“Pure showboating” – The World Goes On by Laszlo Krasznahorkai

‘…ditching our awareness of an extraordinarily complex universe, we could now spend our lives amidst the barrenly beating waves of an ever more clear-cut, simpleminded, brutal logic, thus giving rise to a reflexive human existence, this via a pathetic misunderstanding of the mechanism of causality, to a bewitchingly crude guiding principle based on the correlative system of fact-reaction-fact, or rather symptom-reaction-fact, which in its own way does not hinder, in fact it assures that the operation of the law is hindered by nothing, least of all by this creature destined for so much although not for everything, who persists under the illusion that he has at last gained intelligence in exchange for the vehicle of seeing the deepest interrelation of things, which he has discarded as faulty while most mysteriously it still keeps its occult functioning… ‘

twgolkAaaand breathe… Question to the floor – did you get it (i.e. what the author is saying here)? If so, how many times did you have to read the excerpt? And did you enjoy unpacking meaning, decoding the message?

For those answering ‘yes, yes & yes’, consider this – the above, extended out into a 2000-word story. With barely a pause or change of gear; and no full stop in sight. And that story being one of twenty-odd that (superficially) tell different tales, but exhibit the same ‘form’. Precisely…

But first, let me fill-in some gaps – here, as elsewhere in The World Goes On, a collection by the Booker prize-winning László Krasznahorkai, the author is telling us that, despite our advancements and concomitant pretentions of grandeur, we are more ignorant than our slop-bucket using forebears. It’s an arresting idea, and one that the author riffs on several times. Moreover, Krasznahorkai’s other threads, in and of themselves, buzz with energy. There is something classically European about this work, full of existential nausea – a disillusionment that, for Krasznahorkai, is perhaps compacted by age. (The author is sixty-three). To précis: man lives alone, and on this journey without return a stranger he is to all.

BUT… storytelling, and reading, should be pleasurable. Magical, even. That’s not to say that the reader shouldn’t have some work to do but that work cannot become…JUST.LIKE.WORK. Because no matter how worthy the author’s grist, or interesting their message, without pleasure and yes, a little magic, there is no story.

Krasznahorkai is “…one of the great inventors of new forms in contemporary literature,” the front cover boasts. Firstly, the ‘get right inside my head’ technique being referred to, is not new. And secondly, it’s been deployed more effectively (see That Was a Shiver by James Kelman or Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams).

Any Cop?: The World Goes On is pure showboating – a perfect example of a certain snobbery, still manifest within literary fiction. There is nothing clever, in an author being self-consciously clever. I hope no-one new-ish to reading picks this up – they’ll not even look at a book again.


Tamim Sadikali


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