I read this, and now we're gonna write about it
Trying to get more in the habit of writing about every book I finish. I think I also said this exact thing last time I wrote about a book and that was like a year ago haha.
And whoops hahaha now I'm working on this like two months after I first started it. I've read three other books since then but I remember this one well enough don't worry.
I watched The Werckmeister Harmonies awhile back and was really impressed... it was the sort of "good art film" that I had always assumed must exist, that motivated all the cliched jokes about art films that you see on the Simpsons, that made up the pantheon of films that, at some point, when my life had reached some threshold of togetherness, I could begin to explore. It was full of so much meaning and deliberateness... the extremely long shots and light-focused mise en scene... it creates this sense immediately that something very important and complex will be conveyed to you, something that requires such an... I feel like there's a better word but I can't think of it... intellectual structure?
And it's used to convey something that I'd call "thoroughness", a quality that I really enjoy in a variety of stuff that can't really be linked outside of this quality. Like off the top of my head some good examples are like... Bela Tarr films, Wes Anderson films, and Trailer Park Boys. Probably the most dedicated example is this subreddit but that foregrounds the thoroughness too much, and focuses on the uniqueness of the task. Somewhat surprisingly I just found this video which is a wonderful example and a wonderful video in general. So yeah, what I really like to see is mundane tasks being captured thoroughly but also sort of incidentally, like, the focus of the scene is conveying the action of what is being done, and the thoroughness is an aesthetic that just happens to be generated through how it is conveyed.
So here's a concrete example: there's a scene where Valuska cleans Mr. Eszter's house. The purpose of this scene is just to sort of show the lifestyle Mr. Eszter has and the relationship between them. But if that was truly the only purpose of that scene...
Ahh, okay. Let's be real. It's now November. I'm working on this extremely late. I had a lot of things I wanted to say about "thoroughness", and other aspects of the movie, and then I was going to tie that in with the "thoroughness" of thought in the book, and try to explain that, but it is proving to be extremely difficult. I have a lot of other books that I want to write about that I think will be much easier to write about than this lol. It's gotten to the point where I'm even hesitant to read new books, because I know it will just expand the backlog of books I want to write about, and that's all sorts of messed up.
To resolve this I'm just gonna give the most important part of my interpretation without explanation or evidence. I know that is lame but not as lame as the feeling of having this go unfinished.
Okay here's like a schema of what I think is the book's argument (SPOILERINOS INCOMING). And like, these are written to be characters, first and foremost, but they're characters that happen to have these perspectives, and thus in their conflict the book makes a generalized argument for all followers of these mentalities. Also I'm ignoring some (fairly major) elements to make things easier lel.
First, Valuska believes in a sort of perfect order to life, which he observes in the mechanisms of the cosmos. As he points out in his demonstration of the eclipse, even this perfect and impartial system can allow for chaotic ramifications on the Earth, but that these ramifications are temporary, minor, and only reinforce the perfection of the firmament.
Mr. Eszter also sort of believes in the existence of a perfect order, but feels that the world has been deprived of that, as evidenced by the imperfect Werckmeister Harmonies. His is the titular melancholy, as he finds struggling against such a fundamental flaw in the order of the universe to be pretty bleak and not worth it. With the scene where he becomes more proficient in boarding up his house, he is making some realization of personal power and happiness, but it does not suffice.
Mrs. Eszter also believes that there is an imperfection in the fundamental ordering of the universe, and, like her husband, believes much has to be thrown out for a more orderly system to be placed anew. To this end she orchestrates the arrival of the Prince and the Whale.
The Prince represents a rejection of all possible order in the universe, saying instead that "the only rule is power", and demonstrating it through chaotic violence that can prove only the unstoppable capability for violence.
Mrs. Eszter's plan is successful insofar as she is able to impose her new order, but it is still fragile and incorrect (the exile of Valuska). BUT, and this the clearest lesson of all: power is still trumped by decay. Everything is trumped by decay. The only rule is that things will decay. We see this when the riots taper off (especially in the movie, when they stop seeing the old man), and in the rotting whale corpse (if you think about the life of a whale in relation to what Mr. Eszter and Valuska aspire to, this is really tragic). But most clearly of all in the ending, which I think is in my top 5 book endings of all time now, and not something I will ever forget.
Okay that's basically it, basically how I feel. This sort of tiering of order > power > decay I think is very interesting. There's also a lot of stuff about the circumstances of the story and the specific motivations that is allegorical to how Hungary actually was in the 1980s, and I dunno much of anything about that.
Boom okay yes we finished a blog post about a book. Only I think seven more before I catch up with books I'm actually reading now ;___; Coming soon: stuff about Almost Transparent Blue. Coming before then: radical redefinition of the word "soon".