The Devil’s Dance

László Krasznahorkai must be a commonly read and well respected author. I say this because I discovered three novels of his on my bookshelves and I hadn’t even read one of them. Curious? Well I had a copy of Satantango. It looked interesting. I added it to the XFX reading list. And now I have read it.

The other two books on my shelf  are The Melancholy of Resistence and War and War.

Satantango is a very bleak novel: it’s aways raining, the roads have turned to mud, the landscape is dark and dreary: nothing is new: everything is decaying. But what at first appears to be a brutally realistic novel gradually turns into an allegory with its own messiah.

Krasznahorai gives his novel a controlled structure: time is played with and the viewpoints shift from character to character.


What’s it all about? You can see that Satantango is several books: a political allegory, a psychological study, a religious treatise. Here is a novel that insists on being reread, possibly multiple times. If you only read it once, you begin to understand that the author is carefully manipulating his text but it is only with the second reading that you can analyze the process. You enjoy the novel the first time you read it and enjoy it even more with each subsequent reading.

Since I do not read Hungarian, I have to rely on translations and I certainly hope the translations are good since I have no way of checking. Wikipedia gives us a nice list of the books by Krasznahorkai:


1985: Satantango (Sátántangó), novel.
1986: Relations of Grace (Kegyelmi viszonyok), short stories.
1989: The Melancholy of Resistance (Az ellenállás melankóliája), novel.
1992: The Prisoner of Urga (Az urgai fogoly), novel.
1993: The Universal Theseus (A Théseus-általános), three fictional lectures.
1998: Isaiah Has Come (Megjött Ézsaiás), short story.
1999: War and War (Háború és háború), novel.
2001: Evening at Six: Some Free Exhibition-Opening Speeches (Este hat; néhány szabad megnyitás), essays.
2003: Krasznahorkai: Conversations (Krasznahorkai Beszélgetések), interviews.
2003: From the North a Mountain, from the South a Lake, from the West some Roads, from the East a River (Északról hegy, Délről tó, Nyugatról utak, Keletről folyó), novel.
2004: Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens (Rombolás és bánat az Ég alatt), novel.
2008: Seiobo There Below (Seiobo járt odalent), novel.
2009: The Last Wolf (Az utolsó farkas), short story. – English translation of this story by George Szirtes at Words without Borders
2010: Animalinside (Állatvanbent), together with Max Neumann, collage of prose and pictures.
2012: He Neither Answers Nor Questions: Twenty-five Conversations on the Same Subject (Nem kérdez, nem válaszol. Huszonöt beszélgetés ugyanarról.), interviews.
2013: The World Goes on (Megy a világ), short stories.

Screenplays for films

1988: Damnation (Kárhozat), directed by Béla Tarr.
1994: Sátántangó, directed by Béla Tarr.
1997–2001: Werckmeister Harmonies (Werckmeister harmóniák), directed by Béla Tarr.
2007: The Man from London (A Londoni férfi), directed by Béla Tarr.
2011: The Turin Horse (A torinói ló), directed by Béla Tarr.

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