Yoda: Ô! DEAD I am! Me save, please! My little green body will be chopped into pieces.
Me: What’s the matter? You’re scaring me (disturbing me). And your sentences are syntactically less incorrect! Are they striking back again?
Yoda: My wife, god knows how, has access to all my accounts: my Facebook, my Instagram, and even my Tinder.
Me: … Euh! you have Tinder?!
Yoda: Yes, I get matches every day … I’ll show you later but please, now I need your help.
Me: Ok, Ok… (thinking) Maybe the problem is with the password?
Yoda: NO! No way, it’s impossible! My dumb green wife couldn’t guess my password = it’s hieroglyphic (being smart). It’s ***** (R2-D2).
Me: ….. (not very surprised) Okay, how about changing your password?
Yoda: Yes. What do you suggest?
Me: László Krasznahorkai.
* * *
Rain and Bells
They said that Baudelaire wrote his fleurs du mal (his first and most famous volume of poems) because he was bored.
The same can be said of Krasznahorkai when he wrote Satantango.
As for me, I woke up one day to the sound of the bells (there are no bells nearby), it was pouring outside (purely coincidental), which means no running for today (I was planning to do some intervals), so I too, was bored. I aimlessly took a book from my library (Satantango of course), and started reading and turning the pages one after the other. The writer was trying so hard to escape from boredom that he left no space for anything to seep between the sentences, the paragraphs, or the pages. Endless blocks of words stacked without any interruption (none!). One could, in fact, say that Marcel Proust was a short-distance runner compared to Krasznahorkai (an Ultra-runner, him).
* * *
K. & K.
We can refer to Krasznahorkai’s work as a peculiar case of the Kafka type (as Kafka was too, according to Robert Musil, a peculiar case of the Walser type). Everything about the world of Krasznahorkai is too Kafkaesque: the cold, the rain, the “smell of mold”, the long nights, the “vanguard of cockroaches working their way down the back walls…” and above all: the “Castle” (He used the word “castle” more than ten times). As he said himself, he is always thinking about Kafka, and when he’s not thinking about him, he misses thinking about him, so he takes “The Castle” or “The Trial” and read it again.
“Kafka was my first writer”
It all began very early, when he tried to be like his older brother, so stole his books and read them. That’s when he started reading Kafka. He was so young that he couldn’t understand what “the castle” was about.
Because of Kafka, he became a lawyer. And more importantly, he became a writer.
* * *
László Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, a provincial town in Hungary, on the 5th of January 1954 (in the Soviet era) to a “bourgeois family”.
He lived in poor villages with poor people (“I thought that was real life”), and to escape from mandatory military service he changed location very often, every three or four months.
László didn’t plan to be a writer. He had always taken very bad jobs. He worked as a miner for a while, then became director of various culture houses (where people could read the classics). Then, for a few months, he was a night watchman for three hundred cows in a no man’s land: no village, no city, no town nearby.
* * *
László wanted to write just one book, to do different things after that, especially with music. But he was never satisfied. He published his first novel, Satantango, in 1985, then The Melancholy of Resistance (1989), War and War (1999), and Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming (2016). But … (He insisits)
“I really wrote just one book in my life…This is my one book”
* * *
Rhythm and Tempo
“Bach’s music is structurally complicated because of the harmony”
Krasznahorkai approaches his writings as he does with Bach or baroque Music. There is one rule: Rhythm and tempo and melody (or Breaths and rhythm). When he’s working, the first thing he does (in his head), before writing the sentence, is to make sure that the rhythmic element is perfect. After all, he called his first novel a “Tango”!
And so I don’t forget, László was a professional musician when he was fourteen and until he turned eighteen. He played in a Jazz group, and being endowed with a very high-pitched voice, like a countertenor, he sang in a rock group, but only songs by women (like Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin).
* * *
According to Krasznahorkai, an artist is only concerned about the question of art: Bach about his fugue, Dostoevsky about Myshkin in his novel, Thelonious Monk about the cadence and the “groove”.
“An artist has only one task — to continue a ritual. And ritual is a pure technique.”
* * *
“The universality of Krasznahorkai’s vision… far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing.” (W. G. Sebald)
The novel “Satantango” is conceived as a tango where the dancers would come one after the other on the dance floor.
It is about a Hungarian plain swept by the wind and the constant rainfall. In an abandoned collective farm, a few inhabitants (a bunch of bickering drunks) are vegetating, spying on each other and plotting against each other, when a rumor announces the return of two other characters who were believed to be dead. Some see the arrival of a messiah, others fear that of Satan.
It is about hope in a hopeless world.
It is about faith in a world of decay.
* * *
(Now a little SPOILER ALERT)
When you come to the end, you find that the novel is on a loop (The last lines are also the novel’s first lines). This circular structure makes the novel infinite; it is capable of being read endlessly in a kind of infinite circle (which the writer prefers to describe as an uncountable finite because infinity “doesn’t exist”).
The novel is either a Tango of Demons or a Whirling of Dervishes.
* * *
If you want to suffer for uninterrupted seven hours and watch the movie (1994) by Béla Tarr, go for it. I didn’t watch it yet, but I did like (not a lot) The Turin Horse (2011) by the same director.
I suppose you’ll find a lot of pessimism, a lot of dark, and a lot of wind.
* * *
“He realized that all those years of arduous, painstaking work had finally borne fruit: he had become the master of a singular art that enabled him not only to describe a world whose eternal unremitting progress in one direction required such mastery but also- to certain extent- he could even intervene in the mechanism behind an apparently chaotic swirl of events!”