And the winner of the Obooki Prize 2010 is…

László Krasznahorkai, for his novel, The Melancholy of Resistance,

which I finished with at least six hours left before the end of the year.

A weird, doom-laden work, full of sinuous sentences, The Melancholy of Resistance tells of a town in Hungary which is degenerating under its own feeble-minded inertia, and the events surrounding the visitation of a mysterious circus.

Krasznahorkai is a Hungarian author, born 1954, who’s had various novels translated into English (a new book, Animalinside, will be published by New Directions on 26th April, though according to its Amazon page it is only likely to be 48 pages long – and George Szirtes has claimed for a long time he’s translating Sátántango), as well as having quite a few of them made into very slow-moving yet often remarkably well-shot films by Béla Tarr.

The runner-up was Jerzy Pilch, for the novel, His Current Woman.

7 thoughts on “And the winner of the Obooki Prize 2010 is…

  1. Outstanding choice. A perfect fit for the exacting criteria of the prize. Whatever they are.

    I don’t know why I haven’t read War & War. I know why I haven’t seen Sátántango.

  2. The rules for the prize are given on this somewhat unfinished webpage, along with a list of previous winners.

    I bought a copy of Sátántango in December last year, but somehow I’ve never managed to find a spare seven and a half hours when I’ve felt in the right mood to watch it.

  3. I saw Werckmeister Harmonies (the Tarr movie made from The Melancholy of Resistance).

    He (Tarr) is, indeed, v e r y s…l……o……………w. – Antonioni/Tarkovsky/Angelopoulos slow. For me, maybe one day a month – maybe less often – , I’m receptive to the pace; in this event, these directors are great artists (for me). But the chances are, if I randomly walked into a cinema (or popped in a dvd), I’d be too bored to last more than, say, 20 minutes.

    I saw Werckmeister Harmonies knowing of Tarr’s reputation (he’d worked with Tarkovsky, I’d heard (?)), and went one evening when I was sure that I ‘felt like’ enjoying a, um, meditatively paced movie. It’s beautifully shot – as I think you mean — I was quite moved by many of the images. I didn’t understand much of the dialogue – it was subtitled in Greek, which I don’t know well and which subtitles disappear too quickly to think about if one isn’t literarily fluent. I just read the wiki entry for the movie (linked at your Tarr link) – I didn’t realize that the whale was “stuffed”, and don’t remember anything in the action (ha ha) that would bear this fact out. Also, I couldn’t make heads from tails out of the professor’s (?) explication of the historical Werckmeister’s harmonic theories. As I say, even though I was pretty foggy at the end of the show as to what much of the action actually was (what, exactly, was going on with the revolution, or whatever the concluding violence was about?), the images left me quite thoughtful and moved. I’ll have to see it subtitled in English sometime.

    Satantango? – unless you really savored the pace, that would be quite a viewing commitment.

  4. I’ve watched some of Werckmeister Harmonies (as well as some of The Man From London), but became restless with it and switched it off. I have watched all of Damnation though, which I really enjoyed.

    Ah, reading through Wikipedia now – it makes a lot of sense that Werckmeister saw musical harmony as being equivalent to the harmonic motion of the planets. – In the book it is thus: Janos starts out belief in the harmonic motion of the planets, he is optimistic, a dreamer, he thinks that human-beings are fundamentally good (I think the scene where he’s in a bar and he gets the customers to act out the roles of the planets is in the film); whereas György Eszter believes the Werckmeister harmonies are wrong, he is pessimistic, he sees the world as chaotic, that everyone apart from himself is an idiot and society is doomed to collapse; – but during the “revolution”, these two characters exchange views.

    I’m not sure the revolution is ever particularly explained. The book was published in 1989: – I was thinking it had a feel of an ordered communist country moving into the frightening chaotic territory of an incipient democracy – but it seems a little close; – there are strong undercurrents of fascism in the mix too; – so in the end, I felt perhaps it wasn’t so much any specific time being depicted, just a more vague allegory.

    I’m not sure the whale was stuffed; just mysteriously hanging there.

  5. Yes, that scene – which I’d forgotten ’til I just read your post – is in the movie; the patrons in this bare tavern are gotten from their seats and walk around in orchestrated circles. I didn’t realize that the Werckmeister theory was being enacted – complacently, I’d not thought to connect “harmony” and the heavenly spheres (in a Pythagorean/neo-Platonic way). Nor did I realize that the professor and the young man (Gyorgy?) swap opinions at the end. Ha ha; now I want actually to see the movie – or rather, not only to see it.

    In the movie, the whale doesn’t ‘hang’. The trailer is pulled into a village square and the rear door opened – it swings down to make a ramp from ground-level to the bed of the trailer. There’s a little table set up behind the trailer, where you pay to see the exhibit; after you pay, you walk up the ramp/door and there’s the whale’s carcass, taking up almost the whole interior of trailer. The hero walks around its head (it’s pointed out towards the rear of the trailer) and stares at one of its open eyes.

    Fun at the circus.

  6. At a guess, it’s all a lot better explained in the book. – It’s also worth noting that “The Werckmeister Harmonies” is only one section of the book – albeit the long middle section, book-ended by a prologue and epilogue.

    Possibly the whale doesn’t “hang” in either the book or the film. I think now I was imagining a painting by Salvador Dali instead.

  7. I was going to put up a longer post about this – I started it, but find I just can’t put in the effort. I watched the film, Werckmeister Harmonies, and to be honest wasn’t much impressed. There are really seriously important things missed out in the film – things which, to my mind, must just make it incomprehensible: – for instance, in the film Janos is innocent, he doesn’t take part in the riots; whereas in the book he gets caught up in it and murders people (very specific people). I’m left wondering, if you just saw the film, what explanation you’d have for him ending up in an asylum in the end – but the cause from the book is entirely missing. And the comment

    Nor did I realize that the professor and the young man (Gyorgy?) swap opinions at the end

    seems eminently reasonable since, in the film, they don’t.

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