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In Review
by László Krasznahorkai

He gazed sadly at the threatening sky, at the burned-out remnants of a locust-plagued summer, and suddenly saw on the twig of an acacia, as in a vision, the progress of spring, summer, fall and winter, as if the whole of time were a frivolous interlude in the much greater space of eternity, a brilliant conjuring trick to produce something apparently orderly out of chaos, to establish a vantage point from which chance might begin to look like necessity…and he saw himself nailed to the cross of his own cradle and coffin, painfully trying to tear his body away, only, eventually, to deliver himself – utterly naked, without identifying mark, stripped down to essentials – into the care of the people whose duty it was to wash corpses, people obeying an order snapped out in the dry air against a background loud with torturers and flayers of skin, where he was obliged to regard the human condition without a trace of pity, without a single possibility of any way back into life, because by then he would know for certain that all his life he had been playing with cheaters who had marked the cards and who would, in the end, strip himeven of his last means of defense, of that hope of someday finding his way back home.

Mesmerizing with its descriptive prose, miserably mired in melancholy, and profoundly apocalyptic, the first novel of László Krasznahorkai - now available in English for the first time, thanks to a dedicated translation by George Szirtes - inspired Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr's seven-hour, black-and-white epic by the same title.

Structured like a tango, the chapters of the novel are numbered one to six, and then six to one. A complex story line that defies summarizing follows a group of people living in an unnamed and seriously decaying village in what strongly resembles late
Soviet-era Hungary as they alternately wait for and pursue some ominous, inexplicable reckoning.

Is  theirs a dance with the devil, Satantango, or a dance to keep the devil at bay?

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