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.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .