JUDY KRAVIS

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Thursday, 22 March 2018

My fingers have learned to write Krasznahorkai's name by now; they do not hesitate around all those consonants in the unknown rhythm of Hungarian. After reading Krasznahorkai for several weeks I am at one with the Europa abyss, the total stalling of communication even as the lava of language flows: the more you try to catch chaos the worse it gets. The Irish abyss, par contre, is more scenic, just as much language but light and quirky, even in the blackness, like Flann O'Brien. None of this Europa violence and melancholy.

Krasznahorkai grew up in a small town in southeastern Hungary,  at the heart of the Europa melting pot. To the island stance of the Paddy or the Brit, whose language tends towards the heroic and identifying, this is as dense, as landlocked as it gets; in Gyula, Békécs County, next to Romania and not far from Serbia, heroics are a pile of rubble, identification a lost cause, language a necessary obfuscation, poignant and ridiculous: womb, tomb and sole conceivable kin.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Why do some men writers write exhaustively, and sometimes exhaustingly, each chapter its own sentence into which we burrow, like László Krasznahorkai, whose War and War I have experienced as a kind of basso continuo beneath the last couple of weeks, mostly in bed, or in the bath, which meant that weariness and softened muscles often hung me mid-sentence till the following night; I thought more than once during the first half or so that I would not go all the way with this, but did, out of ancient persistence or defiance or fascination, and finished it, the last few pages in their different font, sans serif, close to a last gasp in railway station somewhere in Europe, proving the hardest of all, taking three nights and maybe a couple of baths to achieve an end.

Do men more than women need to create this wraparound connection with language, this density, this  this bottomless scratching of would-be flesh, 'reality examined to the point of madness', as Krasznahorkai says, italics his? Think of James Joyce, Robert Musil, Thomas Bernhard, David Foster Wallace, and—though the flow is gentler and the wraparound connection a lighter garment altogether—W.G. Sebald, or Proust.

I like occupying this exhaustiveness, losing my way in it, reading badly, you might say, missing so much and so much then finding my way again with a piece of self-reference or the perilous return of language to an equality with life as we prefer to understand it—going somewhere or meeting someone or putting a gun to your head. I enjoy imitating it, especially writing my diary, where the sense of depth and endlessness inside language is entirely concordant with the diary spirit. Unlike many writers who try to avoid influence, I seek it, honest thief that I am.

The other nub of Krasznakorkai is his acceptance, nay promotion, of the incomprehensible.
...each sentence was of vital importance, a matter of life and death, the whole developing and moving at a dizzy rate, and that which it relates, that which it constructs and support and conjures is so complicated that, quite honestly, it becomes perfectly incomprehensible...
Old Mallarmean that I am, this is so comfortable. Phew. We're off the hook, we're just reading, at that point where a horse no longer gallops but can be said to break into a run. Some pieces of life are like that. If you're lucky. Accepting the incomprehensible is not just the terrain of religion. It's an everyday skill.

Tonight I started to re-read The Melancholy of Resistance. The splendours of Bela Tarr's film The Werckmeister Harmonies, based on the book, made me impatient the first time. This time I will save the film for afterwards.

War and War ends with a railway station, The Melancholy of Resistance starts on a train: a woman sitting in a compartment feels insecure; her bra comes unhooked; she is even more insecure; she thinks she is pursued even though she is too old. She is sliding into what she cannot manage; and so are we.