The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai (Translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes) - review by Adrian Nathan West

Adrian Nathan West

Spinning Out Yarns

The World Goes On


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Let’s begin by dispelling a misconception: in essence, László Krasznahorkai’s sentences aren’t long. While the use of the comma or coordinating conjunction in place of the full stop can imbue a writer’s words with a feeling of breathlessness or urgency (or, in the worst cases, of turgidity and torpor), in Krasznahorkai’s case it has little in common with the intricate, involuted sentences of Proust or the later Henry James. The point is not a minor one, in so far as the attention that critics and reviewers have given to this one aspect of his prose has created the impression of grotesque ornateness, whereas in truth, as Krasznahorkai’s frequent collaborator Béla Tarr has said, simplicity and purity are hallmarks of his work. There are exceptions, particularly in what some regard as his masterpiece, Seiobo There Below, but in general, a trademark Krasznahorkai phrase consists of a series of declaratives, sometimes in the first person, sometimes as reported speech, that hammer away at a single but somehow elusive point with a mounting accretion of adverbs and adjectives, as if amassed against the futility of expression. 

The question is not whether Krasznahorkai is good, but whether the nearly universal praise accorded him is justified – whether he is the heir of Beckett and Dostoevsky he is made out to be, or a cult author whose peculiar preoccupations are both an allure and a limitation. There is

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