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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A detailed and captivating snapshot
THE MELANCHOLY OF RESISTANCE is a challenging book: the text is dense and the sentences long, and the story's events are depicted with immense detail and a steady realism.

On a dark, snowy night a huge truck carrying a stuffed whale chugs into a provincial Hungarian town. People gather round, seemingly enchanted by the strange attraction. However, rumours...
Published on 24 May 2008 by Black Glove

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8 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Turgid
I found this a turgid and intensely boring book; the writers style of long winding but rather dull sentences was complimented by an editorial layout of a lack of indents with text crammed onto to the page.

A Proustian masterpiece its not; he's not good enough a writer.
The surrealism is shallow and inconsequential and rather lost.
Dont waste your time...
Published on 21 July 2009 by G. Williams


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A detailed and captivating snapshot, 24 May 2008
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THE MELANCHOLY OF RESISTANCE is a challenging book: the text is dense and the sentences long, and the story's events are depicted with immense detail and a steady realism.

On a dark, snowy night a huge truck carrying a stuffed whale chugs into a provincial Hungarian town. People gather round, seemingly enchanted by the strange attraction. However, rumours quickly spread about its purpose for being there, and slowly but surely normal life spins into a night of chaos as local superstitions, paranoia, resentments and opportunism are inflamed.

The story focuses on three characters: Valuska (a naive free-spirit), Mr Eszter (a reclusive professor), and Mrs Eszter (a Machiavellian figure obsessed with gaining power), and it's these three portrayals that are the book's strongest aspect.

The story itself is a slow-burner: events aren't rushed or presented in an unnatural way, and a criticism might be that things are drawn out a little too much at times, especially in the middle. That said, there is no doubt that the intricacy of the telling, plus the overall dark realism, has a captivating quality and an epic feel.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious, humorous, one of the best books of the year., 1 Dec 1999
By A Customer
Laszlo Krasznahorkai, highly regarded in Germany (his novel The General Theseus won Best Book of the Year there), is almost unknown in English-speaking countries. Yet the Melancholy of Resistance should be the book to bring this Hungarian author critical attention and praise. Krasznahorkai, who has also worked with the director Bela Tarr on the films Satan Tango and Damnation, is a meditative writer with an almost Victorian taste for lengthy sentences. He is concerned with cities in decay and lives in decline, finding in these evanescent moments of beauty. The novel's story is simple: a truck carrying a stuffed whale arrives in a small town, pandemonium ensues. There's a distinct whiff of Kafka to the carcass itself, which remains almost unseen, cared for by an enigmatic staff among whom is a prince who just might be the devil. But it is his humane portraits of Valuska, treated by others as the village idiot and his mentor, Eszter, the reclusive musicologist, which provide the heart of this novel. Funny, mysterious, and unrelenting, The Melancholy of Resistance is one of the best books out this year.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange Days in Hungary, 6 Jan 2011
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This review is from: The Melancholy of Resistance (Paperback)
I have just spent a fascinating couple of weeks in the outer reaches of Hungary, with an excellent novel entitled "The Melancholy of Resistance" by acclaimed Hungarian author László Krasznahorkai.

Krasznahorkai, it must be said, stands out at as a hugely significant writer whose importance has been rightly recognised outside of his native country. According to Susan Sontag, he is "the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville". W. G. Sebald had this to say: "The universality of Krasznahorkai's vision rivals that of Gogol's Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing."

I have to agree. The key premise of this novel is deceptively simple - a strange circus rolls into a small, run-down town, purporting to show a huge whale carcass as its main exhibit, along with a shadowy figure known as `The Prince'. This character appears to have a sinister hold over previous towns' audiences - many of whom have travelled into this town with the circus... with a possibly nefarious intent.

Against this backdrop we are concerned with the machinations of three main characters:

Valuska - a hapless and pliable, but essentially good-natured individual who is widely seen as the town idiot and is caught up in events with tragic consequences.

Mrs Eszter - a totalitarian individual who is plotting a take-over of the town, with both the circus and Valuska as key tools for realising this.

Mr Eszter - the downtrodden academic husband of Mrs Eszter: a recluse who has removed himself from the disintegrating society around him, yet is spurred into action in defending Valuska; who he alone can see merit in.

My initial thoughts as the plot unfolded were that Krasznahorkai was depicting a scenario with strong echoes of the US author Ray Bradbury. Bradbury's works are shot through with similar gothic depictions of small town values being challenged by the appearance of sinister circuses (such as the short story collection "Dark Carnival", and his seminal novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes")

However, whilst Bradbury tends to use this device as a means to affirm positive small-town social values in the face of external threats (the threat is generally overcome by the wholesome US protagonists), no such succour is afforded here. Rather than a challenge to be overcome, the circus here is more of a mirror that is held up to an already rotten society (graphically depicted by the descriptions of refuge-strewn streets and roaming packs of feral cats who have gained ascendancy over their human neighbours). Furthermore, it is a catalyst to a scenario which - given the downbeat but also ironically humorous first half of the book - is genuinely shocking in its impact on both the town and the main protagonists.

I won't elaborate further on this; as to do so would be to spoil the excellent plot, but suffice to say that Krasznahorkai does not compromise in his apocalyptic vision of events in this work. Related to this point I cannot help feeling that perhaps I am missing out on key allegorical points that are being made in this novel. As a non-Hungarian I feel that maybe the relevance of the whale is passing me by in some way, as is the dilemma of Valuska's character in the face of the circus driven mob. And indeed the enigmatic role of "The Prince" (which is, for me, the least satisfactory character in the book as he is altogether too enigmatic - although that is possibly the point!).

I should also make a reference to Krasznahorkai's wonderful use of grammar and language in this book. Whilst this is not a stream-of-consciousness work, his elongated sentences are beautifully constructed and unique in their delivery. As the translator George Szirtes puts it: "a slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type." Yet this is an eminently readable work - and due respect should also be given to George Szirtes in his excellent translation here.

All in all, a dark, difficult, but extremely rewarding and enjoyable book. I didn't want the novel to end and I reread the final chapter several times for the sheer pleasure of it. You can't really give higher praise to a book than that.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious, humorous, one of the best books of the year., 1 Dec 1999
By A Customer
Laszlo Krasznahorkai, highly regarded in Germany (his novel The General Theseus won Best Book of the Year there), is almost unknown in English-speaking countries. Yet the Melancholy of Resistance should be the book to bring this Hungarian author critical attention and praise. Krasznahorkai, who has also worked with the director Bela Tarr on the films Satan Tango and Damnation, is a meditative writer with an almost Victorian taste for lengthy sentences. He is concerned with cities in decay and lives in decline, finding in these evanescent moments of beauty. The novel's story is simple: a truck carrying a stuffed whale arrives in a small town, pandemonium ensues. There's a distinct whiff of Kafka to the carcass itself, which remains almost unseen, cared for by an enigmatic staff among whom is a prince who just might be the devil. But it is his humane portraits of Valuska, treated by others as the village idiot, and his mentor, Eszter, the reclusive musicologist, which provide the heart of this novel. Funny, mysterious, and unrelenting, The Melancholy of Resistance is one of the best novels out this year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The circus is coming! The circus is coming!, 14 July 2012
By 
Dick Johnson (Texas USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Melancholy of Resistance (Paperback)
Imagine a noir story with words to amuse an etymologist; sentences the length of paragraphs; paragraphs the length of very long chapters and a three-hundred page book with just a few chapters. Further, set this dark novel in Eastern Europe with the threat of the symbolic huge neighbor to the east looking over everything. And, there is a whale.

Next, add in a dozen or so characters (with hundreds of extras) who are stereotypes of stereotypes. Put these into a setting that shows us a few city blocks of a seemingly larger city. Let them play roles that will properly show off their stereotypical natures and the rest is, as is said, "history". Not to mention the whale.

Symbolism is rampant. The sun is ashamed to show itself. Even nice people aren't necessarily nice, should one show up. We follow people doing what people do. They just normally don't do so with such large consequences. Including the whale.

This is a difficult book to read and I would not recommend it to anyone as an introduction to either post-modern or Eastern European literature., but there are many, many humorous moments in this heavy story to lighten things, if only for a moment. I don't remember whether the whale had any funny lines.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surreal journey into chaos, 22 May 2012
By 
L. Fazekas (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Melancholy of Resistance (Paperback)
This is a great novel. Mind you, it's not easy to read.
The narration takes you into a surreal world, a nightmare version of a dusty town. The narration is flowing in and out of the minds of the dreamlike characters. This novel is about impending changes and the fears relating to these changes. It's especially interesting to read this now with the world in such a state of economical and social upheaval.
The characters are all somewhat existing on their margins, their fears, feelings are so much like what we probably have in the bottom of our souls; it sometimes leaves me speechless.
You shouldn't be looking for symbols, etc in this text, it's more complex than that, the stuffed whale, the square with the touts are all images, feelings from somewhere very primordial, you have to feel this novel.
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8 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Turgid, 21 July 2009
This review is from: The Melancholy of Resistance (Paperback)
I found this a turgid and intensely boring book; the writers style of long winding but rather dull sentences was complimented by an editorial layout of a lack of indents with text crammed onto to the page.

A Proustian masterpiece its not; he's not good enough a writer.
The surrealism is shallow and inconsequential and rather lost.
Dont waste your time with this book. A good read its not.
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The Melancholy of Resistance
The Melancholy of Resistance by Laszlo Krasznahorkai (Paperback - 20 Sep 2013)
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