Satantango by László Krasznahorkai
Original title Sátántangó
Translator – George Szirtes
Source -review copy
Well after a year of going how am I going do this wonderful book Justice and a rereading (which is rare for me ) .I feel with it being named on this year’s IFFP longlist I am finally able to review it .So László Krasznahorkai is probably alongside his fellow Hungarian write Peter Nadas the best know Hungarian writer .He studied Hungarian literature and Language at university and after he qualified he became a writer straight away .Satantango although his third novel to appear in English was actually his debut novel .The book was also made into a seven hour film by the well-known director Béla Tarr nine years after the book came out in 1985 .I did watch the film many years ago but remember it being slow and very tough to follow at point but the main feel was the feeling of an Isolate community in flux due to one man .
” I beg your pardon ,I didn’t get that ” .”Your Name!” “Irimias” His answer rings out ,as if he were proud of it .The captain puts a cigarette in the side of his mouth ,lights it with a clumsy movement ,throws the burning match into the ashtray and puts it out with the matchbox .”I see ,so you only have one name ” Irimias nods cheerfully “doesn’t everyone ?”
The first encounter with Irimias
So Satantango the novel its self is the story of a remote farming community working on a dying collective farm .The people who are there are drinking to forget and have a wholly bleak outlook on life .The book builds a glimpse of there lives when this man /devil arrives Irimias and his friend servant sidekick Petrina .Now when these two enter its starts a chain of events that seize the village and the people there in change greatly ,outburst of violence and revenge ,some horrific scenes to what is a bleak dark grey world already .Is he the devil well the is some feeling he has gone from the village and returned ,but has he change has the village change ,has the way he has changed set the village of the way it has ?
Quietly ,continually ,the rain fell and the inconsolable wind that died then was forever resurrected ruffled the still surfaces of the puddles so lightly it failed to disturbed the delicate dead skin that had covered them during the night so instead of recovering the previous days tired glitter they increasingly and remorselessly absorb the light that swam slowly from the east .
This place is so bleakly describe by Krasznahorkai
Well that is enough about the story it hard to describe without spoiling the book and the fact there is so much I could quite easily write a thousand words on the story but then it be spoiler filled .So where does this book fit in the grand scene of things ? Well it is easy to draw comparisons to feel central European figures writing at the same time or just before Krasznahorkai people such as Thomas Bernhard ,Peter Nadas ,Milan Kundera and Witold Gombrowicz it falls nicely in with them style wise it is what is described as modernist the book drifts from the observed ,to the imagine and back .Of course the bleak setting and over all feel of despair brings to mind Beckett for some review’s I’ve read .But for me I felt this book had a lot of central European mythology ,that has been brought to the modern age and also what makes myths, a man who may or not lived some where returns things happen ,this is what start the witch hunts of the past the return stranger ,a figure , a being ,even animals that have thus cause chaos ,in isolate communities strangers or people who have appear to change because they have been to the outside world are always the catalyst for change so here Irimias is that catalyst or as they have been called the bogeyman ,the devil or the many names that have appear in European mythology over the centuries .The book is also a hard-hitting polemic in the reason why collective farming in communism had failed the despair and hopelessness of the characters is there to see on the page .Although written nearly thirty years ago this book is still as fresh today as the day it was written in fact I would say its influence can be seen in other books particularly the book I read last year Hansens Children another book more recent about the fall of a remote community during communism .A tango with the devil indeed rather like the book that build from chapters up then down you be left breathless wanting more and thinking for the rest of your life about what happen in this book .
Have you read this book ?