selected reviews
Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming, by László Krasznahorkai [New Directions, 2019]
♦ winner of the National Book Award for Translated Literature, 2019
"While the novel energetically pursues Krasznahorkai’s habitual themes – disorder, spiritual drought, the impossibility of meaning in the absence of God – it does so in a tone that glitters with comic detail ... in Ottilie Mulzet’s tirelessly virtuosic translation."—Jane Shilling in the New Stateman"Twinkling with dark wit, his dizzyingly torrential sentences (heroically translated by Ottilie Mulzet) forever bait us with the promise of resolution.."—Anthony Cummins in the Guardian"This vortex of a novel compares neatly with Dostoevsky and shows Krasznahorkai at the absolute summit of his decades-long project." —Publisher's Weekly"Relentlessly ­hilarious and shimmeringly dark"—Forrest Gander"It has a madness and monomania that compel."—Sukhdev Sandhu in the Guardian"Despite, or maybe because of, the depth of insight Krasznahorkai brings to this exceptional and profound novel, intricately translated by Ottilie Mulzet, there are moments of great humour too."—Declan O’Driscoll in the Irish Times"With an immense cast and wide-ranging erudition, this novel, the culmination of a Hungarian master’s career, offers a sweeping view of a contemporary moment that seems deprived of meaning."—The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted""Baron Wenkcheim’s Homecoming is a fitting capstone to Krasznahorkai’s tetralogy, one of the supreme achievements of contemporary literature."—Dustin Illingworth in The Paris Review"The emotional and psychological realizations Krasznahorkai can evoke are singular and breathtaking."—Seth L. Riley in The Millions"Despite Krasznahorkai’s reputation as a writer of dense and exhausting fictions predisposed to apocalyptic ruminations delivered in a frequently abstruse and roundabout fashion, he is also regularly, and quite profoundly, funny ... which, it should be said at the outset, is a unique, frustrating and altogether remarkable achievement."—Adam Rivett in The Monthly"Paradox is at the heart of Krasznahorkai: even as his books seem to affirm meaninglessness, the music of those long, spiraling sentences reflects a great care. Equally, it’s an act of will and of care to read a novel like Wenckheim, the opposite of consuming 'content.' Krasznahorkai’s novels are not something that you halfheartedly acquiesce to after thirty minutes of Netflix scrolling. Content is the killing of time; literature like Krasznahorkai’s helps confront the way meaning and value keep leaking out of that time.."—David Schurman Wallace in The Baffler
Dostoevsky Reads Hegels and Bursts into Tears, by László Földényi [Yale University Press, 2020]
"Perceptive meditations on humanity’s need for spiritual nourishment."—Kirkus Reviews“[A] fierce, provoking collection . . . expertly translated by Ottilie Mulzet . . .  [Földényi] proves himself a brilliant interpreter of the dark underside of Enlightenment ambition.”—James Wood in The New Yorker“It is precisely Földényi’s approachable style, as well as Ottilie Mulzet’s impeccable translation, that makes this collection easily accessible to scholars and casual readers alike.”—Barbara Halla, Asymptote
Seiobo There Below, by László Krasznahorkai [New Directions, 2013]
♦ winner of the Best Translated Book Award 2014
"Seiobo There Below is a book that, for the reader of Ottilie Mulzet’s exquisite translation, enacts a kind of jump cut."—Hari Kunzru in The Guardian"Seiobo There Below is a devastatingly thoughtful, austere and contemplative book, written with a deep knowledge of artistic technique and human affairs that is rare among novelists."—Tim Martin in The Telegraph"The breadth of material these stories cover is breathtaking, but Krasznahorkai wears his erudition lightly ... (Ottilie Mulzet, the very capable translator, must have had her hands full.)."—Jason Farago, NPR "A fabulous masterwork guaranteed to set the nerves tingling."—Eileen Battersby in the Irish Times"A thoroughly satisfying artistic evolution, it shows the author broadening his core obsession with humankind’s lurches between civilization and anarchy, while expanding to encompass new locations and time periods (all rendered spectacularly in Ottilie Mulzet’s pitch-perfect English translation).."—Veronica Esposito in the Washington Post"Seiobo There Below is a wonderful book, dazzling in its range of ideas and settings, fascinating stories told in dense, lengthy, multi-page sentences which drag the reader along, breathless and dizzying at the same time.."—Tony's Reading List
Final Matters: Selected Poems, 2004-2010, by Szilárd Borbély [Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation, Princeton University Press, 2019]
♦ shortlisted for the PEN America Poetry in Translation Award 2019
"Translated by Ottilie Mulzet with a rare lyricism and lucidity ... A profoundly disquieting work, which grows stranger and richer with each reading. These poems offer no answers, yet they are a revelation." —Chris Littlewood in the Times Literary Supplement"Borbély writes mystical lyrics, polytheistic parables and Hasidic sequences too powerful to forget. Like Japan’s wondrous Motoyuki Shibata, ­Ottilie Mulzet has become a translator with a following. I’m one of those committed to reading anything she takes up." — Forrest Gander"Translated by Mulzet into elegant and tonally astute English ... the poems eventually repudiate all such answers, and it is in this repudiation that the collection’s agonized ingenuity lies." —Carla Baricz in the Los Angeles Review of Books"Translated faithfully and beautifully by Ottilie Mulzet... the poetry of Final Matters is a tremendous achievement, and shows that Borbély should be considered not just among the great writers of post-Soviet Europe, but also of contemporary Judaism." —Daniel Kraft in Jewish Currents"One feels the poems are the brilliantly wrought salvages of some perilous descent into the human soul and its primordial encounter with the agonizing mystery of its being ... one can only be grateful for these poems of Szilárd Borbély as they exist now in English in the afterlife of Ottilie Mulzet’s vivid translations." —Daniel Tobin in Literary Matters"The late Hungarian poet Szilárd Borbély’s collection Final Matters is undoubtedly the strangest, most visionary book of verse I’ve read this year."—Robyn Creswell, Words without Borders/The Best Translated Books You Missed in 2019"In Borbély’s case, through a kind of craft that is undeniably in a world of its own, translator Ottilie Mulzet has provided an amazing Hungarian poet with a voice in English, opening a door to a readership that might otherwise never have found out the potency of his words." —Bruce Arlen Wasserman in the New York Journal of Books"In these poems, faith often hangs by a very thin thread, and in the harsh light of suffering and affliction, there are times when it can hardly be seen at all, when it is almost invisible…  But it is there.   Final Matters is, without doubt, deeply provocative, but it is so in order to shift the debate , to challenge, to ask the difficult questions of any complacent theology or moral philosophy." —Tony Flynn, the High Window
The World Goes On, by László Krasznahorkai [trans. with George Szirtes and John Batki, New Directions, 2017]
♦ shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, 2018
"With impressive subtlety, the translations recreate the playful irony that undercuts the incessant anguish in each story."—Idra Novey in The New York Times Book Review"This collection – a masterpiece of invention, utterly different from everything else – is hugely unsettling and affecting; to meet Krasznahorkai’s characters, to read his breathless, twisting sentences, is to feel altered.."—Claire Kohda Hazelton in The Guardian"This collection – a masterpiece of invention, utterly different from everything else – is hugely unsettling and affecting; to meet Krasznahorkai’s characters, to read his breathless, twisting sentences, is to feel altered.."—Claire Kohda Hazelton in The Guardian"Over twenty-one stories in The World Goes On, the author shifts artfully between registers; the book is similar in concept and composition to Seiobo There Below, translated by Ottilie Mulzet, who again proves to be a skilled conduit, this time for five of the tales in the collection."—Eileen Battersby in the Times Literary Supplement"Hidden within these dense thickets of prose are sublime, often uncanny visions."—Nathaniel Rich in The Atlantic"It is proof of the translators’ skill that Krasznahorkai’s sentences work as well as they do. They aren’t just plausible grammatically — they propel the narrative and give the prose its sense."—Ellen Elias-Bursać in The Arts Fuse"Every story here is enrapturing."—Paddy Kehoe, RTE"One doesn’t so much read The World Goes On as experience its almost hallucinatory narratives."—Andrew Martino, World Literature Today"This book breaks all conventions and tests the very limits of language, resulting in a transcendent, astounding experience.."—Publishers Weekly
The Dispossessed, by Szilárd Borbély [HarperCollins, 2016]
"The richness, inventiveness, the sheer graphic quality of the language, beautifully rendered by the translator Ottilie Mulzet, takes the fierce and often obscene terms of the village and offers them to us as a form of luminosity. It’s not a trick. It’s not fake religiosity. It is, and we accept it as, life." —George Szirtes in The New York Times Book Review"In Mulzet’s magnificent translation, Borbély’s prose is caustic and lucent, tart and somehow burnished ... An exquisite addition to any library of the dark, the bleak, and the absurd, Borbély’s inauguration into English is a magnificent one." —Kirkus Reviews"This immensely powerful portrait of poverty is at once a window into an often obscured history, and a timeless testament to the struggle of those in need." —Publishers Weekly"The beautiful, by means of artistic expression, is an escape from worry, however brief its duration.This is one of the most powerful themes in The Dispossessed, and perhaps the one that Borbély wished to resonate above all others. The poor, though largely neglected by the ruling body of their society, are not incapable of an appreciation of, and need for, the beautiful. Borbély encourages us to scrutinize their failures as human beings, but also subtly proposes that many of these lives, at some level of consciousness, long for a more dignified existence." —Tyler Langendorfer in Music and Literature"A trial and a testament, The Dispossessed is also a filial portrait of love and perseverance in the midst of despond, a candlelight faithfully tended against the infinite darkness without." —Kaija Straumanis at Three Percent
Berlin-Hamlet, by Szilárd Borbély [NYRB Poets, 2016]
♦ shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award, 2017
♦ shortlisted for the ALTA National Translation Award, 2017
"Part confession, part correspondence, part phantasmagorical travelogue through scenes of collective cultural trauma, Borbély’s poetry is haunting, melancholic, and tender ... Borbély draws readers through his poems in an unwavering trajectory, yet when we reach the other side, we realize that it was merely a phantom hand guiding us, and we miss it."—Three Percent, "Why This Book Should Win"
The Book of Mordechai and Lazarus, by Gábor Schein [trans. with Adam Z. Levy; Seagull Books, 2017]
"Lazarus takes the form of a son writ­ing about his father in express dis­obe­di­ence to the latter’s wish­es — an act of love tinged with vio­lence." —Ari R. Hoffmann, The Jewish Book Council
Animalinside, by László Krasznahorkai [New Directions, 2010]
"Resembling, in form, Beckett’s “Texts for Nothing,” Krasznahorkai’s words often seem to be a commentary on late Beckett; there is a steady emphasis on nothingness, entrapment, going on and being unable to go on. These beautiful fragments have the packed intensity of Krasznahorkai’s longer fiction, particularly its control of repetition and echo."—James Wood in The New Yorker"Animalinside is a cultural event in itself ... Tóibín’s engagement with Krasznahorkai’s sentence-making is the highest possible praise for Ottilie Mulzet’s translation, praise it mightily deserves."—Jean Harris, Words without Borders"I can imagine no more appropriate god for the late-capitalist, polar-ice-caps-melting, borderless-war-and-prison-camp world that we increasingly inhabit."—Ben Ehrenreich, The Nation"Animalinside is yet another text to give entropy its eternal due."—Ross Barkan, The L Magazine
Destruction and Sorrow beneath the Heavens, by László Krasznahorkai [Seagull Books, 2016]
"Mulzet's translation of Krasznahorkai's conversations with people who do not speak English is equally awesome, as in the book they are translated to Stein by his interpreter to write in Hungarian. That this is not all an incomprehensible jumble is a feat of incredible transmission. As Stein says, at one point, "He doesn't know how to explain how this is possible, but he has understood, and he understands, every single word." In its way, it resolves Stein's insoluble problem at the Buddhist temple about the Buddha's lost words: the translations—that is the original."—Lucas Klein in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal"[An] engaging first-hand examination of culture and tradition (and loss thereof) in modern China."—Michael Orthofer, The Complete Review"If you read this expecting answers, you’ll be disappointed too, yet I doubt anyone turns to Krasznahorkai for a plot.  While Destruction and Sorrow… doesn’t cohere quite as well as his novels (mainly owing to the slight clash in style between the interview sections and Stein’s search for perfection), it’s still a beautiful read at times, with Ottilie Mulzet capturing the dizzying style of Satantango and Seiobo There Below, particularly in the opening mountain section, the long, looping sentences echoing the endless steps awaiting the fascinated poet (and his cold, wet and miserable sidekick…)." —Tony's Reading List"Why keep going back? There are two answers. One is that Krasznahorkai, like Thomas Bernhard before him, feels the obligation to scathe, and modern China gives him the opportunity to scathe much of the time masterfully, often in those characteristic long, strong sentences that curl back on themselves to repeat the indictment or indignation with hammering force. And of course China here is only the Babylon of the global dominion that supplies our material needs while divesting us of all that matters."—Paul Griffiths, Music and Literature"Krasznahorkai’s relentless prose clicks familiarly with this search for satori (a Buddhist term for sudden enlightenment): Destruction and Sorrow beneath the Heavens reads almost like the wiser, ornery counterpart to a Jack Kerouac novel. Although more controlled that the beatnik stream-of-thought, Krasznahorkai’s search for the essence of tradition by way of meandering, exploratory sentences is surprisingly recognizable, and a stylistic humbling that makes this riveting collection all the more palatable." —Jeff Alford, RunSpotRun"Stein is only too aware that he is at odds with the times, and that perhaps he is beyond understanding modern China. “I have committed a huge error,” he admits, “for I have continued to believe that even today, China is still that ancient empire.” Such is the sorrow of the title of this book, a long lament for the final ancient civilization of world history. We are called upon to wonder: is there anywhere an individual can experience the condition of perfect tranquility? Or is it true, as Stein is forced to conclude, that modernity 'has no place whatsoever for the highly accomplished, highly refined individual'?"—Michael Lapointe in the Los Angeles Review of Books"This enthralling hell is everywhere in Krasznahorkai’s work, but becomes most visibly real in the twenty-first century China described in Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens, a book-length investigation that represents a different kind of transfiguration for an author best known in the Anglophone world for his fiction."—Jeffrey Zuckerman in The New Republic"A quest to discover the remaining artifacts and present-day incarnations of classical Chinese culture takes Man Booker International–winner Krasznahorkai (Seiobo There Below) on an illuminating, melancholy journey through contemporary China in this occasionally frustrating yet often dazzling travel memoir."—Publishers Weekly