The World Goes On
I turned to the first story. I felt good about this book, I had a 'feeling' that I could bury myself deep within the pages and find myself grudgingly setting the book down before turning the light off to get some pesky sleep.
That isn't what happened. I'm pushed for time at the moment, one child is sitting their GCSEs and work is piling up and so to be fair, I don't think I had the right mind-set in which to approach Krasznahorkai's work. Reading the first story, Wandering-Standing, I found myself thinking that it should have been called This Paragraph Goes On. It was akin to reading an intellectual miserablist moan endlessly on without taking a breath, all the while I'm thinking "I really have quite a lot to do - please don't continue with this wearisome navel-gazing." I was impatient and his writing requires patience, I think.
I pushed on (see? My language already tells you I found this a struggle, I was resisting this book). I read the pages as the words swam in front of my eyes and, later, pulling the book from my face after having nodded off (again) I realised that I'd re-read the same pages on three consecutive nights.
I haven't finished this book but here's the thing - I intend to because something did occur to me and it's this.. yes, I found it a hard slog and not even particularly enjoyable. All the same, later on in the week, I found myself thinking about some of his ideas. I wonder if maybe something is indeed lost in translation.
The famous ( notorious?) Krasznahorkai labrynthine sentences are perfectly suited to the physical and spiritual wanderings of the characters and are a testament to the challenges faced and met as far as I can judge by the three translators. Men ( for they are all men) face their dreams and demons in Shanghai, Varanasai, Kiev and even outer space. Their cri de coeur is a solitary one, bringing to mind Woolf’s Mr Ramsey stomping around declaiming “ We perished each alone” There are rare flashes of wit and humour but for the most part these stories are hard to engage with. And yet there is one standout exception, One Time on 381, dedicated to the legendary Portuguese singer Amalia Rodrigues, which captures the deep emotions of Fado and the nourishing of the soul for a lifetime by one transforming experience. This is a jewel but unfortunately not typical of the collection.
Wandering Standing, the title of the opening story in this book, and images evoked by lines such as, ‘he must stand there until the end of time, his hands and feet bound in two simultaneously correct directions” commenting on human kind desperately trying to escape to a better reality but moving nowhere, leave a lasting impression on my mind as do other memorable lines posing questions about the world and humanity. The book is a heavy going and repetitive read however which doesn’t compel me to read beyond the first few stories in search of a few lovely and thought provoking lines.
This book is full of interesting philosophical and moral conundrums, ponderously posited. Unfortunately it is composed of awkward snippets and lacks the narrative drive to keep me awake and engaged. The style is that of a somewhat nervous accountant who is trying to explain a difficult calculation. If you are finding it hard to get to sleep, it’s the book for you.