Yet another beautiful Cahier in the series by Sylph Editions.
Max Neumann is well known for his often eerie portraits that echo psychological states; László Krasznahorkai is well known for his eerie, maddening, and Kafkaesque prose that delves into individuals’ relations to power structures and each other. Responding first to an image of Neumann’s depicting a terrifying yet incomprehensible animal, Krasznahorkai set the chain of collaboration that would become Animalinside into motion; Neumann’s resulting images—from the first textual response—are increasingly more horrifying, and Krasznahorkai’s prose follows this animal’s story in his typical long sentences with repetitive rhythms and compact rhetorical ways of rendering diction, e.g., “I extendextendextend around the Earth at the Equator” and “”so so sooo big that I extend across two galaxies, if I want and soooo so big that extend across one hundred galaxies.”Animalinside is about annihilation and apocalypse, but it is more harrowing than that: in identifying our fears and anxieties about power, Krasznahorkai shows that those in positions of power harbor the same kinds of misgivings that we do. In a sense, power entraps us in a very Foucauldian way, and to speak about power—to paraphrase Foucault—is only something that can be done from inside existing power structures. Krasznahorkai’s animal is inside us (“I, that thing that looks so ghastly, is within you, because I am within you”); at the same time, the animal appears to exhibit traits of alienation and isolation that characterize Krasznahorkai’s characters in other work. The impact of this here is to suggest that while we criticize power structures which cage us (“this space-cage... a cage made to my measurements”), preventing us from realizing our individuality, we are, oddly enough, complicit in our victimization within this totalizing hierarchy.
Krasznahorkai’s instruments of power are panoptic:and that’s how life ends for you, because it is impossible to hide away from us, there is no depth within the earth that could be a refuge for you, we are here, above, here, look we’re watching from up here what you’re doing down there, but we don’t have to watch everything, because we know everything about you... I am inscrutable and indivisible and impenetrable...
And the end, as Krasznahorkai sees it here, is hardly something that can be prepared for or reckoned with because all of our cultural myths—and, too, the many ways in which we externalize power/knowledge systems, again to bring Foucault to mind—fail to consider that the true apocalypse does not come from outside, but from within:every aspiration to the infinite is a trap... and don’t count on me emerging from below the earth, and it is not from the mountains or from the heavens that I shall arrive, every picture drawn in anxiety, ever word written down in horror, every voice sounded in anguish with which you try to prophesize me is senseless, for there is no need of prophecy, there is no need for you to evoke me before I arrive, it will be enough to see me then...A true revolt, then, is impossible, and Krasznahorkai’s pessimism is obviously on display here, but there is also an overriding sense of sympathy for this animal despite his malevolence and his destructive intent: “if I jump up to sink my teeth into your throat, I hump into the trap definitively and inevitably, there is no point in speaking of escape. Into your throat.”
Called “the Hungarian master of the apocalypse” by Susan Sontag, Animalinside shows Krasznahorkai grappling with similar questions that his longer fictions consider; alongside Neumann’s images—often reminiscent of Munch’s Scream (“but what I hate most is how I’m howling here into the infinite”)—the paralyzing fear as we observe our own systemic collapse is made all the more uncanny, absurd, and downright chilling.