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Seiobo There Below (Ndp; 1280) [Kindle Edition]

László Krasznahorkai , Ottilie Mulzet
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Kindle Edition £7.91  
Hardcover £12.79  
Paperback £16.50  
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Book Description

From the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize

The latest novel from “the contemporary Hungarian master of the apocalypse” (Susan Sontag)

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.

Product Description


The universality of Krasznahorkai's vision rivals that of Gogol's Dead Souls and far surpasses all the lesser concerns of contemporary writing. (W.G. Sebald)

The contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville. (Susan Sontag)

László Krasznahorkai writes prose of breathtaking energy and beauty. He manages to combine our most earthly concerns with large cosmic questions. His tones and textures are filled with both risk and certainty. He has elevated the novel form and is to be ranked among the great European novelists (Colm Toibin)

Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer. (Theo Tait Guardian)

Krasznahorkai is the kind of writer who at least once on every page finds a way of expressing something one has always sensed but never known, let alone been able to describe. (Nicole Krauss)

As the worthy winner of this year's Man Booker International prize, Krasznahorkai throws down a challenge: raise your game or get your coat... the intensity of his commitment to the art of fiction is indisputable...exhilarating, even euphoric. (Hari Kunzru The Guardian 2015-05-23)

As always with Mr Krasznahorkai, real understanding remains beyond grasp, though a sense of illumination is pervasive. As a novelist he is a one-off, even if his work-as this book so finely shows-is universal. (The Economist 2015-05-22)

The latest and most luminous book to appear in English by the Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai... a devastatingly thoughtful, austere and contemplative book, written with a deep knowledge of artistic technique and human affairs that is rare among novelists. (Tim Martin Daily Telegraph 2015-06-06)

These captivating pages. (Jane Shilling New Statesman 2015-06-12)

Book Description

A timeless masterpiece from one of the world's most distinguished writers

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 673 KB
  • Print Length: 465 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0811219674
  • Publisher: New Directions (13 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A58VDO4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,611,670 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

László Krasznahorkai is a Hungarian writer born in 1954. Krasznahorkai has been honoured with numerous literary prizes, among them the highest award of the Hungarian state, the Kossuth Prize and, in 1993, the German Bestenliste Prize for the best literary work of the year. His novel SATANTANGO was translated by George Szirtes and won the Best Translated Book Award 2013.

László Krasznahorkai is the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize.

Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest writers alive. 19 July 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I actually cried when I read this because it was so beautiful. Ridiculous really. And I was on a train.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both books are amazing. 3 Aug. 2015
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Mesmerising. This is a magical book. It lead wanting to read eading more by Krasznahorkai and so moved on to SATANTANGO. Both books are amazing.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting experience 26 July 2015
I am still working on it - a slow process. But it is a curiously gripping read.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 22 July 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the Journey...Not Necessarily the Destination 25 Sept. 2013
By W. Wilson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a (broadly speaking) postmodernist "novel," 'Seiobo There Below' can be disorienting in a few places, but it's never opaque for mere effect. I first read "Ze'ami Is Leaving" from Music & Literature Issue 2. (The first few paragraphs of this particular story, the penultimate one in 'Seiobo,' are disorienting, but I "got" it after a few reads.) Krasznahorkai often disparages technology, faith in empirical observation, and the inexorable march of technological "progress." He criticizes capitalism and the influence of Western consumerism. However, he's also critical of the former Soviet Union's effect on the former Eastern Bloc nations, especially his native Hungary.

This is not a true novel in that characters do not overlap from chapter to chapter. Actually, there aren't chapters in the traditional sense. I'm inclined to think of 'Seiobo' as a collection of short stories with similar themes.

While there is more than one theme in the stories that make up 'Seiobo,' a main one is the difficulty of creating art: We witness the diurnal trials of a Noh mask-maker; a Renaissance painter struggles with what appears to be manic depression while creating a panel for an altar - especially fascinating to read because all of his materials are organic (e.g., he directs a carpenter to get the panel from a specific tree, his pigments are ground by his assistants); a landscape painter feels the urge to push the boundaries of his painting even while suffering crushing personal losses, all while trying to appear composed in the glare of the public eye.

For Krasznahorkai, not only is the making of art all too often a painful process, the characters in these stories find that going to see art is disappointing, bewildering, and at times even dangerous.

There are exceptions: One story deals with an unnamed visitor - likely Krasznahorkai himself channeling Thomas Bernhard - of Alhambra in Spain. I had not heard of Alhambra before reading this story; I've since read about this amazing palace/fortress. As a Westerner, most of the news I hear about Islam is negative, so it's refreshing to read about an age, however distant in time, in which Islam produced dazzling art and architecture. Another story deals with an "art retreat" in Eastern Europe and its mysterious visitor. This might be the best of the stories; I found it to be the most uplifting. Krasznahorkai can take you from the depths of wretchedness to high strangeness in just a few pages.

I'm not sure what to make of the book's final story, but I will say that if you're a fan of Krasznahorkai's writing in the project he worked on a few years ago with a German painter (whose name escapes me at the moment), you'll likely enjoy its visceral punch. It's the black bookend of a book that begins with white along a Japanese river.

When we read 'Seiobo There Below,' we're reading Ottilie Mulzet's translation. Because I don't know Hungarian, I'm unable to tell how "true" her translation is to the Hungarian 'Seiobo,' but I can say that this is masterful writing. I enjoy reading these stories; it's just that the questions they raise can be unsettling and depressing, with in my opinion too gloomy an outlook, that I've decided to give it four instead of five stars.

I would advise potential readers of 'Seiobo There Below' to avoid on-line reviews of the book - most of them have no spoiler warnings - until you've read it yourself. Look for interviews featuring Ottilie Mulzet, who has terrific insights into 'Seiobo.' And don't shy away from the paperbound version of this book over the convenience of the e-versions - for about $10 it's beautifully printed and bound, although regrettably there isn't a color tip-in section showing some of the art discussed within. You may, or may not, want to see some of the art from 'Seiobo There Below' in person. You'll have to decide.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are willing to put the time in, this can be one of the most rewarding reading experiences. 27 Dec. 2013
By William Shinevar - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the third Krasznahorkai book I have read, so before you read on, it is safe to say that I already enjoy his writing. I read Satantango first, then Melancholy of Resistance(which is equally as good as this book), and finally this.

This book is less a novel and more a set of short stories ranging from 5 to about 50 pages all centered around the questions of what is art, how is it made, and how can we recognize that beauty. These are not simple questions and Krasznahorkai does not give simple answers either. Even in his stories, he takes examples from around the globe, focusing on Noh, Italian painting, music, and even nature. I found myself looking up many things, especially since I am not that educated in Japanese culture, but I felt that after a quick paragraph or two on wikipedia, I was educated enough to listen to the narrator's comments, which always showed the patience and consciousness required in art. This book shows that is also required in reading, or general aesthetic observation, as well.

One must work through his dense prose. Except for one chapter, most of his paragraphs, which are tens of pages at times, are one long sentence. Although difficult to get into, if one has a long time to read, after a while, you are sucked into the book and realize only when the chapter ends that two hours have gone by. If you enjoy Krasznahorkai, definitely read this. If you haven't read him yet, this is as good a starting place as any. If you want a more plot driven book(if I can call it that) by him, get Satantango, which is also wonderful, and if you want to see how that writing style has been honed by more than 20 years, return to this work later, one day, eventually.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rebuilding of the Lingual Shrine 28 Dec. 2013
By Saposcat - Published on
The slow reader I am, and all too busy, now as ever, I finished Seiobo at last, and I'm sad it's over because I loved every sentence of it, and somehow it still feels like it isn't over. I disagree with the idea I've read in a couple places that it is a mere collection of short stories. The novel is a novel proper, if not somehow even more of a piece than just a novel, by the tapestry of the language itself, for the intersections are far more deep-seated than in so-called "short story cycles" or "composite novels." Every phrase repeated, like the raising of an index finger, gave me goosebumps, epiphanic, more and more every time, true to its accumulative structure. Every sentence describes, no, every sentence is, the novel itself, yet the novel should be experienced as a whole, in order even to perceive but the smallest pieces in their rightful places. The book reminds me of Robert Smithson's piece "A Heap of Language." The novel becomes both metonymic and metaphoric at once. Always becoming, it never just is, never so complacent is it just to be, just to assert itself as being there, it even, probably more than not, questions that it is there at all, and the breaking of its implicit rules says so much and renders the pages open to the whole world.

It constructs its own rules as it goes on--the predominant mode being paragraphs pages at length containing a single sentence--and, not so perverse as to believe in itself alone, to become a slave to its own system, it breaks those rules too, and even those breaks are, and contain, the whole. When the short sentences in the Alhambra chapter arrive, they feel like epigraphs in stone, as heavy as any of the long-winded sentences: "For there is truth." "There is the Alhambra." "That is the truth." Another exception, "Something Is Burning Outside," at eight pages the second-shortest chapter and containing by far the most paragraphs and sentences, has a particularly beautiful character description: "He was thin, like a water bird, his shoulders stooped; bald-headed, in his frighteningly gaunt face two pure dark-brown eyes burned--two pure burning eyes, yet eyes notfrom an inner fire but merely reflecting back, like two still mirrors, that something is burning outside." Each chapter is a rebuilding of the pervious, as the Ise Shrine was in "Rebuilding of the Ise Shrine," and in accord with the instability of perspective in K's books, language itself becomes an object malleable: shrines of language built and collapsed before the next shrine, the next chapter. I have such an affinity for this whole book, I don't think I'll stop perusing it on occasion, pursuing new strains from old.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 26 May 2014
By Jane G. Raven - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Not an easy read, not ideal for commuting --- but the stories, read with attention and focus when you are fresh and engaged, make such a strong impression that the images may become permanently lodged in your psyche. I have been told Laszlo Krasznahorkai is a Nobel contender, and certainly his work is serious and beautiful, and the book well worth buying -- in fact, most highly recommended. I taught one of the stories, Something is Burning Outside, to a class of high school students in an international fiction class. While some found it distant and inacessible, most found the idea of an artist digging a horse out of the earth to be a fascinating notion, and they admired the story. Krasznahorkai's sentences are long, long and long, worthy of imitation for high school readers (and all of us) to rethink what is great prose. The translation is excellent -- I understand it just won a prize for best translation. Here is the Best Translated Book Award judging panel's comment: “This is a book that discusses in minute detail locations from all around the globe, including Japan, Spain, Italy, and Greece, as well as delving into the consciousness and practices of individuals from across 2,000 years of human history." [...]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How do you review perfection? 20 July 2014
By TonyMess - Published on
I have to start this review by stating that this was probably the most difficult novel I have ever read. When you are not a genius, how do you review something composed by a genius? Your insignificant thoughts are mere ramblings compared to the broad sweeping vista of Krasznahorkai’s mind.

Let’s start off by explaining that the chapters are numbered in the Fibonacci sequence (missing 0 and 1) – if you don’t know what the Fibonacci sequence is I suggest you google it and then become even more confused. You’ll find heaps of references to nature, art, Elloitt waves, golden means, you get me? Let’s simply say the chapters are 1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233,377,610,987,1597 and 2854

These seventeen sections could be easily read as seventeen short stories, as we do not have a common narrator, or character and the sections cover just about the breadth of human existence. The inner sleeve tells me “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 to mortal realms, searching for a glimpse of perfection.“ Now I must have been asleep when I read that section, as my only recollection of Seiobo’s involvement was through a Noh dancer performing as her.

For my full review go to
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