László Krasznahorkai’s Catastrophic Harmonies

Holly Case in the Boston Review:

László Krasznahorkai

Earlier this year I received a letter from a professor at a Hungarian university after the government had cut funding to most public universities and placed discretion over distribution of remaining funds into the hands of government-friendly bureaucrats. “Everyone is jockeying, searching for backdoors, and hoping to just make it through,” she wrote. “What we really need is united and decisive action, or to be more precise resistance. Yet this is precisely what’s lacking . . . because everyone is trying to position themselves so the government’s axe does not fall on them.”

It is to this Hungary that László Krasznahorkai’s dense, sprawling new novel, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, returns. After writing several novels set in other parts of the world—from China to the United States—the Hungarian writer has “come home” to his birthplace, a mid-sized town on the Great Hungarian Plain called Gyula, placing it at the heart of a polyphonic tragicomedy. Otherwise known for his stylistically acrobatic novels with a base note of imbalanced Manicheism (tipped in favor of evil)—several of which have been adapted and transformed to gorgeous effect by the Hungarian art film auteur Béla Tarr—Krasznahorkai has written a novel that possesses the rare quality of being both timeless and very much of its time.

More here.