I remember the 'bus journey scene' in one of the Malayalam Art Movie, which lasted about 15 min. The camera focussing on the traveller and the 'beedi' that he smoked. The initial 50 odd pages of this book reminded me of thar scene , with Mrs Plauf taking a train journey from the village , returning to her home town, experiencing all the terror during the short journey.
The provincial town, in the interiors of Hungary is the typical laid back , uninteresting place. The tranquility and the easy nature of the town is derailed with the arrival of a touring circus company announcing the exhibition of the largest whale ever to be seen in the world. Along with the circus came all that was uninvited to the town. The rascals, the hooligans and other criminals from not only the neighboring villages and towns but from far away as well. With the authorities in inaction and the chaos and the trouble that erupted, it needed the the town committee to step up and take vigil, with the help of the country Militia.
At the outset, its a fairly simple and straight forward tale. But what this book is not about is this tale. With his complex yet interesting style of narrative , Krasznahorkai builds a story of terror, of anarchy of the psyche of people disoriented by the sudden change of events. The metaphoric story depicts the chaos, politics and greed and the fate of the common people. Told through the eyes of 5 people, each going through their daily monotonous life, linking up to the events that is taking place at the square indirectly affecting their own life. As the vandalism spread through the town, the newly emerged leaders, manipulating the populace for their own personal greed. The power equation of the town changes, the family relationships is in for permanent change the hidden characteristics of the individuals surface.
Reading is not easy. There are no paragraph breaks, and sentences are miles long. Reading demands utter concentration true to the nature of the subject., The build up is slow and deliberate. There is a constant under current of terror. What makes this book different is the voice which is not spoken. The structure, the often boring dry and long sentences that are loaded. Surrealistic, possibly connected to the velvet revolution that hit the country, depicting the fright and terror of people under the sleepy authorities when the so called 'mini revolution' create havoc in the town. Very subtle and parodical humour goes with the narrative.
Its the language ( George Szirtes , the translator, in this interview says, "for sheer density of text in prose", this book was his hardest translation job) , the structure and style makes this book very different from the rest. Its mesmerizing, often frustrating, intensity of the narration is hard to get used to , but once you overcome this obstacle, then you are in for a fabulous journey. We follow some of the memorable characters in their extreme slow motion with their fortunes of life. Mrf Plauff, with her initial train journey to the sad end during the turmoil, her estranged son, half-wit , mercurial post master Valsuka, his master the artist, painter, professor Mr.Ezster, his wife Mrs.Ezster, whom he threw out of their house, but now trying to sneak in and take control of the house, plotting and maneuvering the system to take control of the town, the drunkard police officer, lover of Mrs,Ezster, the various other small characters grow into you through their accounts in the story.
A brilliant novel from an outstanding writer. A book that demand a re-read and a writer whom I am most likely to read soon.------------------------------------------------------------
The Melancholy of Resistance ( 1989)
László Krasznahorkai ( Translated from Hungarian by George Szirtes 1998)
New Direction Books
Other Reviews : Cinema Parallel, Voice imitator, Danny Reviews, The Second Circle, Conversational Reading