Hung Up on the Hungarian: László Krasznahorkai


I just finished László Krasznahorkai’s War & War. And by “just”, I mean 30 to 40 minutes ago. It’s always best if I try to put my thoughts into writing before I go reading reviews, interviews, or critical essays. It forces me to formulate my own responses and to think through things independently. Prior to Satantango, which I read a few months ago, I’d never heard of Krasznahorkai. And now I find myself kind of fixated, drawn to his multi-page sentences that come across as simultaneously excessive and natural. There is a coherence to their flow because they mimic the way speech and thought continually flow in real life (an idea he expresses in this 2012 interview). But I find it very hard to write about his books–sure, I could give you a rough summary, but what happens on the surface seems the least important and what happens beyond that feels akin to me trying to tell you about experiencing a color. There’s a kind of plodding pile-up of language that pulls (this) reader in with a slow, steady unstoppable force. Like being caught in some sort of literary gravitational field. And there’s so much weight to his work–it’s tangible, like the way your body senses an oncoming stormfront. In Satantango, there’s a continual sense of foreboding. A kind of inescapable dread. In War & War, there’s a kind of manic energy as one confronts the emptiness of modern day life. Weighty stuff, but it’s sprinkled with charming characters, comical exchanges, and brutal interludes. Trying to make complete sense of his work is like trying to make complete sense of life.

My apologies for essentially having told you nothing. Some authors you have to experience on your own.


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