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László Krasznahorkai
Krasznahorkai László.jpg
Born 5 January 1954 (1954-01-05) (age 67)
Gyula, Békés County, Hungary
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter
Language Hungarian, German
Alma mater Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) (University of Budapest)
József Attila University (JATE) (University of Szeged)
Period 1985–present
Genre novels, short stories, screenplays
Literary movement Postmodernism
Notable works Satantango (1985)
The Melancholy of Resistance (1989)
War and War (1999)
Seiobo There Below (2008)
Notable awards Man Booker International Prize
Kossuth Prize
DAAD fellowship
Spouse Anikó Pelyhe (m. 1990, divorced)
Dóra Kopcsányi (m. 1997)
Children three (Kata, Ágnes, and Panni)

László Krasznahorkai ( born 5 January 1954) is a Hungarian novelist and screenwriter known for difficult and demanding novels, often labeled postmodern, with dystopian and melancholic themes. Several of his works, notably his novels Satantango (Sátántangó, 1985) and The Melancholy of Resistance (Az ellenállás melankóliája, 1989), have been turned into feature films by Hungarian film director Béla Tarr.


Early life and education

Krasznahorkai was born in Gyula, Hungary on 5 January 1954 to a middle-class Jewish family on his father's side. His father György Krasznahorkai was a lawyer and his mother Júlia Pálinkás a social security administrator.

In 1972 Krasznahorkai graduated from the Erkel Ferenc high school where he specialized in Latin. From 1973 to 1976 he studied law at the József Attila University (since 1999, University of Szeged) and from 1976 to 1978 at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest. From 1978 to 1983 he studied Hungarian language and literature at ELTE, receiving his degree for a thesis on the work and experiences of writer and journalist Sándor Márai (1900–1989) after he fled the Communist regime in 1948 (Márai lived in exile in Italy and later San Diego, California). During his years as a literature student, Krasznahorkai worked at the publishing company Gondolat Könyvkiadó.

Career as writer

Since completing his university studies Krasznahorkai has supported himself as an independent author. When in 1985 his first major publication Satantango achieved success, he was immediately thrust into the forefront of Hungarian literary life. The book, a dystopian novel set in his native Hungary, is regarded as his most famous. It received a Best Translated Book Award in English in 2013.

He travelled outside of Communist Hungary for the first time in 1987, spending a year in West Berlin as a recipient of a DAAD fellowship. Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, he has lived in a variety of locations. In 1990, for the first time, he was able to spend a significant amount of time in East Asia. He drew upon his experiences in Mongolia and China in writing The Prisoner of Urga and Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens. He has returned many times to China.

In 1993, his novel The Melancholy of Resistance received the German Bestenliste-Prize for the best literary work of the year. In 1996, he was a guest of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. While completing the novel War and War, he travelled widely across Europe. The American poet Allen Ginsberg was of great assistance in completing the work; Krasznahorkai resided for some time in Ginsberg's New York apartment, and he described the poet's friendly advice as valuable in bringing the book to life.

In 1996, 2000, and 2005 he spent six months in Kyoto. His contact with the aesthetics and literary theory of the Far East resulted in significant changes in his writing style and deployed themes. He returns often to both Germany and Hungary, but he has also spent varying lengths of time in several other countries, including the United States, Spain, Greece, and Japan, providing inspiration for his novel Seiobo There Below, which won the Best Translated Book Award in 2014.

Beginning in 1985, the renowned director and the author's good friend Béla Tarr made films almost exclusively based on Krasznahorkai's works, including Sátántangó and Werckmeister Harmonies. Krasznahorkai said the 2011 film The Turin Horse would be their last collaboration.

Krasznahorkai has received international acclaim from critics. Susan Sontag described him as "the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville". W. G. Sebald remarked, "The universality of Krasznahorkai's vision rivals that of Gogol's Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing." In 2015, he received the Man Booker International Prize, the first Hungarian author to be so awarded.

Personal life

After residing in Berlin, Germany for several years, where he was for six months S. Fischer Guest Professor at the Free University of Berlin, Krasznahorkai currently resides "as a recluse in the hills of Szentlászló" in Hungary. After divorcing his first wife, Anikó Pelyhe, whom he married in 1990, he married his second wife, Dóra Kopcsányi, a sinologist and graphic designer, in 1997. He has three children: Kata, Ágnes and Emma.

Honors and awards

Krasznahorkai has been honored with numerous literary prizes, among them the highest award of the Hungarian state, the Kossuth Prize, and the Man Booker International Prize for his English-translated oeuvre.

  • 2021: Austrian State Prize for European Literature
  • 2020: Phrase of the Year Prize 2018
  • 2019: National Book Award for Translated Literature (USA) for Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming
  • 2017: Aegon Art Award for Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming (Hungary)
  • 2015: Man Booker International Prize
  • 2015: The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Fellow
  • 2014: Vilenica Prize (Vilenica International Literary Festival, Slovenia)
  • 2014: Best Translated Book Award, winner for Seiobo There Below, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet. First author to win two BTBA awards.
  • 2014: America Award for a lifetime contribution to international writing
  • 2013: Best Translated Book Award, winner for Satantango, translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes
  • 2012: Prima Primissima Prize (Budapest, Hungary)
  • 2010: Brücke-Berlin Prize (Berlin, Germany) for Seiobo There Below
  • 2010: Spycher-Prize (Leuk, Switzerland) for his complete work but in particular for From the North a Mountain, ...
  • 2009: Prize of the Society of Writers (Budapest, Hungary)
  • 2008: Hungarian Heritage-Award, (Budapest, Hungary)
  • 2007: Nominated for Jean Monnet Prize (France)
  • 2004: Kossuth Prize (Hungary)
  • 2003: Soros Foundation Prize
  • 2002: Laureate of the Hungarian Republic (Magyar Köztársaság Babérkoszorúja)
  • 1998: Márai Sándor Prize (Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture)
  • 1993: Krúdy Gyula Prize (Hungary)
  • 1993: Bestenliste-Prize (Baden-Baden, Germany) for The Melancholy of Resistance
  • 1992: Déry Tibor Award (Hungary)
  • 1987–1988: DAAD Fellowship (West Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany)
  • 1987: József Attila Prize (Hungary)
  • 1987: Mikes Kelemen Kör Prize (The Netherlands)
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