|Taken as Strictly True: Neuroscience and Sinology in Destruction and Sorrow beneath the Heavens|
by Lucas Klein
László Krasznahorkai (author), Ottilie Mulzet (translator), Destruction and Sorrow beneath the Heavens: Reportage, Seagull Books, 2016. 320 pgs.
In my favourite poem by Wang Wei (699–759), the poet tries to get to a mountaintop temple—allegorising the individual’s quest for Buddhist enlightenment—but gets lost in the fog. He sits and meditates by a pond, instead, and achieves enlightenment by not making it to his destination.
The first time I heard of László Krasznahorkai was in 2002, after Imre Kertész had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. A neuroscientist friend of mine told me her Hungarian supervisor said the new laureate wasn’t close to being the best Hungarian novelist—that I should read Krasznahorkai instead. The second time I remember being aware of Krasznahorkai was when his novel Satantango (translated by George Szirtes) won the 2013 Best Translated Book Award. Notes on the Mosquito, my translation of the poetry of Xi Chuan, had been shortlisted in the poetry category, and when I spoke on the phone with Xi Chuan to tell him we hadn’t won, he asked who’d received the fiction prize. A Hungarian writer whose name I couldn’t remember or pronounce, I told him, with a novel about Satan and the tango, or something. “Oh,” he said, “László.”
Read the full review at the Cha:http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/2302/541/