László Krasznahorkai

Portrait László Krasznahorkai
© Hartwig Klappert

László Krasznahorkai was born in 1954 in Gyula, Hungary. He studied law in Szeged and Hungarian language and literature in Budapest. In 1985 his début novel »Sátántangó« (Eng. »Satantango«, 2012) appeared, which was later adapted by Krasznahorkai for Béla Tarr’s film of the same name (1994). The collaboration between the author and the director led to four other film adaptations of Krasznahorkai’s novels, as well as what Tarr declared to be his last film »A Torinói ló« (2011; Eng. »The Turin Horse«).

In his works, Krasznahorkai creates a world devoid of classical heroes, where the protagonists behave like puppets, whose strings intersect somewhere behind the scenes. They are profound loners and outliers who never stop running. Kafka was not only the inspiration for these characters, but also for the stylistic consistency and the nightmarish coherence of Krasznahorkai’s novels. »Háború és háború« (1999; Eng. »War and War«, 2006) presents a scenario which is as melancholy as it is critical: on the threshold of the new millennium, Korin, who hopes to be made a high-ranking archivist, travels from his provincial home town to New York, in order to die »in the center of life«. On the way, he passes through many important sites in occidental history, from Crete and Rome to the Hallen für Neue Kunst in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Everywhere he goes, he finds new verses for his requiem, the mere thought of his manuscript sewn into the seams of his coat giving him hope that his journey has a meaning. Krasznahorkai’s novel, »Eszakról hegy, Délről tó, Nyugatról utak, Keletről folyó« (2003; tr. To the north a mountain, to the south a sea, to the west there are roads, to the east a river) is set in Japan. In this book, past and the present, reality and transcendence are synthesized, guiding the reader together with the grandson of Prince Genji – a character from a historical novel – to »the most beautiful garden«, an intermediate realm of meditation and literature. The collection of short stories »Seiobos auf Erden« (2010; Eng. »Seiobo There Below«; 2013), explores Eastern and Western aesthetic concepts. »Megy a világ« (2013; tr. The world first), a collection of 21 short stories, examines the disorientation of modern man using vivid imagery and musical language. For the photo essay book »The Manhattan Project« (2017) Krasznahorkai and photographer Ornan Rotem retraced Herman Melville’s footsteps in New York, inspiring Krasznahorkai to write a new novel based on Melville’s last 20 years in New York City.

Krasznahorkai has won numerous awards, including the Tibor Déry Prize, SWR Bestenliste Prize, Kossuth Prize, Sándor Márai Prize, »Brücke Berlin« and Spycher Prize, and the Man Booker International Prize in 2015 as well as the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature. In 2021 he also received the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. The author lives in Trieste.