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The Last Wolf & Herman
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The Last Wolf & Herman

by László Krasznahorkai, John Batki (Translator), George Szirtes (Translator)

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Twoshort masterworks by the most recent winner of the Man Booker International Prize: here, in miniature, is every reason why he wonThe Last Wolf, translated by George Szirtes,features a classic, obsessed Krasznahorkai narrator, a man hired to write (by mistake, by a glitch of fate) the true tale of the last wolf of Extremadura, a barren stretch of Spain. This


Twoshort masterworks by the most recent winner of the Man Booker International Prize: here, in miniature, is every reason why he wonThe Last Wolf, translated by George Szirtes,features a classic, obsessed Krasznahorkai narrator, a man hired to write (by mistake, by a glitch of fate) the true tale of the last wolf of Extremadura, a barren stretch of Spain. This miserable experience (being mistaken for another, dragged about a cold foreign place, 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 wintry Berlin bar to a patently bored bartender.The Last Wolf is Krasznahorkai in a maddening nutshell—with the narrator trapped in his own experience (having internalized the extermination of the last creature of its kind and “locked Extremadura in the depths of his own cold, empty, hollow heart”)—enfolding the reader in the exact same sort of entrapment to and beyond the end, with its first full-stop period of the book.Herman, “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.” In Herman I: the Game Warden, 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...In Herman II: The Death of a Craft, the same situation is viewed by strange visitors to the region. Hyper-sexualized aristocratic officers on a very extended leave are enjoying a saturnalia with a bevy of beauties in the town nearest the forest. With a sense of effete irony, they interrupt their orgies to pitch in with the manhunt of poor Herman, and in the end, “only we are left to relish the magic bouquet of this escapade...” Translated by John Batki.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 07/11/2016
"The Last Wolf” and “Herman,” two thematically linked novellas from the Man Booker International Prize–winning Hungarian writer Krasznahorkai, may be far shorter than his past masterworks Sátántangó and The Melancholy of Resistance, but they provide a showcase for the density and lucidity that made those works great. “The Last Wolf” is the weightier of the two, concerning a washed-up professor who recounts, in one long sentence addressed to a barman, the story of how, in a case of mistaken identity, he was invited to the Spanish region of Extramadura and offered his choice of subjects to write about by the foundation paying for the trip. He chooses to report on the story of the area’s last wolf pack and unearths a saga of extinction, told by a succession of hunters and wardens, that is by turns comic, absurd, tragic, and harrowingly beautiful. “Herman” is a two-part story beginning with the game warden of the title who, despairing of the bureaucracy and disregard of the human world, abruptly switches sides and begins laying his traps for men instead. And in the bizarre second part, a group of hedonists come to town for a little saturnalia and to contemplate “the dreadful beauty” of existence, only to be swept up in the manhunt for Herman. On their own, both volumes are slender storytelling jewels, but together they are an existential inquiry into the human animal by a unique and ingenious writer. (Sept.)
Colm Tóibín
“Krasznahorkai is alone among European novelists now in his intensity and originality. One of the most mysterious artists now at work.”
James Wood - The New Yorker
“One of the most profoundly unsettling experiences I have had as a reader.”
Marina Warner - Announcing the 2015 Man Booker International Prize
“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.”
Camille Gajewski - Music & Literature
“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.”
Electric Literature
“Don’t underestimate the pair; they might look flimsy enough to finish during a long commute but they’ll haunt you — or perhaps hunt you — long after the final full-stop has been left behind.”
Claire Kohda Hazelton - The Guardian
“Krasznahorkai shows himself to be a writer of immense talent, capable of creating stories that are both unforgettably visceral and beautiful on the page.”
Kirkus Reviews
Two short but maddeningly complex fictions by the Hungarian master (Seiobo There Below, 2013, etc.) of the postmodern.Open Krasznahorkai's latest in English, and you're likely to feel a little lightheaded: giddy if you're a fan of Lem as filtered through Danielewski, merely headachy if not. The Last Wolf concerns a Hungarian writer who, sitting in a bar among multilingual topers and a bored barkeep, recounts the unlikely twists of fate that led to a gig recording the true events surrounding the killing of the last wolf in the Spanish province of Extremadura. Why him and not a local? Who pulled the trigger? Did the wolf really die? It's a shaggy dog of a yarn, told in an unrushing style without the benefit of a single period until the very end: "he even boasted of seeing the wolf—yes, I saw it, the wolf, he repeated—the only trouble being that they wanted to see the actual place because Felix was away, Felix? yes Felix, the gamekeeper next door, and he was about to embark on further details of the hunt when a rusty old car screamed to a halt in front of them, as he told the barman at the Sparschwein…." Fans of Oulipo-style experimentation will marvel at the pyrotechnics. Herman, which the publisher labels "a novella in two parts," concerns a game warden, "surrounded by stuffed birds, dilapidated furniture, and antlers mounted on the wall," who, alarmed at an apparent increase in predatory activity out in the dark woods beyond town, goes to war with nature. Though fueled, Krasznahorkai writes, by "elemental compassion," it would seem that his war spills over into civilization, for the second section—mercifully with periods—concerns the hunt the townspeople mount for the hunter himself. Suffice it to say that the story doesn't end happily—and that, for all the narrative tricks, Krasznahorkai makes plain who the real predators in the world are. Somewhere James Joyce is smiling. Krasznahorkai is a writer who, though difficult, demands greater recognition by readers outside Hungary.

Product Details

New Directions Publishing Corporation
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4.70(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.60(d)

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Meet the Author

Lászlo Krasznahorkai, described by James Wood in the New Yorker as an “obsessive visionary,” was born in Gyula, Hungary. This is his seventh book published by New Directions.

John Batki is a kilimologist, writer, translator, and visual artist. He was born in Hungary and has lived in the United States since age 14.

George Szirtes is a Hungarian-born British poet and translator who has translated works by Sándor Csoóri, Dezsö Kosztolányi, and László Krasznahorkai.

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