Over at the Literature Across Frontiers website, there’s a great interview with everyone’s favorite apocalyptic writer, László Krasznahorkai:
[. . .] First I wanted to talk to him about another work of his, Animalinside, a beautifully published pamphlet (in The Cahiers Series) of a collaboration between the author and the German painter, Max Neumann.
James Hopkin: What was the idea behind this work that alternates paintings of a black dog with your words?
László Krasznahorkai: I wanted to look at a picture so long until I could look at it no more and after that to write about what I saw in this picture and after that I would show this text to the painter, and the painter, perhaps, could make a new version of this painting, like a response, and after that I would write again, and so on, and so would come a dialogue, and perhaps from this material we could make something.
To begin with, I wrote a short text about this picture, because this picture deals with the bad, and I couldn’t be free of this picture, because I understand that it is not a solution to drop out because something stays forever, so the best way was to write about it. I had a plan to write about the ‘new brutale’ and that’s why, the next day, I went to Max Neumann, the painter, and I made a small translation of my text into German, and Max was very satisfied, very excited, but he said absolutely nothing.
A few days later, he called me: can you come to my atelier this afternoon? And he showed me the second version of his painting. It was unbelievable because I didn’t talk about this plan to him. So I wrote a text about the second picture and I translated it into German for him, and so on, for 14 pictures and 14 texts. Why 14? That’s so easy to explain. I had a feeling that 13 is not enough and 15 is too many.
When it was finished, I had a problem with this project: is it possible to paint about the bad, to write about the bad – Will we pay for that? If yes, when? The texts, like the picture, were quite hard. Because I understood immediately from the beginning that to give a form to the bad is only possible when you are inside, from outside there is no chance, but from inside, it has some…it is a little bit dangerous, I felt. I kept thinking, or somebody or something kept speaking to me in only one sentence, ‘about the bad, people have to speak’, ‘about the bad, people have to speak.’
[And he utters this mantra two more times, his voice fading to a whisper until his lips are moving and there is no sound.]
That’s the story of AnimaIinside.
JH: Could you say something more about your idea of ‘the new Brutale’?
LK: You know this kind of bad, in the form of brutality, always comes back and back in the pose of history, and this is such a time, and the brutal is on the street, and absolutely free on the street; the only thing I can do in our defence is to write.
JH: So writing becomes a form of resistance?
LK: In this case, yes. Normally, I have never done anything like that. My other novels and short stories are absolutely different. Animalinside is a shout. And it is the first collaboration in my life. And perhaps the last. But very interesting.
JH: But you collaborate on films with Béla Tarr. [If you haven’t seen Werckmeister Harmonies, Tarr’s rendering of Krasznahorkai’s novel, The Melancholy of Resistance, I strongly recommend it.]
LK: That’s different, because a movie has only one director, and he’s responsible for the film. Of course, I am not a scriptwriter. The films are almost always made from my books, except one. I draw for Béla the philosophical background of our question, day and night, day and night, that’s our method of collaboration. I never want a literary adaptation, never, because it is absolutely unnecessary for me. A book by me does not need an adaptation.
It’s a nice thing that somebody, Béla Tarr, has a mania, a wish, always to make a movie from Krasznahorkai’s works and that’s why I think: ok I will try to understand why he thinks that this new movie is absolutely necessary. When I have understood that, my second question is: what kind of movie is he thinking about from my book? When I have understood that, my third and last question to myself is: how can I help Bela? My aim is to help his imaginative power.
In Béla’s last movie, ‘The Turin Horse’, from my early essay about a day in Turin with Nietzsche, I had a different question: Ok, we know everything about Nietzsche, about the man, the owner of the horse, but nobody wondered what happened to the horse. Why not? I wrote about that.
Be sure and check out the whole interview — it’s well worth it.
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
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