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Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming

by László Krasznahorkai

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1101181,125 (4.13)5
Set in contemporary times, Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming tells the story of a Prince Myshkin-like figure, Baron Béla Wenckheim, who returns at the end of his life to his provincial Hungarian hometown. Having escaped from his many casino debts in Buenos Aires, where he was living in exile, he longs to be reunited with his high-school sweetheart Marika. Confusions abound, and what follows is an endless storm of gossip, con men, and local politicians, vividly evoking the small town's alternately drab and absurd existence. All along, the Professor--a world-famous natural scientist who studies mosses and inhabits a bizarre Zen-like shack in a desolate area outside of town--offers long rants and disquisitions on his attempts to immunize himself from thought. Spectacular actions are staged as death and the abyss loom over the unsuspecting townfolk.… (more)

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WTF did I just read? Despite the style, this novel is nice and normal. Funny, even. And then it isn't. It goes from small-town politics funny to creepy sci-fi-ish.

This writing isn't for everyone. Paragraphs are 2-5+ pages long, and each is one sentence. Generally, each paragraph is also from the point of view of a different character, with many repeats. It feel old even though it's modern. The mood felt like Titus Groan--Titus Groan with trains and phones and espresso and diesel and refugees and a wider modern world.

There is a lot going on. Everyone is connected through work or home or school or friends or relatives. The Professor is an expert on mosses who seems a little...unhinged...as he now spends much of his time alone thinking about how not to think and other philosophical topics. The Baron himself is returning to his hometown in Hungary after spending decades in Argentina (he is also fleeing from gambling debts and jail). The Mayor is very hopeful that the Baron will donate his wealth to the town. The police chief has his fingers in this too. They create a HUGE welcome celebration when he arrives, and the Baron is painfully embarrassed. Marika was his girlfriend when they were teens, and she is still there, single, and he has written to her. The mayor and police chief are jockeying for position, the biker gang is after the professor who purchased one of their hidden weapons, everyone is afraid of the biker gang but ignore them rather than do what they say. The town itself is a character. The trains are somewhat unreliable, there are limited gas supplies, the orphans (why are there so many?) are housed in the chateau, there are espresso bars, a travel agency with little business, it sounds quite dreary and downtrodded. It's all an interesting and farcical take on small town politics. And then it veers into creepiness.

I am not sure what actually happened. ( )
  Dreesie | Dec 21, 2019 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Krasznahorkai, Lászlóprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alföldy, MariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulzet, OttilieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Viragh, ChristinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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