David Auerbach on literature, tech, film, etc.


Contrary to what anyone might think, it had not escaped Valuska’s notice, the evidence being so readily available, that everyone he met was preoccupied by the notion of ‘the collapse into anarchy,’ a state that, in the general opinion, was no longer avoidable. Everyone was talking about ‘the unstoppable stampede into chaos’, the ‘unpredictability of daily life’ and ‘the approaching catastrophe’ without a clear notion of the full weight of those frightening words, since, he surmised, this epidemic of fear was not born out of some genuine, daily increasing certainty of disaster but of an infection of the imagination whose susceptibility to its own terrors might eventually lead to an actual catastrophe, in other words the false premonition that a man who had lost his bearings might succumb to once the inner structure of his life, the way his joints and bones were knit, had loosened and he carelessly transgressed the ancestral laws of his soul–if he simply lost control of his undemeaningly ordered world..It bothered him greatly that however he tried to persuade his friends of this they refused to listen to him, but it saddened him most when in tones of unrelieved gloom they proclaimed that the period they were living in was ‘an unfathomable hell between a treacherous future and an unmemorable past’, for such awful thoughts reminded him of the sentiments and unremittingly painful monologues he was used to hearing on a daily basis in the house on Bela Wenckheim Avenue, which was where he had just arrived.

The Melancholy of Resistance

That traditionalism, that reference to the “ancestral laws of the soul” which supposedly keep us all in line and prevent the fall into chaos–that is the voice of fear for me. I used to think that this was indicative of a somewhat conservative tendency in Krasznahorkai, a willingness to accept the strictures of fate out of the worry that challenging them would bring down the weight and fury of the heavens. Now it seems more like a description of some lurking death-instinct, an atavistic tendency that represents something like Moosbrugger did in The Man Without Qualities, except generated in the angst and neurosis of people’s minds, a product of the flaws of order that are built into the systems that emerge: more of a biological process than a political one, the inevitable appearance of the imp of the perverse, the worm in the apple. Valuska is the world-dazzled character who does not fall prey to such autodestruction (at least not internally), but I don’t think Krasznahorkai holds him up as any sort of practical solution for the world.

[Attention Krasznahorkai fans: I have it on good authority that the English translation of Satantango is still a good 2-3 years out. Sorry.]

1 Comment

  1. 2-3 years! agghhhh! When I saw the recent New Directions news item that mentioned Satan Tango as “forthcoming,” I assumed that word implied “reasonably soon,” as in the next six months or so, max.

    I hope it turns out sooner than 2-3 years. Szirtes is a great translator (at as far as I can tell from how brilliantly his first two Krasznahorkai books read in English, since I can’t read Hungarian), but maybe they need to get some additional people working on Krasznahorkai’s oeuvre. There’s a lot out there still awaiting translation, especially his stuff from the last decade. Or perhaps Szirtres should spend less time on Sandor Marai, of whom he seems to release a new translation every year (but, I guess there’s more money and mainstream marketability in Marai than Kraszhnahorkai).

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