cover image The World Goes On

The World Goes On

László Krasznahorkai, trans. from the Hungarian by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet, and George Szirtes. New Directions, $27.95 (358p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2419-2

Krasznahorkai’s latest begins in a void, out of which speaks a voice who wants to escape the world, where everything “is intolerable, unbearable, cold, sad, bleak, and deathly.” From there, the speaker embarks on a series of monologues in which he circles the globe, tries to outrun it, wants to forget it, then delivers three lectures on melancholy, revolt, and possession. These exercises concluded, a set of enigmatic short stories unfold. In “Nine Dragon Crossing,” a man obsessed with waterfalls becomes lost in contemplation of the winding streets of Shanghai. In “One Time on the 381,” a Portuguese miner stumbles upon a buried palace. The iconoclastic filmmaker of “György Fehér’s Henrik Mólnar” recalls Krasznahorkai’s own collaborations with director Bela Tarr. The ecstatic “A Drop of Water” concerns an encounter with a Buddha on the banks of the Ganges. Other stories take readers to a baroque and sensual Venice or resume the theme of leaving the world through the story of Russian cosmonaut Gagarin. In the end, the storyteller bids farewell and departs into eternity, leaving readers to puzzle over the parables, dialogues, and tales. This book breaks all conventions and tests the very limits of language, resulting in a transcendent, astounding experience. (Nov.)