Sunday, May 17, 2015

WAR & WAR ~ Laszlo Krasznahorkai (A Reaction)

('Heaven is sad')

This book belongs in the category of "books that broke my heart & yet made me smile". Books that make me open my chest & say take this, do what you will & somehow manage this whilst placing a bloody great baboon-like grin on my face. This book has left me dumbstruck & bewildered, a burbling Chaplinesque clown trying to strum out a coherent sentence and yet it somehow, with its own juxtaposition of words, lines, sentences, its chapters - its magic has me enamoured, enthralled, it does this ............. I don't know. Although I've finished it, it has not finished with me, it still lays heavy, a weight that, like Sisyphus, I will bear - but unlike him this is of my own volition and not a burden to be endured repeatedly – that boulder is my buddy. At this moment in time I will finish this babble with "Do Not Disturb, Gone Pondering"........................…........................................................................


War & War, find us with the central character Gyrgy Korin about to be robbed and beaten by a group of teenagers. We then follow Korin as he sets out on his mission to go to New York to publish an antique manuscript on the internet before he commits suicide. This document narrates a tale of four brothers in arms, struggling to find their way home after a disastrous war. The manuscript is perceived by Korin as a work of such original genius and beauty that it overwhelms him & becomes his raison d'être, his sole reason for delaying his inevitable suicide. Once in New York he befriends a fellow Hungarian, who appears to be as damaged as himself, who will assist him with his quest to transmit the manuscript and its wisdom onto the web. War & War through its eight chapters manages to convey Korin's obsessive manic nature as we follow his encounters with the rest of humankind, although what we see of its nature is through the cracked and distorted lens of our protagonist. So far so normal???? Well as normal as a Krasznahorkai book can be, because whether any of this is real, whether the manuscript exists or is the ravings/visions of a madman or………. Then there is the prequel that takes what little you've managed to piece together and takes those fragments and, and ……..

This is a beautifully written book that had me following the protagonist (Korin) through all his trials, yes I knew he was mad, but mad in that holy saint-like manner, as though touched by some spirit, & not touched by the world. Still not certain if this is merely some labyrinthine phantasm played out in Korin's head, thought I was - until I read the prequel. I thought that this mad Hungarian archivist, would complete his self-ordained mission & all would be well, having read Krasznahorkai before I should have known better, but I got sucked into the little Hungarian's world, and had my heart broken & my mind fractured into warring factions each sure they have the solution, each willing to sacrifice all for their version of the truth. In my first year of blogging I wrote a post on Roberto Bolano's novel 2666, stating that it was "a nightmare that is beautiful & a dream that haunts the edges of your waking hours, you could take a set square & compass to it & describe it logically, but all you would end up with is a pile of words, scattered across your floor". Guess my only real response to this book is "Still Pondering" 

James Wood of The New Yorker  wrote in 2011: "this is one of the most profoundly unsettling experiences I have had as a reader. By the end of the novel, I felt that I had got as close as literature could possibly take me to the inhabiting of another person, and, in particular, the inhibition of a mind in the grip of 'war and war'—a mind not without visions of beauty but also one that is utterly lost in its own boiling, incommunicable fictions, its own grotesquely fertile pain ('Heaven is sad')."

George Szirtes (1948) is a poet and translator, he settled in England after his family fled the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. He currently teaches creative writing at the University of East Anglia, England and is trained as a painter. His translation of Satantango won the 2013 Best Translated Book Award, and his poetry has won many awards, including the Faber Memorial Prize (1980), the T.S. Eliot Prize (2005) and the Forward Poetry Prize (2009)

As translator

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Brian Joseph said...

This sounds like a fascinating character study.

The comments by James Woods are also very impressive.

The things that both break one's heart but that also make us happy are sometimes the most rewarding.

@parridhlantern said...

I've read 2 books by this writer now & have been blown away by both of them.Have a third sat on my shelves that I'm pacing myself with, he is a writer I describe as one of those who I'd read their shopping lists because of the writing