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on 28 June 2008
WAR & WAR is a book within a book. For the most part it's the story of Korin the archivist, a somewhat unhinged free spirit, who unearths a manuscript of startling truth and beauty. Korin wants to publish his find on the internet (to make it "eternal"), and so he travels to New York, which for him is "the centre of the world".

Throughout the novel Korin reveals the contents of the manuscript as he talks endlessly to whoever will listen. The manuscript itself - the book within the novel - tells of the world-hopping exploits of four time-travellers and a mysterious other named Mastermann.

I enjoyed the writing style (i.e. the author's use of long sentences): it captures Korin's enlightened but overloaded mind. What's it about? The search for lasting meaning, perhaps? A futile attempt to secure immortality? The melancholy that results from realising that man (no matter how much he wants it) cannot go beyond conflict?...

All in all I'd define it as a pessimistic novel about the final days of a homeless soul whose chance discovery and obsession with a unique manuscript dooms him. Difficult and frustrating at times, though enjoyable because of the protagonist's spirited innocence.
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on 3 October 2011
"I no longer care if I die, said Korin, then, after a long silence, pointed to the nearby flooded quarry: Are those swans?"

There is something immensely satisfying about the way Kraznahorkai writes, his long unbroken sentences often spanning several pages at a time are both beautiful and hypnotic in their construction. His stories are often very slight but he has an incredible ability to immerse the reader in the mind of his central character. This post modern novel started off better then The Melancholy of Resistance as it didn't carry with it the baggage of the film adaptation. Bela Tarr might have managed to make films out of two of Kraznahorkai's book, but I don't think he'll be doing this one anytime soon as a third of the book consists of the hapless protagonist sat behind a computer typing up a manuscript he's stumbled upon in a Hungarian archive so that he can upload it to the internet for everyone to read. Interesting to read, not so interesting to watch.

I've just finished reading the book and I feel like I've been punched in the stomach, there's something about it that gets under the skin and makes you feel angry by the time it concludes. I'm not a literary critic nor do I particularly understand the mechanics of good literature so I'm struggling to put my finger on what made this book so effective. It did lose me in the middle section when the manuscript is being recounted but brought it altogether for the kick-in-the-teeth that was the final chapters.

I now feel quite sad that I've read both of his books that have been translated into English, I live in hope that someone will do the same with Satantango.
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on 20 April 2011
A couple of the other reviews summarise the plot well; another still gives an idea of how strong an effect this book may have.

There aren't many works of fiction I've read--not since childhood, anyway--that left me feeling that the characters, settings,and events were real. This one did, which is probably why I can't get its details out of my head nor altogether shrug off the sadness it aroused. You'd think that the device of using sometimes very long sentences (which are so beautifully constructed that even if you stop reading in the middle of one, you'll very easily find your place again) with innumerable clauses would distance the reader from what is related, but that's not at all the case here. I'm not sure how Krasznahorkai imparts so strong a sense of realness to his writing; he certainly doesn't take the obvious options like using description or dialogue to do so. Part of the effect might be due to the personalities of the main characters being displayed bit by bit and layer by layer: Korin, for example, is at first shown only as garrulous and obssessive, then quite pitiable and, gradually, becomes a learned and rather canny man who is in the end sympathetic rather than pathetic. And, in the end, the only thing that saved the book from being heart-breaking was the introduction of a few characters who also find Korin sympathetic enough to listen to.

There's a sort of epilogue, a closing section, to the book that I've a qualm or two about. Whilst its setting and happenings are wonderfully atmospheric, the tone and the content feel markedly different to what's gone before. The discrepancy doesn't exactly jar, but for me it momentarily blunted the impact of what preceded it. If I could somehow read War and War for the first time again knowing what I do now, I'd read the closing section before reading the rest of the book. And I most emphatically wouldn't have looked up the website mentioned until I'd reached the appropriate page.

4 1/2 stars. And I'd welcome any comments offering ideas on what the manuscript and that epilogue were at bottom about. . .
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on 27 April 2016
i wasnt familiar with his style so maybe its my fault for buying it. But please avoid reading this book if you dont appreciate long, endless sentences that often describe something not important at all.
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on 21 July 2014
Thank you
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on 23 January 2009
After reading this novel I feel like I've been hit with something. And hard. This book was so good I found myself carrying it around everywhere so that I could sneak another couple of pages in whenever I had a spare minute. Krasnahorkai is a master writer who defies categorisation. I won't spoil the story, just run and buy it.
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on 22 May 2008
The novel War & War centres on a Hungarian archivist, Korin, who stumbles upon an unknown manuscript. Korin decides that this manuscript, which supposedly explains the truth about humanity, or something similar, must be exposed to the world, and he travels to New York,which he believes to be the centre of the earth, in order to carry out this task. Once this has been completed, the novel simply follows Korin, who believes his purpose in life has been achieved, to the site of his suicide in Switzerland.The plot, as you can probably guess, isn't terribly engaging, and it's also overshadowed by the fact that Krasznahorkai uses the protagonist as a medium through which to express an abundance of fairly tedious philosophical ideas. The novel, at times, reads like one long exposition of the postmodern condition - for example, the novel's protagonist takes up entire pages with his inane babbling about de-centring, the emptiness of language, etc. The style of the novel also makes reading it something of a chore; Krasznahorkai doesn't do punctuation in this novel.By this, I mean that you can go up to four pages in War & War without a full stop. This postmodern approach to punctuation loses its appeal after about a page, as it makes the plot so bloody difficult to follow.

In short, I think Krasznahorkai is a talented writer but War & War is an unrewarding and, at times, very irritating read. I had quite high expectations for the novel because his only other work translated into English, The Melancholy of Resistance, was strongly recommended to me some time ago.
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