Rain of Terror
The two manifestations of an absurdist Hungarian classic
Like a science-fiction time traveler or the radio character Chandu the Magician, Satantango is an entity with multiple—or at least two—coequal manifestations, a monument of late-twentieth-century cinema and a modern Hungarian literary classic. There is Satantango the mind-boggling seven-and-a-half-hour movie by director Béla Tarr, and there is Satantango the legendary novel by the movie’s screenwriter László Krasznahorkai, published in 1985 but only now translated into English.
How does one distinguish between these entities—and should one dare? Let’s begin by acknowledging the unique creative partnership forged by Tarr and Krasznahorkai in the last decade of goulash communism, a period during which even party apparatchiks were pleased to joke that Hungary was the merriest bunker in the camp,
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