The universality of Krasznahorkai’s vision rivals that of Gogol’s Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing.

W. G. Sebald
Image by Nina Subin

László Krasznahorkai

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 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature, the 2015 Man Booker International Prize, and 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.

cover image of the book The World Goes On

The World Goes On

In The World Goes On, a narrator first speaks directly, then narrates a number of unforgettable stories, and then bids farewell (“Here I would leave this earth and these stars, because I would take nothing with me”). As László Krasznahorkai himself explains: “Each text is about drawing our attention away from this world, speeding our body toward annihilation, and immersing ourselves in a current of thought or a narrative...” A Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls, at the edge of the abyss in his own mind, wanders the chaotic streets of Shanghai. A traveler, reeling from the sights and sounds of Varanasi, India, encounters a giant of a man on the banks of the Ganges ranting on and on about the nature of a single drop of water. A child laborer in a Portuguese marble quarry wanders off from work one day into a surreal realm utterly alien from his daily toils. “The excitement of his writing,” Adam Thirlwell proclaimed in The New York Review of Books, “is that he has come up with his own original forms—there is nothing else like it in contemporary literature.”

More Information
cover image of the book A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East

A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East

The grandson of Prince Genji lives outside of space and time and wanders the grounds of an old monastery in Kyoto. The monastery, too, is timeless: a place of prayer and deliverance, with barely a trace of any human presence. The wanderer is searching for a garden that has long captivated him: “he continually saw the garden in his mind’s eye without being able to touch its existence.” This exquisitely beautiful novel by National Book Award–winner László Krasznahorkai—perhaps his most serene and poetic work—describes a search for the unobtainable and the riches to be discovered along the way. Despite the difficulties in finding the garden, the reader is closely introduced to the construction processes of the monastery (described in poetic detail) as well as the geological and biological processes of the surrounding area (the underground layers revealed beneath a bed of moss, the travels of cypresstree seeds on the wind, feral foxes and stray dogs meandering outside the monastery’s walls), making this an unforgettable meditation on nature, life, history, and being.

More Information
cover image of the book Spadework for a Palace

Spadework for a Palace

Spadework for a Palace bears the subtitle “Entering the Madness of Others” and offers an epigraph: “Reality is no obstacle.” Indeed. This high-octane obsessive rant vaults over all obstacles, fueled by the idées fixes of a “gray little librarian” with fallen arches whose name—mr herman melvill—is merely one of the coincidences binding him to his lodestar Herman Melville (“I too resided on East 26th Street . . . I, too, had worked for a while at the Customs Office”), which itself is just one aspect of his also being “constantly conscious of his connectedness” to Lebbeus Woods, to the rock that is Manhattan, to the “drunkard Lowry” and his Lunar Caustic, to Bartók. And with this consciousness of connection he is not only gaining true knowledge of Melville, but also tracing the paths to “a Serene Paradise of Knowledge.” Driven to save that Palace (a higher library he also serves), he loses his job and his wife leaves him, but “people must be told the truth: there is no dualism in existence.” And his dream will be “realized, for I am not giving up: I am merely a day-laborer, a spade-worker on this dream, a herman melvill, a librarian from the lending desk, currently an inmate at Bellevue, but at the same time—may I say this?—actually a Keeper of the Palace.”

More Information
cover image of the book Chasing Homer

Chasing Homer

  • Art by Max Neumann
  • Music by Szilveszter Miklós

In this chase thriller, a hunted being escapes certain death at breakneck speed—careening through Europe, heading blindly South. Faster and faster, escaping the assassins, our protagonist flies forward, blending into crowds, adjusting to terrains, hopping on and off ferries, always desperately trying to stay a step ahead: I’m a prisoner of the instant, an I rush into this instant, an instant that has no continuation, just as it has no earlier version, and I have to tell myself—if I had the time to think about this between two instants—that I have no need for either past or future because neither one exists. But in fact, I have no time between two instants. Since there’s no such thing as two instants.

László Krasznahorkai—celebrated for the exhilarating energy of his prose—outdoes himself in Chasing Homer. A classic escape nightmare, the book is sped on not only by that signature velocity, but also—reaching out of the story proper—by the wild percussive music of Szilveszter Miklós, scored for each chapter, and accessed by the reader via QR codes. And this unique collaboration also boasts beautiful and intense full-color paintings by Max Neumann.

More Information
cover image of the book Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming

Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming

Set in contemporary times, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming tells the story of a Prince Myshkin–like figure, Baron Béla Wenckheim, who returns at the end of his life to his provincial Hungarian hometown. Having escaped from his many casino debts in Buenos Aires, where he was living in exile, he longs to be reunited with his high-school sweetheart Marika. Confusions abound, and what follows is an endless storm of gossip, con men, and local politicians, vividly evoking the small town’s alternately drab and absurd existence. All along, the Professor–a world-famous natural scientist who studies mosses and inhabits a bizarre Zen-like shack in a desolate area outside of town—offers long rants and disquisitions on his attempts to immunize himself from thought. Spectacular actions are staged as death and the abyss loom over the unsuspecting townfolk.

More Information
cover image of the book The World Goes On

The World Goes On

In The World Goes On, a narrator first speaks directly, then narrates a number of unforgettable stories, and then bids farewell (“here I would leave this earth and these stars, because I would take nothing with me”). As László Krasznahorkai himself explains: “Each text is about drawing our attention away from this world, speeding our body toward annihilation, and immersing ourselves in a current of thought or a narrative…” A Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls, at the edge of the abyss in his own mind, wanders the chaotic streets of Shanghai. A traveler, reeling from the sights and sounds of Varanasi, India, encounters a giant of a man on the banks of the Ganges ranting on the nature of a single drop of water. A child laborer in a Portuguese marble quarry wanders off from work one day into a surreal realm utterly alien from his daily toils. The World Goes On is another amazing masterpiece by the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. “The excitement of his writing,” Adam Thirlwell proclaimed in The New York Review of Books, “is that he has come up with his own original forms—there is nothing else like it in contemporary literature.”

More Information
cover image of the book The Last Wolf & Herman

The Last Wolf & Herman

The Last Wolf (translated by George Szirtes) is Krasznahorkai in a maddening nutshell–it features a classic obsessed narrator, a man hired (by mistake) to write the true tale of the last wolf of Spain. This miserable experience (being mistaken for another, dragged about a cold foreign place, and appalled by a species’ end) is narrated— all in a single sentence—as a sad looping tale, a howl more or less, in a dreary Berlin bar to a patently bored bartender.

Herman (translated by John Batki), “a peerless virtuoso of trapping who guards the splendid mysteries of an ancient craft gradually sinking into permanent oblivion,” is asked to clear a forest’s last “noxious beasts.” He begins with great zeal, although in time he “suspects that maybe he was ‘on the wrong scent.’” Herman switches sides, deciding to track entirely new game…

More Information
cover image of the book Seiobo There Below

Seiobo There Below

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.

More Information
cover image of the book Satantango

Satantango

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.”

More Information
cover image of the book Animalinside

Animalinside

by László Krasznahorkai

Translated by Ottilie Mulzet

With a contribution by Colm Tóibín

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.

More Information
cover image of the book War & War

War & War

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.”

More Information
cover image of the book The Melancholy of Resistance

The Melancholy of Resistance

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.”

More Information

The universality of Krasznahorkai’s vision rivals that of Gogol’s Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing.

W. G. Sebald

Intense and uncompromising.

W.G. Sebald

This is a book preoccupied with infinity. Krasznahorkai’s project, it seems, is to thwart the passing of time through a program of looking. It takes millions of years of chance occurrences to make a bird in its perfect machinery and just a moment for it to be destroyed, impossible to be remade.

Laura Preston, The Believer

What Krasznahorkai’s maladjusted, fearful, logorrheic heroes offer is an alternative to contemporary disillusionment: not solipsistic defensiveness or brutal realpolitik, but the hope that somewhere out there, across an unbreachable border, lies something better.

Alexander Wells, New Left Review

One of the most mysterious artists now at work.

Colm Tóibín

A vision of painstaking beauty.

NPR

The Hungarian master of the apocalypse.

Susan Sontag

László Krasznahorkai’s latest book cages a delirious mind in a tightly wrapped piece of fiction.

Rain Taxi

Krasznahorkai’s novels are less grim than grimoire – books of magic spells that, by their invocation, conjure worlds. It is a turn of great fortune to be alive and to have these novels that are filled to the brim with strange life.

Ian Maxton, Spectrum Culture

A masterpiece, the culminating work of the extraordinary Hungarian writer’s career. The alternation of narrative darkness and radiant syntactical beauty makes this my personal favorite of the year.

Michael Silverblatt, KCRW "Best of 2019"

Krasznahorkai is a pungent delineator of character, and the landscape of his imaginary city is peopled with figures as busy and distinctive as those of a painting by Bruegel. While the novel energetically pursues Krasznahorkai’s habitual themes – disorder, spiritual drought, the impossibility of meaning in the absence of God – it does so in a tone that glitters with comic detail.

Jane Shilling, The New Statesman

In Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming the Hungarian maestro Krasznahorkai is on peerless form. Twinkling with dark wit, his dizzyingly torrential sentences (heroically translated by Ottilie Mulzet) forever bait us with the promise of resolution. It’s hard to think of anything comparable to the crazed abundance on show here; as a portrait of epistemological derangement – AKA fake news – it hits the mark as well as any more hidebound attempt to catch the zeitgeist.

Anthony Cummins, The Observer

With an immense cast and wide-ranging erudition, this novel, the culmination of a Hungarian master’s career, offers a sweeping view of a contemporary moment that seems deprived of meaning.

The New Yorker

Krasznahorkai’s headlong comedy of obsession and wonderful squalor set in small-town Hungary. Majestic.

New York Times Book Review

Krasznahorkai’s world falls apart along manmade fault lines. Fascinating.

Paul J. Griffiths, Commonweal

A master of peripatetic, never-ending sentences that brim over with vacillations, qualifications, and false epiphanies.

Will Harrison, Hudson Review
A literary heir to Kafka, Beckett, and Dostoyevsky: Krasznahorkai’s genius has been his ability to absorb the tectonic changes of politics and culture into his singular style. His challenge of despair is applicable under any economic system. Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is his latest, longest, strangest, and possibly greatest novel—suffused with nihilism, but deeply funny. The absurd is more absurd, the incomprehensible more incomprehensible than ever. And yet, though it has its confrontations with despair and nihilism, Wenckheim is the funniest of Krasznahorkai’s novels.
The Baffler

The baron cuts a memorable figure, but the real star of Krasznahorkai’s story is a philosopher who has cut himself off from society and lives in hermitage in a forest park, concerned with problems of being and nonbeing. In the end, the worlds the philosopher, the baron, and other characters inhabit are slated to disappear in a wall of flame.

Kirkus Reviews

The Hungarian master of the apocalypse.

Susan Sontag

One of the most mysterious artists now at work.

Colm Tóibín

Laszlo Krasznahorkai does many fascinating things with his prose, and one of the most striking is [this]: Starting a sentence hopefully, trying to say this or that, and then traveling inexorably, one clause after another, to the bleak and totalizing conclusion that all is lost, nothing is real, the world is intolerable. Like Beckett, it’s much funnier than you’d think.

Nitsuh Abebe, NYT Magazine

Krasznahorkai constantly pushes beyond the expected, escalating everything to the brink of deliriousness.

Idra Novey, New York Times Book Review

One begins a Krasznahorkai story like a free diver, with a deep inhalation before plunging in. His fiction is not faithful to literary convention, but it is faithful to life. The extended periods of quiescence, the isolated glimpses of the sublime, the portentous images signifying nothing, the mundane images signifying everything, the arbitrary eruptions of horror and beauty—though Krasznahorkai’s technique relies upon artifice, the result is an honest, courageous, often harrowing portrait of a civilization in drift and decline.

Nathaniel Rich, The Atlantic

One of the most mysterious artists now at work.

Colm Tóibín

László Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present-day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful.

Marina Warner (announcing the Man Booker International Prize)

His work tends to get passed around like rare currency. One of the most profoundly unsettling experiences I have had as a reader.

James Wood, The New Yorker

I love Krasznahorkai’s books. His long, meandering sentences enchant me, and even if his universe appears gloomy, we always experience that transcendence which to Nietzsche represented metaphysical consolation.

Imre Kertész

Krasznahorkai questions language, history, and what we take to be facts, all the while rocketing from one corner of the world to the next, from Budapest to Varanasi to Okinawa…

Kirkus Review

László Krasznahorkai is the undisputed laureate of our deranged, vulnerable epoch.

Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

Krasznahorkai’s method is to examine reality “to the point of madness” and he does so with majestic style and black comedy.

Luke Brown, Financial Times

Krasznahorkai shows himself to be a writer of immense talent, capable of creating stories that are both unforgettably visceral and beautiful on the page.

Claire Kohda Hazelton, The Guardian

Slow, relentless forces permeate the world of László Krasznahorkai; his characters are subject to glacial currents that bear them ever onwards, an inch at a time, toward a horizon they constantly imagine but never actually behold. In so doing, they cry, or laugh, or cry laughing, or carry out the timeworn repetitions that make a life, until the moment they come up against the horizon.

Camille Dajewski, Music & Literature

A seminal author of our time.

The Quarterly Conversation

All hope abandon ye who enter here. Beach readers beware; gloom lies ahead.

The Millions

László Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present-day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful: magnificent works of deep imagination and complex passions, in which the human comedy verges painfully onto transcendence.

Marina Warner, Announcing The 2015 Man Booker International Prize

A Hungarian modernist whose sentences wind and unwind and rewind, creating what one translator described as ‘a slow lava-flow of narrative, a vast black river of type.’ A fitting winner of the 2015 Man Booker International prize.

The Economist

Krasznahorkai, the poet of the Apocalypse, stands alone relentlessly, if gleefully, offering wonders.

Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

László Krasznahorkai has given us a work that shimmers under a prism of hidden meanings. Our task is to connect the dots, experience the mystery of the text, and embrace moments of bewilderment with patience, openness, and preparation for a deeply meaningful encounter.

Stephanie Newman, The Millions

Krasznahorkai is an expert with the complexity of human obsessions. Each of his books feel like an event, a revelation, and Seiobo There Below is no different.

The Daily Beast

Seiobo There Below places upon us readers the same demands of all great art, and allows us to grasp a vision of painstaking beauty if we can slow ourselves down to savor it.

NPR Books

The excitement of Krasznahorkai’s writing is that he has come up with his own original forms — and one of the most haunting is his first, Satantango. There’s nothing else like it in contemporary literature.

Adam Thirwell, The New York Review of Books

Linguistically [Satantango] is a stunning novel, but it’s tough going, an hours-long slog through mud and meaninglessness and superstition that will leave an indelible mark on anyone who gets through it.

The Telegraph (UK)

Krasznahorkai produces novels that are riveting in their sinewy momentum and deeply engaging in the utter humanity of their vision.

The Dublin Review of Books

Krasznahorkai’s sentences are snaky, circuitous things, near-endless strings of clauses and commas that through reversals, hesitations, hard turns and meandering asides come to embody time itself, to stretch it and condense it, to reveal its cruel materiality, the way it at once traps us and offers, always deceptively, to release us from its grasp, somewhere out there after the last comma and the final period: after syntax, after words.

The Nation

Krasznahorkai is a poet of dilapidation, of everything that exists on the point of not-existence. He draws a community of oddballs and obsessives trying desperately to combat the passage of time as everything around them sinks into the mud of an endless rain.

The Independent

Satantango is a brilliant, original and unsettling work; it is also a product of it’s time and place.

The Quarterly Conversation

Krasznahorkai proves himself to be capable of bringing anything to life, and Satantango’s pages are teeming with it.

Critical Mob

His wry, snake-like sentences produce — or unspool — layer upon layer of psychological insight, metaphysical revelation, and macroscopic historical perspective.

L Magazine

He is obsessed as much with the extremes of language as he is with the extremes of thought, with the very limits of people and systems in a world gone mad — and it is hard not to be compelled by the haunting clarity of his vision.

Adam Levy, The Millions

He offers us stories that are relentlessly generative and defiantly irresolvable. They are haunting, pleasantly weird and, ultimately, bigger than the worlds they inhabit.

Jacob Silverman, The New York Times Book Review

Krasznahorkai’s mastery of structure, character, and language is matched by his ability to simultaneously weave all three together; readers can feel themselves physiologically immersed in the world of the book, itself a finely orchestrated system.

The New Inquiry

A writer without comparison, László Krasznahorkai plunges into the subconscious where this moral battle takes place, and projects it into a mythical, mysterious, and irresistible work of post-modern fiction, a novel certain to hold a high rank in the canon of Eastern European literature.

The Coffin Factory

Wild and wonderful.

Adam Thirlwell, The Guardian
Scroll to Top of Page