My review of Animalinside by László Krasznahorkai at The National.

Animalinside is 48 pages long, but it is a large read and you will see few more beautifully produced works of literature this year. The project grew out of Krasznahorkai’s relationship with the German artist Max Neumann, whose painting of a silhouetted, dog-like figure oddly straining within a sparsely detailed enclosure had long hung on Krasznahorkai’s wall. One day the author wrote a text in response to this painting, which spurred Neumann to create 14 more works of art, and Krasznahorkai 13 more textual responses. Aware that the final product would be published in the Cahier’s pamphlet-like format, Krasznahorkai necessarily limited the length of each of his responses to what would fit on one or two pages.

The result of this international, multimedia collaboration is Animalinside, a book in which a galaxy of implication springs from Neumann’s striking, muscular animal form. It is an iconic image, somewhere between a demented howl and a vicious leap, instantly recognisable, adaptable, enigmatic. The figure features prominently in each of Neumann’s paintings, which are reproduced magnificently in the book. The reproductions’ range of texture is superb, capturing the subtle, diffuse shifts in shade that characterise Neumann’s backgrounds and the crisp blotches of colour that seep atop them.

As with the images, the powerful centre of Krasznahorkai’s prose is the creature. He begins by apprehending it from the outside, telling us as though projecting into a Rorschach blot “he wants to break free … there is nothing else to do but howl” . . .

For more on Krasznahorkai see David Auerbach’s excellent Quarterly Conversation essay.

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Superb review Scott. I’ve been waiting to hear your take on this book since you first mentioned it. I am currently engrossed in A Book of Memories, so I guess you could say I’m all about Hungarian writers at the moment.

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