Chasing Homer

László Krasznahorkai, trans. from the Hungarian by John Batki. New Directions, $19.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2797-1
Krasznahorkai’s strange and engrossing novella (after Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming) reads like a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie dreamed up by Beckett and Kafka. Killers with an unknown motive are chasing the narrator, who has become by necessity an autodidact of survival skills, through Croatia along the Adriatic Coast. At a tourist bar in Korčula, holed up after being chilled to the bone by ominous gusts of the “Bora,” the hero overhears a tour guide convince a couple to let him lead them on a tour of Mljet, a small island believed by its inhabitants to be the true location of Odysseus’s sojourn with Calypso, and follows them there. The hero’s account up to this point has been filled with reports of fast, chaotic, unpredictable movement to ward off the hunters, and of pledges to resist the animalistic pleasures in life, which would lead to doom, but at Korčula, something changes. Batki’s translation exquisitely captures the grace underlying the hero’s frenetic mindset (“I must plunge, from the edge of a moment right into its midst, just like some Moby-Dick, or a dying butterfly between two flower petals”), as do the vignettes scored by free jazz drummer Szilveszter Miklós for each chapter (accessible via QR codes that appear in the text). Whether on a large canvas or small, Krasznahorkai never ceases to impress. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/04/2021
Release date: 11/02/2021
Genre: Fiction
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