The playful, pessimistic fictions of the Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai emit a recognizably entropic music. His novels—equal parts artful attenuation and digressive deluge—suggest a Beckettian impulse overwhelmed by obsessive proclivities. The epic length of a Krasznahorkai sentence slowly erodes its own reality, clause by scouring clause, until at last it releases the terrible darkness harbored at its core. Many of his literary signatures—compulsive monologue, apocalyptic egress, terminal gloom—are recognizably Late Modern. But the extravagant disintegration and sly mischief of the work make him difficult to mistake for anyone else. There are the sudden, demonic accelerations; the extraordinary leaps in intensity; the gorgeous derangements of consciousness; the muddy villages of Mitteleuropa; the abyssal laughter; the pervasive sense of a choleric god waiting patiently just offstage. Here is fiction that collapses into minute strangeness and explodes into vast cosmology. It is, as Michael Hofmann says of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, “more world than product,” a planetary concretion of energy and motion, and subject to its own eventual heat death.
Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is the latest Krasznahorkai novel to reach English readers, in a typically extraordinary translation from Ottilie Mulzet. It represents, as the author recently told The Paris Review in his Art of Fiction interview, the conclusion of a tetralogy: