Author(s): Laszlo Krasznahorkai
The Last Wolf, translated by George Szirtes, features a classic, obsessed Krasznahorkai narrator, a man hired to write (by mistake, by a glitch of fate) the true tale of the last wolf of Extremadura, a barren stretch of Spain. This miserable experience (being mistaken for another, dragged about a cold foreign place, appalled by a species' end) is narrated-all in a single sentence-as a sad looping tale, a howl more or less, in a dreary wintry Berlin bar to a patently bored bartender. The Last Wolf is Krasznahorkai in a maddening nutshell-with the narrator trapped in his own experience (having internalized the extermination of the last creature of its kind and "locked Extremadura in the depths of his own cold, empty, hollow heart")-enfolding the reader in the exact same sort of entrapment to and beyond the end, with its first full-stop period of the book. Herman, "a peerless virtuoso of trapping who guards the splendid mysteries of an ancient craft gradually sinking into permanent oblivion," is asked to clear a forest's last "noxious beasts." In Herman I: the Game Warden, he begins with great zeal, although in time he "suspects that maybe he was 'on the wrong scent.'" Herman switches sides, deciding to track entirely new game...In Herman II: The Death of a Craft, the same situation is viewed by strange visitors to the region. Hyper-sexualized aristocratic officers on a very extended leave are enjoying a saturnalia with a bevy of beauties in the town nearest the forest. With a sense of effete irony, they interrupt their orgies to pitch in with the manhunt of poor Herman, and in the end, "only we are left to relish the magic bouquet of this escapade..." Translated by John Batki.
Written in one virtuosic 73-page sentence which exerts enormous pressure on language to make it more closely resemble thought and which makes form the primary content of this novella, The Last Wolf tells of an academic who is commissioned to travel to Extremadura in Spain where he seeks to determine the fate of the last wolves in that barren area. We read his relation to a Hungarian bartender in Berlin of the accounts of Extremadurans made to him via a translator (and usually based in any case on further hearsay), nesting the subject of the story in several layers of reportage, rumour and translation, the performative complexity of which is repeatedly punctured by the offhand comments of the bartender. Krasznahorkai, as usual, succeeds in being both comic and morose, this hopeless tale of human destruction and the frustrating impassivity of nature is one in which meaning is both invoked and withheld much like the presence of the last elusive wolf (or, rather, much like the story of the last wolf, for it is narrative that is the true quarry for the hunter). Herman, the other novella in this beautifully produced little book, was written earlier in Krasznahorkai’s career, yet deals with many of the same themes. The two versions, reminiscent at times of Kafka, tell of a master trapper whose disgust at his calling is turned upon his own species as the compounding of his exterminations creates a momentum from which neither he nor others can be released. What remains but the consequential force of past actions when their rationale has proven spurious?
"Slow, relentless forces permeate the world of Laszlo Krasznahorkai; his characters are subject to glacial currents that bear them ever onwards, an inch at a time, toward a horizon they constantly imagine but never actually behold. In so doing, they cry, or laugh, or cry laughing, or carry out the timeworn repetitions that make a life, until the moment they come up against the horizon." -- Camille Gajewski - Music & Literature "Krasznahorkai is alone among European novelists now in his intensity and originality. One of the most mysterious artists now at work." -- Colm Toibin "One of the most profoundly unsettling experiences I have had as a reader." -- James Wood - The New Yorker "Laszlo Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present-day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful: magnificent works of deep imagination and complex passions, in which the human comedy verges painfully onto transcendence." -- Marina Warner - Announcing the 2015 Man Booker International Prize
Laszlo Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary in 1954. He has won numerous international literary awards and his works have been translated into many languages. John Batki is a kilimologist, writer, translator, and visual artist. He was born in Hungary and has lived in the United States since age 14. George Szirtes is a Hungarian-born British poet and translator who has translated works by Sandor Csoori, Dezso Kosztolanyi, and Laszlo Krasznahorkai.