Paul Kerschen at The Quarterly Conversation:
In the nearly twenty years since László Krasznahorkai’s The Melancholy of Resistance first appeared in translation, his reputation in English has grown at the same gradual, inexorable pace that his books favor. Nearly all his novels of lonely visionaries and glimpsed apocalypses have made it by now into English, and later this year New Directions will substantially fill out the short fiction with a large collection titled The World Goes On. In the meantime, we have last year’s smaller volume; Herman/The Last Wolf picks out three pieces from Krasznahorkai’s short work, two early and one late, and joins them up in an inverted tête-bêche binding.
The Herman stories were written together with Krasznahorkai’s first novel Satantango and originally appeared in 1986. As with the novel, they are set in a remote corner of Hungary and show the author feeling his way toward his mature manner. Herman is an elderly gamekeeper, a last remaining adept in “the splendid mysteries of an ancient craft,” called out of retirement by shadowy authorities in order to exterminate predators from a patch of forest. In the first of two stories he performs his task all too well, trapping and disposing of dogs, cats, badgers, and foxes in an enormous carrion pit that comes to haunt his dreams as a “putrescent hairy mass of dead meat.” Before long we have a reversal of sympathies, and Herman begins to seek human quarry (avoiding obvious grotesquerie, he uses non-lethal snares). In his increasingly desperate and painful epiphanies—he feels he has “divided the world into noxious and beneficial, while in reality both categories originated in the same heinous ruthlessness”—the visionary quality of Krasznahorkai’s mature fictions is just detectable.