Imagine if László Krasznahorkai wrote a single novella-length sentence about a failed, depressed philosophy professor who spends one morning in a German bar recounting the story, to one demonstrably uninterested barkeep, of his trip to Spain, the result of an invitation to write a "new chapter" about the Extremadura region, which, instead, turns into a compulsion to track down and discover the facts behind the death of the area's last remaining wolf (or wolves), a fated loss internalized by the professor and conveyed in all its dark, existential beauty; but you need not imagine too hard, as The Last Wolf is just that, the slim, potent new work by the great Hungarian master himself.
Herman, written in two parts ("Herman, The Game Warden" and "The Death of a Craft"), are similar in scope to The Last Wolf, but stand alone as perhaps variations on a theme. "The Game Warden" is the story of a trapper gone rogue, whose new targets lead the townspeople to take on a terrifying ordeal. "The Death of a Craft" concerns the very same incidents, but is told from the perspective of the town's visitors. Together, these two pieces work to great effect, further revealing Krasznahorkai's commitment to intensity and foreboding. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The Last Wolf, translated by George Szirtes, features a classic, obsessed Krasznahorkai narrator, a man hired to write (by mistake, by a glitch of fate) the true tale of the last wolf of Extremadura, a barren stretch of Spain. This miserable experience (being mistaken for another, dragged about a cold foreign place, appalled by a species' end) is narrated--all in a single sentence--as a sad looping tale, a howl more or less, in a dreary wintry Berlin bar to a patently bored bartender.
The Last Wolf is Krasznahorkai in a maddening nutshell--with the narrator trapped in his own experience (having internalized the extermination of the last creature of its kind and "locked Extremadura in the depths of his own cold, empty, hollow heart")--enfolding the reader in the exact same sort of entrapment to and beyond the end, with its first full-stop period of the book.
Herman, "a peerless virtuoso of trapping who guards the splendid mysteries of an ancient craft gradually sinking into permanent oblivion," is asked to clear a forest's last "noxious beasts." In Herman I: the Game Warden, he begins with great zeal, although in time he "suspects that maybe he was 'on the wrong scent.'" Herman switches sides, deciding to track entirely new game...
In Herman II: The Death of a Craft, the same situation is viewed by strange visitors to the region. Hyper-sexualized aristocratic officers on a very extended leave are enjoying a saturnalia with a bevy of beauties in the town nearest the forest. With a sense of effete irony, they interrupt their orgies to pitch in with the manhunt of poor Herman, and in the end, "only we are left to relish the magic bouquet of this escapade..." Translated by John Batki.