Over­whelmed by the beast within

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Hugo BowneAn­der­son

WHO is Las­zlo Krasz­na­horkai? For Su­san Son­tag, he is ‘‘ the con­tem­po­rary Hun­gar­ian mas­ter of apoc­a­lypse’’ and com­pa­ra­ble with Her­man Melville and Niko­lai Go­gol. W. G. Se­bald tells us Krasz­na­horkai’s vi­sion ‘‘ far sur­passes all the lesser con­cerns of con­tem­po­rary writ­ing’’. He is bruited all over cen­tral Europe to be a strong con­tender for the No­bel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture. So, se­ri­ously, who the hell is Krasz­na­horkai?

Born in Hun­gary in 1954 and liv­ing in Ber­lin, Krasz­na­horkai is a writer whose first novel, Satan­ta­ngo (1985), was highly lauded on re­lease, thrust­ing him im­me­di­ately into the spot­light. Since then, he has pub­lished many nov­els and col­lec­tions of short sto­ries, and has col­lab­o­rated with film­maker Bela Tarr in adapt­ing his books to the screen.

Krasz­na­horkai is renowned for his bleak, apoc­a­lyp­tic para­bles in which the na­ture of sto­ry­telling is bro­ken apart and turned in on it­self. In War & War (1999), we en­counter the men­tal degra­da­tion of Korin, our nar­ra­tor, par­tially through his in­abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate: he takes pages at a time to pro­duce a sin­gle sen­tence, even­tu­ally con­vinc­ing him­self and the reader that he is get­ting some­where, yet con­tin­u­ally end­ing up where he started. Here Krasz­na­horkai is rem­i­nis­cent of Sa­muel Beck­ett, whose dis­em­bod­ied nar­ra­to­rial voice in The Un­nam­able states: ‘‘ I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’’

The sur­real, in­ces­sant con­fu­sions and lin­guis­tic py­rotech­nics in Krasz­na­horkai’s work also point to­wards a form of re­al­ism, mim­ick­ing many pat­terns of hu­man thought, and, in this re­gard, he sug­gests David Foster Wal­lace. These qual­i­ties, along with his cen­tral Euro­pean grim­ness, would in­deed make him a strong con­tender for the

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