That’s what people mean by the Zeitgeist


March over to Europe to gawk at its churches and what are you told? The tour guides, the tour-guiding priests—they tell you that the greatest cathedrals are left ­unfinished, and do you know why? Don’t be afraid to raise a hand. The answer is ­because God’s work is unfinished—­because we are unfinished. Most novelists have to die to leave behind their unfinished cathedrals. Think of Kafka, consigning his conclusionless books to the fire. Think of Robert Musil, who struggled with an epilogue to The Man Without Qualities, producing instead a second volume that sprawls next to the first like a chapel abandoned when the money ran out. Not many writers manage to make, or even aspire to make, that conscious perfect ruin. But with Parallel ­Stories, which will be published here this November, Hungarian Péter Nádas has done just that: He’s completed, or rather incompleted, an ornate secular monstrosity that must rank as one of his country’s strangest, most ambitious literary achievements. Parallel Stories is a ­European relic not just aware of but positively evangelical about its own timelessness. “To have ­inspiration for the future, you go much f­arther back, all the way to Plato or Homer,” Nádas tells me from his house in rural Gombosszeg, Hungary. “They are present-day authors, no older than Don DeLillo. Why wouldn’t ­Musil, Mann, or Broch be my contemporaries?”

more from Joshua Cohen at New York Magazine here.