What lies behind me …

afternoon light (01 September 2011)

afternoon light (01 September 2011)

What lies behind me still remains ahead of me. (László Krasznahorkai, in Satantango

From time to time, unexpected things pop up on the “new titles” shelves at the Wellington Central Library. Satantango (written by László Krasznahorkai) was first published in 1985, but the translation by George Szirtes from the Hungarian did not appear until 2012; even so, I would not have expected it to be accorded “new title” status – but one day, there it was. At first glance, the matte black cover looked as if it had been stitched with long white tacking stitches (such as a tailor might use), but then I wondered if perhaps, given its title, it had been inscribed with magical glyphs. (There’s a cover image with the Amazon listing.)

Intrigued, I took the book home, but somehow didn’t manage to get through more than a few pages before it was due to be returned. When I went back to borrow it again the following day, someone else had beaten me to it. (And, at that time, all the library’s copies of this author’s other titles were also out on loan.)

Satantango … now regarded as a classic, is a monster of a novel: compact, cleverly constructed, often exhilarating, and possessed of a distinctive, compelling vision – but a monster nevertheless. It is brutal, relentless and so amazingly bleak that it’s often quite funny.” (Theo Tait in a review for The Guardian, Wednesday 9 May 2012)

Krasznahorkai’s translator George Szirtes calls his work a “slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type”, and says his sentences take you down “loops and dark alleyways – like wandering in and out of cellars”. At one point the wind moves through the trees like a “helpless hand searching through a dusty book for some vanished main clause”; the reader feels something comparable. (Theo Tait)

In 1994, Hungarian director Béla Tarr released Sátántangóa film based on the novel. Shot in black-and-white, it runs for over seven hours. The critic Susan Sontag described Sátántangó as “Devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours. I’d be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life.” (Wikipedia article, Sátántangó)

Both the book and the film are structured in twelve sections – although these are not necessarily in chronological order. (The structure of the tango, I am told, is six forward moves followed by six back.)

And now I’ve been reading it again … but I still haven’t finished it. (It has been returned, and I’ll need to go back for it … again.)

“The imagination never stops working but we’re not one jot nearer the truth,” remarks Irimiás at one point.

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Krasznahorkai, László. 1985. Satantango. Translated from the Hungarian [translation copyright © 2012 George Szirtes]. New York: New Directions. [p133]

The fundamental tendency of matter

Legion (cover)

Legion (cover)

The human brain, three pounds of tissue, held more than a hundred billion brain cells and five hundred trillion synaptic connections. It dreamed and wrote music and Einstein’s equations, it created the language and the geometry and engines that probed the stars, and it cradled a mother asleep through a storm while it woke her at the faintest cry from her child. A computer that could handle all of its functions would cover the surface of the earth.

The hundreds of millions of years of evolution from paramecium to man didn’t solve the mystery, thought Kinderman. The mystery was evolution itself. The fundamental tendency of matter was toward a total disorganization, toward a final state of utter randomness from which the universe would never recover. Each moment its connections were becoming unthreaded as it flung itself headlong into the void in a reckless scattering of itself, impatient for the death of its cooling suns. And yet here was evolution, Kinderman marvelled, a hurricane piling up straw into haystacks, bundles of ever-increasing complexity that denied the very nature of their stuff. Evolution was a theorem written on a leaf that was floating against the direction of the river. A Designer was at work. So what else? It’s as plain as can be. When a man hears hoofbeats in Central Park, he shouldn’t be looking around for zebras. (William Peter Blatty, in Legion [pp104-5]) 

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Originally published by Simon & Schuster in 1983, and subsequently turned into what Rinker calls “a more than satisfactory sequel … Exorcist III (which, mercifully, has nothing to do with Exorcist II: The Heretic).” Legion appeared in a Tor paperback edition in 2011 (Tom Doherty Associates, New York).

The Hobbit: 3 days to go

“Hobbit stamps, Hobbit coins and Hobbit markets are all in the works as the city of Wellington, New Zealand, prepares for the world premiere of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ on Nov 28.” (Mark Johanson, writing in the International Business Times, 10 Oct 2012)

3 days to go #1 (25 Nov 2012)

3 days to go #1 (25 Nov 2012)

“The film is the first in a trilogy, with director Peter Jackson returning to JRR Tolkien’s novels after his hit adaptations of Lord Of The Rings.” Subtitled ‘An Unexpected Journey’, the film stars British actors Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen. (BBC News : Entertainment & Arts, 08 Oct 2012)

I snapped these shots this morning on my way to work. (The Embassy Cinema, on Wellington’s Cambridge Terrace, is just a few minutes’ walk from my apartment.)

3 days to go #2 (25 Nov 2012)

3 days to go #2 (25 Nov 2012)

A leaf

leaf (02 Feb 2012)

leaf (02 Feb 2012)

.

Too rarely do we realize that firm structure has a way of deadening perception. What you know to expect, you stop attending to. (Claes Oldenburg, in “Robert Breer 1926–2011”, published in Artforum, Vol 50, No 5, January 2012) 

“[Robert] Breer, a painter by training, turned to animation after making flip books and stop-action films based on the abstract paintings he produced while living and exhibiting in Paris in the 1950s.

“Early on, he saw the potential for breaking with the narrative sequences and anthropomorphic forms that defined the medium.” (from an obituary by William Grimes, in The New York Times, 17 August 2011

The leaf? On the concrete outside my friend’s house in Nelson.

PS: The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it. (Leo Rosten)