July 15, 2011
…all preliminary conjectures about who I am will prove in retrospect futile…” (v)
If you want to know what language and literature permit us to do, read the fourteen short untitled, numbered pieces that comprise László Krasznahorkai’s Animalinside. The best of these pieces transcends any literalness or point of reference and simply speak to us in an oracular, disembodied voice that suggests the impossible, the unimaginable, the indescribable.
You can’t touch me.
I have no eyes, no ears, no teeth, no tongue, no brain tissue, no hair, no lungs, no heart, no bowels, no cock, no voice, no smell; …useless for anyone to scream at me, I don’t understand, because I don’t hear anything, useless for anyone to strike at me, I don’t see, I am entirely blind, you don’t know what I’m like and what I am, because you can’t picture it, you can’t even conjure me up in your dreams, because I am absent from any picture that you have ever seen… (ii)
It’s the voice of a vengeful god warning us of what true, unlimited power really is.
And I am strong. Too strong. So strong that I break a knife in two with my teeth, that I break a sword in two with my teeth, that I break a house in two, that I break one hundred houses in two, one after the other, that I break one thousand houses in two, that I break every building in every city in two, so strong am I that I smash in the middle every bridge on earth…and if I want to break the entire Earth in two, I grab it by one end and – whoop! it’s snapped in two already… (iii)
Animalinside, a forty-page chapbook, is number 14 in The Cahiers Series being issued jointly by Sylph Editions, New Directions, and the Center for Writers & Translators at the American University of Paris. According to the Preface by Colm Tóibín, the work is a collaboration that began when Krasznahorkai wrote a piece based upon one of German artist Max Neumann‘s powerful, enigmatic images of two-legged dogs (they have no forelegs). Neumann created more images in the series for which Krasznahorkai then wrote responding texts. The chapbook is beautifully produced, especially Neumann’s images, which are stunningly printed and selectively varnished to achieve vivid blacks and real texture.
…because my coming is violent, just a few moments now, and I shall break out of you, and you will be that which I am, and that which I have always been. (vii)
For an excellent introduction to Krasznahorkai’s work, check out Jame Wood’s piece on the author in the July 4, 2011 issue of The New Yorker (there’s an online abstract here). I’m reading his darkly humorous book The Melancholy of Resistance right now.