cover image Seiobo There Below

Seiobo There Below

Laszlo Krasznahorkai, trans. from the Hungarian by Ottillie Muzlet. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1967-9

A torrent of hypnotic, lyrical prose, Krasznahorkai's novel (Satantango, War & War) explores the process of seeing and representation, tackling notions of the sublime and the holy as they exist in art. The chapters are disguised as vignettes, each with its own art form situated in particular time and place. The reoccurring theme of the creation and experience of art provides just enough cohesion to form a philosophical narrative arc. At one point, a visitor of a museum in Venice discovers a painting of Christ that seems to come to life and look back at him with "a sorrow impossible to grasp in its entirety, and entirely incomprehensible to him." Elsewhere, a Noh actor prepares to play Taoist goddess of immortality, Seiobo, by acknowledging that "there is no transcendental realm somewhere else apart from where you are now." Tinged both with sadness and an anxiety about the capability of language, this brilliantly ambitious novel, like the tragic poetry of one of its characters, becomes a "ravishing cadenza" that "cannot be interpreted as anything else but the ceremonial swan-song of a soul sunk into silence." (July)