YESTERDAY by Ágota Kristóf
Translated by David Watson
Tobias Horvath escapes the shitstain town of his traumatic childhood, reinventing himself as Sandor Lester and disappearing into the anonymous mass of city life. He works at a clock factory, punching a single hole in a single cog, day in, day out, before going home to his suffering sort-of-girlfriend, Yolande, all the while dreaming of “Line”. When a woman from his old town turns up and begins to work at the same factory he becomes convinced it is his dream girl and begins to stalk her. She busts him and, well, things get fucking strange.
With her Book of Lies trilogy sitting high on my list of greatest works of all time, I was nervous to open Kristóf’s little novella. I needn’t have worried; it is every bit as disturbingly brilliant, with many of the same themes distilled to their skin-crawling essences. Tobias/Sandor fits perfectly in Kristóf’s constellation of damaged souls, and his hometown could well have been lifted from the trilogy. Desperation, rage, incest, murder and crushing failure abound, all delivered in prose so sparse it beggars belief that I felt warmly connected throughout. Puke and pathos. In other words, peak Kristóf.
Yesterday by Ágota Kristóf (tr. David Watson)
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