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War & War

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,298 ratings  ·  172 reviews
War & War, László Krasznahorkai’s second novel in English from New Directions, begins at a point of danger: on a dark train platform Korim is on the verge of being attacked by thuggish teenagers and robbed; and from here, we are carried along by the insistent voice of this nervous clerk. Desperate, at times almost mad, but also keenly empathic, Korim has discovered in a sm ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 17th 2006 by New Directions (first published 1999)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  1,298 ratings  ·  172 reviews


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BlackOxford
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hungarian
Over-sharing

Breathless, relentless, urgent, a man on a mission; yet Korin is stuck like Baalam’s Ass, unable to move on a railway footbridge over an industrial wasteland, a prisoner of seven thuggish, homicidal children who could actually care less about him. They are his Greek chorus to whom he feels the need to confess his suicidal intentions and from whom he expects counsel. Korin’s fear of being physically harmed is exactly offset by his fear of not being listened to. The children know he is in
...more
Mariel
Dec 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: frustrated
Recommended to Mariel by: castrated
Moon, valley, dew, death. Hypnotism, spell, candle, book. War, peace, fight, talk. I have no idea what I am talking about.

"And this condition, said Korin, for someone like him, who saw clearly that this tragic turn of events was not the product of supernatural agency, not of divine judgement, but of the actions of a peculiarly horrible heterogeneous bunch of people , there was nothing left to do than to use the rest of his speech to lay the most terrible, most incurable curse on them."
...more
Steven Godin
A suicidal clerk going by the name of György Korin who spends a lonely existence working in the archive room of a small Hungarian town discovers an antique manuscript buried in some old boxes that narrates the epic story of four brothers-in-arms (Kasser, Bengazza, Falke and Toót) who appear to be traveling through an ancient Europe on their way home from a war of some kind. It clearly becomes apparent from the early stages that Korin is suffering from some sort of psychiatric disorder and he bec ...more
Szplug
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There is a book by David Horrobin which posits that schizophrenia, genetically present in every racial type, carried the perspective alteration whose infestation—spread through art, language, ideas, and dreams—evolved the full-flowering of a vigorous creativity amongst humanity, and thus helped to separate us from our non-abstract primate kin. Yet as this freeform and chaotic creativeness, an entropic imagination that spread like a wildfire, burned through its dimensional fuel, there was set up beside i ...more
Jonathan
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A masterpiece, of course. There are wonderful reviews here already so, instead, I shall quote a few things which floated to the surface for me while reading.



"‘Let there be light! said God, and there was light!’
‘Let there be blood!’ says man, and there ‘s a seal
The fiat of this spoil’d child of the Night
(For Day ne’er saw his merits) could decree
More evil in an hour, than thirty bright
Summers could renovate, though they should be
Lovely as those which ri
...more
Greg
Feb 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Heaven is sad.

That begins, as a benediction of sorts, the book.

I feel like I'm too stupid to fully get Krasznahorkai (we'll call him K. for short from now on in the review, although that ill undoubtedly bring to mind an insurance agent from Prague..... but Kafka is almost appropriate to this novel, or at least his line in one of his Parables and Paradoxes, roughly remembered as, 'the messiah will return only when he is no longer needed'). I love parts of his books, and then I'm baffled and confus
...more
Ronald Morton
It might be the first time this has happened in the USA but I haven’t come to start a new life, Korin protested right at the beginning, and not being able to decide whether his companion, who, having consumed his beer, had slumped heavily across the table, had heard him at all or was fast asleep, he put down his glass, leaned over and put his hand on the man's shoulder, carefully looking around him and adding rather more quietly: I would rather like to finish the old one.
Each chapter of this book is bro
...more
Chris_P
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
War And War plants seeds of hope in the soil of your heart, only to pour acid on it a few pages later. A cruel reminder of beauty's hopelessness in a world that's deranged as it is misled.

+1 star just for the final chapter.
M. Sarki
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who care about living and dying
Recommended to M. by: new yorker magazine
Shelves: 5-star-wonders
What a brilliant form in which to go mad on the page. The entire book jamb-packed with lovely words given to us from a very talented writer, all except, that is, the word venue which the translator decided was the correct word for the Hungarian version, or at least what Krasznahorkai wanted us to read. I doubt it very much. No way would Krasznahorkai use a popular word venue in place of a specific place. Too smart. Too gifted to resort to our popular culture's crappy, and ill-informed language. The transl ...more
Nate D
Nov 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: video artists seeking funding in ill-advised crime schemes
Recommended to Nate D by: manuscript found among family records
Language, languages, architecture, and how these things construct the consciousness. Peace, war, the advent of money-based trade systems, and the end, personal or apocalyptically global. And much more, across most of human history and half the globe. There's a whole lot here, more than I can get a proper handle on. I still have some serious unpacking to do, and I don't mean from the month-long road trip I read this over the course of.

Actually, suddenly, thinking about what meaning th
...more
Russell
Undoubtedly a masterpiece, and a new addition to the favourites list. The second Krasznahorkai for me already this year (and third overall) and I would argue, the best so far. The depth in this novel is going to take a while to process through this tiny brain of mine. Outstanding.
Janice
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-love-new-york
War and War is the story of Korin, an archivist from a small Hungarian town, crippled by his passivity and his jejune life. Through his work, he randomly encounters an impenetrable manuscript that recounts the tale of the same four men appearing in various points in history, and observations about civilization and art. Korin becomes transfixed by the abstruse manuscript; his obsession incites him to sell all of his worldly possessions and abandon his life in Hungary, to come to New York City -- the ...more
Thomas
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
very good book about a guy with severe anxiety who won't stop monologuing at people about a book he read. coincidentally that's also how i act about 50% of the time
Paul Fulcher
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
A wonderful interview about a wonderful book

http://www.musicandliterature.org/fea...
Noah Leben
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A word of caution to those who plan to read this novel: the final section is not actually part of the novel proper, but rather a sort of prequel that features the same main character. While this section is quite good in its own right, it somewhat deadens the impact of the novel’s punchline. I would recommend waiting several days after finishing the novel to read this section (I wish I had). I’ll leave this note in lieu of a review, as I find myself at a loss for words to describe this fragmentar ...more
Justin Evans
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
War & War was less gripping, I thought, than Melancholy of Resistance, though that might just be about me: this one leaned a little too far towards self-obsessed-writer territory, which certainly can't be said about any of the other Krasznahorkai I've read. Here, a clerk reads a manuscript and decides it's so good that it must be put on the internet for all to read. We get the story of his going to New York, which he considers the center of the world, and also indirect description of the manuscript. I can ...more
Kata
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have falling hard for Krasznahorkai. And by that statement I mean to say, in my mind, he is Proust reincarnate. It takes a bit to get use to his sentence structure which rolls on page after page only to eventually be studded with the mark of a period. But it is not Krasznahorkai's writing style alone that reminds me of Proust, it is more his style of "examining reality to the point of madness." That superb quote is taken from James Wood. His super-power combination of ignoring the period key o ...more
Rob
Oct 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of calvino, thomas bernhard, kafka (even though i don't like kafka)
Shelves: fiction
you know how when you draw a cube, and then you allow your mind to hover just at the point where the cube keeps flipping back and forth, so now you're looking down from above, now you're looking up from below - flip, flip? that's what this book is, except instead of doing it with a stupid cube, the author does it with the universe. is Korin (the protagonist) a madman or a prophet? is he speaking, or is someone else, or is it simply narration? is this the story of Korin or the story of the manusc ...more
Tyler
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In War and War two stories come together to make a whole. The main plot tells of an archivist on a farfetched quest to establish the concept of nobility by means of a recently discovered manuscript. As his story unfolds a frame narrative works in tandem to relate the story in the manuscript itself. But to what end?

The reason isn’t clear. This Hungarian archivist seems at times be describing a cycle to history and trying to find a way out. But the point of view from which the story is to
...more
Jim
May 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hungary
An incredible and at the same time incredibly difficult book. What can you say about a novel whose main character is half-mad? Gyorgy Korin is a Hungarian archivist who has run across a manuscript about how all goodness and nobility has been drained out of the earth, about four characters who wander through history running into nothing but war & war wherever they go.

Korin finds his way to New York, because he feels that this is the place to transfer the manuscript to the Internet, because h
...more
Anna
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: m-fractions
Skyscrapers and the Mystery of Existence

This urgent, neurotic, impenetrable narrative is a story of everything, where everything is the intersection of the horizontal scope of life and its vertical depth/height. There is existential despair, purpose as obsession, a brief history of mankind, the difficulties and urge of writing, breakdown in human communication.

Plot-wise, there is not much more to the story than what the blurb summarizes for us. The opening chapter evokes familiar mot
...more
Alta
Jun 28, 2012 added it
War and War by László Krasznahorkai (Trans. from the Hungarian by George Szirtes. New Directions, 2006)

László Krasznahorkai is not an easy author. I am saying this as a lover of Proust (with whom LK has in common those long, twisted sentences) and of Sebald (with whom he shares a gloomy mood and the ability to write fiction by creating a reality-effect via, for example, photos of real objects; incidentally, Sebald was one of the first writers to recognize LK’s genius). But what Krasz
...more
Bjorn
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hungary
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jules
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Heaven is sad."

Chapter 1.

"I no longer care if I die, said Korin, then after a long silence, pointed to the nearby flooded quarry: Are those swans?"

I mean, what an amazing way to start a book, huh? Looking back on it, those two sentences seem to encompass the whole of War & War. The afterlife is a sad place, the lead character cares not about his own life, and that there is beauty, or the illusion of beauty, in the decaying waste of the world.

I
...more
Parrish Lantern
This book broke my heart & yet somehow did this whilst placing a smile on my face. It has left me dumbstruck & bewildered, a chaplinesque clown trying to strum out a coherent sentence and yet it somehow with its own juxtaposition of words, lines, sentences, its chapters - its magic, has me enamoured, enthralled it does this ............. don't know, although I've finished it, it has not finished with me, it still lays heavy on me, but it is a weight that like Sisyphus I will bear, but un ...more
Bbrown
Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I usually don't like books with gimmicks: to me a book is good based on its writing, characters, plot, and what it has to say, and gimmicks usually don't add to those things- or at least don't add enough to justify themselves. War and War is a book with several gimmicks, and it's a testament to Krasznahorkai's skill as an author that the gimmicks have a point and add to the book. At the same time, they caused their own frustrations, and ultimately I didn't find this work as satisfying as The Mel ...more
Michelle
An utterly beautiful and confusing novel that, surprisingly, flows captivatingly in the stream-of-consciousness style. Korin's mind edges between dream and nightmare, telling the sordid reality of his life and transcendent beauty of his "manuscript". To me, the sadness of War and War lies primarily in its lack of clarity about Korin's true impact on the world - as an apparent crusader for truth and beauty, did anyone even notice? Or was he too mad?
Lou Last
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: golden, novel

'he had always found himself taking the loser’s side, though that was not quite right, he shook his head, for to put it more precisely, it was the story of his entire childhood he was talking about: being with losers, spending all his time with losers, not being able to deal with anyone else, only with unfortunates, the failures, the mistreated and the exploited, they being the only ones he sought out, the only group to whom he felt drawn, the only people he felt he understood, and so he strove
...more
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)
And so I read War and War and I loved every minute of it and I still must ask myself why I read it and why I loved it. Previously, I read The Melancholy of Resistance and loved every minute of it and still had to ask myself why I read it and why I loved it. Reading War and War, I felt that I had a greater understanding of what the book was about and knew why I was reading it but now that I have read it and reread parts of it, I am still asking myself: Why?

I want to say that the book
...more
Matthew
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: ex-junta members, ornithologists, thieves
Each section in this book is a sentence, breaths withheld for too long and then released suddenly, in false relief, as something else goes terribly wrong. At first it seems like a sad comedy down the jigsaw lines of crossed cultures, or a fable about the near-autism of being without shared language--and in part it is--but it's every consummation here that fails. What's strange is that this should be so exhilarating.
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László Krasznahorkai is a Hungarian novelist and screenwriter who is known for critically difficult and demanding novels, often labelled as postmodern, with dystopian and bleak melancholic themes.

He is probably best known through the oeuvre of the director Béla Tarr, who has collaborated with him on several movies. He is also the 2015 Man Booker International Prize Winner.

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“...what one ought to capture in beauty is that which is treacherous and irresistible...” 39 likes
“...and it really was extremely sudden, the way it struck him that, good heavens, he understood nothing, nothing at all about anything, for Christ's sake, nothing at all about the world, which was a most terrifying realization, he said, especially the way it came to him in all its banality, vulgarity, at a sickeningly ridiculous level, but this was the point, he said, the way that he, at age 44, had become aware of how utterly stupid he seemed to himself, how empty, how utterly blockheaded he had been in his understanding of the world these last 44 years, for, as he realized by the river, he had not only misunderstood it, but had not understood anything about anything, the worst part being that for 44 years he thought he had understood it, while in reality he had failed to do so; and this in fact was the worst thing of all that night of his birthday when he sat alone by the river, the worst because the fact that he now realized that he had not understood it did not mean that he did understand it now, because being aware of his lack of knowledge was not in itself some new form of knowledge for which an older one could be traded in, but one that presented itself as a terrifying puzzle the moment he thought about the world, as he most furiously did that evening, all but torturing himself in an effort to understand it and failing, because the puzzle seemed ever more complex and he had begun to feel that this world-puzzle that he was so desperate to understand, that he was torturing himself trying to understand, was really the puzzle of himself and the world at once, that they were in effect one and the same thing, which was the conclusion he had so far reached, and he had not yet given up on it, when, after a couple of days, he noticed that there was something the matter with his head.” 23 likes
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