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The Melancholy of Resistance (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – June 17, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The universality of its vision rivals that of Gogol's Dead Souls.” (W. G. Sebald)

“An inexorable, visionary book by the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville.” (Susan Sontag)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Hungarian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (June 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811215040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811215046
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A. B. Cost on August 14, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hungarian author uses deep metaphor to set quest for meaning in a world of political struggle, chaos, and greed - Difficult and intensely rewarding. Definitely not an easy read. The basic story is of a small contemporary Hungarian town. Work is scarce and society is disintegrating, when a strange circus touting the world's greatest whale arrives and draws a large and dangerous crowd of unemployed men. This is the book that the Hungarian film, the 'Werkemeister's Harmonies' was based upon. While that was an extraordinary movie, the book surpasses it in depth and nuance.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Corder on August 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Melancholy of Resistance doesn't so much clear up the mystery of Bela Tarr's haunting film Werckmeister Harmonies, as much as add to the complexity of the ideas explored in both. For a book and film to echo each other in such an enigmatic way is striking. While the film is frightening and devastating on a gut level, The Melancholy of Resistance is, on an intellectual level, more frightening and utterly devastating...until the end, the very end, the last two pages in fact. And they aren't a sleight of hand magic or clever plot twist, but a cold look at plain facts as if someone turned on the light suddenly and no ghosts were there. The ending certainly qualifies the book but voids nothing at all. If anything, it prompts a second reading.

The novel is written from four different points of view, that of Janos Valuska, Mrs. Plauf (Janos's mother), Eszter and Mrs. Eszter (Aunt Tunde), and skirts themes of chaos/order, Nazism, Sovietism, atheism, and their teeter-totter through history. Krasznahorkai's faulknerian sentences are like a wind at the back of a raging fire, yet there are so many conversational, almost comic asides (and maybe this is due in some part to the translation) that the effect is like being in a speeding car. Very enjoyable if you don't drive over the cliff.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Grigory's Girl on October 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the book that is the basis for Bela Tarr's brilliant film Werckmeister Harmonies. The script for the film was co-written by the author, Laszlo Krasznahorkai, and the book is the equal of the film, and also compliments it. Laszlo and Bela Tarr have a very unique relationship, in that all of Bela's later films were co-written by Laszlo, and some were based on his novels (like the epic Satantango). This book is typed as if it were one epic sentence (with a few breaths here and there), conjuring up language and a scope worthy of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy (2 of my favorite writers). There is an amazing sense of dread and drifting in the cosmos contained in these pages (and in the film as well). In most modern novels, you don't really get that sense of the epic and the scope associated with works like this. Laszlo Krasznahorkai is one of my favorite modern authors, and I hope that more of his work becomes available here.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on October 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
A fantastical nightmare of a book. Krasznahorkai has conjured an allegorical world of deceit, anarchy, and nascent fascism. This is the story of a small and deteriorating village in Hungary which is visited by a circus, a circus which purports to have the world's largest whale. Soon, the floodgates of chaos are opened, and Krasznahorkai discloses a world dominated by fear and violence. This is a novel of the political and literary spectacle-it is haunted by such classical tropes as the Leviathan, the naïve and goodhearted simpleton, and terror of the crowd. The prose flows in extended and spiraling sentences reminiscent of Bernhard. It belongs to a brief list of the most impressive and serious of modern novels. Not too be missed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr Doran on October 15, 2011
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Extraordinary writer. This is the best book I have read in years. Other reviews have captured the spirit of the book better than I can. It has so many layers to it: psychological, epistemological, political, existential. It is an astonishing text.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dick Johnson VINE VOICE on April 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Imagine a noir story with words to amuse an etymologist; sentences the length of paragraphs; paragraphs the length of very long chapters and a three-hundred page book with just a few chapters. Further, set this dark novel in Eastern Europe with the threat of the symbolic huge neighbor to the east looking over everything. And, there is a whale.

Next, add in a dozen or so characters (with hundreds of extras) who are stereotypes of stereotypes. Put these into a setting that shows us a few city blocks of a seemingly larger city. Let them play roles that will properly show off their stereotypical natures and the rest is, as is said, "history". Not to mention the whale.

Symbolism is rampant. The sun is ashamed to show itself. Even nice people aren't necessarily nice, should one show up. We follow people doing what people do. They just normally don't do so with such large consequences. Including the whale.

This is a difficult book to read and I would not recommend it to anyone as an introduction to either post-modern or Eastern European literature., but there are many, many humorous moments in this heavy story to lighten things, if only for a moment. I don't remember if the whale had any funny lines.
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Frequently Bought Together

The Melancholy of Resistance (New Directions Paperbook) + Satantango + War & War (New Directions Paperbook)
Price for all three: $32.74

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  • Satantango $9.84
  • War & War (New Directions Paperbook) $11.96