“. . . the human subject was merely an acquiescent servant to external anxiety . . . ”
The sense of The Melancholy of Resistance, Hungarian novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s inexorable and massive story of the destruction of a suburban Hungarian town, is probably similar to that of being immobilized in the path of an oncoming steamroller. A sensual and surreal revelation of the apocalyptic forces existing within the human mind, the story swings around the riddle of “resistance” and the pliancy of human consciousness.
Resistance is, on one level, the conscious revolt against those qualities of life which it finds distasteful. In this way, resistance is represented by efforts in charity, ethics, art, intellectualism, renovation, idealism, etc.
But as events continue and become more dire, that layer of meaning is burnt away by external forces too monumental for the conscious mind or the body to command. These seemingly worthwhile exertions become empty, and in their place, “resistance” becomes the revolt of the unconscious mind’s against reality, the avoidance of the truth that it has no control, and that it cannot stop itself, much less an entire town, from burning. “Resistance” is not only reactive and evasive, it is futile.
It’s dramatic irony encased within a single brain. The conscious believes that it is seeking truth by resisting “evil” but is only fighting its own shadow, the inability of the subconscious to deny anything, the truth, its own death.
The story strips the characters of all of their illusions, even the one that there could be a life without illusion. One of my short plays touches on some of these themes so I decided to rewrite it, but with the above quote in mind. What a disturbing idea: that without ever realizing it, our minds give themselves over to outside forces. Not radical except in how far Krasznahorkai takes the concept.
A Sane Man Can Take You As Easily As a Crazy One
We are, successively, in the ribs of a halved whale; in a cluttered office; and on the roof of a house sinking under water.
The ribs of a halved whale. In the back of the ribs is a window. Outside of that window we see only sky. X, a doctor of philosophy (he wears a medical doctor’s white) looks out of the window. He is a calm man in increasingly anxious circumstances. Downstage is Y, a corpse. X turns and addresses the audience.
X: We are the victims of external anxieties. Anxieties we will never fathom. Is the air anxious? Is the sea? Is it simply me? It makes no sense for me to be anxious. Anxiety only makes you struggle and sink – I would only be anxious if there was something anxious outside of me actually channelling its anxiety into me. Something with much more at stake than a single life.