László Krasznahorkai

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László Krasznahorkai
Born (1954-01-05) 5 January 1954 (age 61)
Gyula, Hungary
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter
Language Hungarian, German
Nationality Hungarian
Alma mater Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) (University of Budapest)[1]
József Attila University (JATE) (University of Szeged)[1]
Genre novels, short stories, screenplays
Literary movement Postmodernism
Notable works Sátántangó (1985)
The Melancholy of Resistance (1989)
War and War (1999)
Notable awards Kossuth Prize
DAAD fellowship
Spouse (1) Anikó Pelyhe (m. 1990, divorced)
(2) Dóra Kopcsányi (m. 1997)[2]
Children three (Kata, Ágnes, and Panni)[2]

László Krasznahorkai (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈlaːsloː krɒsnɒhorkɒ.i]; born 5 January 1954) is a Hungarian novelist and screenwriter who is known for critically difficult and demanding novels, often labeled as postmodern, with dystopian and melancholic themes. Several of his works, notably his novels Satantango (Sátántangó) (1985) and The Melancholy of Resistance (Az ellenállás melankóliája) (1989) have been turned into feature films by Hungarian film director Béla Tarr.


Early life and education[edit]

Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary, on January 5, 1954.[1][3] He is the son of György Krasznahorkai, a lawyer, and Júlia Pálinkás, a social security administrator.[2]

After completing his secondary education in 1972 at the Erkel Ferenc high school where he specialized in Latin, he studied law from 1973 to 1976 at József Attila University (JATE) (now the University of Szeged) and from 1976 to 1978 at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) (formerly the University of Budapest).[1] After completing these law studies, he sought a degree in Hungarian language and literature from Eötvös Loránd University.[1] As a requirement of his degree work, he submitted a formal thesis on the work and experiences of Hungarian writer and journalist Sándor Márai (1900–1989) after he fled Hungary in 1948 to escape the Communist regime that seized power after World War II (Márai lived in exile in Italy and later San Diego, California).[1] During his years as a university student in Budapest, Krasznahorkai worked at Gondolat Könyvkiadó, a publishing company.[3] Krasznahorkai received his degree in 1983.[1]

Career as writer[edit]

After completing his university studies, Krasznahorkai has supported himself as an independent author since then. When in 1985 his first major publication Satantango achieved success, he was immediately thrust into the forefront of Hungarian literary life.

He travelled outside of Communist Hungary for the first time in 1987, spending a year in West Berlin as a recipient of a DAAD fellowship. Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, he has lived in a variety of locations. He returns often to both Germany and Hungary, but he has also spent and spends varying lengths of time in France, Spain, the USA, England, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, China and Japan.

In 1993, his novel The Melancholy of Resistance received the German “Bestenliste-Prize” for the best literary work of the year. From the United States to Japan, critics have acknowledged the importance of his writing. According to Susan Sontag, he is “the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville”. W. G. Sebald had this to say: “The universality of Krasznahorkai's vision rivals that of Gogol's Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing.” In 1996, he was a guest of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. While completing the novel War and War, he travelled widely across Europe. The American poet Allen Ginsberg was of great assistance in completing the work; Krasznahorkai resided for some time in Ginsberg’s New York apartment, and the poet’s friendly advice was invaluable in bringing the book to life.

In 1990, for the first time, he was able to spend a longer period in East Asia. Krasznahorkai renders an account of his experiences in Mongolia and China in his works The Prisoner of Urga and Destruction and Sorrow beneath the Heavens. From this point, he has returned many times to China. In 1996, 2000, and 2005 he spent six months in Kyoto, Japan. His contact with the aesthetics and literary theory of the Far East resulted in significant changes in his writing style and deployed themes.[4]

Since 1985, the renowned director and the author's good friend Béla Tarr has made films almost exclusively based on Krasznahorkai's works, including Sátántangó and Werckmeister Harmonies. His collaboration with Tarr continues to this day: Krasznahorkai writes the screenplays, and assists the director in all important decisions.

Krasznahorkai has been honored with numerous literary prizes, among them the highest award of the Hungarian state, the Kossuth Prize.

Personal life[edit]

After residing in Berlin, Germany for several years, where he was for six months S. Fischer Guest Professor at the Free University of Berlin, Krasznahorkai currently resides "as a recluse in the hills of Szentlászló" in Hungary.[2][5] After divorcing his first wife, Anikó Pelyhe whom he married in 1990, he married his second wife, Dóra Kopcsányi, a sinologist and graphic designer, in 1997.[2] He has three children: Kata, Ágnes and Emma.[2]

Importance and interpretation[edit]

Regarding The Melancholy of Resistance (1989):

...the book’s narrative voice and focus change without warning, shifting from character to character, occasionally in mid-sentence. Krasznahorkai flirts with surrealism, but without ever consummating the relationship. His style is dense, and the story meanders at the pace of social change, gaining speed only by force of its own gravity. Each paragraph runs on uninterrupted for dozens of pages, resisting abbreviation or quotation.



Krasznahorkai's works have had a limited audience outside of Hungary and Germany. Only with recent translations of Satantango, The Melancholy of Resistance, War and War, Seiobo There Below, as well as Animalinside (a collaboration with artist Max Neumann) in English by George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet and published by New Directions has his work received critical notice in the United States. Further, because Béla Tarr's films are limited in distribution and seen as experimental and intellectually opaque, his impact on film has not received much popular notice.

In addition to the English translations of his work published by New Directions, his works have been translated into German (published by Rowohlt, Ammann, S. Fischer), French (Gallimard, Cambourakis), Spanish (Acantilado), Italian (Zandonai), Polish (W.A.B.), Czech (Host, Mlada Fronta), Bulgarian (Stigmati), Hebrew (Babel) and Japanese (Shoraisha, Keio), among other languages.


  • 1985: Satantango (Sátántangó), novel.
    • Translated by George Szirtes for New Directions Publishing.
  • 1986: Relations of Grace (Kegyelmi viszonyok), short stories.
  • 1989: The Melancholy of Resistance (Az ellenállás melankóliája), novel.
    • Translated by George Szirtes for New Directions Publishing.
  • 1992: The Prisoner of Urga (Az urgai fogoly), novel.
  • 1993: The Universal Theseus (A Théseus-általános), three fictional lectures.
  • 1998: Isaiah Has Come (Megjött Ézsaiás), short story.
    • Translated by George Szirtes for New Directions Publishing and included in War & War.
  • 1999: War and War (Háború és háború), novel.
    • Translated by George Szirtes for New Directions Publishing.
  • 2001: Evening at Six: Some Free Exhibition-Opening Speeches (Este hat; néhány szabad megnyitás), essays.
  • 2003: Krasznahorkai: Conversations (Krasznahorkai Beszélgetések), interviews.
  • 2003: From the North by Hill, From the South by Lake, From the West by Roads, From the East by River (Északról hegy, Délről tó, Nyugatról utak, Keletről folyó), novel.
    • To be translated by George Szirtes for New Directions Publishing.
  • 2004: Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens (Rombolás és bánat az Ég alatt), novel.
    • To be translated by Ottilie Mulzet for Seagull Books.
  • 2008: Seiobo There Below (Seiobo járt odalent), novel.
    • Translated by Ottilie Mulzet for New Directions Publishing.
  • 2009: The Last Wolf (Az utolsó farkas), short story.
  • 2010: Animalinside (Állatvanbent), together with Max Neumann, collage of prose and pictures.
    • Translated by Ottilie Mulzet for New Directions Publishing.
  • 2012: He Neither Answers Nor Questions: Twenty-five Conversations on the Same Subject (Nem kérdez, nem válaszol. Huszonöt beszélgetés ugyanarról.), interviews.
  • 2013: The World Goes on (Megy a világ), short stories.
    • To be translated by Ottilie Mulzet for New Directions Publishing.

Screenplays for films[edit]

Collections and critical studies[edit]

  • 2013: Music&Literature 2, book length special issue of the magazine with texts by Krasznahorkai and essays on his work[7]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 2015: Man Booker International Finalist
  • 2014: Vilenica Prize (Vilenica International Literary Festival, Slovenia)
  • 2014: Best Translated Book Award, winner for Seiobo There Below, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet. First author to win two BTBA awards.[8]
  • 2014: America Award for a lifetime contribution to international writing
  • 2013: Best Translated Book Award, winner for Satantango, translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes[9]
  • 2012: Prima Primissima Prize (Budapest, Hungary)
  • 2010: Brücke-Berlin Prize (Berlin, Germany) for Seiobo There Below
  • 2010: Spycher-Prize (Leuk, Switzerland) for his complete work but in particular for From the North a Mountain, ...[10]
  • 2009: Prize of the Society of Writers (Budapest, Hungary)
  • 2008: Hungarian Heritage-Award, (Budapest, Hungary)
  • 2007: Nominated for Jean Monnet Prize (France)
  • 2004: Kossuth Prize (Hungary)
  • 2003: Soros Foundation Prize
  • 2002: Laureate of the Hungarian Republic (Magyar Köztársaság Babérkoszorúja)
  • 1998: Márai Sándor Prize (Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture)
  • 1993: Krúdy Gyula Prize (Hungary)
  • 1993: Bestenliste-Prize (Baden-Baden, Germany) for The Melancholy of Resistance
  • 1992: Déry Tibor Award (Hungary)
  • 1987–1988: DAAD Fellowship (West Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany)
  • 1987: József Attila Prize (Hungary)
  • 1987: Mikes Kelemen Kör Prize (The Netherlands)



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Krasznahorkai biography (official website) (Retrieved 9 August 2012).
  2. ^ a b c d e f [1](Retrieved 16 September 2012)
  3. ^ a b Universität Wien: Literatur im Kontext László Krasznahorkai (Retrieved 29 August 2012).
  4. ^ Diana Vonnak. "East Meets East: Krasznahorkai's Intellectual Affair With Japan.". Hungarian Literature Online. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  5. ^ László Krasznahorkai – Author at New Directions Publishing (Retrieved 9 August 2012).
  6. ^ Ervin, Andrew. Hungary for More: Let The Melancholy of Resistance be your introduction to Hungarian literature. 18–25 January 2001. Philadelphia City Paper located online here (Retrieved 10 August 2012).
  7. ^ Music&Literature, Spring 2013: Krasznahorkai / Tarr / Neumann (Retrieved 11 April 2015).
  8. ^ Chad W. Post (April 28, 2014). "BTBA 2014: Poetry and Fiction Winners". Three Percent. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  9. ^ Chad W. Post (May 6, 2013). "2013 BTBA Winners". Three Percent. Retrieved May 7, 2013. 
  10. ^ Spycher Prize for Alissa Walser and László Krasznahorkai, 6.5.2010 (Retrieved 29 August 2012).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]