From the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize
The latest novel from “the contemporary Hungarian master of the apocalypse” (Susan Sontag)
Seiobo — a Japanese goddess — has a peach tree in her garden that blossoms once every three thousand years: its fruit brings immortality. In Seiobo There Below, we see her returning again and again to mortal realms, searching for a glimpse of perfection. Beauty, in Krasznahorkai’s new novel, reflects, however fleetingly, the sacred — even if we are mostly unable to bear it. Seiobo shows us an ancient Buddha being restored; Perugino managing his workshop; a Japanese Noh actor rehearsing; a fanatic of Baroque music lecturing a handful of old villagers; tourists intruding into the rituals of Japan’s most sacred shrine; a heron hunting.… Over these scenes and more — structured by the Fibonacci sequence — Seiobo hovers, watching it all.
About the Author
The winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature and the 2015 Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement, László Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary.
Ottilie Mulzet is a literary critic and translator of Hungarian. Mulzet received the National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2019 for her translation of László Krasznahorkai's Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming and the Best Translated Book Award in 2014 for her translation of Krasznahorkai’s Seiobo There Below.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.'
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.