meant to be devoured by others, whether or not it is a tapestry of movements stuck in a displayed format, it is a "flesh subject" to brutal slaughter performed by silent yet wet tongues...

I loved George Szirtes's poem The Dead.Brilliant rendition

Alok said...

short skirt becomes "ultra-short" in the eyes of the women who are jealous of her :) It is actually a satire. He likes going to extremes in his description.

jyothsnay said...

{smiles} ye, I know that.n dnot you ignore that whole bunch of lovely eyes fuming resentment..interestingly,the same perception "mini-skirt" acquires a positive descriptive note to reflect the unspoken desire throbs in men

Alok said...

I didn't quote the reaction of men. The passage then goes on to describe their reactions. (predictably, They think she is some Goddess or an angel from heaven!)