Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai has won the Man Booker International 2015.
The £60,000 prize is awarded every two years to a living author for a body of work representing an achievement in fiction on the world stage. Krasznahorkai was announced the winner last night (19th May) at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Krasznahorkai, born in 1954, gained recognition in the 1980s with publication of Satantango (Allen & Unwin), a novel in which the devil arrives in a desolate Communist town in Hungary. The book was later adapted for cinema in collaboration with filmmaker Bela Tarr and its English translation was longlisted for the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Tarr also directed a film of The Melancholy of Resistance (New Directions), a novel which tells of a mysterious circus, and which in 1993 won the German Bestenliste Prize.
Another novel, Seiobo There Below, in which a Japanese goddess returns to the human realm to search for perfection, was published in the UK earlier this month by imprint Tuskar Rock, now part of Profile.
Supplementary to the Man Booker International award, a £15,000 translator's prize is being divided between George Szirtes (translator of Satantango and The Melancholy of Resistance) and Ottilie Mulzet (translator of Seiobo There Below). Szirtes was present on the night to receive his accolade alongside Krasznahorkai.
Announcing the winner, Marina Warner said: "László Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful. The Melancholy of Resistance, Satantango and Seiobo There Below are magnificent works of deep imagination and complex passions, in which the human comedy verges painfully onto transcendence." She added: "Krasznahorkai, who writes in Hungarian, has been superbly served by his translators, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet."
In an entertaining acceptance speech, Krasznahorkai expressed his "big surprise" at his win, and offered up a list of thanks to individuals living and dead, from the schoolteacher who taught him Greek and Latin to his first and second wives, Kafka and Dostoevsky, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, David Bowie and Thelonius Monk, his US, English and German publishers, Peter Straus, the city of Kyoto, Johann Sebastian Bach, "my translators, with grateful affection", Prince Siddhartha, the Hungarian language, and God.
Krasznahorkai was named from a list of 10 eminent writers shortlisted for the award, including Amitav Ghosh and Alain Mabanckou.
Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation, noted that eight out of the 10 shortlisted this year were writers published in English translation, a departure from previous years when it had been "a persistent observation of earlier judges of the dearth of translation into English, which gives us all room for thought". Of the previous five Man Booker International winners - Lydia Davis (2013), Philip Roth (2011), Alice Munro (2009), Chinua Achebe (2007) and Ismail Kadare (2005) - only Kadare is a translated author. Taylor noted: "Almost all the finalists tonight [who are writers] in [English] translation were originally published by very small publishers or university presses."