Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Melancholy of Resistance III

In the second half of the book, Valuska overhears a conversation between the director of the circus, of which the stuffed whale is but a part (no other elements of the circus are ever mentioned), and a mysterious character referred to as "the Prince." The latter is somehow associated with the mob that has been following the circus around the countryside, and he apparently orders an attack on the town in which property is destroyed, women are raped and people are killed. During the attack, Valuska by chance accompanies the mob, and, though he does not participate in its destructive activities, this finally results in his placement in a mental asylum. Mrs. Eszter seizes the moment and coordinates the recapture of the town with the army that has been summoned for assistance. In short order the criminals are rounded up, the Prince disappears and the circus leaves town. Mrs. Eszter moves back into her husband's house and confines him to a few rooms; she plans to divorce him in due course. She becomes a local hero and takes a prominent position in the town government, from which she plans to roll out her moral revitalization program.

As in Satantango, the Prince represents a sinister figure, whom some refer to as the Prince of Darkness, but in this case he occupies a less central role than Irimiás, and his workings remain even more obscure. In the end he doesn't seem particularly satanic, and in all likelihood he is pursuing some unknown political agenda. Eszter is also very roughly equivalent to the doctor in Satantango. On the whole I found this novel less engrossing than Satantango, because the satanic element is more subdued. The writing is very good, but the detailed descriptions of the characters and their activities became tiresome in the second half. I am a little perplexed by the rapturous blurbs on the cover from W.G. Sebald, Susan Sontag and Garth Risk Hallberg.

Right up to the end the theme seems to be inevitable decay. One of the victims is Mrs. Plauf, Valuska's estranged mother. Following her eulogy, Krasznahorkai describes in detail the chemical processes occurring in her body as decomposition commences. Perhaps there are a few people who might construe this novel as "visionary," as Sontag did, but I am not among them. Sure, Krasznahorkai, is a very good writer, but the excessive praise that one encounters in literary reviews is hardly convincing. As in any literary tradition, Krasznahorkai is limited by the works of his predecessors. Frankly, Kafka is boring: he was a neurotic, and his writing reflects an inability to adapt to the situation into which he was born. Similarly, Beckett is boring, because the effectiveness of his writing hinges, ultimately, on a fad – existentialism – which influenced his middle period and the works for which he is best known.

As you can see from the above, I am hardly a reformed convert to fiction. At this point I am more interested in laying bare the ignorant propaganda that currently supports its infrastructure, though, of course, I am still open to genuinely good writing.

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