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War & War (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – April 17, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Krasznahorkai's second English translation follows György Korin, an arguably insane former clerk from outside Budapest who arrives at JFK airport with his life savings in his coat lining, determined to put a manuscript he discovered onto the internet (and thus preserve it for eternity), and then to kill himself. The manuscript's authorship is mysterious, and Korin's narration of its contents resembles his concerns, which he unleashes on unsuspecting strangers: "We pass things without any idea what we have passed, and he didn't know, said he, whether his companion knew the feeling." Though Krasznahorkai's sentences can run on for pages, a subversive aim underlies the rambling: many characters who swiftly dismiss Korin as insane, though better at affecting normalcy, are themselves vile. A sudden, brutal murder makes Korin seem more prescient than paranoid. This lucidity, however, is tempered by an epilogue that portrays Korin as more unreliable than anything prior suggests; Krasznahorkai aims for unsettling irresolution and nails it in a way reminiscent of Kafka.
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“The story in War & War is fascinating, but the writing surpasses even a story as inventive as this one…It is perhaps one of the most interesting technical accomplishments in any language…” (The Hyper Literate)

“Krasznahorkai writes with a measured and bizarre elegance…exquisite explorations of consciousness, perception and memory.” (Matthew Spellberg - Harvard Book Review)

“A seminal author of our time.” (David Auerbach - The Quarterly Conversation)

“I love Krasznahorkai's books. His long, meandering sentences enchant me, and even if his universe appears gloomy, we always experience that transcendence which to Nietzsche represented metaphysical consolation.” (Imre Kertész)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 279 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; First Edition edition (April 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811216098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811216098
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I feel like I can breathe again after finishing Laszlo Krasznahorkai's "War and War" despite many fits and starts.

Afterwards I spent time googling reviews and abstracts as I was left wondering if I "got it"; if there was in fact something to get. In reading other very intelligent comments I take comfort in that Krasznahorkai is sufficiently vague allowing broad interpretation and I conclude that there are three main things one needs to be prepared for before delving in; the style, the plot and the "what is he really talking about?".

The style is distinctive and somewhat reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard with long, rambling sentences and characters that are neurotic and likely mad. But I think the differences with Bernhard are more notable. TB takes an idea and works it in a 100 different ways that it tightly wound then he gradually then moves to a second point that is similarly repeated reanalyzed and reinforcing. It's lyrical and I was often left with my jaw down impressed by the way he could look at a subject so many ways and with such great use of language. In my mind looked like balls of twine tightly wound and bunched up and tied again in another ball.

LK is more linear. His rambles are every bit equal to Bernhard and the writing is good (I'll say I like the english translation). The problem is that the reader can lose attention as the sentences do not re-enforce and remind one of the prior passages. If I had to re-read 20% of a TB book I had to re-read 50% or more of "War and War". To combat that I tried every which way to better focus; more coffee, less coffee, no music, soft music, good posture, sprawled out and all kinds of lighting and scenery. But still there were parts where I just accepted to turn the page and hope for the best.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"War & War" is the first novel I've read by Hungarian author Krasznahorkai (only two have been translated into English so far). I was very impressed by the style of the writing and the dark humor. The main character, Korin, is an ex-archivist who flees from Hungary to New York - the center of the world - in hopes of sending a package, or text, he's discovered at his work. Of course the only sensible way to share the work with the world and make it immortal is the internet. Wah lah!

The text is dense and intentionally repititive and reminded me, in style, of Thomas Bernhard. The dialogue is sparse and is usually told internally or after-the-fact. However,Krasznahorkai's style, though dark, isn't as black as Bernhard's; there is no railing against Austria or humanity, at least directly.

I enjoyed the book immensely and anyone interested in an original, well-thought story would enjoy the read. I won't say how the book ends or what could be in the 'text' that Korin found at his work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There is a theme common to European writers of exploring the faults of society through a close examination of an "outlier" personality, often a bureaucrat or minor functionary with neither family nor friends and only his fears and suspicions to drive the action. These works, think Jose Saramago's All The Names, for example, tend to be highly literary in that we are privy to the innermost thoughts and ruminations of an educated,if disaffected individual. In this vein Krasznahorkai has given us War & War, the story of Korin, a Hungarian archivist only partly in possession of his sanity. The plot is driven by his discovery of a mysterious manuscript that forces him to the center of the world, New York City, to type and post the entire story on the internet, thus ensuring this all-important work its "eternal" existence. Once this task is complete, Korin's life will have been fulfilled and his plan is to then kill himself. The travels, the experiences of being in a strange land, the content of the manuscript, even Korin's observations and personal interactions are all revealed and are all of great interest. The writing,however, though some feel it to be wonderful and complex, suffers from a lack of substance. Long, run-on sentences that cover pages can indeed be compelling, even exciting--Garcia Marquez comes to mind--but after reading so many, too many such extended bursts of verbosity by Krasznahorkai, one looks back and realizes that nothing has been said. Marquez can write a page long, one sentence paragraph that is chocked with feelings and attitudes and history and character and description that flow and weave together beautifully. Here the one page sentence says little to nothing, but is rather--can one say "merely"--an exercise in extended, repetitive wordsmithing. It is, in the end, tiresome, a potentially gripping, thought-provoking and introspective tale done in by too much of too little.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is Krasznahorkai's masterpiece.

Krasznahorkai's writing feels ancient. He is an primeval architect of narrative, of perspective, of vast sentences...There are rarely, if ever, direct experiences-- someone, usually Korin, the protagonist, but often the people he runs into, is always speaking to someone else about something that just happened to them. Usually the people he encounters are talking to their friends or husbands or girlfriends a couple days later about how crazy, pathetic, or strangely irresistible Korin ends up being as he spouts his entire story time and again.

There's a great melancholy in the story, too, as most people he speaks to, for pages and hours on end, don't understand a word he is saying as he is trying to communicate his grand realization about the march of history.

Of all the indirecty recounted stories, the one that is most captivating is that of the manuscript he finds, which narrates a story as mysterious, yet strangely irresistible as the larger novel. In fact, much of how Korin describes the manuscript actually describes the novel as a whole.

All that said, this book is not for everyone. It's not light beach reading; it will require the whole of your attention. It's not a book you read in one sitting, or at least it shouldn't be... You will have to take time to think in between sections (each section being one sentence long, with sentence lengths ranging from two lines to seven pages) and chapters. It's not just a narrative-- Krasznahorkai is grappling with some major ideas here.

This book is a future classic. This book is a labyrinth.

It's maddening, it's heartbreaking, and it's beautiful.
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