Written between Szentkuthy’s first major work, Prae (1934), and the first book of the St. Orpheus Breviary (1939), Chapter on Love (publ. 1936) exemplifies well Szentkuthy’s writing of excess. An attempt at polyphonic writing, it brings together the perspectives of an unlikely set of characters including the mayor of a doomed Italian city, given to debilitating “impressionism” — a penchant for observing and analyzing-apart the minutest shades of reality —, a nihilistic pope, a hanged brigand, a courtesan and her decadent pubertal adorer. They pass through the pages of this quixotic and compelling book under the threat of imminent catastrophe, filling chapter after chapter with passionate, self-generating theorizing and (mock-)philosophizing on the margins of Empedocles, life and death, female stockings, endingness and changeability, ethics and aesthetics, vitality and law, chaos and social order grounded on horror vacui, the forever elusive other person — all enmeshed with well-nigh self-parodic, idiosyncratic feats of ratiocination and theorizing driven ad absurdum, which proliferate on the analogy of (free) association.
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