Ján Johanides: The Consistency of Blood

  • Robert B. Pynsent
Part of the Studies in Russia and East Europe book series (SREE)


Johanides himself gives his readers instructions on how he should be read: ‘It is altogether a mistake in intelligent, enthusiastic readers and critics, if in their enthusiasm they forget that only what is down there in black and white, only what is actually written in a work, not what is interpreted into it, is valid. The critic must take the whole text from A to Z, consider each sentence, consider the construction of each sentence. Indeed, a little attention to morphology does no harm’.1 Those words testify to the author’s concern with the mechanisms of social communication, but they also suggest a man who accepts literary scholarship as an exact science. It is not true that he does, as is clear if the reader follows his texts2 carefully. Johanides is interested in word-magic, which means that he makes the reader work hard in interpreting, and no doubt often inveigles the reader into ‘interpreting in’ what is not there. The old colonel in Podstata kameňolomu becomes fascinated by the acoustic proximity of zásada (principle) and záhada (enigma) and converts that into semantic proximity.3 As the main female character says at the beginning of Nie, ‘If you look properly, everything is enigmatic’.4 The retired charwoman, Betka, considers the whole of art, not only literature, to contain black magic: ‘Artists’, he maintains, ‘destroy everything that’s nice in a person … They eat your soul’.5 Johanides also refers to the Oriental notion that the mouth is the womb of words.6


Adversary State Black Magic Semantic Proximity Metaphysical Thinking Hard Frost 
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  1. 11.
    Karol Rosenbaum et al., Encyklopédia slovenských spisovatel’ov, vol. 1, (Bratislava: 1984), p. 272.Google Scholar
  2. 103.
    Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough. A Study in Magic and Religion, vol. XXII, Bibliography and General Index, 3rd rev. and enlarged edn (London: 1935), pp. 189–90.Google Scholar

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© School of Slavonic and East European Studies 1990

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  • Robert B. Pynsent

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