Satantango (novel)

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AuthorLászló Krasznahorkai
Original titleSátántangó
TranslatorGeorge Szirtes
PublisherMagvető Könyvkiadó
Publication date
Published in English

Satantango (Hungarian: Sátántangó, tr. "Satan's Tango") is a 1985 novel by the Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai.[1] It is Krasznahorkai's debut novel.[2] It was adapted into a widely acclaimed seven-hour film, Sátántangó (1994), directed by Béla Tarr. The English translation by George Szirtes won the Best Translated Book Award (2013).[3]


The novel is a modernist piece, and, whereas it has a plot, many details are not outlined and remain unclear. It consists of two parts, and each part consists of six sections, sections of the second part are numbered in reverse order. Every chapter is a long paragraph which does not contain line breaks. [4]

Most of the action occurs in a run-down Hungarian village ("estate") which is in a vicinity of an unnamed town but the inhabitants are almost isolated from the outside world. The main character, Irimias, who can be a prophet or a criminal, arrives to the estate, achieves an almost unlimited power over the inhabitants, and convinces them first to move to another, a destroyed, estate nearby, and then brings them to the town. The purpose of the whole exercise remains totally unclear.[4]


Jacob Silverman of The New York Times reviewed the book in 2012, and wrote that it "shares many of [Krasznahorkai]'s later novels' thematic concerns — the abeyance of time, an apocalyptic sense of crisis and decay — but it's an altogether more digestible work. Its story skips around in perspective and temporality, but the narrative is rarely unclear. For a writer whose characters often exhibit a claustrophobic interiority, Krasznahorkai also shows himself to be unexpectedly expansive and funny here."[5]

Theo Tait in The Guardian praised the novel and, in particular, said that it "possessed of a distinctive, compelling vision". He noted that there is influence of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett visible in the novel.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lea, Richard (24 August 2012). "László Krasznahorkai interview: 'This society is the result of 10,000 years?'". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  2. ^ NHQ (The New Hungarian Quarterly) 1990: "Laszlo Krasznahorkai's first novel, Sátántangó ("Satan's Tango", 1985: NHQ 100 contains an extract) was about hope, his second one is about hopelessness."
  3. ^ Chad W. Post (May 6, 2013). "2013 BTBA Winners: Satantango and Wheel with a Single Spoke". Three Percent. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Tait, Theo (2012-05-09). "Satantango by László Krasznahorkai – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  5. ^ Silverman, Jacob (2012-03-16). "The Devil They Know". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-18.