Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming: a profound tale of certain entropy

László Krasznahorkai’s exceptional novel finds humour in view life can only get worse

 László Krasznahorkai:  novel shows us how quickly intentions and hopes become debased by the sourness of human interactions. Photograph: Carlos Alvarez/Getty

László Krasznahorkai: novel shows us how quickly intentions and hopes become debased by the sourness of human interactions. Photograph: Carlos Alvarez/Getty

To begin with, there is a warning. A preamble to the novel in which a conductor – arrogant-seeming and intimidating – tells the musicians before him that their individual efforts are of no significance. “I must disclose to you now . . . there will be no joy, no consolation.” He doesn’t even like music and, displaying a wearied humility, he tells them “I am the one – not creating anything – but who is simply present before every sound, I am . . . simply waiting for all of this to be over.”

With that overture played, the disharmonious symphony can begin. Already, the writing has a powerful impact, conveying an uneasy apprehension and an intimation that much will go awry in the course of the novel. This is in part because Krasznahorkai’s previous novels have shown us how quickly intentions and hopes become debased by the sourness of human interactions.

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