A novel of awesome beauty and power by the Hungarian master, Laszla Krasznahorkai. Winner of a 2005 PEN Translation Fund Award.War and War, Laszla 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 ...
A novel of awesome beauty and power by the Hungarian master, Laszla Krasznahorkai. Winner of a 2005 PEN Translation Fund Award.War and War, Laszla 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."
In Krasznahorkai's second novel to be translated into English (after The Melancholy of Resistance), Gyorgy Korin, a humble and possibly insane archivist, stumbles on an unknown manuscript, the story of four men who traverse several centuries on a mysterious quest. As if struck by holy fire, Korin makes it his mission to immortalize the text, journeying to "the very center of the world"-New York, of course. Along the way, he bends the ear of every stranger who will listen, and through their reactions to Korin's mad ramblings, Krasznahorkai creates a rich layer of self-reflexive commentary that speaks as much to his own idiosyncratic prose as it does to the manuscript within the novel. With each chapter consisting of one long, complex sentence, the novel bears stylistic comparison to the work of fellow Eastern European heavyweights Thomas Bernhard and W.G. Sebald. Difficult and appropriately maddening, the novel addresses profound themes-such as humanity's contradictory impulses toward creation and destruction-with power and historical sweep. Best known in this country for his work with director Bela Tarr, Krasznahorkai deserves a higher profile. (Here's hoping Satantango will be translated next.) Recommended where international literary fiction is in demand.-Stephen Sposato, Chicago P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Burrow into the dense prose of this novel-the Hungarian author's second U.S. publication (following The Melancholy of Resistance, 2000)-about an archivist on a mission and you'll find a story-within-a-story. There are no periods or paragraph breaks (though there are plenty of commas) in the story of 44-year-old Gyorgy Korin, a Hungarian archivist, an ungainly loner with bat ears. Korin's life changes when he discovers a mysterious manuscript tucked inside a family file. He converts all his possessions into cash, which he sews inside his overcoat. His goal is to fly to New York (because, evidently, it's the center of the world), deliver the manuscript to eternity by posting it on the Internet and then kill himself. Korin is at least borderline crazy but with enough energy to reach New York, though not without problems; he is almost murdered by a gang of feral children outside Budapest, and detained at JFK since he has no luggage and speaks no English. He is rescued by a Hungarian interpreter who offers him lodging. Next, Krasznahorkai crosscuts between Korin's life in Manhattan and the manuscript he is laboriously entering into the computer. It tells the story of four angelic men shipwrecked in ancient Crete. They travel through time, and Europe, looking for peace but finding only war; there is no way out. Korin has internalized them; they have taken over his life (shades of Pirandello); their quest is his quest, though an abstract one compared with Korin's New York situation. His landlord and his woman have been murdered in the apartment; the guy had been dealing drugs, and Korin must leave town fast. Back in Switzerland, he buys a gun and shoots himself after delivering an obscurediatribe against a "horrible heterogeneous bunch of people."Issues of war, peace and reality are overshadowed by the thoroughly depressing figure of Korin, "the personification of defeat."