Tag: László Krasznahorkai

The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai

Posted April 12, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 0 Comments

The World Goes On by László KrasznahorkaiTitle: The World Goes On (Goodreads)
Author: László Krasznahorkai
Translator: Ottilie Mulzet, George Szirtes, John Batki
Published: Tuskar Rock, 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2018

I normally struggle to review short story collections, do I go through every story and share my opinions? Reading The World Goes On, all I could think is ‘I have no clue how to analyse and review this’. Rather than a review, I am going to just share my thoughts on this book, and hopefully it will eventually resemble a review.

The World Goes On is actually my second László Krasznahorkai, having read The Last Wolf / Herman earlier this year. I was struck with the thought that this might be the first Krasznahorkai that people might read. László Krasznahorkai won the Man Booker International Prize in 2015, before it was repackaged and combined with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP). However the publicsity around that award is nothing like it is today. This could be a combination of the older prize awarding an author for their contribution to fiction rather than a specific book and the rise of social media. Which brings me back to my original point, The World Goes On has been longlisted for the prize but it is not a good place to start for this Hungarian author. This feels like fragments of stories and ideas rather than an actual piece of fiction.

I think the judges for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize has gone out of their way to pick a longlist that showcases interesting narrative structures. While I appreciate the surprising entries on the list, it does make it less accessible. Having said that, I would be so mad if the Man Booker International Prize followed the trend of the Man Booker Prize and Women’s Prize for Fiction and just picked the most popular books. I want to see a balance between discovery and introducing new people to books in translation. I would hate to think how many people will not read more László Krasznahorkai because of The World Goes On.

László Krasznahorkai is a very talented writer; he has a post-modernist style, and it feels like he gets so bored, he has to set limitations on his own writing. In The World Goes On, you will find plenty of examples of him writing a one sentence story. I have to admit after reading this book and The Last Wolf, I wonder what Krasznahorkai has against the full stop. Like I said before, this feels more like a collection of ideas rather than short stories.

While I enjoy László Krasznahorkai as a writer, even I think I was not ready for The World Goes On. I am not giving up on this author, this is a book for the fans. Read The Last Wolf / Herman first, discover some of his novels and if you like his style and his view on the world, then read The World Goes On. I do not think this should have been on the longlist, and I hope it does not stop many people from enjoying László Krasznahorkai in the future.


Distracted by Other Books

Posted April 3, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in March 2018

I live in a city that often does not get much rain. So when we get two weeks of constant rain it is a rare treat. There is nothing better than curling up in bed with a cup of tea and a good book, while thunder and lightning is raging outside. I was able to spend those two glorious weeks reading Frankenstein in Baghdad. Most people know about my obsession with Frankenstein, the book that literally changed my life. Normally I am apprehensive about any take on this classic novel but Ahmed Saadawi was able to deliver something sensational. His take on the classic was able to compare the tale with post-invasion Iraq in a unique way. Since it has been two hundred years since Mary Shelley’s novel, I cannot help but think about revisiting the book once again. Oxford World Classics did send me a beautiful hardback edition, so a reread is in my very near future.

Thinking about Frankenstein got me thinking about other books that have helped shape my life, which obviously leads me to my obsession with Russian literature. The Anna Karenina Fix seemed like the perfect bibliomemoir for me. As someone with a love for Russian lit, I found myself easily drawn to Viv Groskop’s memoir. One day I will write about all those books about books that I love and I have no doubt The Anna Karenina Fix will make that list. It made me want to reread so many of my favourites and then the ones I have missed, then go back to this book and read it again.

I am the type of reader that reads to learn about the world, to experience different cultures and explore new ideas. However there are times when I need to just switch off and read some palette cleansers. For me, this is crime fiction, but I am very particular about what I like. For the most, I will read an entire crime novel even if I was not enjoying it. Luckily there was something about Babylon Berlin that I loved. This is the first book in the Gereon Rath series and what drew me to this book was that it was set in 1929 Berlin. So in the background of this crime investigation we see Berlin as it changes, with the fears of communism and the newly emerging Nazi Party. I cannot help but compare it the Bernie Gunther series. While I have only read March Violets, since Philip Kerr passed way this month, I think I need to return to this detective and read The Pale Criminal. I did also read The Spellman Files at the suggestion of everyone who compared it to Veronica Mars.

The crime fiction I am attracted to the most is the old pulp era, the stuff from the 1920s to the 1940s. There is something about that writing, it is sharp and to the point, but still remains beautiful. Even forgotten classics like The Seven Madmen from Argentina seem to adopt that same style. The Seven Madmen is the kind of book that will remain with me for a long type and I am tempted to reread it, but I will get distracted by other books. After reading this book, I felt like staying with Argentinian literature and I was able to do that with the next book I read, Die, My Love.

The Man Booker International Prize longlist was announced and like many of my fellow book nerds, I was excited to see what would make the list. I had read Frankenstein in Baghdad but it was the only one on the longlist I have actually read. I would love to read the entire longlist but time and availability is always a factor. My library only had four of the thirteen from the longlist but I owned one already. So I thought I would make use of a Kindle Paperwhite to help. I have often struggled to get into ebook reading but the accessibility was my only hope to read the longlist. I will always prefer physical books, but maybe I will be convinced to read more ebooks. My constant distractions with other books and an ereader might be a deadly combination.

Obviously the first book I read was Die, My Love. The fact that it was Argentinian literature, made this an easy choice. This was such an affecting read, I will have to get a physical copy. After completing this novel, all I wanted to do was stay in Argentina forever. I think I could live a happy life only reading Argentinian lit, it has similarities to Russian literature but still feels very unique. I am also pleased to see a strong literary scene of Argentinian women; from Die, My Love, to books like Things We Lost in the Fire, Fever Dream and Savage Theories.

Unfortunately there were a few books that followed that I was not able to connect with, and left me unmotivated to read. Two were Man Booker International Prize longlist picks, The Dinner Guest and The Stolen Bicycle, but the third was this month’s bookclub pick. It was a modern take on Don Quixote set in India called Mr Iyer Goes to War and all I could think was about rereading Don Quixote. My problems with The Dinner Guest and The Stolen Bicycle were as followed; the first felt too similar to another book, while the later just went overboard with the one topic and that frustrated me.

The Man Booker International Prize longlist left me pondering translations. I love reading from around the world, to the point where I am considering turning it into a podcast. I discovered I do not know as much about translation theory as I would like. Maybe I need to explore some Walter Benjamin or as I discovered, Edith Grossman (who translated Don Quixote) wrote a book called Why Translation Matters. Do I need to know another language to explore translation theory in great detail? I know Umberto Eco also has a book on translations too, it is called Experiences in Translation. This might be another rabbit hole to go down in the new future.

I managed to have a very productive reading month, I finished it off with my second László Krasznahorkai book, which was his short story collection The World Goes On. This made ten books for March, and I am presently surprised, especially since I had three books that were a struggle. The only thing I currently have on the go is The 7th Function of Language, which is another book from the longlist. At this rate, I may be able to read the entire longlist before the prize is announced in May. However the availability of the last seven books is the major factor. I own two and waiting on one from the library, so it is becoming more of a possibility. I am having a hard time guessing what will make the shortlist, so I have delayed a few that I think might be on the list. That way I can still remain in the conversation.

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The Last Wolf / Herman by László Krasznahorkai

Posted March 20, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 2 Comments

The Last Wolf / Herman by László KrasznahorkaiTitle: The Last Wolf / Herman (Goodreads)
Author: László Krasznahorkai
Translator: George Szirtes, John Batki
Published: Tuskar Rock, 2009
Pages: 120
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

László Krasznahorkai is one of those authors that has been on my radar for a long time. Not because I always wondered how to pronounce his name (I know now) but because this Hungarian author’s books were always labeled as difficult or demanding. I like a challenge but I thought I might start with something small. I was told that The Last Wolf was a good introduction to László Krasznahorkai and it was not because of the blurb by Sjón on the cover.  The edition pairs two novellas together, The Last Wolf and Herman.

The Last Wolf is a 70 page long sentence, which means you really need to read it in one sitting. I myself turned back to page one and reread the whole thing the next day. Not because it was dense (it is) but because I was captivated by the writing. How often are you able to find a sentence that long that flows so smoothly?

The novella is about a failed philosophy professor who is asked to write about the last wolf in the Spanish region of Extremadura. Although it is another who is conveying the tale to a bartender in Berlin. This narrative is an interesting journey, full of philosophical musing and some self-loathing. It left me wondering if László Krasznahorkai just wrote a satirical jab at himself. It is hard to say more about these stories, you really need to experience them yourself.

While Herman does share similarities, they were originally published twenty-three years apart. Told in two parts, firstly you learn about a master trapper who is clearing a forest of ‘noxious beasts’ in ‘The Game Warden’. While the other story (‘Death of a Craft’) is from the perspective of visitors to the same region. Trust me, these two parts sound like they do not go together but they do.

I am finding it really hard to talk about book, not just because both stories are dense and require many rereads but because it is difficult to express what happens in the books. I am not interested in giving a plot summary, you just have to experience László Krasznahorkai and this does seem like a good place to start. László Krasznahorkai won the last Man Book International Prize in 2015 before it was reincarnated into its current from. Originally the prize was awarded to an author for his entire body of work and he was recognised for his achievement in fiction on the world stage.


Distracted by Other Books

Posted March 1, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 6 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in February 2018

My reading in February started off with the amazing The Unwomanly Face of War. It is a book I have not been able to get out of my mind. My wife often gets an intense hatred toward men and I think this is the first time I have come close to understanding how she fully feels. I understand how she would be angry, you just need to look at the news to see all the stupid or terrible actions been taken by men. However while reading The Unwomanly Face of War I got very angry toward men. Especially when one man told Svetlana Alexievich that war was ‘man business’ and she should write about men in war (because we do not have enough of those books). This was a fascinating collection of interviews of the woman and their involvement in war. It highlights the bravery of these women but what really shone through was just the way men reacted and their contradictory nature. The male ego is so fragile.

I have been a fan of Alexievich and but I will admit I am never impressed with these translators. I was reluctant to get The Unwomanly Face of War; luckily I did not let the translators stop me. Translating is such an art form and there are so many different thoughts on the topic; for me I prefer a translator to aim to retain the beauty of the text over complete accuracy. Other people have different opinions and I think it is important to find what works for you; especially if there are other options. One day I might have the opportunity to re-read The Unwomanly Face of War with a new translator, but until then, I take what I can get. With Svetlana Alexievich, I do not want to wait for a new translator. Speaking of which, I still need to get myself a copy of The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson. The Odyssey has been translated heaps of times, but I believe this is the first time it was translated by a woman. I am curious to see how this epic reads without the male gaze and I hear nothing but great things about this translation.

I finally read my first Émile Zola novel; A Love Story which is the eighth book in the Les Rougon-Macquart series. This might not have been the best place to start but what can I say, I love Oxford World Classics, and could not pass up the opportunity to work with them and read some Zola. This was a joy to read and there will be so much more Zola in my future; Thérèse Raquin sits on my shelves waiting. While I do love to receive books in the mail, I do not often review ARCs, simply because I have enough to read. My instinct is to reject any offers to review a book, unless it is a book I know I want to read. In the past I found it difficult to get the balance right, so now it is a rare occurrence. I hope to work with Oxford University Press more in the future but do not expect to see many reviews for upcoming releases. If you look at the books I talk about, it is rare to see a new release.

There are some exceptions, for example, if an author like Julian Barnes releases a new novel, or it is a book club book. This is why The Only Story and Mythos by Stephen Fry was on my reading list for this month. I love what I have read from Barnes and still more to go. As for Mythos, it felt more like Greek mythology for dummies. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just made me want to read those classics; especially Metamorphoses by Ovid (yes, I know he is a Roman and not Greek), or maybe I should read The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. I really need to read both books at some point but reading Mythos only served to remind me how much I need to read from the Greeks and Romans.

This month was the first book club meeting of 2018. It was me and fifteen woman. Sadly I am the only male that turns up to book club; there have been others in the past but they never last long. It did feel very crowded for a book club meeting and I feel like it was too many. Luckily, I suspect that a lot of the new people came as part of their New Year’s resolution, so it is unlikely they will return in March. I am at book club to step out of my comfort zone and I think the books picked do just that. I would not have picked up Mythos on my own; I have enough books on my shelves to read without picking up a retelling of Greek mythology.

There are so many books I need to read, I always feel like I am playing catch up. Luckily I do not need to go through my shelves and do a major cull…yet. While I was starting to get use to the idea of a major move, at this point, it does not look like it is going to happen. I have startied culling my shelves but nothing major yet. There must be twenty or thirty books leaving my shelves this month, but only a few were unread books.

One of the biggest advantages of quitting BookTube, is the fact that I do not have to try and pronounce a name like László Krasznahorkai. It still annoys me that I mispronounced Michel Houellebecq in a video. For an Australian that only speaks English, there are so many authors I read that I am yet to learn how to pronounce. I normally look up how to pronounce the name before filming a video, but still have gotten it wrong. I got to read two novellas by László Krasznahorkai which was in the one collection. Sjón claimed this is the perfect starting place for Krasznahorkai in the blurb on the front but that was only part of the reason I started with The Last Wolf & Herman. In fact I do not know why I picked up this book first, I did have Satantango on my wishlist first. It must have been as a result of some of the bloggers I admire, either Tony at Messenger’s Booker or Stu at Winstonsdad’s Blog.

It is hard to remember why I put a book on my wishlist, this is one of the main reasons I am writing these reading updates. The Fountain in the Forest by Tony White was added to my wishlist because of the high praises from Andy Miller on Backlisted (my favourite podcast). I still do not recall why I wanted to read A Girl in Exile, maybe because Ismail Kadare is Albanian. The novel reminded me of The Trial to begin with but it lost momentum quickly. The book left me with the feeling that male authors should not write about breasts. I will not go into my reasoning but let’s just say it feels too creepy.

On the other side, when Natsuo Kirino writes about rape in Out, it feels so brutal. At least when Kirio talks about breasts, it does not feel like she is breathing heavily in ecstasy. Out was such a compelling thriller, and she did not shy away from the brutal nature of the topic. I do enjoy a dark crime novel and the Japanese are able to deliver. I might need to seek out some recommendations but I think I will be reading more Natsuo Kirino in the future.

Seven books read in February, while three did come from the library. I also purchased three new books, Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, Stalin by Oleg V. Khlevniuk and The Seven Madmen by Roberto Arlt. I have already started Frankenstein in Baghdad but not sure what else will be read in March, except The Seven Madmen and maybe that biography on Stalin. I hope everyone else had a great reading month.

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