László Krasznahorkai

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László Krasznahorkai
Krasznahorkai at Stadtgarten Köln, Germany
Krasznahorkai at Stadtgarten Köln, Germany
Born (1954-01-05) 5 January 1954 (age 69)
Gyula, Békés County, Hungary
OccupationNovelist, screenwriter
LanguageHungarian, German
Alma materEötvös Loránd University (ELTE) (University of Budapest)[1]
József Attila University (JATE) (University of Szeged)[1]
Genrenovels, short stories, screenplays
Literary movementPostmodernism
Notable worksSatantango (1985)
The Melancholy of Resistance (1989)
War and War (1999)
Seiobo There Below (2008)
Notable awardsMan Booker International Prize
Kossuth Prize
DAAD fellowship
SpouseAnikó Pelyhe (m. 1990, divorced)
Dóra Kopcsányi (m. 1997)[2]
Childrenthree (Kata, Ágnes, and Panni)[2]

László Krasznahorkai (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈlaːsloː ˈkrɒsnɒhorkɒi]; born 5 January 1954) is a Hungarian novelist and screenwriter known for difficult and demanding novels, often labeled postmodern, with dystopian and melancholic themes.[3] Several of his works, including 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 5 January 1954[1][4] to a middle-class Jewish family[5] on his father's side.[6] His father, György Krasznahorkai, was a lawyer and his mother, Júlia Pálinkás, a social security administrator.[2]

In 1972 Krasznahorkai graduated from the Erkel Ferenc high school where he specialized in Latin. From 1973 to 1976 he studied law at the József Attila University (now University of Szeged) and from 1976 to 1978 at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest.[1] From 1978 to 1983 he studied Hungarian language and literature at ELTE Faculty of Humanities, receiving his degree. His thesis was on the work and experiences of writer and journalist Sándor Márai (1900–1989) after he fled the Communist regime in 1948.[1] During his years as a literature student, Krasznahorkai worked at the publishing company Gondolat Könyvkiadó.[4]

Career as writer[edit]

Since completing his university studies, Krasznahorkai has supported himself as an independent author. In 1985, his debut novel Satantango achieved success, and he was immediately thrust into the forefront of Hungarian literary life. The book is a dystopian novel set in his homeland of Hungary, and is considered his best known work. It received a Best Translated Book Award in English in 2013.[7]

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.[7] In 1990, for the first time, he was able to spend a significant amount of time in East Asia. He drew upon his experiences in Mongolia and China in writing The Prisoner of Urga and Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens. He has returned many times to China.[8]

In 1993, his novel The Melancholy of Resistance received the German Bestenliste-Prize for the best literary work of the year.[7][9] In 1996, he was a guest of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.[8] 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 he described the poet's friendly advice as valuable in bringing the book to life.[10]

In 1996, 2000, and 2005 he spent six months in Kyoto. His contact with the aesthetics and literary theory of the Far East resulted in significant changes in his writing style and deployed themes.[11] He returns often to both Germany and Hungary, but he has also spent varying lengths of time in several other countries, including the United States, Spain, Greece, and Japan,[12] providing inspiration for his novel Seiobo There Below, which won the Best Translated Book Award in 2014.[13]

Beginning in 1985, the director and the author's friend Béla Tarr made films almost exclusively based on Krasznahorkai's works, including Sátántangó and Werckmeister Harmonies.[8] Krasznahorkai said the 2011 film The Turin Horse would be their last collaboration.[14] Krasznahorkai has also collaborated closely with the artist Max Neumann, including on the illustrated novella Chasing Homer (2021), which is accompanied by an original percussive score from the jazz musician Szilveszter Miklós.[15]

Krasznahorkai has received international acclaim from critics. Susan Sontag described him as "the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville".[7] W. G. Sebald remarked, "The universality of Krasznahorkai's vision rivals that of Gogol's Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing."[16] In 2015, he received the Man Booker International Prize, the first Hungarian author to be so awarded.[9]

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][17] After divorcing his first wife, Anikó Pelyhe, whom he had married in 1990, he married Dóra Kopcsányi, a sinologist and graphic designer, in 1997.[2] He has three children: Kata, Ágnes and Emma.[2]




  • 2003: A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East (Északról hegy, Délről tó, Nyugatról utak, Keletről folyó), translated by Ottilie Mulzet (New Directions, 2022).
  • 2009: The Last Wolf (Az utolsó farkas), translated by George Szirtes (New Directions, 2016; paired with John Batki's translation of "Herman" and "The Death of a Craft" from Relations of Grace).
  • 2010: Animalinside (Állatvanbent), together with Max Neumann, collage of prose and pictures, translated by Ottilie Mulzet (New Directions, 2011; Sylph Editions, 2012).
  • 2018: Spadework for a Palace (Aprómunka egy palotaért), translated by John Batki (New Directions, 2022).
  • 2019: Chasing Homer (Mindig Homérosznak), with illustrations by Max Neumann, translated by John Batki (New Directions, 2021).

Short story collections[edit]

  • 1986: Relations of Grace (Kegyelmi viszonyok), to be translated by John Batki for New Directions.
    • Includes: "The Last Boat", "The Bogdanovich Story", "Trapped Rye", "Heat", "Herman: The Game Warden", "The Death of a Craft", "In the Barber's Grasp" and "The Station Seeker".
  • 2013: The World Goes On (Megy a világ). Translations by John Batki, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet (New Directions, 2017).

Individual short stories[edit]

  • 1984: "The Bogdanovich Story" ("El Bogdanovichtól"). Trans. Eszter Molnár, in Thy Kingdom Come: 19 Short Stories by 11 Hungarian Authors (pp. 64–79).
  • 1986: "The Last Boat" ("Az utolsó hajó"). Trans. Eszter Molnár, in Thy Kingdom Come: 19 Short Stories by 11 Hungarian Authors (pp. 53–63); later by George Szirtes in Music & Literature No. 2 (2013)
  • 1998: "Isaiah Has Come" ("Megjött Ézsaiás"). Translated by George Szirtes, included in War & War.
  • 1999: "Dumb to the Deaf" ("Néma a süketnek"). Trans. Eszter Molnár, in The Hungarian Quarterly, Summer 2000 (pp. 49–55).
  • 2010: "The Bill: For Palma Vecchio, at Venice" ("Számla: Palma Vecchiónak, Velencébe"), translated by George Szirtes (Sylph Editions, 2013) and included in The World Goes On.

Essays, interviews and other works[edit]

  • 1993: The Universal Theseus (A Théseus-általános), three fictional lectures. Translated by John Batki, included in The World Goes On.
  • 2001: Evening at Six: Some Free Exhibition-Opening Speeches (Este hat; néhány szabad megnyitás), essays.
  • 2003: Krasznahorkai: Conversations (Krasznahorkai Beszélgetések), interviews.
  • 2012: He Neither Answers Nor Questions: Twenty-five Conversations on the Same Subject (Nem kérdez, nem válaszol. Huszonöt beszélgetés ugyanarról.), interviews.
  • 2013: Music & Literature No. 2, book length special issue of the magazine with texts by Krasznahorkai and essays on his work by Béla Tarr and Max Neumann.[18]
  • 2017: The Manhattan Project, a literary diary with a photographic essay, translated by John Batki (Sylph Editions, 2017).

Screenplays for films[edit]

Honors and awards[edit]

Krasznahorkai has been honored with numerous literary prizes, among them the highest award of the Hungarian state, the Kossuth Prize, and the Man Booker International Prize for his English-translated oeuvre.[9]

  • 2021: Austrian State Prize for European Literature
  • 2020: Literature.gr Phrase of the Year Prize 2018
  • 2019: National Book Award for Translated Literature (USA) for Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming[19]
  • 2017: Aegon Art Award for Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming (Hungary)
  • 2015: Man Booker International Prize[20]
  • 2015: The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Fellow[21]
  • 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.[22]
  • 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[23]
  • 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, ...[24]
  • 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 Krasznahorkai biography (official website) (Retrieved 9 August 2012).
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Krasznahorkai, Laszlo 1954–". Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Vol. 158. 2007. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  3. ^ Wood, James (4 July 2011). "Madness and Civilization: The very strange fictions of László Krasznahorkai". The New Yorker. Vol. 87, no. 19. pp. 71–75.
  4. ^ a b Görömbei, András. "László Krasznahorkai, Hungarian writer". University of Vienna. Archived from the original on 20 May 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  5. ^ Rohter, Larry (9 August 2014). "László Krasznahorkai's Novels Find a U.S. Audience". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 March 2019. He was born into a middle-class Jewish family (his father was a lawyer, his mother an employee of the social welfare ministry)
  6. ^ Copy of several interviews from 1998–2004
  7. ^ a b c d Bausells, Marta (20 May 2015). "Everything you need to know about László Krasznahorkai, winner of the Man Booker International prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "László Krasznahorkai". Hungarian Review. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  9. ^ a b c "Man Booker International prize 2015 won by 'visionary' László Krasznahorkai". The Guardian. 19 May 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  10. ^ "László Krasznahorkai: The Disciplined Madness". Guernica. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  11. ^ Vonnak, Diana (25 April 2014). "East Meets East: Krasznahorkai's Intellectual Affair With Japan". Hungarian Literature Online. Archived from the original on 8 September 2015.
  12. ^ Csaba Tóth (31 July 2014). "Laszlo Krasznahorkai: Hungary has been showing its uglier face the past 25 years". The Budapest Beacon. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  13. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (29 April 2014). "Can you say Laszlo Krasznahorkai?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  14. ^ Hopkins, James (2013). "Interview with László Krasznahorkai". Transcript. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  15. ^ Fenstermaker, Will (2021). "László Krasznahorkai's 'Chasing Homer' Is Preoccupied with Its Own Madness". Frieze. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  16. ^ "LÁSZLÓ KRASZNAHORKAI: ANIMALINSIDE". The American University of Paris. 2010. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  17. ^ László Krasznahorkai – Author at New Directions Publishing (Retrieved 9 August 2012).
  18. ^ "László Krasznahorkai". Music & Literature Magazine. No. 2. 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  19. ^ "Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  20. ^ "Hungarian writer wins Man Booker International Prize". The Times of India. 20 May 2015. Archived from the original on 27 May 2016.
  21. ^ "The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Announces 2015-2016 Fellows". The New York Public Library. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  22. ^ Post, Chad W. (28 April 2014). "BTBA 2014: Poetry and Fiction Winners". Three Percent. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015.
  23. ^ Post, Chad W. (6 May 2013). "2013 BTBA Winners". Three Percent. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015.
  24. ^ "Literaturpreis 2010 an Alissa Walser und László Krasznahorkai [Literature Prize 2010 for Alissa Walser and László Krasznahorkai]" (in German). 6 May 2010. Archived from the original on 20 May 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2012.

Further reading[edit]

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