Norfolk poet translates ‘spellbinding’ novel into English

PUBLISHED: 16:53 27 February 2012

Norfolk poet George Szirtes who has translated Satantango by Hungarian novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai into English.

Norfolk poet George Szirtes who has translated Satantango by Hungarian novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai into English.

The inspiration for a seven-and-a-half-hour film and written by one of Hungary’s big three internationally-acclaimed novelists, Satantango has now been translated into English by Norfolk poet George Szirtes.

Mr Szirtes, who lives in Wymondham with his wife, the painter Clarissa Upchurch, is an award-winning writer in his own right, and has been translating books into English for many years. His poetry collections include The Burning of the Books, The Budapest File, The English Apocalypse and Reel (which won the T S Eliot Poetry Prize).

Now he has turned his hand to the book which inspired filmmaker Béla Tarr’s seven-and-a-half-hour masterpiece. Satantango, by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, is described by the translation’s publishers, New Directions, as “spellbinding, bleak, and hauntingly beautiful”.

The story, spread over a couple of days of endless rain, focuses on the dozen remaining inhabitants of an isolated hamlet: failures stuck in the middle of nowhere. Schemes, crimes, infidelities, hopes of escape, and above all trust and its constant betrayal are Krasznahorkai’s recurring themes.

“It’s by a writer I have translated before,” said Mr Szirtes, who has also translated The Melancholy of Resistance. “Satantango was written in 1985 but I was commissioned to translate it about four years ago.

“It is also a film by a genius, Bela Tarr, who also filmed two other Krasznahorkai novels. The film won many prizes and is a cult classic. Krasznahorkai himself is a cult author in Hungary, Germany and parts of the UK/US, and would have remained a cult author but now he is about to break very big, I think.”

George Szirtes was born in Budapest in 1948, and came to England with his family as a refugee after the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. He was educated in England, training as a painter, and teaches at the University of East Anglia.

Satantango is due out in the US on March 5. The UK edition, published by Atlantic, comes out on May 1, priced £12.99

A book of poems for children called In the Land of the Giants, and an anthology of poets on poetry, In Their Own Words, are due for release later this year.

Mr Szirtes’ next book of poems – Bad Machine – is due to be published by Bloodaxe in January 2013.

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