Satantango, a novel by Laszlo Krasznahorkai  “…they trusted the new would not only erase the old but utterly replace it.”

The misfortune of the people is highlighted by the rain which pours unceasingly down on them, through their windows and into their houses where the rats dwell and the mold grows.

Perhaps Irimias will help them as he has promised, taking their money piled up before him on a table; they have given him all they have. All their trust is on him, whom they make out to be their savior.

But, he disappears for awhile, and it seems they have been conned out of their money and out of the hope they carried for the future.

The people drink, and dance, and malign one another as they wait for Irimias to return. The women talk incessantly, or lure the men with their sexuality, and everyone seems debased and foolish and destitute.

“We are born into this stye of a world,” he thought, his mind still pounding, “-like pigs rolling in our own muck, with no idea what all that jostling at the teats amounts to, why we’re engaged in this perpetual hoof-to-mouth combat on the path that leads to the trough, or to our beds at dusk.”

Is it a dream? Is it a governmental trick? Are the people suffering in this flooded village where there is no work a symbol for society in general? Or, are they simply a subset who yearn for the life that once was held in the abandoned manor home they cannot imagine paying to heat?

Eventually everyone was resigned to the sense of helplessness, hoping for miracles, watching the clock with ever greater anxiety, counting the weeks and months until even time lost its importance and they sat around all day in the kitchen, getting a few pennies from here and there that they immediately drank away in the bar.

This could be a small town in Illinois, rather than a village in Hungary.

Irimias, the hoped for leader, imagines a better world.

What I want is to establish a small island for a few people with nothing left to lose, a small island free of exploitation, where people work for, not against, each other, where everyone has plenty and peace and security and can go to sleep at night like a proper human being…

Who doesn’t want that?! I’m reading a book whose plot I can barely follow, which ends up in exactly the same place it began, but one thing is abundantly clear:  Krasznahorkai writes of the bleakest aspects of our lives in a dreamlike and haunting way. Without giving any clear answers as to how we got here, or how we can get away; perhaps bringing the conditions of depravity to light is enough to cause us to come up with our own.

Satantango won the 2013 award for best translated fiction. Read more about the author from New Directions books here.