The Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, who sounds like a sneeze and reads like a fever, is on a mission to build our collective stamina. His novels have always resisted easy interpretation, with their page-long sentences and catastrophic air, and in his ‘most popular’ book, Satantango, the clanging language and doomy setting worked to great effect. Now Krasznahorkai, who won the Man Booker International Prize in 2015, has declared that that book was the first in a quartet, which is now completed with Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, his longest novel yet, translated by Ottilie Mulzet. ‘With this novel I can prove that I really wrote just one book in my life.’
Baron Wenckheim in the novel shares his name with a 19th-century Hungarian prime minister, but the book is set in the present day, and this Baron is in his sixties, returning to Hungary from South America, having been rescued from gambling debt disgrace by his family with its ‘excellent Argentine connections, nurtured since 1944’.