Seiobo There Below (Ndp; 1280) (Paperback)
László Krasznahorkai's most recent book is, by leaps and bounds, the best novel I read in 2013. It was so good, I intend on reading it again this year. Krasznahorkai is half-hypnotist and half-sorcerer, and he pulls off audacious, seemingly pretentious maneuvers like 20-page sentences in such a way that you quickly lose sight of the audacity and find yourself instead wherever he damn well wants you. In some chapters, this means you're struck dumb; others, smiling ruefully; and still others, close to tears for reasons you can't quite articulate. "What's it about, though, Brad?" you're wondering. Neither a straightforward, plot-driven novel, nor a short story collection, it's maybe best to think of Seiobo There Below as a collection of moments -- set in places as far-flung as a Buddhist monastery in Japan to the medieval workshops and modern-day museums of Italy to the mysterious fortress/palace Alhambra. In each, Krasznahorkai reflects on the possibility of beauty existing in a world seemingly unfit for it, and what it means when we get a glimpse. Seiobo There Below repeatedly rehearses precisely how this looks, and I could not look away. The adventurous reader will be challenged and rewarded. -- Brad Johnson— From May 2014
Seiobo a Japanese goddess has a peach tree in her garden that blossoms once every three thousand years: its fruit brings immortality. In Seiobo There Below, we see her returning again and again to mortal realms, searching for a glimpse of perfection. Beauty, in Krasznahorkai's new novel, reflects, however fleetingly, the sacred even if we are mostly unable to bear it. Seiobo shows us an ancient Buddha being restored; Perugino managing his workshop; a Japanese Noh actor rehearsing; a fanatic of Baroque music lecturing a handful of old villagers; tourists intruding into the rituals of Japan's most sacred shrine; a heron hunting. Over these scenes and more structured by the Fibonacci sequence Seiobo hovers, watching it all.