The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai

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You can’t even imagine how rare my decision to postpone a review is : I usually rate and review the books I read immediately, for better or for worst.

The Melancholy of Resistance was different.

Indeed my first reaction after closing this novel was, What the Fuck did I just read? Huh? I was so lost between my excitation during the first 30% and the boredom I felt after – in addition to some side-eying (I’ll come back to that) – that I left my rating blank on Goodreads and gave myself some weeks to think about what I wanted to say. Sometimes time helps highlighting what emotion won, and in this case, it’s not pretty.

A month after, having reread both the parts that I first liked and those I wish haven’t been there in the first place, I can push The Melancholy of Resistance out of the books I would recommend reading. I would most definitely not, and here’s why : 

➊ Now the only thing that lingers in my mind is the utter confusion – and boredom – I felt 80% of the time. Look, I won’t deny that I found some parts beautiful and enthralling, yet they were too rare to overtake the overall annoyance. To be completely honest, I think that the first time I breathed through it to get to the ending, mainly to see if I could find something to like again (having liked the beginning), but I didn’t. During the last month I reread most of it, and I can’t even count the number of times I just shook my head in disbelief because of the page-long parts that did not make any sense. What The Melancholy of Resistance is : good openings and endings, with loads of useless bullshit in the middle. And the middle feels very, very long because it’s so. damn. stretched. I mean, there’s only so many musings I can take, and if a few political ones don’t bother me – but rather interest me, pages and pages revolving around unintelligible ones (about music, about life, about freaking EVERYTHING) for no reason whatsoever I cannot stand.

➋ I stated in my first review on Goodreads that “I was very uncomfortable with the fact that one character referred to the crazy rioters as “dark-skinned hooligans” – I did not gather that they were black from the novel (except at this very part), but if that’s the case, it’s a big no from me : you don’t go and assign a race to the ‘bad’ people. You just don’t.” At that time I thought I might had misinterpreted it, given that nothing else in the book gave me this impression.

Then a friend of mine shared another cover with me :

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… and when I reread the book, I did it with this cover in mind. The fact is, what’s obvious is that The Melancholy of Resistance is a novel about apocalypse. Always was – I did not understand everything, but this I did. So, tell me, even if the very white Mrs Eszter is the real villain through and through, why feel the need to link the arrival of black people to said apocalypse? Why do they kill and destroy everything on their way? Why are they violent? We never know. They just are, because apparently it’s who they are, and excuse me, but that’s some kind of BULLSHIT right there. Why haven’t I read about that in any review? (and I read tons) This novel has been written in 1989, and many reviewers interpreted it as a social novel, and I mean, sure. I agree. It does express the impossibility of resistance in a totalitarian state – I can see that.

Yet.

Intend means nothing when black rioters are pictured as “inhuman” in a novel. This will always be incredibly offensive in my book. As always with classics, I try to keep the original period in mind, but I’m reviewing it in 2017. You who are reading my review live in 2017. That’s why I cannot accept this more than I would of a contemporary novel. Not if it’s not challenged in text, and it never is.

The truth is, I don’t think for one second that it was acceptable in 1989 either, and I don’t care if it wasn’t what the author intended. It’s THERE, for crying out loud. Not recommended.

4 responses to “The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai

  1. The term “dark-skinned hooligan” appears three times in the book: e.g. in the American edition you will find it on pages 334, 335 and 340 (you’re welcome). In all three instances the expression is uttered by Mrs Harrer (the wife of the corrupt chief of police being in league with the facist Mrs Eszter and the mother of those little devils of children who are pestering Valuska at some point in the book) in her rant about the tumultuous events going on in the town. So, yes, the expression dark-skinned hooligan” should be uncomfortable for the reader, because the reader is made aware here and all over the book of the facist and racist tentencies of a large part of the population of that town. Mrs Eszter is the smart Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen, Trump, you name it, of that town who is utlizing the anxieties of the people (like Mrs Harrer) to overthrow the town administration and set up a facist regime of some sort. The few opponents, the inellectual elite represented by the professor, the dreamer Valuska etc., are to weak to fight them.

    The book provides a perfect allegory on this universal predicament inherent to human populations. If you have followed the news the last few couple of months then you could be able to understand that the book is even more relevant today than it has been 30 years ago when it was first published.

    You are welcome.

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    • I see what you mean, and yeah, that’s how I interpreted it at first – but it still bothers me, because as much as your analyze is interesting, and as much as I want to think that somehow the author condemns this, nothing in text confirms it. Not that Harrer is a stupid and racist woman (that is obvious) but that these rioters are anything but violent : why do they fight? Why do they kill and destroy everything? Even if Eszter made them come, why do they react this way? It seems to me that it’s dangerous to let the readers interpret this part. I like your interpretation, yet it stays what it is : an interpretation.

      Thank you for your opinion. It wasn’t my only problem with the book anyway.

      PS. I’m French, so yes, I did follow the news and the rise of racist populism in my country. Be assured of that^^

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