The OF Blog: Some choice quotes from one of my favorite writers

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Some choice quotes from one of my favorite writers

The following are taken from excerpts/pieces that appear in Music & Literature:  Issue Two Spring 2013, which is devoted to Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai and two collaborators, film maker Béla Tarr and illustrator Max Neumann.  The first two are by Krasznahorkai himself:

I speak of that which has never existed, of a state between people, the continuance of which everyone, every human being has desired with inconceivable yearning for the whole duration of these bloody millenia, but which precisely because of him, because of this yearning human creature, indeed, directly because of the scandalous equivocation of his desire, has never been attained.  A mere human is a destructive being, a mere artist is not.  In every one of his creations, even if it is often abhorrence that motivates him, a joyful pain may make itself felt, a joyful pain, yes, that what he is bringing to life, the work, is capable of giving a form to that which truly cannot be uttered here, a mere word – comprised, altogether, of five letters in English, and in Hebrew of four – a word in connection with which I should like ot make a recommendation:  that for the duration of this festival we remain silent and do not utter it, that we remain profoundly and mutually silent, but with such strength that our entire Festival will only be about that, about this silence:  so that it may be present without having to be pronounced; because silence, silence mutually maintained about something has its own intensity, and grants to a word a mighty weight, a word, which of course is still just a word; a word evoked, with my counsel, in silence; and the broken fragments, the components of which now, with your permission, I would like to show to you. (pp. 3-4)


 – from a speech given at the May 2012 Jerusalem Book Fair.  Translated by Ottilie Mulzet

The second passage is from an interview conducted by Noémi Aponyi and Tibor Sennyey Weiner:

Not long ago, an interview appeared in which you stated that it would be best if "only writers and poets occupied themselves with literature again."  Does this imply that such writers who have "put themselves up for sale" should not talk about literature, and neither should such critics? 
No.  I was speaking of a desire, namely, that it would be beautiful, really and truly beautiful, if Hungarian literature would regain its independence and its freedom from that system of cultural power, that system against which it is fighting a losing battle because it forms a part of it, that is to say it is compromised.  The greater part of the contemporary literary world (a large part, but not the entirety) gave itself blindly over to this system in newly capitalist Hungary, and it itself venerates the laws propagated by this system as something irrevocable, although these laws are anything but irrevocable.  Who made artists believe that art can be practiced only "successfully?"  Who made them believe that for a book to reach its goal and its readers, the "taste-makers" are absolutely necessary?  How could they have allowed the critics, the editors, the owners of the chain bookshops, and so on, to have so much power?  And who made them believe that they are truly artists?  It is one huge mistake, and by this I mean not only in Hungary but in all of European literary life, and it is not that I feel any personal affront, I am adequately insulated – the situation is far graver than that.  Artists have come to believe that they too, just like other people, need money and fame, money and fame for everyday life, moreover for being able to live a bourgeois lifestyle; and that these two repugnant things are seen as necessary for everything is not only tragic but ridiculous as well.  What kind of artist or writer lives like that?  Who is going to believe even a single line that he writes?  What kind of esteem can the art of our age garner for itself after even one such bout of deal-making?  No, the artist's needs are few:  let there be something for him to eat and a place to live, and then every day he should circumambulate the city, the country, like the mendicant monks of old.  Nothing whatever can be more important for him than his own personal dignity, and this is exactly what he loses forever after the very first deal-making transaction. (p. 30)

And finally, a quote from Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Sátántangó (Film and Novel) as Faulknerian Reverie":

As someone who grew up in northwestern Alabama and spent the first sixteen years of my life there (1943-1959), I have treasured Light in August, which I first read shortly after I left for a New England boarding school, as the novel that best captures the quasi-totalitarian climate of that culture, especially in relation to race.  Undoubtedly one of the reasons why Sátántangó, which I first encountered as a film seventeen years before I could read the novel in English translation but after having intermittently read portions of Joëlle Dufeuilly's 1993 French translation, Tango de Satan, reminded me of Faulkner's masterpiece was its own implicit depiction (and implicit moral indictment) of another totalitarian climate.  Even though this is not clearly not addressed as directly as Faulkner addresses racism in Light in August, it seems no less clear that Tarr and Krasznahorkai recognize and understand this climate with comparable depth, not to mention sorrow and outrage, and regard it no less metaphysically as a blight on humanity.  So, whether it's willed or not, Sátántangó deserves to be regarded in both its forms as one of the great narratives about Stalinism and its alienating effects upon individuals and a collective – including, one should stress, the lingering effects of that Stalinism on a capitalist society. (p. 128)

I still have over half of this bound-volume issue to read, but hopefully these quotes will make a few readers here curious enough to investigate Krasznahorkai's writings.  He is one of the more important writers of the past quarter-century, I believe.

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