Seiobo There Below is the first book I read by Hungarian author Laszlo Krasznahorkai, and it will stay that way for a long time. For a long time, I had never read a book that had been so challenging for me and yet I still couldn’t let go. It was a really different experience. And frankly, while I was reading the book, I kept thinking about what to write about it; I can say that now I have no idea other than that it was extraordinary.
Seiobo There Below was sometimes a fascinating and sometimes quite discouraging book for me. I read some chapters admiring the author’s sentences and almost without breathing. In some chapters, I was tired of trying to understand what I was reading. Since sentences are usually around 5-6 pages, Seiobo There Below seemed like a very long, classic song to me after some point. It is like a long song, of which I don’t know the composer, but some parts of which I find divine and some parts ridiculous.
Seiobo There Below has 17 episodes, and episodes are named according to the Fibonacci sequence. Each chapter is independent of the other, but they are all about art. The time and setting are constantly changing; The only thing we have in common is art, beauty and divinity. I did not know when to digest all the information I read as I travel between different cities, artists and time in Europe and Japan.
I had to take frequent breaks and reread the sentences. Since the sentences are at least 5-6 pages, things got out of hand after a while. After half of the book, I stopped rereading the sentences and moved on. Fortunately, I did that; otherwise, I would never have finished this book because it turned into a data-heavy book after half of it.
Seiobo There Below is an extraordinary book, and it is obvious that it was certainly not written for all of us. I’m glad I read Laszlo Krasznahorkai, but I have to say in advance, if I knew that the book would tire me so much, it would have waited in my library longer. However, when I started, I couldn’t let go of it because I didn’t know how to stop reading such a different thing.
If Seiobo There Below somehow caught your attention and you intend to read it, you should check it out before buying it. Open a random page and read a sentence, then make up your mind. Enjoy!
Seiobo There Below
Seiobo There Below, Winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize.
Beauty, in László Krasznahorkai’s new novel, reflects, however fleeting, the sacred – even if we are mostly unable to bear it.
In Seiobo There Below we see the Japanese goddess Seiobo returning to mortal realms in search of perfection. An ancient Buddha being restored; the Italian renaissance painter Perugino managing his workshop; a Japanese Noh actor rehearsing; a fanatic of Baroque music lecturing to a handful of old villagers; tourists intruding into the rituals of Japan’s most sacred shrine; a heron as it gracefully hunts its prey.
Told in chapters that sweep us across the world and through time, covering the furthest reaches of human experience, Krasznahorkai demands that we pause and ask ourselves these questions: What is sacred? How do we define beauty? What makes great art endure?
Melancholic and mesmerisingly beautiful, Seiobo There Below by the author of Satantango shows us how to glimpse the divine through extraordinary art and human endeavour.
László Krasznahorkai (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈlaːsloː ˈkrɒsnɒhorkɒi]; born 5 January 1954) is a Hungarian novelist and screenwriter known for difficult and demanding novels, often labeled postmodern, with dystopian and melancholic themes. Several of his works, notably his novels Satantango (Sátántangó, 1985) and The Melancholy of Resistance (Az ellenállás melankóliája, 1989), have been turned into feature films by Hungarian film director Béla Tarr.
Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary on 5 January 1954 to a middle-class Jewish family on his father’s side. His father György Krasznahorkai was a lawyer and his mother Júlia Pálinkás a social security administrator. In 1972 Krasznahorkai graduated from the Erkel Ferenc high school where he specialized in Latin. From 1973 to 1976 he studied law at the József Attila University (since 1999, University of Szeged) and from 1976 to 1978 at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest.
From 1978 to 1983 he studied Hungarian language and literature at ELTE, receiving his degree for a thesis on the work and experiences of writer and journalist Sándor Márai (1900–1989) after he fled the Communist regime in 1948 (Márai lived in exile in Italy and later San Diego, California). During his years as a literature student, Krasznahorkai worked at the publishing company Gondolat Könyvkiadó.
Since completing his university studies Krasznahorkai has supported himself as an independent author. When in 1985 his first major publication Satantango achieved success, he was immediately thrust into the forefront of Hungarian literary life. The book, a dystopian novel set in his native Hungary, is regarded as his most famous. It received a Best Translated Book Award in English in 2013.
He travelled outside of Communist Hungary for the first time in 1987, spending a year in West Berlin as a recipient of a DAAD fellowship. Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, he has lived in a variety of locations. In 1990, for the first time, he was able to spend a significant amount of time in East Asia. He drew upon his experiences in Mongolia and China in writing The Prisoner of Urga and Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens. He has returned many times to China.
In 1993, his novel The Melancholy of Resistance received the German Bestenliste-Prize for the best literary work of the year. In 1996, he was a guest of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. While completing the novel War and War, he travelled widely across Europe. The American poet Allen Ginsberg was of great assistance in completing the work; Krasznahorkai resided for some time in Ginsberg’s New York apartment, and he described the poet’s friendly advice as valuable in bringing the book to life.
In 1996, 2000, and 2005 he spent six months in Kyoto. His contact with the aesthetics and literary theory of the Far East resulted in significant changes in his writing style and deployed themes. He returns often to both Germany and Hungary, but he has also spent varying lengths of time in several other countries, including the United States, Spain, Greece, and Japan, providing inspiration for his novel Seiobo There Below, which won the Best Translated Book Award in 2014.
Beginning in 1985, the renowned director and the author’s good friend Béla Tarr made films almost exclusively based on Krasznahorkai’s works, including Sátántangó and Werckmeister Harmonies. Krasznahorkai said the 2011 film The Turin Horse would be their last collaboration. Krasznahorkai has received international acclaim from critics.
Susan Sontag described him as “the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville”. W. G. Sebald remarked, “The universality of Krasznahorkai’s vision rivals that of Gogol’s Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing.” In 2015, he received the Man Booker International Prize, the first Hungarian author to be so awarded with Seiobo There Below.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: