I was born in the South of Soviet Union a year after Satantango was written, and saw how the whole premise of perestroika and, later on, post-Soviet Russia’s highbrow cultural aspirations were to make something to the effect of Satantango. Some attempts reached close enough, but none were as good as Krasznahorkai, as per my current understanding.
This book made me work, it was a slow read and a slow burn, and I’m glad because that makes finishing all the more satisfying. A searing study of decay that follows half-industrial State capitalism within and without: dark, funny, unrelenting, maddening, beautiful, a hymn to paltry things and a satire of pettiness. The circular pattern that is known as Satantango’s main device makes the prospects more and less bleak simultaneously, and it’s this duality that makes it so mighty. Faulkner, Bresson, Beckett all come to mind as inspirations, but instead of imitating, Krasznahorkai just continues.
Satantango by László Krasznahorkai
Translated from Hungarian by George Szirtes
Published by New Directions in 1987