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Animalinside (Sylph Editions - Cahiers) [Illustrated] [Paperback]

László Krasznahorka , Max Neumann
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: £12.50
Price: £11.02 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Jan 2013 Sylph Editions - Cahiers (Book 14)
This cahier is the result of a collaboration undertaken specially for The Cahiers Series, between a writer and a painter. Hungarian novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai, author of The Melancholy of Resistance and War & War, responds with fourteen texts to fourteen depictions of a strange and ill-formed creature made by his friend the renowned German painter Max Neumann. The texts speak from within the head of Neumann s creature that seems to be menacing existence itself; serving, as they do so, to confirm Susan Sontag s estimate of Krasznahorkai as The Hungarian Master of Apocalypse . All fourteen of Neumann s paintings are reproduced alongside the texts (translated by Ottilie Mulzet). The cahier is introduced with a preface by Irish novelist Colm Toibin.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Sylph Editions; 2 edition (4 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956509215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956509215
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 14.6 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 585,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Excellent."--Scott Esposito "Washington Post "

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars tactile bliss 3 Sep 2011
Format:Paperback
Sure, you could probably read the text of this on a Kindle or Nook. But you'd be missing everything, and I don't just mean the Neumann images. This book actually smells good! It feels good. It's a tactile experience that engages your eyes and other senses, while your brain tries to solve the mystery of who is the Animalinside.

First off, this is a novella that started with a Neumann painting that inspired Krasznahorai's text about a creature that defies easy description. After that, Neumann provided more images with the same dog-like beast, to inspire further chapters from the Hungarian author. Prefaced by Colm Toibin, who states that the author "stands closer to Kafka than to Beckett, but he is close to neither in his interest and delight in verbal pyrotechnics, in allowing the sheer energy of his long exciting sentences full sway."

The monster of the story, if indeed that is what it is, is trapped in a place where he is excluded and in pain. "...I don't even exist, I only howl, and howling is not identical with existence, on the contrary howling is despair, the horror of that instance of awakening when the condemned--myself--comes to realize that he has been excluded from existence and there is no way back..."

The words of the beast, shown in the images as a sort of fierce two-legged dog, are almost always horrifying...caged, it waits for release to wreak havoc and battle for kingship over a wasteland of earth. At lighter moments, though, it speaks almost in a panic over the search for its food dish, but the threats he makes about its loss are nothing adorable.

Much of the imagery and words confuse me...
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hatred of the infinite 7 July 2011
By Paul Kerschen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
László Krasznahorkai is often compared to Thomas Bernhard and Samuel Beckett, likewise masters of the long, monologic sentence inside which the world seems to disappear. But Krasznahorkai's themes are not like those of Bernhard, who was a comedian of manners; nor is he like Beckett, who erased the world in order to dredge the self, and whose drive toward stasis and silence made him a kind of religious writer. Krasznahorkai is much more political, interested in the conflict between principles, and in the distortion that our ideals undergo when they rub up against reality. He is sometimes called an apocalyptic writer, but his apocalypse, being unrepresentable, never arrives. Instead his prose plays out the contradiction and doubling back that comes from trying to represent it anyway.

The creature that narrates "Animalinside" is a prophet haunted by incompletion: "for I have no other aspirations; just once, I said, just once to find where the end of a direction is, to go along a road." Max Neumann's illustrations of a leaping dog - likewise incomplete, missing its front legs - accompany a series of texts about cages, which the animal is outside and inside at once. Because it is entirely foreign, beyond any system of thought, it finds the very fabric of space to be a trap; it announces itself as a cosmic force, encompassing galaxies, but also as a hidden principle in the human mind; it is a servile pet begging for its dinner that also threatens to rip its master's face off - unless that threat is an uneasy joke. These winding contradictions play out what it means to be a spirit that, like Goethe's Mephistopheles, always denies; they also skirt unsealable cracks in society and in the self. Krasznahorkai's ability to suspend these elements over his long sentences, suggesting turn after turn while disclosing nothing in full, makes him one of the very finest writers we have.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsexy beast 13 July 2011
By David Auerbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Animalinside is a formal experiment for Hungarian author Krasznahorkai. Krasznahorkai wrote a text to accompany a drawing by Max Neumann, and Neumann drew over a dozen more in response, and Krasznahorkai wrote a short text for each one. There's an obvious unity to it all: the pictures all feature the (usually) black silhouette of some sort of feral animal poised to jump, and the texts are all about some sort of beast or beasts, usually written in the first person singular or plural.

The beast is angry, but helpless. The beast rants about how he is beyond any constraint that can be put on him by thought or concept. He is unique and beyond comparison: "It is impossible to confuse me with anyone else." He is within you, caged in one picture, but he is struggling to break free. And so another of Krasznahorkai's conceptual contradictions emerges: the beast that is at once free beyond everything and yet trapped.

Is the beast railing at the infinite itself, the inadequacy of the concept of the infinite, or the representation of the infinite (as in this picture)? I'm not sure. This tension is the same one that occurred in Krasznahorkai's earlier From the North by Hill, from the South by Lake, from the West by Roads, from the East by River, which contained a book by a mad Frenchman ranting against Cantor's mathematical conception of infinity. Perhaps the idea is that the conception traps us while simultaneously facing us with its inadequacy, and this is unbearable because, as with the ideas of mortality and immortality, neither side is a conceivable solution.

Because the text is more rarefied and abstract than Kraznahorkai's other work, it seems to resemble Beckett at times. But Beckett never portrayed such a vicious antagonism. His personae always collapse into themselves. Even their assertions of antagonism are hopeful but futile gestures against solipsistic nightmares. That is not the case in Krasznahorkai. I do not think it ever is. His characters and voices are always struggling within a larger cosmos of forces and others.

I'm a great fan of Krasznahorkai's work. He may not be a god to me, but he's one of the best writers around. Animalinside may be pretty elusive to someone starting cold with Krasznahorkai; The Melancholy of Resistance, which was the basis of Bela Tarr's amazing film The Werckmeister Harmonies, offers a more grounded point of entry. But the book is gorgeous and short, and it makes itself strongly felt even as it remains oblique.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars tactile bliss 3 Sep 2011
By Amy Henry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sure, you could probably read the text of this on a Kindle or Nook. But you'd be missing everything, and I don't just mean the Neumann images. This book actually smells good! It feels good. It's a tactile experience that engages your eyes and other senses, while your brain tries to solve the mystery of who is the Animalinside.

First off, this is a novella that started with a Neumann painting that inspired Krasznahorai's text about a creature that defies easy description. After that, Neumann provided more images with the same dog-like beast, to inspire further chapters from the Hungarian author. Prefaced by Colm Toibin, who states that the author "stands closer to Kafka than to Beckett, but he is close to neither in his interest and delight in verbal pyrotechnics, in allowing the sheer energy of his long exciting sentences full sway."

The monster of the story, if indeed that is what it is, is trapped in a place where he is excluded and in pain. "...I don't even exist, I only howl, and howling is not identical with existence, on the contrary howling is despair, the horror of that instance of awakening when the condemned--myself--comes to realize that he has been excluded from existence and there is no way back..."

The words of the beast, shown in the images as a sort of fierce two-legged dog, are almost always horrifying...caged, it waits for release to wreak havoc and battle for kingship over a wasteland of earth. At lighter moments, though, it speaks almost in a panic over the search for its food dish, but the threats he makes about its loss are nothing adorable.

Much of the imagery and words confuse me...I sense that a deeper measure of the meaning involves the ugly results of binding the voices of small, defenseless peoples until their defense is their only option. Their obsession.

And about that, "smells good" remark? New Directions designed this as part of their Cahiers series, #14, and it's designed in a seven step printing process that makes for thick, waxy pages, with layers of thick inks and contrasting textures. Maybe it's all the chemicals involved, but it smells and feels amazing. Heirloom-quality, if that's possible for a novella.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 31 Mar 2013
By Dr Doran - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant "picture book" that is like no other picture book. It is a collaboration between a German artist and a Hungarian writer that is so dark, intense, funny and full of despair and resistance. It is not for children!

I have read Laszlo Krasznahorkai's Melancholy of Resistance, and he is able to take the essence of that very long, complicated, intense and exhausting book into a smaller scale, yet equally intense and political.
14 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Feral, malevolent, vengeful, and vicious 18 Jun 2011
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This short book is a collaborative effort between Max Neumann, a German painter, and László Krasznahorkai, a Hungarian writer. It began when Krasznahorkai saw a Neumann painting and wrote a short text in response to it. Neumann then created thirteen additional images, and for each Krasznahorkai wrote another text. Both the images and the texts are thematically related, though there is no overarching plot or tale in a conventional sense.

All the paintings feature one or more hound-like beasts in stark silhouette, most seemingly lunging forward (but without forelegs to land on) or on their hindquarters seemingly howling. They collectively evoke a primal animalism. Krasznahorkai construes and concentrates that animalism into a feral, malevolent, vengeful, and vicious brew. It is a vision of the world akin to that of the Book of Revelations. The writing consists of short phrases strung together into long, internally repetitious, clangorous sentences. Here is an excerpt:

"* * * my little master, give me my little food-dish here, give me my dinner here, and I ask you kindly, don't do this again to me, and every evening when it's dinner time give me my little food-dish here, and put into it, I ask you kindly, my dinner, because when it is dinner-time I have to eat dinner, and it has to be like that every day and every week and every month and every year, until the point when I'm all grown up and then your little food-dish won't be needed any more, because then I will rip away your ears, because then I will tear off your nose, because then I will burn out your eyes, and I will bite your chin apart, I will slash your whole head to bits then and every year I will devour a virgin from Athens, and from that point on your dinner won't be needed any more."

Krasznahorkai is much admired by some aficionados of contemporary European literature. His first novel to be translated into English, "The Melancholy of Resistance," was praised by, among others, W.G. Sebald and Susan Sontag. Perhaps ANIMALINSIDE is an aberration, then, but to me it is little more than dreck. (Colm Tóibín, who wrote a laudatory introduction, obviously disagrees.) The second star is due to Neumann's paintings and the overall quality of production of this limited edition.

* * * * *

Addendum, dated 4 July 2011: My review is attracting "not helpful" votes. I would like to know why. Anonymously voting "not helpful" is both facile and, well, not helpful. A part of me can't help but view the negative votes as knee-jerk reactions from those for whom Krasznahorkai is some sort of literary god and, hence, any critical comment is blasphemy. Please prove otherwise. If you think my review is not helpful, by all means register your displeasure, but please also tell me why in a comment. Let's have some dialogue, and just maybe you will enlighten me.
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