Should I recommend a book when I'm only 80 pages into it? After all, novels can take a dive, can't they? In my hands, a book has often started well but taken a turn for the worse, reminding me of Philip Larkin's classic put-down that most are a beginning, a muddle and an end. More correctly, they're unable to hold my interest, perhaps due less to a drop-off in quality but instead my absolute refusal to persist with anything that's mediocre.
Well, here's Satantango by László Krasznahorkai, which I've begun because I started watching Béla Tarr's film adaptation before remembering it was also a book and deciding to read that first. The fact that Tarr's film is seven hours long and the prospect was too daunting had nothing to do with it, I swear.
Krasznahorkai's novel has no paragraphs but fortunately I'd been in training for that by reading Samuel Beckett's Molloy a few days earlier, along with his play, Endgame. Two characters, Irimias and Petrina, appear in Chapter II of Satantango and after a while I began to think of Beckett although if pushed to say why, exactly, I could not say. Later, I read excerpt from reviews on the inside cover, seeing that one compared it to Waiting For Godot. This made me feel rather pleased with myself. I had spotted that without being prompted! But it wasn't Godot I had in mind, never having read or seen it; more a Beckett atmosphere or mood, an air of absurdity, a hellish existence and as the pair take to the road, an end-of-the-world environment.
In Endgame there is either the sea outside the room, or nothing, depending on how you interpret the text. 'No more nature in the vicinity', as Clov puts it. In Satantango, 'No stars, no moon...gloomy patches of woodland as far as the eye can see, mud covering everything...things that should move stand as if petrified'. As brilliantly as Beckett suggests nothingness, Krasznahorkai portrays nature as a deadening thing, or a suicidal force that has exhausted itself in an effort to wipe humans from the face of the earth - nature's endgame and the decay of people in this foreboding environment.
It's been a while since I was struck by a writer's style, their literary style, that is, as opposed to sartorial one. Like most of us they dress ordinarily, with the exception of Tom Wolfe, who is quite the dandy but also possesses a definite literary style too. That's a rare combination. I recall reading Kerouac and being struck by his style, naturally. Also Raymond Chandler. So here is Krasznahorkai with extremely long sentences, the reading of which is akin to entering a labyrinth or riding a roller-coaster, therefore presenting a challenge since we are used to common grammatical structures so I have tried reading them quickly and found that it worked for many, or reading slower than normal but less out of choice and more to ensure that I could grasp what was being described and even then needing two or three runs because I confess to being neither the brightest spark on the block nor the greatest at concentrating, especially if I'm overly-tired in bed at night, where I tend to read novels rather than non-fiction simply out of a habit which formed many years ago, way before the internet was making constant demands of me along with the art I make these days, perhaps because I followed my mother's example although did not go so far as to start reading the complete works of Catherine Cookson, who's sartorial style I know nothing about, nor do I have much interest in, but I have seen footage of Krasznahorkai reading and he seems to dress very ordinarily too but should he dress according to the style and content of Satantango I picture him either in tattered rags or a Dadaist costume because the book's world is wretched and absurd yet, like Beckett's, darkly comic in places and combining those elements with Krasznahorkai's descriptive powers and vision I cannot help but recommend it.