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Hungarian Novel Wins National Book Award

D&T
November 21, 2019

Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize, has won the National Book Award for translated literature. It was translated from Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet. Krasznahorkai received the recognition at the 70th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner in New York City this Wednesday.

The Publisher describes the novel as “set in contemporary times, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming tells the story of a Prince Myshkin-like figure, Baron Béla Wenckheim, who returns at the end of his life to his provincial Hungarian hometown. Having escaped from his many casino debts in Buenos Aires, where he was living in exile, he longs to be reunited with his high-school sweetheart Marika. Confusions abound, and what follows is an endless storm of gossip, con men, and local politicians, vividly evoking the small town’s alternately drab and absurd existence. All along, the Professor – a world-famous natural scientist who studies mosses and inhabits a bizarre Zen-like shack in a desolate area outside of town – offers long rants and disquisitions on his attempts to immunize himself from thought. Spectacular actions are staged as death and the abyss loom over the unsuspecting townfolk.”

In their citation, the judges said that “at the end of his life, Baron Wenckheim returns to a small town in Hungary, in search of his lost love. From this, László Krasznahorkai forges a fictional universe populated with rogues and visionaries, at once epic and intimate, apocalyptic and deeply comic. Ottilie Mulzet’s remarkable translation captures the density of his extended sentences, their many twists and pivots, and the slow accumulation of their extraordinary intellectual and moral force. Singular and uncompromising, Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming is a masterpiece by one of the great writers of our time.”

D&T

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