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SPADEWORK FOR A PALACE by László Krasznahorkai
Translated by John Batki
When it comes to notoriously impenetrable authors, few come more highly-regarded or greatly-feared than László Krasznahorkai. Heck, it took me four attempts to get through what many consider to be his best book, The Melancholy of Resistance. What a lovely surprise, then, to pick up his latest and find it accessible, funny and oddly charming.
In a single, 95 page sentence - yes, it’s still Krasznahorkai - herman melvill (intentionally all lower case, not to be confused with the great author), lowly public librarian, regales us with his increasingly bonkers obsession with his famous namesake, and a grand Borgesian plan to build an inaccessible, heavily-guarded fortress of books that will serve as a repository of all knowledge. Never mind that it will be closed to the public. Or that it will be housed in a disused utitlities hub in central New York City. Or that he happens to lose his wife, his friends, his job and, ultimately his freedom along the way.
Spadework… is as witty and entertaining a descent into madness as I’ve ever read and, I dare say, a perfectly digestible jumping-off point for anyone yet to tackle the daunting edifice of Krasznahorkai’s oeuvre.
Spadework For A Palace by László Krasznahorkai (Tr. John Batki)
New Directions, 2022