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The Last Wolf & Herman

by George Szirtes John Batki László Krasznahorkai

Two short masterworks by the most recent winner of the Man Booker International Prize: here, in miniature, is every reason why he won The 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.

Portraits of a Marriage

by Sandor Marai George Szirtes

A rediscovered masterwork from the famed Hungarian novelist Sándor Márai, Portraits of a Marriage is in fact a startling exploration of a triangle of entanglement.A wealthy couple in bourgeois society, Peter and Ilonka appear to enjoy a fine union. Their home is tastefully decorated; their clothes are well tailored; they move in important circles. And yet, to hypersensitive Ilonka, her choice in décor is never good enough, and her looks are never fair enough to fully win the love of her husband, who has carried with him a secret that has long tormented him: Peter is in love with Judit, a peasant and servant in his childhood home. For Judit, however, even Peter's affection cannot transcend that which she loves most--the prospect of her own freedom and a future without the constraints of the society that has ensnared all three in a vortex of love and loss.Set against the backdrop of Hungary between the wars, Portraits of a Marriage offers further "posthumous evidence of [Márai's] neglected brilliance" (Chicago Tribune) and his exquisite, acutely observed evocations of sacrifice and longing.From the Hardcover edition.

Satantango

by George Szirtes László Krasznahorkai

From the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize At long last, twenty-five years after the Hungarian genius László Krasznahorkai burst onto the scene with his first novel, Satantango dances into English in a beautiful translation by George Szirtes. Already famous as the inspiration for the filmmaker Béla Tarr's six-hour masterpiece, Satantango is proof, as the spellbinding, bleak, and hauntingly beautiful book has it, that "the devil has all the good times." The story of Satantango, spread over a couple of days of endless rain, focuses on the dozen remaining inhabitants of an unnamed isolated hamlet: failures stuck in the middle of nowhere. Schemes, crimes, infidelities, hopes of escape, and above all trust and its constant betrayal are Krasznahorkai's meat. "At the center of Satantango," George Szirtes has said, "is the eponymous drunken dance, referred to here sometimes as a tango and sometimes as a csardas. It takes place at the local inn where everyone is drunk. . . . Their world is rough and ready, lost somewhere between the comic and tragic, in one small insignificant corner of the cosmos. Theirs is the dance of death." "You know," Mrs. Schmidt, a pivotal character, tipsily confides, "dance is my one weakness."

War & War

by George Szirtes László Krasznahorkai

From the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize 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."

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