I Didn’t Want to Be a Writer
“I know that those people were there, but no one believes me now."
A castle and solitary knights in the mist. Sounds like the scene of a fairy tale, doesn’t it? In fact, this is a small town on the Romanian-Hungarian border in which the lauded Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai grew up. Watch him share his engaging story, which includes a job as a night watchman for a dairy farm. Read more …
“I see Gyula as being sort of like a book of legends where basically nothing is real although it could be.” Krasznahorkai recalls the extraordinary characters that inhabited his childhood town – from solitary knights in the mist to a man who would come out of his house once a year, on the day of the Hungarian 1848 Revolution, wearing clothes from that year. Returning to Gyula – which Krasznahorkai ran away from at the age of 18 – everything was different from what he remembered: “I know that those people were there, but no one believes me now. I don’t try to tell them.”
After a brutal military training, Krasznahorkai broke all ties with his family and his “wandering years” began. To avoid serving more time in the army, he moved from one county to another every three or six months, doing different types of work – from being a miner to being a Cultural Director for six villages at age 19: “You have to imagine something very poor and very bleak. It had nothing to do with being a manager.” During this period he taught the Roma children to read, and as a consequence, the local Hungarians set the House of Culture on fire to make him leave town. Krasznahorkai then became a night watchman for a dairy farm: “That was the nicest job I’ve ever had in my life.” With no possibility of sitting down at a desk to write, he acquired the ability to “write” in his head: “Once I accumulate an amount of text I can keep it in my head, some 15-20 pages, or it used to be more, then I write it down.” Even after writing his debut novel, ‘Satantango’ (1985), Krasznahorkai didn’t want to be a writer, and the latter was only published thanks to his friend, the writer Péter Eszterházy. It was only a later dissatisfaction with the book, that made him start writing ‘The Melancholy of Resistance’ (1989): “I wanted to try again, maybe this time it would work. And this is how it went on, and on. I couldn’t stop.”
László Krasznahorkai (b. 1954) is a Hungarian novelist and screenwriter. Among his works are ‘Satantango’ (1985), ‘The Melancholy of Resistance’ (1989), ‘War and War’ (1999), and ‘Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming’ (2016). He has had a long-running collaboration with Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr, with whom he has adapted several of his novels into films. Krasznahorkai has been honoured with numerous literary prizes, including the 2015 Man Booker International Prize, the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature, and the highest award of the Hungarian state, the Kossuth Prize. Writer and admirer Susan Sontag described Krasznahorkai as the “contemporary Hungarian master of the apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville.” For more see: http://www.krasznahorkai.hu
László Krasznahorkai was interviewed by Johan Lose in August 2019 in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Translator: Peter Eszterhás
Edited by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Produced by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen and Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020
Supported by Nordea-fonden