Book Acquired, 12.06.2011 — Or, I Photograph My Reader’s Copy of Satantango in the Cheap Showiness of Nature


Damn. Check this out. László Krasznahorkai’s novel Satantango, the title of which does not apparently include diacritical marks in its new (first published!) English translation.

Publisher New Direction’s description:

Already famous as the inspiration for the filmmaker Béla Tarr’s six-hour masterpiece, Satantango is proof, as the spellbinding, bleak, and hauntingly beautiful book has it, that “the devil has all the good times.” The story of Satantango, spread over a couple of days of endless rain, focuses on the dozen remaining inhabitants of an unnamed isolated hamlet: failures stuck in the middle of nowhere. Schemes, crimes, infidelities, hopes of escape, and above all trust and its constant betrayal are Krasznahorkai’s meat. “At the center of Satantango,” George Szirtes has said, “is the eponymous drunken dance, referred to here sometimes as a tango and sometimes as a csardas. It takes place at the local inn where everyone is drunk. . . . Their world is rough and ready, lost somewhere between the comic and tragic, in one small insignificant corner of the cosmos. Theirs is the dance of death.” “You know,” Mrs. Schmidt, a pivotal character, tipsily confides, “dance is my one weakness.”

New Directions has a fantastic record when it comes to lit in translation, and Satantango has been long anticipated by English-reading audiences, due in large part to Béla Tarr’s movie (which is more like seven and a half hours, which I meant to watch this summer but couldn’t because I want to watch it with no interruptions, but I have kids and a wife, so, hey).

I got into it a bit last night, and, I don’t know if it’s just the advance reader copy I got or what, but there are no paragraph breaks, which is a grueling rhetorical technique, a big dare to readers, really (see also: W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz (note: Sebald blurbs Satantango)). The advance reader copy also has a delightful typo on the spine, one that makes the book sound like, I dunno, if Santana made a tango record. Or maybe Santa n’ Tango for ever (Cash will no doubt be jealous). More to come.


6 thoughts on “Book Acquired, 12.06.2011 — Or, I Photograph My Reader’s Copy of Satantango in the Cheap Showiness of Nature”

  1. I saw this by chance a few days ago online but didn’t think it was coming out until February–quite jealous! Aside from the lack of graph breaks, the layout seems similar to the Melancholy of Resistance. I think New Directions needs to hire a different graphic designer; it’s done as if by a blind man, or as if they couldn’t spare an extra 20 pages. Really quite horrendous. I wonder how the Hungarian edition has been designed. In any case, it’s thrilling that this is finally available.


    1. It comes out in Feb 2012. I should have a review in mid-late Jan.

      My guess is that the original text is written without paragraph breaks; other ARCs I’ve gotten from New Directions have page breaks, and they almost always reflect the final copy. The misprint on the spine cracks me up though.


  2. No paragraph breaks!? A new reason for me to read this. Seriously, not mocking. By Night in Chile (no breaks) is probably my favorite Bolano, and Bernhard (there are like…a dozen paragraph breaks total in all of his books combines) is one of my favorite authors.


      1. Now I of course refuse to read it.

        A good portion of the paragraph breaks in Bernhard are actually (just?) chapter breaks.

        I wicked want to read this, and come the new year I might let myself start fully buying books again. I do wish, however, that I could get a misprint that held the title as Santanatango…


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