Vol. XXXI, #2 Gilbert Sorrentino and Mulligan Stew
László Krasznahorkai and Max Neumann. Animalinside. Trans. Ottilie Mulzet. Sylph Editions, 2010 / New Directions, 2011. 48 pp. Paper: £10.00 / $20.00.
Animalinside begins with an arresting graphic image by Max Neumann, which earns an equally striking prose response from his friend, the novelist László Krasznahorkai. These competing claims provoke ripostes, each artist goading his counterpart, one inspired by the other to express, ever more suggestively, his conception of menace in an increasingly edgy artistic dialogue. Neumann's initial motif displays the silhouette of a black dog crammed into a room out of proportion to its dimensions. This powerful creature leans on thin air, forelegs extended, back legs planted on the floor of the room, in it but evidently not of it. Krasznahorkai responds in the voice of the dog, howling angrily, vitriol barely held in check, furious at the constraints of its setting, bent on destruction. In thirteen subsequent exchanges Neumann's dog, newly posed, still in silhouette but forelegs curiously absent, is joined by objects, figures, others like it, appearing before disparate backgrounds, giving the impression of rearing, leaping, looming in a grim ballet of impending attack. Neumann’s suggestion of the dog’s howling displeasure is matched by the vicious temper aroused in Krasznahorkai’s grisly rhapsodies of threat and punishment. As their theater of malice is exhibited in successive scenes, Krasznahorkai’s prose becomes palpable, building up a surface of relentlessly snarling challenge, like a palette of barbed words laid on in thick daubs, striking at the heart of Neumann’s spare, hieratic contours. The latter creates nightmare scenarios, the dog their only common element, appearing in combinations that evoke thoughts of blood about to be shed, impending retribution to be wrought for some unbidden offense. As this remarkable series metamorphoses by word and image into a study of defiance and resistance suggestive of an ultimate show of brutal force, the imaginative power of each artist compels attention to the rigors of their dueling visions. [Michael Pinker]