László Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary, in 1954. He worked for some years as an editor until 1984, when he became a freelance writer. He now lives in reclusiveness in the hills of Szentlászló. He has written five novels and won numerous prizes, including the 2013 Best Translated Book Award in Fiction for Satantango. In 1993, he won the Best Book of the Year Award in Germany for The Melancholy of Resistance. For more about Krasznahorkai, visit his extensive website.
Beauty, in László Krasznahorkai’s new novel, reflects, however fleeting, the sacred — even if we are mostly unable to bear it.
In Seiobo There Below we see the goddess Seiobo returning to mortal realms in search of perfection. An ancient Buddha being restored; Perugino managing his workshop; a Japanese Noh actor rehearsing; a fanatic of Baroque music lecturing to a handful of old villagers; tourists intruding into the rituals of Japan’s most sacred shrine; a heron hunting.… Seiobo overs over it all, watching closely.
Melancholic and brilliant, Seiobo There Below urges us to treasure the concentration that goes into the perception of great art, leading us to re-examine our connection to immanence.
Already famous as the inspiration for the filmmaker Béla Tarr’s six-hour masterpiece, Satantango is proof, as the spellbinding, bleak, and hauntingly beautiful book has it, that “the devil has all the good times.” The story of Satantango, spread over a couple of days of endless rain, focuses on the dozen remaining inhabitants of an unnamed isolated hamlet: failures stuck in the middle of nowhere. Schemes, crimes, infidelities, hopes of escape, and above all trust and its constant betrayal are Krasznahorkai’s meat. “At the center of Satantango,” George Szirtes has said, “is the eponymous drunken dance, referred to here sometimes as a tango and sometimes as a csardas. It takes place at the local inn where everyone is drunk. . . . Their world is rough and ready, lost somewhere between the comic and tragic, in one small insignificant corner of the cosmos. Theirs is the dance of death.” “You know,” Mrs. Schmidt, a pivotal character, tipsily confides, “dance is my one weakness.”
As if some chained being had to shake its essence free, as if art taken to its limit were a form of howling, Animalinside explodes from its first line: "He wants to break free, attempts to stretch open the walls, but he has been tautened by them, and there he remains in this tautening, in this constraint, and there is nothing to do but howl. . . ." To create this work that strains against all constraints, László Krasznahorkai began from one of Max Neumann’s paintings; Neumann, spurred into action, created 14 more images, which unleashed an additional 13 texts from the author. Animalinside is the rare case of two matchless artists meeting across disciplines, and New Directions is very proud to publish a limited edition of this powerful novella, exquisitely produced by Sylph Editions and the Cahiers Series of the American University of Paris with a deluxe seven-stage printing process for the amazing Neumann images.
Artwork by Max Neumann from Animalinside.
War & War, László Krasznahorkai’s second novel in English from New Directions, begins at a point of danger: on a dark train platform Korim is on the verge of being attacked by thuggish teenagers and robbed; and from here, we are carried along by the insistent voice of this nervous clerk. Desperate, at times almost mad, but also keenly empathic, Korim has discovered in a small Hungarian town’s archives an antique manuscript of startling beauty: it narrates the epic tale of brothers-in-arms struggling to return home from a disastrous war. Korim is determined to do away with himself, but before he can commit suicide, he feels he must escape to New York with the precious manuscript and commit it to eternity by typing it all on the world-wide web. Following Korim with obsessive realism through the streets of New York (from his landing in a Bowery flophouse to his moving far uptown with a mad interpreter), War and War relates his encounters with a fascinating range of humanity, a world torn between viciousness and mysterious beauty. Following the eight chapters of War and War is a short "prequel acting as a sequel," "Isaiah," which brings us to a dark bar, years before in Hungary, where Korim rants against the world and threatens suicide. Written like nothing else (turning single sentences into chapters), War and War affirms W. G. Sebald’s comment that Krasznahorkai’s prose "far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing."
The Melancholy of Resistance, László Krasznahorkai’s magisterial, surreal novel, depicts a chain of mysterious events in a small Hungarian town. A circus, promising to display the stuffed body of the largest whale in the world, arrives in the dead of winter, prompting bizarre rumors. Word spreads that the circus folk have a sinister purpose in mind, and the frightened citizens cling to any manifestation of order they can find — music, cosmology, fascism. The novel’s characters are unforgettable: the evil Mrs. Eszter, plotting her takeover of the town; her weakling husband; and Valuska, our hapless hero with his head in the clouds, who is the tender center of the book, the only pure and noble soul to be found. Compact, powerful and intense, The Melancholy of Resistance, as its enormously gifted translator George Szirtes puts it, "is a slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type." And yet, miraculously, the novel, in the words of The Guardian, "lifts the reader along in lunar leaps and bounds."