Author's page

Biography

1954 born in Gyula
1974-77 studies Law at József Attila University, Szeged
1976-83 studies Hungarology at Eötvös Loránd University Budapest
1983 freelance writer
1987-88 guest of the DAAD Artist's Program in Berlin

His prizes include:
Díjak:
1987 József Attila prize, Prize of the Mikes Kelemen Circle, The Netherlands, 1992 Déry Tibor prize, 1997 Márai prize, 2004 Kossuth prize

Satan Tango
1985

The first novel by László Krasznahorkai is a hypnotic vision of life as lived in a miserable, makeshift farm-like place somewhere in Hungary, though due to its human and sociographic insight, it could be anywhere in East-Central Europe. Irimias and his companion, Petrina, show up in a small destitute village, where the people look to him - a small-time swindler - for redemption, with each person chasing his own fantasy until the dramatic and not-too-optimistic climax. The book, known for its effective device of using continuous rain in the course of the few days of the novel and its extremely detailed descriptions, was later made into an extremely long film by the same name, directed by Béla Tarr, who has since directed another film based on a Krasznahorkai novel. "Satan Tango is a kind of perpetuum mobile, a mode of being expressed through a chain of delusion and humiliation, for which no one is responsible but which nevertheless exists, and which must bear the burden of various beliefs, hopes and of self-deception." (Péter Balassa)

Théseus Universal
1993

A novel that bears the subtitle Secret Academic Lectures. These orations are delivered by a nameless man to an unspecified audience. The lecturer's topic is sorrow. He talks about it in abstract academic terminology, but keeps digressing into his own fantasies and childhood memories. He delivers his second lecture while being kept prisoner by paramilitary police; two more lectures follow on the state and the people. The novel experiments with order and chaos, abstraction and naturalistic detail.

Hill to the North, Lake to the South, Roads to the West, River to the East
2003

Hill to the North, Lake to the South, Roads to the West, River to the East The novel is set in Japan and plays on Genji-monogatori, or The Tale of Genji, the Japanese classic from around 1025 by Lady Murasaki Shikibu. The title refers to the four ritual prescriptions employed by Zen Buddhists in constructing their monasteries. The monastery featured here was built one thousand years ago in Kyoto and has as its main protagonist the "grandson" of Prince Genji, who enters it in search of the most beautiful garden in the world. The garden he is seeking is indeed there, only he overlooks it, "misses it for ever", despite actually passing by it. He finds no one at all in the monastery; the city too is deserted, and all he can see are signs of destruction. The only living creatures that he comes across are a beaten dog and a rabid fox. Though the story is set in the present, we are told that our hero has been on the trail of the "mysterious hundredth garden" for centuries. "We partake of the meaning of existence itself, its mystery, by destining from the desire for meaning to just watch and listen, the book insinuates." (Ferenc Takács)

Devastation and Despair under the Heavens
2004

The precedent of Krasznahorkai's latest novel and travelogue is The Prisoner of Urga, a most subjective travelogue between Urga (Ulan Bator) and Beijing, ending with the narrator's quick return to Hungary. The two central episodes of the story (the performance of a Chinese opera and the narrator's long illness) happen in China, and these represent another level of the story, concentrating on love, God (or rather: gods) and death. In spite of a story of China that has seemingly ended, the narrator of the new novel, the author himself, has returned to the last ancient empire of the world to examine and discover why the ancient glory has come to an end. Man seems to have cut all ways connecting him with Heaven, and instead of metaphysical values, the Chinese have also turned towards material goods. Krasznahorkai visits the sacred places, talks to artists, calligraphists, poets, doctors, museum directors and theatre leaders, records their opinion on the current state of affairs and makes desperate efforts to find the reasons of this devastation and the meaning of life. The book, somewhat like The Prisoner of Urga, where a Buddhist monk stood up for traditional values, ends with the note of hope, in a secluded Chinese garden, where a poet helps the writer to discover that everything is important, yet nothing is.

Seiobo Toured Down Below
2008

Reading sentences written by László Krasznahorkai (b. 1954) is like making a journey. As exhilarating, and sometimes almost as exhausting. In his latest volume of prose pieces it is the former that is the dominant sensation, even in cases when the world of a given sentence encompasses a huge span. This is an author for whom story and sentence can be so closely linked, that a whole story unfolds from a single sentence, while in other cases one has the impression that the sentence, with its stratified beauty and idealism, is attempting to map out the whole universe. The 17 texts in this collection make a tour around how traditions come into being; indeed, the meaning of culture and tradition, the very possibility of their existence. The strange protagonists of these stories, who somehow find themselves moving from the outside, from dark streets and mundane reality, into the aura of this aesthetic world, to become trapped in a labyrinth, a bustling ancient city, a captivating museum room, or an amazing work of art that promises release. For all their individuality and uniqueness, the works of art become universal and also mirrors. A Japanese statue of Buddha, a consecrated Eastern Orthodox icon, a Renaissance painting with a convoluted history of composition, a sun-baked boulevard in Barcelona, a fortress built to an inscrutable Arabic geometric plan, a solitary Japanese Noh actor and the maker of Noh masks, who in one sentence creates from dead materials a face that becomes alive—just a few figures and beings from the world of these narratives. Krasznahorkai’s undertaking is the same in this new book, as in previous ones, is to create a perfect epic universe that a perfect sentence is capable of presenting.

The Last Wolf
2010

In the wake of his big, monumental books that have marked his crowning achievements to date, László Krasznahorkai has written a volume hardly seventy pages long. And yet this text is no less an existential and poetic undertaking, and what is stylistically most at stake—the sanctity of a single, endlessly articulated sentence that unfurls in an extraordinarily creative act of compulsion—evokes the author’s earlier works from the start. Appropriately enough, the story’s premise might be summed up in a single, Krasznahorkai-esque sentence: A middle-aged male barfly who, once held to be a promising philosopher, is brooding away in a tavern in Berlin and chatting all day long with a muttering Hungarian bartender-without-a-bar, one day out of the blue gets a letter from an obscure foundation in Spain in which he is asked, for a stiff price, with the promise of travel and accommodations to boot, to write a work on the community of Extremadura in western Spain. (The Last Wolf was first published in a dual-language, Spanish-Hungarian edition with the support of Spain’s Fundación Ortega Muñoz, and in this respect the broad brushstrokes of Krasznahorkai’s story seem referential.) The protagonist’s story unfolds through multiple layers of indirect speech marked by constant mediation and intermediation after he visits the scene. And, being a character worthy of Krasznahorkai, it should not come as a surprise that in the course of his research he is compelled to perceive the coexistence, the complementary and interdependent mutual strength, of the all and the none. After confronting the singularities of the place, he finds himself tracking the last wolf in the wild, a wolf that has in fact already been shot and killed. For our hero, this creature is more than a mere wolf, for he sees in its extinction a symbol both irretrievable and irrevocable. The barfly-cum-philosopher thus finds himself swept into the depths of the region’s oral history, into that natural history which essays to preserve the bona fide nature of a bygone age in the face of technology and civilization, and more broadly, its colonization by modernity. As is generally the case in Krasznahorkai’s works, here too the narrative’s language conspires with its philosophical hinterland to overtake the story’s development. Somewhat unexpectedly, though, the author’s self-irony exerts itself more forcefully here on what might otherwise be the overwhelmingly monolithic conceptual framework of the single sentence. That is to say, at certain points along the way he lightens things up by injecting parody and through rhetorical maneuvers that likewise serve to decelerate the gathering pace of his narrative’s overall intensity. And so the work’s revelatory nature diminishes substantially, giving way to a comic tone that makes The Last Wolf not only a compelling story also a refreshing one indeed.

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