“for weeks now they had lived in a state between confusion and unease bordering on nervous melancholy, and having, furthermore, taken note of the posters that had appeared this very evening confirming rumours from nearby suburbs that the enormous, almost inevitably ill-omened whale was certain to arrive on the morrow…”

05/08/2011 § 1 Comment

lászló krasznahorkai, the melancholy of resistance (1998)

 

however, this did not stop him making them and, on their next stop, at the news agent’s stall in tanács street, the friendly news vendor misunderstood him and tried to explain by way of reassurance, that he knew the reason for this ‘strange depopulation’, launching so enthusiastically forth on his explanation that it concentrated eszter’s mind solely on the task of getting home as soon as his mission had been accomplished, and, should he by good fortune have succeeded in accomplishing that, henceforth staying there.  for he had lost all interest in what was happening out there, in what calamity would follow the tide of rubbish, in fact he had lost interest in everything except how someone who had blundered into the arena might seek safer soil ‘ before the performance was over’, how he might disappear like ‘a gentle melody in the midst of cacophony’ and be hidden away indoors, secreted where nobody could ever find him; and this thought kept nagging away like some faint persistent recollection that at least one figure representative of him –‘some strangled, orphaned, vaguely poetic sensibility’ –had, once upon a time, really, quite physically existed.  with half an ear he was listening to valuska’s rapt account of his experiences of the morning, something about a whale in kossuth square that attracted not only the local townsfolk, but (an obvious if forgivable exaggeration) ‘ positively hundreds of people from the surrounding countryside’, but, truth to tell, he could cope with only one thought at a time, that being the problem of how long they had to turn the house on the avenue into an impregnable fortress that could withstand whatever chance could throw at it.  ‘that’s where everyone is,’ his companion announced, and as they made their way up the main street towards the corner where the water board stood (its name had attracted a certain sarcasm in the last few months), he entered ever more feverishly into speculation about how marvelous it would be if, as a fitting climax to their excursion, they could view this once-in-a-lifetime monster together, and indeed valuska’s description of the circus-owner with his squashed nose and soiled vest, of the hours of waiting by the so-called masses who flooded the market square, the whale’s enormous proportions and all the other fabulous details of the extraordinary creature, far from moderating eszter’s desire acted rather as coal to the fire, for the whole depressing excursion with its even more important ‘uncanny sense of preparation’ could (and indeed should) scarcely have led to any other climax than this spellbinding monstrosity.  if, he thought, and the thought depressed him further, if this monster should actually be in the square, and the enormous crow and the showman in the vest were not merely a sign of his companion’s desperate attempt to populate the deserted town with the products of his imagination, and the existence of this tremendous spectacle were underwritten by the poster stuck on the walls of the furrier’s shop, a poster on which someone had written with a brush, or rather with a finger dipped in ink, the words: carnival tonight, then it seemed all the more poignant that the more he looked about him in the surrounding desolation the more everything pointed to the fact that apart from the stray cats they seemed to be the only living creatures about – in so far as, eszter bitterly observed, such a sweeping generalization as ‘living’ could be made to apply to their own miserable selves.  for it was no use denying it, they did look a somewhat strange sight, hanging on to each other as they slowly made their way towards the water board offices on the corner in the grinding cold, each step a struggle against the icy wind; more like two blind visitors from an alien planet than like a respectable man with his faithful companion at his side setting out to enthuse the populace about, of all things, a movement for moral rearmament.  they had to harmonize two ways of walking, two different speeds, and, indeed, two different kinds of incapacity, for while eszter’s every step across the suspiciously glimmering surface was taken as if it were his last, each appearing to be a preparation for a gradual but ultimately total cessation of movement, valuska’s  acute desire to increase his own momentum was consistently frustrated, and since eszter was clearly dependent on him, he was constrained to hide the fact that the body leaning on his left arm was endangering his sense of balance, for while his enthusiasm could in some sense support the spiritual weight of his beloved master, the same was not true of the physical equivalent.  one could perhaps sum up the situation by saying that their roles consisted of valuska pulling and tugging and eszter acting as an effective brake, or that valuska was practically running while eszter was practically standing still, but it would be inappropriate to consider their progress severally, partly because the discrepancy between their strides seemed to be resolved in some combined lurch forward, an uncertain, painful-looking progress, and partly because their clumsy clinging interdependence precluded their being individually identified as eszter on the one hand and valuska on the other: in effect they appeared to form a single bizarre figure.  and so they advanced in curious unitary fashion, or, as eszter rather sourly thought of it, ‘like an exhausted gnome, something perfectly at home in this infernal nightmare’, a wandering shade, a demon that had lost its way, one side of whose body was condemned to supporting the other, the left leaning on a stick, the right merrily swinging a lunch-box, and as they went on, passing the tiny lawn in front of the water board and the silent offices of the employment insurance bureau, they encountered three other figures standing in the doorway of the stocking factory’s white collar club who had just glimpsed them and appeared to be rooted to the spot, waiting for the dreaded hand of fate, in the shape of this monstrous apparition slowly approaching them, to reach them (the two groups could well have regarded each other as ghosts), until there came the moment of recognition.

 

[text]     today’s excerpt comes from:  Krasznahorkai, Laszlo, and George Szirtes. The Melancholy of Resistance. New York: New Directions, 1998. Print.

[image]     also taken from the melancholy of resistance.

 

be wary of enormous whales

a young hare

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You are currently reading “for weeks now they had lived in a state between confusion and unease bordering on nervous melancholy, and having, furthermore, taken note of the posters that had appeared this very evening confirming rumours from nearby suburbs that the enormous, almost inevitably ill-omened whale was certain to arrive on the morrow…” at a young hare.

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