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

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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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)

“In Krasznahorkai’s deft hands, the effect is a layered, freewheeling, amazingly persuasive tour of living human consciousness, in varied states of self-awareness.” (Chris Lehmann - Newsday)

“Krasznahorkai's artistry merits serious notice. May further translations grant him the wider notice he deserves among English-speaking readers.” (Review of Contemporary Literature)

“Ingeniously composed and fascinating.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Melancholy of Resistance is a slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type.” (George Szirtes)

“Lifts the reader along in lunar leaps and bounds.” (The Guardian)

“One of the great novels of the last quarter-century - like a MittelEuropean Moby Dick.” (Garth Risk Hallberg - The Millions)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Hungarian --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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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: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Krasznahorkai sets Melancholy in a small rural town, modern enough to have cars and electricity. The impoverished people live in almost medieval squalor, negotiating the trash heaps and the drunks as they endlessly recycle their days of tedium. Yet each person’s self-perception sees himself or herself as the complex center of a large and entangled social and political world. [Billy Collins says it best about NYC: “The city orbits around eight million centers of the universe….”] Krasznahorkai gets a lot of humor out of this; the first half of the book is an exuberant send-up of human delusions and hypocrisies. In particular, he writes a marvelous mirroring of the town idiot, Valuska, and the town intellectual, Eszter; their extended mental meanders are matched in style and vapidity, differing only in content. This first half of the book reminds me of James Wilcox’s masterpiece “Modern Baptists”.

Much has been written about Krasznahorkai’s long sentences. But George Szirtes’ translation is so deft, so smooth, that the long sentences scan very easily. For the most part, plot development is well paced. The story moves along nicely, although the English translation displays few, if any, poetical grace notes. The sentence structure is easily the most creative feature of the novel.

As an example of the humor, one 6-page passage narrates the interior monologue of the intellectual while he’s trying to hammer some nails. He keeps studying the problem, first the hammer and then the nail. But, how to make them collide accurately? He found “…the body’s command mechanism… could only be discovered… between the dazzling object of illusion and the eye that perceives that object, a position that entailed conscious recognition of the illusory nature of the object.
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