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Seiobo There Below (Ndp; 1280) Paperback – September 24, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Ndp; 1280
  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811219674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811219679
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Near-infinite sentences in a nonlinear narrative shuttling across time and space, linked only by occasional appearances from a Japanese goddess? It sounds daunting, I realize. Yet the amazing thing about Seiobo There Below is that Krasznahorkai makes the whole thing feel utterly natural and utterly relevant. Krasznahorkai is one of contemporary literature's most daring and difficult figures, but although this book is ambitious, it isn't ever obscure. On the contrary: it places upon us readers the same demands of all great art, and allows us to grasp a vision of painstaking beauty if we can slow ourselves down to savor it.” (NPR Books)

“Krasznahorkai is an expert with the complexity of human obsessions. Each of his books feel like an event, a revelation, and Seiobo There Below is no different.” (The Daily Beast)

“László Kraznahorkai has given us a work that shimmers under a prism of hidden meanings. Our task is to connect the dots, experience the mystery of the text, and embrace moments of bewilderment with patience, openness, and preparation for a deeply meaningful encounter.” (The Millions)

“Krasznahorkai’s erudition is staggering, but the way he relates the choosing of the wood for the shrine, or the restoration of a canvas, is so attentive and so modest that is sidesteps pedantry entirely, and instead participates in the very concentration it describes. The chapters are numbered according to the Fibonacci sequence, in which each number is the sum of the two before it, and indeed, Seiobo There Below compounds and reinforces itself ever more rapidly, its scope soon defying human proportions... Finishing Seiobo There Below is like walking out of a cathedral: its parting gift is a ringing in the ears. This book is magnificent and will outlive interpretation.” (Madeleine LaRue - The Coffin Factory)

“Tinged both with sadness and an anxiety about the capability of language, this brilliantly ambitious novel, like the tragic poetry of one of its characters, becomes a 'ravishing cadenza.'” (Publishers Weekly)

“Those lucky enough to be familiar with Krasznahorkai’s work will recognize the breathless prose as nothing new from the author. His obsession with detail and process recalls Melville’s prose, while the page-long sentences bring to mind the stream-of-conscious modernism of Joyce or Faulkner. But there is a kind of damp, earthy darkness all of Krasznahorkai’s own that makes it hard to pin down an easy comparison. As a result, Seiobo There Below is not simple to read; it is often enormously dense, complex and difficult. But Krasznahorkai rewards patience generously.” (New York Daily News)

About the Author

László Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary in 1954. He has won numerous international literary awards and his works have been translated into many languages.

Ottilie Mulzet is a literary critic and translator of Hungarian. New Directions published her translation of Krasznahorkai’s Animalinside.

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Customer Reviews

The book reminds me of Robert Smithson's piece "A Heap of Language."
I have to start this review by stating that this was probably the most difficult novel I have ever read.
This book shows that is also required in reading, or general aesthetic observation, as well.
William Shinevar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By W. Wilson on September 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a (broadly speaking) postmodernist "novel," 'Seiobo There Below' can be disorienting in a few places, but it's never opaque for mere effect. I first read "Ze'ami Is Leaving" from Music & Literature Issue 2. (The first few paragraphs of this particular story, the penultimate one in 'Seiobo,' are disorienting, but I "got" it after a few reads.) Krasznahorkai often disparages technology, faith in empirical observation, and the inexorable march of technological "progress." He criticizes capitalism and the influence of Western consumerism. However, he's also critical of the former Soviet Union's effect on the former Eastern Bloc nations, especially his native Hungary.

This is not a true novel in that characters do not overlap from chapter to chapter. Actually, there aren't chapters in the traditional sense. I'm inclined to think of 'Seiobo' as a collection of short stories with similar themes.

While there is more than one theme in the stories that make up 'Seiobo,' a main one is the difficulty of creating art: We witness the diurnal trials of a Noh mask-maker; a Renaissance painter struggles with what appears to be manic depression while creating a panel for an altar - especially fascinating to read because all of his materials are organic (e.g., he directs a carpenter to get the panel from a specific tree, his pigments are ground by his assistants); a landscape painter feels the urge to push the boundaries of his painting even while suffering crushing personal losses, all while trying to appear composed in the glare of the public eye.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the third Krasznahorkai book I have read, so before you read on, it is safe to say that I already enjoy his writing. I read Satantango first, then Melancholy of Resistance(which is equally as good as this book), and finally this.

This book is less a novel and more a set of short stories ranging from 5 to about 50 pages all centered around the questions of what is art, how is it made, and how can we recognize that beauty. These are not simple questions and Krasznahorkai does not give simple answers either. Even in his stories, he takes examples from around the globe, focusing on Noh, Italian painting, music, and even nature. I found myself looking up many things, especially since I am not that educated in Japanese culture, but I felt that after a quick paragraph or two on wikipedia, I was educated enough to listen to the narrator's comments, which always showed the patience and consciousness required in art. This book shows that is also required in reading, or general aesthetic observation, as well.

One must work through his dense prose. Except for one chapter, most of his paragraphs, which are tens of pages at times, are one long sentence. Although difficult to get into, if one has a long time to read, after a while, you are sucked into the book and realize only when the chapter ends that two hours have gone by. If you enjoy Krasznahorkai, definitely read this. If you haven't read him yet, this is as good a starting place as any. If you want a more plot driven book(if I can call it that) by him, get Satantango, which is also wonderful, and if you want to see how that writing style has been honed by more than 20 years, return to this work later, one day, eventually.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Saposcat on December 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
The slow reader I am, and all too busy, now as ever, I finished Seiobo at last, and I'm sad it's over because I loved every sentence of it, and somehow it still feels like it isn't over. I disagree with the idea I've read in a couple places that it is a mere collection of short stories. The novel is a novel proper, if not somehow even more of a piece than just a novel, by the tapestry of the language itself, for the intersections are far more deep-seated than in so-called "short story cycles" or "composite novels." Every phrase repeated, like the raising of an index finger, gave me goosebumps, epiphanic, more and more every time, true to its accumulative structure. Every sentence describes, no, every sentence is, the novel itself, yet the novel should be experienced as a whole, in order even to perceive but the smallest pieces in their rightful places. The book reminds me of Robert Smithson's piece "A Heap of Language." The novel becomes both metonymic and metaphoric at once. Always becoming, it never just is, never so complacent is it just to be, just to assert itself as being there, it even, probably more than not, questions that it is there at all, and the breaking of its implicit rules says so much and renders the pages open to the whole world.

It constructs its own rules as it goes on--the predominant mode being paragraphs pages at length containing a single sentence--and, not so perverse as to believe in itself alone, to become a slave to its own system, it breaks those rules too, and even those breaks are, and contain, the whole. When the short sentences in the Alhambra chapter arrive, they feel like epigraphs in stone, as heavy as any of the long-winded sentences: "For there is truth." "There is the Alhambra." "That is the truth.
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