The Melancholy of Resistance
Laszlo Krasznahorkai

New York: New Directions, 2000

pp. 309-314


. . . widow who remained faithful after the death of two husbands, a simple woman who loved beauty, a woman who sacrificed her life so that we may better enjoy ours. I see her now on that dreadful night, saying to herself: this is truly unbearable. I see her now, putting on her coat to struggle against overwhelming odds. My fellow citizens: she knew that she might fail; she knew that her frail limbs were inadequate to the inevitable conflict with those desperate and evil men; she knew it all, and yet she did not flinch from danger because she was a human being, a human being who never gave up. The power of the many triumphed and she perished, but I say to you, it is she who was the victor and it was her murderers who perished, because she, in her isolation, was capable of inflicting defeat on them, in that all the assailants became objects of ridicule. She humiliated them. How? By her resistance, by her unwillingness to surrender without a fight, she, who all by herself took up the battle, which is why I say victory is hers. Go then, Mrs. Josef Plauf, go to your well-deserved resting place, rest from your suffering: your spirit, your memory, your strength set us a truly heroic example and remain with us. You belong to us: it is only your body thatperishes. We return you to the earth that bore you, not weeping that your bones must turn to dust, not weeping because we have your real presence here with us, for ever, and the workers of decay have nothing but your dust to thrive on.

The unchained workers of decay were waiting in a dormant state for the necessary conditions to be established, as soon enough they would be, when they might recommence their interrupted struggle, that predetermined, merciless assault in the course of which they would dismantle whatever had been alive once and once only, reducing it into tiny insignificant pieces under the eternally silent cover of death. The unfavourable circumstances had lasted weeks, even months: that is to say the outside, or rather, outer temperature, had been far too low, and, as a result, the constitution that should have ended had been frozen rock hard, its stricken assailants reduced to impotence, the condemned structure itself so firmly suspended in it that nothing did in fact actually happen; a perfect, complete stasis possessed the field, turning the body into a stable waxwork, an existence without content, a unique gap in time, as everything

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ground to an utter halt. Then there followed a slow, a very slow awakening; the body escaped its icy captivity, and once again the assault proceeded to command with ever increasing ferocity. Now the attack was concentrated on the albuminous matter of the muscles, culminating in an irresistibly one-sided dissimulatory exchange of material; the adenozintriphosphatase enzymes continued their assault on the central fortress of the general energy level, the ATP, and this resulted in the energy of the torn cell tissue, whose position was quite indefensible, being linked to the breakdown of actomyosin related to the ATP, which inevitably led to the contraction of the muscles. At the same time the continuously dissolving and naturally shrinking adenozintriphosphate could not be replenished by either a source of oxidization or glycolysis, and owing to a complete lack of resynthesis, the whole apparatus began to ebb, so that finally, with the concurrent support of the accumulated lactic acid, the contraction of the muscles was succeeded by rigor mortis. This in turn became subject to the law of gravity, and the blood gathered at the deepest points of the weird system, which, having been the main target of the offensive-at least until the final annihilating defeat-now faced a two-pronged assault on its fibrin content. The fibrinogen that in the first stages of the assault, even before the ceasefire, had been circulating in fluid form through the cardiovascular system, now lost two pairs of peptides from its activated trombin, and the fibrin molecules that formed everywhere as a result combined to form a highly resistant suspension composed of chains. None of this lasted long though because following the outbreak of anoxia associated with death, the plasminogens that had been activated into plasmin broke down the fibrin chains into polypeptides, so that the struggle - now in support of the attack from the other direction of great masses of adrenalin with its fibrin - dissolving properties-having reversed the process that enabled the blood to flow, at the same time ensured the resounding success of the units delegated to oppose haemostasis. The battle against the suspension was more fraught with difficulties and they would certainly have taken much longer had not the quality of the liquid medium simplified the task somewhat, so that the next stage, the elimination of the red blood cells, was now imminent. With the concomi -

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tant curtailment of the tissue's ability to resist liquid, the intercellular material gathered in loosely co-ordinated bands around the major veins, as a result of which the membranes of the blood cells became permeable, and the haemoglobin could begin to drain off.  The red blood cells lost their colouring agents and these mingled with the irresistible fluid, colouring it, then seeped through the tissues, thus ensuring another significant victory for the ruthless forces of destruction. Behind the lines of this well-co-ordinated campaign, at the very moment of death, the internal enemies of the helpless, once miraculous, organism revolted and launched a simultaneous attack on both muscles and blood, overrunning any obstacle to their progress, such as carbohydrates, fats, and especially the once inimitably elegant mechanism of albumin, much in the manner of 'a palace revolution'. The battalion consisted of so-called fermented cell-tissue, and the manoeuvre was of the type known as autodigestiopostmortales, but it left no doubt that this apparently objective selection of targets merely obscured the sad state of affairs, for it might have been more correct to regard it as 'a below-stairs revolt'. Treacherous servants, these were, who even when the organism still buzzed with life had to be kept in check by the deployment of an entire inhibitor system, for their activities, which were supposed to be confined to the breaking down and preparation of material in the granaries of the empire, might well exceed the bounds of their appointed task and they might start to attack the very organism they were supposed to serve, so it required permanent and extreme vigilance on behalf of the inhibitors to keep them down. To give but an example, the proteolytic enzymes, the proteasics, had originally been given the task of catalysing the hydrolysis of the leukocytes, by breaking down the peptide bonds, and, it was only the forceful action of mucin that prevented them exterminating the albuminous matter along with the hydrochloric acid of the stomach. It was much the same with the carbohydrates and fats where the NADP and the coenzyme-A on the one hand and the lipase and dehydrogenized fatty acid on the other were obliged to remain in the custody of a troop of inhibitors, since without them nothing could have prevented the combined reductive enzymes escaping. By now there was nothing to slow them down, no resistance, so, with

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the onset of favourable temperatures the 'palace revolution' had already broken out, or rather continued, and the blood in the veins of the stomach's mucous membrane that had turned to haematinic acid had dissolved parts of the stomach wall, so the battalion, composed chiefly of hydrochloric acid and pepsin, could launch an attack against the allies of the abdominal cavity. As a result of the endeavours of the enslaved enzymatic unit the glycogen in the liver decomposed into its simple elements and this was followed by the autolysis of the pancreas, the term autolysis throwing a pitiless light on the truth it hides, which is that from the moment of birth every living organism carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. Though the greatest part of the work could proceed only slowly, no doubt because of the relatively low supply of oxygen, putrefaction galloped on apace, that is to say the nitrogenous compounds including the micro-organisms entrusted with the breaking down of albumin completed their task, which micro-organisms, soon reinforced by the front-line troops, then began their operation among the intestines that harboured them in enormous numbers, so that from there they might be able to extend their control over the whole realm. Apart from a few anaerobic microbes, the batteries consisted chiefly of aerobic putrefactors, but it would be almost impossible to list the various units that comprised them, since, beside the various bacteria, including proteus vulgaris, subtilis mesentericus, pyocyaneous, sarcina flava and streptococcus pyogenes, a vast amount of other micro-organisms took part in the decisive battle, the earliest clash of which took place in the blood vessels beneath the skin, then in the walls of the stomach and the groin and later between the ribs and in the canals above and below the collar-bone, where the hydrogen sulphide produced by the process of putrefaction combined with the haemoglobin in the blood to produce, on the one hand, verdoglobin and, combined with the iron contained in blood colouring, ferrous sulphate on the other, in order that these might then invade the muscles and internal organs. Once again, thanks to the forces of resistance, bodily fluids containing the blood colouring continued to penetrate the steadily decomposing tissue, and the slow exodus of basic building materials persisted until they reached the surface of the skin at which

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point they began streaming away into the deep. Running parallel to the unfolding heterolysis were the exploits of an anaerobic micro-organism called clostridium perfringens, a highly effective bacterium which rapidly bred in the intestine, launched its external operations in the stomach and the veins but quickly spread through the entire system, producing blisters in the chambers of the heart, under the integument of the lungs, and made a substantial contribution to incipient blisters forming on the putrefying skin which eventually peeled off. The once invulnerable realm of proteins, so complicated at first appearance yet so logical in its workings, had quite collapsed by now, the albumose peptones first, followed by the amido group, nitrogenous and non-nitrogenous aromatic matter, and finally the organic fatty acids: from them were created various acids including formic, vinegar, butter, valerian, palmitin and stearin and certain inorganic end-products, such as hydrogen, nitrogen and water. With the help of nitrites and nitrate-bacteria, the ammonia in the soil, oxidized to nitrous acid, which, in the form of salts, crept up the narrow roots of plants to return to the world from which they had come. Some of the decomposed carbohydrates melted into the air as carbon dioxide so that, theoretically at least, they might, for once in their lives, take part in the process of photosynthesis. So, through various delicate channels, a superior organism welcomed them, dividing them neatly between organic and inorganic forms of being, and when, after a long and stiff resistance, the remaining tissue, cartilage and finally the bone gave up the hopeless struggle, nothing remained and yet not one atom had been lost. Everything was there, it is simply that there was no clerk capable of making an inventory of all the constituents; but the realm that existed once - once and once only - had disappeared for ever, ground into infinitesimal pieces by the endless momentum of chaos within which crystals of order survived, the chaos that consisted of an indifferent and unstoppable traffic between things. It ground the empire into carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulphur, it took its delicate fibres and unstitched them till they were dispersed and had ceased to exist, because they had been consumed by the force of some incomprehensibly distant edict, which must also consume this book, here, now, at the full stop, after the last word.

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