The Bandula Family
In the same chapter Konrád devotes nearly fourteen pages to the story of the Bandula family. This longest section of the book so far (with comparatively long paragraphs that go on for a page or more) both conveys a much deeper understanding of these clients and also brings the reader’s attention to the importance of this case. These are individuals not just suicide cases. I could be more aware of where I direct the reader’s attention in my own writing.
When the case worker takes on responsibility for the orphaned child of Bandula, he begins to take on the characteristics of his clients, but Konrád shows this “metamorphosis” rather than telling the reader about it. He begins with one of the more benign conditions, a compulsion for order. In the chaos of the Bandula apartment, the case worker devotes enormous amounts of time to putting and keeping the place in order. Konrád writes, “there’s no limit to my passion for tidiness….One of my clients went mad because his wife was absent-minded and things were always changing place in the apartment….I can well understand his distaste for the wanderings of salt cellars…” This is the beginning of empathy. A few pages before the case worker was describing the child as “this abstract object.” First he empathizes with the other client, then with Bandula, and eventually with the child. What’s interesting is how Konrád blends the official mind of the case worker with this newly empathetic creature when he begins to see the similarities between his position and Bandulas: “All in all, I am forced to conclude that there is not much difference between this kind of training and what I did before….In my official capacity I made decisions in writing, now I administer beatings.”
Playing with Form
But this is no ordinary case worker. Sometimes Konrád deviates from the standard form of paragraphing. For example, when the case worker is first taken to the mental hospital, Konrád renders a two page chapter that is all one sentence but a series of paragraphs that look as though they mated with stanzas. It’s not whimsical, but it is lyrical and given that these types of sections occur at various times throughout the book, the reader can see that the case worker’s mind (because the book is told in first person) is not as rigid and conventional as he would like to believe. The pattern is to have long descriptive stanzas and then a series of one-line stanzas. This punctuates the one-line stanzas and makes them stand out as though they were very short sentences among very long ones, except that these are all a part of one whole. So lines like: “reserved for male mental cases/of this security ward” come off as emphatic. Near the beginning of the novel is a similar section where instead of stanza-like paragraphs, Konrád joins a series of paragraphs with ellipses to make one sentence and it is dreamlike although the facts themselves are mundane. I like to play with sentence length for emphasis but I had never even considered breaking outside of standard paragraph form.
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