Literary roundup: Miklós Szentkuthy, Casanova and long Hungarian sentences

Hungarian Literature Online has published the introduction to Miklós Szentkuthy’s Marginalia on Casanova, which is being published in an English translation by Tim Wilkinson by the Contra Mundum Press in September.

Szentkuthy’s obscurity in the English-speaking and reading world makes even some of Central Europe’s most obscure writers seems like the stars of their own reality TV shows by comparison. Szentkuthy wrote a strikingly experimental novel (or something potentially other than a novel) in 1934 Prae and translated Ulysses and Oliver Twist into Hungarian. Besides the introduction HLO has another interesting article on Szentkuthy (born Pfisterer) while the majority of information on the writer not in Hungarian available online is in French, in which 10 of his works have in translated (while oddly, according to the above article, nothing has been translated into German.)

Danilo Kiš and tyranny

Another review of the three Danilo Kiš books, this time by Sam Sacks at the WSJ’s Bookshelf. It begins with a shot at the tendency to dramatize aesthetic issues by injecting them with political language, a point I would probably had agreed with if, in a book review published the same day as this one, I hadn’t described the opposition between Modernism and realism as a “hundred-year war.” Whoops!

Sacks: “One of the less admirable affectations in the republic of letters is the tendency to borrow political language to speak of matters of aesthetics. Thus you’ll often hear brave-sounding complaints against the tyranny of traditional narrative and the suppression of experimental forms.”

What’s interesting about this point and the example he uses is that Kiš’s experience of two totalitarian societies prime him for the kind of big time interest among American readers that he has never gotten. The reason – okay, maybe not quite the tyranny of traditional narrative and the suppression of experimental forms but, in fact, whatever aesthetic point that exaggeration was meant to express.

László Krasznahorkai in Edinburgh

In The Guardian Richard Lea talks to László Krasznahorkai about the artificiality of the short sentence, the suffering piglets that were at the origins of the novel and how humanity is basically a big disappointment.

Photo – Casanova (left) and a friend blowing up condoms like balloons (and inadvertantly illustrating László Krasznahorkai’s point in the linked article about humanity’s dismal lack of progress. I mean, this was the Enlightenment for pete’s sake.), J. Rozez, 1872, illustration to Casanova’s Memoirs

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