05. 15. 2013. 11:41

"I do not want to be successful at such a price." Interview with Ferenc Barnás

In mental defeat, doctors do not really have the means to help you, but if you try to spring upwards rather than simply go down, then this dynamics may produce a very special personality.

In terms of mentality and world view, Another Death is the continuation of your three previous novels, but it seems to be even more grim and more merciless in the depiction of decay and neurosis than the previous ones. As if you were not even fighting, but merely stating the inevitability of deterioration and loneliness.

It is not so much the statement but rather the professional treatment of this phenomenon that is important for me. By professional I mean a literary, rather than a psychiatric or neurobiological, exploration, even though a scientific approach is also very much needed, and it does get more and more attention in more fortunate parts of the world nowadays. My aim is to allow the reader to experience these states as if from the inside, and my feeling is that keeping some distance helps to achieve that aim – it seems to me that by keeping some distance one can experience more privacy.

The personality of your characters tends to build up in quite unusual ways – you seem to think that a personality can only be reconstructed backwards, so to say, when it has already started to decay.

Over fifty, one tends to ask the question: what makes a personality, and how can it be captured in literature? Meanwhile, the more acute situations you find yourself in, the stranger the shifts are that occur in your personality. I am convinced that the cracks in what would have been otherwise a linear development do not necessarily result in collapse – they can also be opportunities for improvement, because they force you to ask questions nobody has the right answers to, not even literature. In mental defeat, doctors do not really have the means to help you (I have experienced this myself), but if you try to spring upwards rather than simply go down, especially if you do this in an environment where decay and illness are surrounded by a certain myth, then this dynamics may produce a very special personality. Of course, the writer has to invent this dynamics as he writes.

There is some kind of interesting ambiguity in your characters: they are unwilling to adjust to their situation, but they also seem to suffer from this.

Well, I would simply say that these characters have a backbone, and of course, they do display a certain obstinacy. These are people who manage to remain free even in their defeat. One of them goes crazy, the other commits suicide, but they have an ethos which makes them genuine and profound.

But the possibility of suicide always seems to loom around them.

This is an important element of the composition; it gives a certain rhythm to the events. There are several suicides in the novel, and there is a peculiar figure in the background for whom suicide makes it possible to ask very powerful questions, questions that are always on our mind, but cannot be asked in just any situation. How do we relate, for example, to the reality of mass murder, be it the Holocaust or the genocide in Bosnia? Moreover, there is a certain childlike exaltation in this character – he would like to live like the purest of pure ideas. The suicide of this character, by the way, is preceded by a nervous breakdown he had had after a certain episode in South Africa at the time of the apartheid era.

And that was a moment that made it impossible to continue building the same personality as before.

These are horrible intellectual choices when people say 'I do not want to be successful, I do not want to build a career and a family at such a price'. These people do not just pay a price for their choice; it costs them their life. But these decisions are the result of ethical, aesthetical and moral ruminations leading to the conclusion that they do not want to live like that, not even in the best-functioning society.

Dénes Krusovszky

Tags: Ferenc Barnás