The Last Wolf / Herman (2024)


617 reviews274 followers

January 2, 2024

The Last Wolf hits hard, which is surprising to say about a book that is one single sentence. A much better experience right away than I had with Satantango - in the latter, the prose seemed to become more forceful as it spiraled upward into the clouds, looping back on itself and ultimately leaving me suspended mid-air. To be sure, The Last Wolf also has the majestic prose style of the figure eight, looping backward and forward, ultimately ending in something. This time, however, that something is more tangible. The narrator is hired to write about Extremadura and fixates on the story of the last wolf in this region. Beautiful.

Herman is shorter, but looks at the same story from two viewpoints (hence the split into The Game Warden and The Death of a Craft). We follow Herman, the title character and trapper who is given an assignment to clear a forest of its “noxious beasts”. The narratives gave me a weird sense of Edgar Allan Poe mixed with Georges Bataille.

    author-krasznahorkai origin-hungarian


979 reviews1,393 followers

November 2, 2018

At last, a Krasznahorkai work I really connect with. Reading Sátántangó a few days ago, I realised that strength of personal connection was what would make the difference between giving his books 4 stars (as I did Sátántangó and Seiobo There Below) or 5, because I can't seem to find them as utterly singular as many of his English-language worshippers do. (I'm still not sure what they see that I don't; or if I'm arrogant - I probably sound it, because he has been placed on a pedestal as the author who is an epitome of 'difficult' and 'for those in the know', as DFW used to be c.15 years ago - or if I have simply read different things that make his themes seem more familiar, which is what it feels like.)

I loved The Last Wolf for simple thematic reasons. Because the narrator is a washed-up minor academic and writer who seems to have been offered an interesting piece of work by mistake, but he grabs it anyway, in a way I for one found wholly relatable. Because it's set in Extremadura, the only part of Spain I've ever really found fascinating. (When I did Spanish at school, I wasn't that interested in anywhere else, and I've never felt that you hear enough about Extremadura. But you wouldn't because a lot of it is a rural semi-wilderness.) And because it's fiction about the natural world and its destruction - similar to the sort that Amitav Ghosh and Richard Powers have recently exhorted readers and writers of English-language literary fiction towards, trying to mainstream ideas already established in eco-criticism. But written earlier (2009), in a different literary culture and by an author of this calibre, The Last Wolf follows its own path.

I was impressed by the narrator's being so moved, unexpectedly affected, by the demise of the last Spanish wolves - as were some other, but emphatically not all, characters. He's the sort of protagonist who, in many novels, is immersed in the insular concerns of the artist and in bad love-affairs, but here he cares about something beyond himself without its being presented as a cloying life-lesson. It was conveyed so very well that it never risked cheesiness or sentimentality (which, I am realising, Krasznahorkai, is skilled in averting). The narrator's silent annoyance with the interpreter at the height of the story - as she became so involved in the story she no longer interpreted it fully - neutered that possibility, and introduced a marvellous emotional honesty to the moment that so many other authors would have neglected or skimmed over. (A very Buddhist awareness of emotion is one of the unifying points of the 'bleak' and 'transcendent' sides of Krasznahorkai's work.) The Last Wolf is a work about form and style as much as it is about its topic, and so it could never be dismissed as either 'issue fiction' or 'style over substance'. (Setting up ideals of art is not a very good idea, and can be constraining, but I have to admit this is one of mine at the moment: not art versus politics, but both at once in the same work.)

It felt right to be reading this over Hallowe'en and the following days of the dead, and as further statistics on the extent of wildlife extinction hit the news. It would have been too heavy-handed as a deliberate choice, but I'd ended up reading it because it was mentioned in a discussion thread I'd looked at while reading Sátántangó, and I was so interested in the topic of The Last Wolf I had to look at it before I'd finished the previous book.

The complex framing - the narrator is telling much of the story of what happened in Spain to a bartender at his local in Berlin, some time (probably years) later - and the wide ranging across Europe by a depressive character reminded me at times of Sebald's Austerlitz. But the sentence, the whole story being one sentence, was of course far longer than any of Sebald's. The whole story may be one long sentence, but it does not double-back on itself (like late Henry James, or parts of Seiobo): it always moves forward, which means that it is not as complex an experience as some might assumed. Only once ever did I look back, and then only one page, to make sure of what a clause referred to. My gradual steps up in reading narrative styles over a week or so, from Anna Burns' Milkman to Sátántangó to this meant The Last Wolf didn't feel tense, as I often find works in very long sentences do. The single-sentence structure was merely a reminder that within the frame, this was a story being told all in one go; and by the end, it related the story to where the narrator was at, psychologically, at the time of telling the story. (Krasznahorkai has said that he finds short sentences artificial, whilst long ones seem to him to more accurately reflect conversation and thought.)

The frequency of German place-names in Sátántangó were a reminder that the setting was the territory of the old Austro-Hungarian empire, a larger and more mixed territory than the post-war, Communist, mostly-ethnically-Hungarian Hungary. In the firmly post-Communist Last Wolf, the narrator, free to travel as a European intellectual from an EU country, wanders former Hapsburg lands: a Hungarian on his uppers resident in Berlin, he finds himself summoned over to Spain, and then returns to Germany.

The two Herman stories were first published in 1986, a year after Sátántangó: like the novel, they have a dank rural setting, and grapple with characters' dark inner thoughts about their relationship to the world.

Part of me always reads any story about gamekeepers, poachers and their techniques through Danny the Champion of the World (by far my favourite Roald Dahl book as a kid - though no-one else's that I ever met - and one of the few books I read so often that my copy looked worn, whilst back then I could read a book twice and still leave it looking brand new). I wasn't expecting to be made to revisit it and that past self now, remembering creeping through the wood with them (how badly I wanted to do that or to be them; sometimes it was my greatest wish!), hoping bait worked, lost in the process, irrelevant in the moment which side one was on - and having to feel and see that alongside my later, more informed and harder-line opinions about the repeated introduction of an invasive species to just to kill it and generally disrupt the local ecosystem.

Herman part I, 'The Game Warden', the tale of a gamekeeper who changes sides, could have been trite in almost any other hands. I wasn't quite convinced this would be something that could have really happened then and there, or occurred to a similar real man, rather than an artist's idea - but the depth of Krasznahorkai's attention to mental processes, and especially his unsentimental relating of them at junctures where most other writers would concentrate on action or cheap crowd-pleasing emotion, elevates it to a level far above obvious poetic justice. He renders the existential and depressive and grubby into some kind of high Gothic, so that one can marvel at the way he describes it and at the baroque darkness of the atmosphere, rather than being dragged down.

Part II, 'Death of a Craft' is subtitled "contra Yukio Mishima". I haven't read any Mishima; I only know a little about him by reputation, and any parallels I draw between this story and other books here are merely free association, and have a major lacuna. A louche crowd of shaggers, army officers and women from the city, visit the small town where Herman is active (tagging along, in somewhat unlikely, but certainly decadent fashion, because one of their number is visiting her seriously ill mother, who lives in the town). I couldn't help but reflect on how contemporary kink types would (mostly) use very different, rather prosaic terminology. Here, written in Hungary in the mid 80s these people are a little exotic, tinged with the sentiments of notorious transgressive books like The Story of the Eye (although I'm sure what they were up to is actually not shocking at all by contemporary Western standards, unlike the escapades in that book). I liked the way none of their number had obvious views that might be expected from urbanites about Herman (especially enjoyed the giggling at the phrase 'noxious predators', a term frequently repeated in the earlier story), and that their view of him was related rather neutrally - although, in retrospect, it wasn't entirely convincing that none of the party would have divergent opinions about the gamekeeper-gone-wild. (And like Sátántangó and The Last Wolf, the Herman stories are full of names that are both German and Hungarian.)

This whole volume - and Herman I: 'The Game Warden', especially, makes a fantastic companion-piece to Olga Tokarczuk's recently-translated Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which I read a month ago - and which was published in its original Polish in 2009, the same year as The Last Wolf was released in Hungarian. So far as I can tell, the 1986 story collection that originally included Herman has not been translated into Polish, but it was published in German in 1988. 'The Game Warden' and Plow provide two similar critiques of hunting in cultures where it's much more accepted and normal than it is in Britain; the ultimate point of divergence between the two is to be around religion / Christianity. The sense of universal compassion which emerges near the end of 'The Game Warden', whilst couched in the language of Christianity, is syncretic and can also be taken in the context of the Buddhist values and worldviews that become explicit in Seiobo, and quite possibly other works by Krasznahorkai which I have not read or which are unavailable in English. Krasznahorkai aims for the transcendent and spiritual (Herman could be seen to have achieved a stage of enlightenment and/or to have been progressing towards it in a misguided fashion, by acting out what should have remained an inner realisation) whereas Tokarczuk's book makes a critique of the earthly Polish Catholic Church.

    2018 btba central-eastern-europe


1,962 reviews1,598 followers

October 1, 2021

Before I read this I suppose I should have looked at the Goodreads profile for the book, the one where The Last Wolf is listed first. I didn't and began with the two variations on the superior tale of Herman. I honestly don't believe it matters what sequence is followed.

The Last Wolf concerns a seventy page sentence expressed by a misanthropic philosopher who shares the experience of his being invited to visit a desolate region of Spain so he could write about such, affording it posterity. Instead the philosopher becomes interested and then obsessed with the fate of the titular extinction of wolves in that blighted area. The two stories comprising Herman regard a realization about the ethics of natural preserves, hunting and the relationship humans maintain with other species. All three concern lonely game wardens and love of nature and animals.

There's heaping helpings of both Musil and Faulkner on display. There's a pervasive sense of sadness and a lyrical roll to the descriptions of nature. I have known a few people who worked for the Department of natural resources, they were largely good people. I have also known a few people who appeared to much prefer animals to humans. I can appreciate those perspectives, though I don't share them.


358 reviews345 followers

December 20, 2020

با آخرین گرگ دهانم مز�� بطالت و حماقت گرفت و با هرمان درک کردم که چرا اینقدر از کراسناهورکای ستایش شده. آدم بعد از خواندن چنین داستان‌های درجه یکی، احتمالا دیگر اسم هر آشغالی را داستان کوتاه نمی‌گذارد

Lee Klein

838 reviews918 followers

December 27, 2016

A small beautiful hardback stocking-stuffer received for Xmas per a not very long list of international literature in translation I sent to Santa Claus c/o my Mom. A great description of a pit filled with carrion. Creepy, atmospheric, flowing, makes me want to re-read The Hound of the Baskervilles for the first time in ~30 years -- these three stories interlink, or I should say that 'The Last Wolf" seems to inexplicitly interlink with the two "Herman" stories that explicitly interlink. Trapping, when the hunter gets captured by the game, or more so when the game warden turns his attention from animals to townsfolk. Loved the parallel between the fox caught in the trap and Herman's end. Generally, I have walking pneumonia and read a lot of this in the doctor's office. Couldn't hope for better companionship in such a state. Two crosses on the cover for either infected lung.


1,152 reviews273 followers

May 22, 2016

"the love of animals is the one true love in which one is never disappointed"
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 (el último lobo) is just that, the slim, potent new work by the great hungarian master himself.
for how could he describe what so weighed him down, how could he explain how long ago he had given up the idea of thought, the point at which he first understood the way things were and knew that any sense we had of existence was merely a reminder of the incomprehensible futility of existence, a futility that would repeat itself ad infinitum, to the end of time and that, no, it wasn't a matter of chance and its extraordinary, inexhaustible, triumphant, unconquerable power working to bring matters to birth or annihilation, but rather the matter of a shadowy demonic purpose, something embedded deep in the heart of things, in the texture of the relationship between things, the stench of whose purpose filled every atom, that it was a curse, a form of damnation, that the world was the product of scorn, and god help the sanity of those who called themselves thinkers
*rendered from the hungarian by george szirtes (poet, and translator of márai, kosztolányi, et al.)
though released as separate uncorrected proofs, herman and the last wolf will be published as a single hardcover. 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.
and whereas our techniques—having realized in the wake of our sorry experiences that we were not questing heroes but merely dumb victims of the thinking mind—were based on paraphiliac fulfillment, unbridled pursuit of pleasure, the ceaseless apocatastasis of an eden missing from primal imagination, and took refuge in transgression, herman's deliberately paltry means were called into being by hubris, a hubris that believed in the invincibility of weakness.
*translated from the hungarian by john bakti (author, translator, and kilimologist[!])

    fiction translation


67 reviews29 followers


February 27, 2024

برای من کراسناهورکایی نه در فیلم های بلاتار بزرگ, که در دو اثری که از او خوانده ام متجلی می شود.
نویسنده ی تاریکی و باران و نورهای مصنوعی...

در صفحه ی هشتاد و چهار از کتاب فوق می نویسد:

آرواره های قفل شده ی تله را به زور باز کرد و لاشه ی حیوان را از میان شان در آورد, بغلش کرد و برد به سمت گودال اجساد. جسد روباه را انداخت کف گودال, حین فرود صدایی خفه داد, و این صدا دیگر ولش نکرد, در تمام طول مسیر ولش نکرد, تمام مسیر برگشت به شهر_شبیه پناهندهای شده بود که مخفیانه در مناطق دشمن می خزد_ با دوچرخه اش در سکوت کوچه ها به سمت خانه راند. پشت سرش دروازه و در خانه را قفل کرد و متفکر در سکوتی که رنگ و بویی از آمرزش داشت, زیر لامپی که از سقف آویزان بود, ایستاد. در خیالش جنگل را تصور کرد تنیده در تاریکی, با سایه های گریزان ابلای درختان, راسوها روباه ها سگ ها و گربه ها که دزدکی می دوند...

در صفحه 91 می نویسد
شاید اعمالش چیزی نبودند جز شروع نابودی وضع موجود, شبیه موریانه ای که از درون شروع می کند به جویدن. درد تیزی مثل دشنه میان شانه هایش فرورفت, نشسته بود و تاریکی اطرافش ترسناک شد, به فکر و خیال افتاده بود, خیالات در سرش هرز می رفتند و توانایی مهارشان را نداشت و همین توانایی مهار خیالات اش مهم ترین چیزی بود که نیاز داشت. برپایی مجدد نظم و ترتیب در این آشفتگی جولان کلمات, مهار این فروپاشیِ د�� آستانه ی وقوع, چیدن نوک جوانه های ضعف که در وجودش می روییدند.

آقای نورپناه خوب از پس متن برآمده بودند اما نه به اندازه ی سپند ساعدی
با این حال از او تشکر می کنم که سراغ نویسنده ای رفت که سال هاست حسرت خواندن رمان هایش تبدیل به عقده شده و هر نشری که نظر سنجی برگزار می کرد ملتمسانه خواهش می کردم که سراغ هورکایی هم بروند. ولی خب...
آقای نورپناه از شما ممنون و متشکرم.

فراموش کرده بودم اینجا چیزی برای هورکایی نوشتم

Ronald Morton

408 reviews180 followers

October 6, 2016

A small book, containing three excellent short stories. Its brevity - and that it feels more like a sampler for ND's upcoming translation of Relations of Grace (which contains at least one of these stories: Herman) - is the main reason I only gave it four stars. This is top-notch Krasznahorkai, in a handsome little (it's quite undersized) hardcover. I just wish there was more is all; it's pricey for the little you get.

    hungarian in-translation new-directions

ابوالفضل نصری

138 reviews1 follower

May 18, 2024

داستان اول با اغماض یک ستاره و داستان دوم با ارفاق سه ستاره :)))


339 reviews221 followers

October 17, 2021


Reading Krasznahorkai not only sets you on a journey of concentration and obsession, but of paranoia and curiosity, not knowing what will happen. The fact of the matter is, usually, not much happens at all and that's what sets him apart from other writers.

Once you encounter him, whether you are entertained or not, he still pulls you in. I've read three of his works so far, and while I've only given 3 stars to all 3, I will continue reading him as I do like his unconventional methods and how he makes you think while you read.


Paul Fulcher

Author2 books1,528 followers

March 28, 2017

The Last Wolf & Herman combines into one English book two linked stories, Herman, A vador, and A mesterségnek vége (Herman - The Game Warden and The Death of a Craft), taken from the 1986 story collection Kegyelmi viszonyok (Relations of Grace) and translated by John Batki, and the story "Az utolsó farkas" (The Last Wolf) from 2009 and translated by George Szirtes. [The dust jacket describes them as novellas, but that is generous when the whole book amounts to only 120 well spaced out pages]

The Herman stories and Last Wolf were originally published 23 years apart, not originally intended to be read together, and they show strong stylistic differences, but actually they link wonderfully well together as tales of modern development and man encroaching on tradition and nature. Indeed, The Last Wolf is actually available at the Words Without Borders website, (there is now just an excerpt, but reading it in the context of Herman (as well as on the written page rather than a screen) strongly enhanced my enjoyment.

Overall the book makes an excellent, if not particularly good value for money (120 pages for a 12.99 cover price) introduction to Krasznahorkai, although it is very much a case of start here then read everything he has written.

The Last Wolf

"it was south of the River Duero in 1984 that the last wolf had perished"

The Last Wolf is written in Krasznahorkai's trademark style, comprising one long flowing sentence which drags the reader into the current of the story before dumping them drained but stimulated at the story's end.

It concerns a failed German philosophy professor and unsuccessful author. It is difficult not to see some (undeserved) self-satire from Krasznahorkai in the characters own self description:

...who had written a few unreadable books full of ponderously negative sentences and depressing logic in claustrophobic prose, a series of books in fact, when it had long became obvious, almost immediately obvious, that no one read them of course, and, that being the case, he must long have been washed up as a philosopher, no one was making any serious attempt to understand him or what his sentences, his logic, his diction or prose might be about [...] with his hopeless complex, labyrinthine thoughts and sentences ... the language at his disposal was no longer capable of giving form to subjects that could not be fixed because it had gone full circle, had articulated all it could articulate and had reached the point from which it had started, and was completely exhausted by the circular journey.

Out of the blue, he receives an invitation and generous monetary offer from a Foundation in the undeveloped Spanish region of Extremadura to visit the area, the only request being that he writes something, anything, about his impressions.

The story is told in a rather circular fashion, via a 2nd person account of him telling his tale back in Berlin to a Hungarian barman in the Sparschwein. So we have sentences like the following, which take some parsing:

a warden the interpreter bellowed, bellowed at him that is, he said pointing to himself in the Sparschwein, because he didn't know what the interpreter was taking about, him, she replied a little impatiently

And this is Krasznahorkai at his most Thomas Bernhardian. When his eagerly generous hosts wonder, on his first night, why he is looking depressed over dinner, rather than suggest he may be tired from the journey, he thinks:

how could he explain how long ago he had given up the idea of thought, the point at which he first understood the way things were and knew that any sense we had of existence was merely a reminder of the incomprehensible futility of existence, a futility that would repeat itself ad infiniti, to the end of time and that, no, it wasn't a matter of chance and its extraordinary, inexhaustible, triumphant, unconquerable power working to bring matters to birth or annihilation, but rather the matter of a shadowy demonic purpose, something embedded deep in the heart of things, in the texture of relationship between things, the stench of whose purpose filled every atom, that it was a curse, a form of damnation, that the world was he product of scorn, and God help the sanity of those who called themselves thinkers, which was why he no longer thought, had learned to think no more, not that this led anywhere of course, because wherever he looked there was that all pervasive stench, that stench that was there because the last word, the word that comprehended the knowledge that futility and acorn, replete with purpose, was coextensive with the world, was the world, was something of which he had to be conscious, an eternity of futility and scorn that obtained in each and every second of life for those who had set out as thinkers, futility because as soon as you abandoned thought and tried simply to look at things, thought cropped up again in a new form, a form from which, on other words, there was no escape whatever man thought or did not think, because he remained the prisoner of thought either way

He is at a loss what to write, particularly since the Foundation seem to want to use his writing to promote the development of the region, whereas he sees they overlook the threat this poses (he was all too aware of how the world would break in on Extremadura too ... nobody was really aware of the danger presented by the proximity of the world) and personally identifies with the remoteness of the area: the "dehesa", with holly oak trees "lightly sprinkled around the fields, the various trunks and branches of individual trees maintaining a decent distance from each other on account of the aridity ... he did understand, and felt inwardly, since the dehesa was much like his own soul

A loss, that is, until he recalls an odd remark from the research he did before his visit about the shooting of the last wolf, and aided by his overenthusiastic (at least until his depression wears her down) guide and translator, he sets out to track down the story eventually finding Jose Miguel, the game warden who witnessed the end of the wolf population, and who suggests he has a secret of his own to tell our German professor (which also ends our story):

I told him not to tell me, we simply embraced, and that was how I left him, and this brought on the sense of anxiety that I still suffer from to this very day - oh right, anxiety, grinned the barman, yawning and stretching his back still sitting down, muttering to himself in Hungarian, go on then, go tell your story, you last of the wolves, go on, I'm listening - and yes, he replied, turning to face the window, but did not continue, saying nothing more for how could he explain that although he had returned to the place that he had left in order to make a brief trip to Extremadura, what remained for him was a life without thought, in other words the deadly wasteland of the Sparschwein, this cold, empty, hollow square and the fact that he had not earned this or that amount of euros for doing as asked but had instead locked Extremadura in the depths of his old, cold, empty, hollow heart, and that ever since then, day after day, he had been rewriting the end of Jose Miguel's story in his head, and that's exactly where he was now, at the end.


The two Herman stories tell accounts of the same story but from very different perspectives.

The Game Warden, subtitled (first version)
Herman is an expert game-warden, a “peerless virtuoso of trapping”, perhaps the last such master, and he is hired for a job he sees as the culmination of his career: to tame the neglected Remete woods:

This inexcusable neglect (in Herman's words "the alarming laxity of the authorities") had turned the Remete by the time of the assignment into an unmanageable and impenetrable jungle, a veritable "sore on the well-groomed body of the region""

Here we don't have one single Bernhardian sentence, although the prose is still delightfully complex. But the first version does have the notable stylistic tic of the various phrases in "quotes", giving this the feeling of quotes drawn from a primary source into a secondary re-telling of a local legend, some time after the events.

Herman initially sets out with enthusiastic gusto and notable success to trap all the noxious predators in the forest. But he has a road-to-Damascus moment when he first takes some leave, oppressed by the slaughter he himself has wrought, and then returning to the forest:

He was aware of an invincible, stifling power already busily attacking his manicured paths and trails from all sides, crushing feeders, mouldering the box- and pole- traps and settling over the entire forest like some enormous infernal serpentine vine in mockery of the spasmodic human will that endeavours to tone everything , all that is complex and unknowable, down to its own heroic simplicity

Yet far from depressing him this liberates him as he realises that his distinction between noxious predators and beneficial game was false and that the true issue lies with the human world of which he is part. And he starts to take his revenge by trapping not animals, but the local townspeople.

Death of a Craft (second version) gives a very different account of the same events. A group of hedonistic young male officers and women come to a godforsaken small town to visit one of their mothers, a temporary introduction to their quest for paraphilaic fulfilment, unbridled pursuit of pleasure, the ceaseless apocatastasis of an Eden missing from primal imagination.

While there, and indulging in their drug-taking and bed-swapping, they get caught up in the rumours about "Herman", a rogue game warden now terrorising the local populace, who they sees as the antithesis of their own agenda, and so decide to join in the hunt:

we realised with astonishment that whereas our group - or to use Gusztav's favourite expression: our detachment - as monsters of forward progress was playing the role of pioneers in a world only hesitantly liberating itself from the controlling machinery of goodness, "Herman" had all this while been acting as a fanatic obsessed with the centripetal forces of restraint.

We realised that even as we (again only Gusztav managed to find the right words) brutalised things, violating their frail integrity precisely because of their perfection, "Herman", driven by the pressures of ancient ingrained compulsions, managed to monumentalise destructiveness.

The details of the two stories differ - in the second the authorities identify Herman sooner, he leaves trapped animals outside people's houses rather than traps for the people, and the ends are very different, again giving the story an air of legend. Indeed in the retrospective account by one of the young officers about"Herman", this in his unique way rather scary fellow, regarding whom to this day it is not entirely certain whether he had in fact really existed or had merely arisen as an embodiment of craven, inferior fears. And the style is extremely different, almost Marquis de Sade, and rather unserious - indeed it is comes with the subtitle contra Yukio Mishima, known for his rather overwrought approach to life.

But the two combined and set alongside Last Wolf create a powerful exploration of Krasznahorkai's themes.

    2017 btba-2017-longlist


240 reviews76 followers

July 8, 2023

On the cover of this edition is a quote from Sjón, saying that this is ‘a great introduction to the world of Krasznahorkai, enter here and keep going’. I’m not entirely sure I agree that this is best the place to start, as it certainly ran a few rings around me in places.

However, I’m still fairly new to Krasznahorkai, this being the third book of his that I’ve read, so perhaps do read this before working up to one of his longer works, as I’m doing.

In everything I’ve read of his so far, the one major thing that stands out to me is his astounding technical skill. Reading Krasznahorkai is a bit like attempting to read, or indeed to actually be in an Escher painting. Just when you think you’ve found your way and know which way is up, a few pages later yet again he’ll make you question your sense of direction. Staying orientated isn’t always easy. And I love that.

This English edition combines The Last Wolf and Herman - The Game Warden & The Death of a Craft, the latter taken from the 1986 story collection Relations of Grace. Originally published 23 years apart, they both work well together here as tales of modern development encroaching on nature and traditions. GoodReads tells me that The Last Wolf is actually available at the Worlds Without Boarders website.

I found it really quite emotional towards the end of The Last Wolf, which I wasn’t expecting. Krasznahorkai is asking questions about the struggle between nature and mankind, and indeed humanity itself.


684 reviews59 followers

December 2, 2016

Laszlo Krasznahotkai is an artist. The book provoked me, made me uncomfortable at times, made me laugh at others, but most rewardingly, added ways of thinking. He accomplishes this through unusual characters and, in The Last Wolf, his technique.
The book in English is a cool presentation in that the first two stories, Herman, and The Death of a Craft, conclude and then you flip the book over and read The Wolf. The first two stories feature a game warden eradicating "noxious beasts" from a small overgrown forest. He uses traps but at a certain point is overtaken with a change of heart that simply arises, not from conscious thought but from the gut. Reading about a guy who sets traps for animals is, to put it mildly, not my thing. What happens next is a trip, a trip into a Grimm's fairy tale world of contemporary a Hungarian forest.
The Wolf is, stunningly, a 72 page story of one sentence. Had I known that I would probably have thought, "that sounds like a bullsh*t grandstanding gimmick". I would have been wrong again! This technique barely registers because the train of thought is so compelling. The reader feels as if he is sitting in a bar hearing and unlikely story from an unlikely fascinating man. Here is an excerpt in which our man finds himself in a beautiful part of rural Spain,

"...that was what was so wonderful about both the land and the people, and that nobody was really aware of the danger presented by the proximity of the world, that they, the Extramadrans, lived in terrible danger because, he explained to the barman, they had no idea what they were letting themselves in for, what spiritual changes would be set in motion once the autopistas and shopping centers had laid havoc to the fields, fields where the poverty had been terrible, because he had seen photographs of what it used to be like and it was dreadful, really dreadful, and one really did half to put a stop to that, and they had put a stop to it, and would continue putting a stop to it, the only dreadful thing being that they had only one way of doing that, and that was by letting the world in, thereby admitting the curse, because everything would be cursed, everything in Extramadura, the land, the people, all, though they had no inkling of it because they lacked the knowledge and had no sense of what they were doing, what they were in for, but he, he did feel it, he pointed to himself, was keenly aware of it and couldn't sleep because of it but lay tossing and turning in the elegant hotel room..."
The Wolf was translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes and The Game Warden and the Death of a Craft were translated by John Batki. Both translations were of the highest quality.

Richard Newton

Author26 books582 followers

August 20, 2018

From the two books I have read of his, Krasznahorkai is a rather frustrating writer. At his best he is very good - an original and unusual voice, original writing style, unusual topics and great insights. At his worst I have found it rather poor ramblings. This book exhibits both.

The book is made up of three novellas, although the last two are closely related as they recount the same story from different perspectives - very different perspectives. The first novella, The Last Wolf, is rather good and would have gained 4 stars on its on. The second Herman, is not bad. The final, Death of a Craft is at best 2 stars - and reads like the ramblings of a clever child excited by using obscure words and random images and who is not worried about the overall effect.


Jeff Jackson

Author4 books506 followers

May 31, 2017

Two excellent novellas about hunting, vanishing crafts, shifting ethics, and species extinction linked by haunting thematic echoes. "The Last Wolf," a single sentence account of a trip to the Spanish hinterlands that's surprisingly addictive, is especially impressive. I'd wager this slim volume is a good introduction to Krasznahorkai. Beautifully designed, too.
4.5 stars

Gonçalo Madureira

46 reviews14 followers

August 28, 2022

3,5⭐️ The book in question consists of two short novellas: “The Last Wolf” and “Herman”.

In “The Last Wolf”, a former philosophy professor, who denies reality and the mundane, is invited to write about the Spanish region of Extremadura, telling the story of the last wolves that lived there. The tale is very reflective, urging the reader to consider the world we inhabit, its most despicable aspects and the disenchantment that these aspects generate. On the other hand, descriptions of Spanish Extremadura and wolf hunting give it a naturalistic and neo-ecological tone.

In “Herman”, we come to know the story of a veteran trapper who, faced with the horror of the death perpetuated by him, insanely decides to take revenge on the world. As a “quid pro quo” he decides to turn his traps against his own kind and the tale focuses mainly on the incessant search for this apparently insane character.

The author's style is sui generis, employing long sentences that expand beyond the meaning contained in his words. The tone of the prose oscillates between the solemn and the insane, between the intriguing and the heartbreaking, culminating in an interesting prosody that is both musical and lurid.

The object of Krasznahorkai's writing is sheer disenchantment with the world, presented in a hypnotically enchanting way. Their stories are generative and irresolute, strange.

However they are sometimes difficult to follow and other times a little tedious, making this book very slow-paced and exhausting at times.

    read_2022 read-in-english


2,200 reviews717 followers

June 18, 2018

László Krasznahorkai's The Last Wolf / Herman is a collection of stories around the relationship of humans with a disappearing nature. In "The Last Wolf," we have a 78-page story consisting of a single sentence of a man who travels to Estremadura, Spain, to write on a local topic of his own choosing. He chooses to write about the shooting of the last wolf in the province, but finds it is by no means easy to get to the bottom of the story.

"Herman" consists of two substories around the main theme of a game warden who is asked to clear a forest that has run wild of all the predators that have sought it as a refuge. In the first version, "The Game Warden," the warden becomes disgusted with his success and takes it out on the townspeople, who come for him with guns. "The Death of a Craft" is the same story up to a point, though as seen from a group of libertines, male and female, who have come because the mother of one of them is dying. The warden has started setting non-fatal (but harmful) mantraps around the village, but comes to see the error of his ways.

Krasznahorkai is always worth reading, even when he is doing weird postmodern experiments. That's because he's one of the few who can do it and retain the intelligent reader's interest.

    hungary short-fiction

Adrian Buck

283 reviews52 followers

November 29, 2021

Bakti's translation of Herman wasn't difficult to read at all. It was made up of long sentences, yes, but there was nothing that would challenge a regular reader of literary fiction - or the standard rules of punctuation. Szirtes's translation of The Last Wolf was difficult, but not in the way I anticipated. My concern was that I would lose the direction the sentence had taken in the crowd of clauses. In the end, I don't think I did, but I continually felt as if I was being jostled, and I'm left with the uneasy sensation of having been pickpocketed.

I enjoyed The Last Wolf more than 'Herman', even though 'Herman' was much easier to read, even though The Last Wolf goes against my idea of what good writing should do. Good writing should disappear, allowing the reader to enjoy what is written about. Sometimes what is written about needs new forms of writing to be truly realised on the page. There always has been innovation in literature, and having recently read The Iliad, I think there has always been a need to abandon old forms suitable only for things that are no longer written about. My problem is no longer with Krasnohorkai's innovative punctuation, it is rather with the intentions behind his punctuation. Is his punctuation just misdirection?

I enjoyed the Last Wolf because I thought there was a story in it, a story about the extinction of a certain type of animal in a certain location. Since my cat died, I have come to realise that José Miguel - the protagonist - is right when he says "the love of animals is the one true love in which one is never disappointed" - so if José Miguel, the remorseful hunter, is going to offer further observations about the relationship between man and beast, I want to learn about them. But I never do, I am just given reasons to believe that they occurred: "at which point the interpreter in the back seat dissolved in tears and José Miguel continued, piling one sentence on top of another, one Spanish sentence running into the next", the tears and José Miguel's sudden loquaciousness. But I am in the same state of ignorance as the narrator, not understanding Spanish. Indeed a worse one, nor do I understand German or Hungarian. I have the idea in my head that the one who understands most is the Hungarian barman, who merely listens, and whom I take for Mr K. himself.

In this interview, Mr K. points out the artificial nature of the sentence

"… the short sentence is artificial – we use almost never short sentences, we make pause, or we hold on a part of a sentence end … but this characteristic, very classical, short sentence – at the end with a dot – this is artificial, this is only a custom, this is perhaps helpful for the reader, but for only one reason, that the readers in the last few thousand years have learned that a short sentence is easier to understand, this is also a custom, but if you think, you almost never use short sentences, if you listen …"

Yes, if you listen, you won't hear a sentence end with a dot. But if you listen, you won't hear any commas either, nor brackets, nor dashes, nor even question or exclamation marks - none of the punctuation that Szirtes has actually used in his translation. All punctuation is artificial, not just the dot. It's culturally determined as well: paired inverted question marks in Spanish, nouns capitalised in German, and dashes instead of paired quotation marks in Hungarian. If you listen, you will, however, hear the stresses, pauses, intonation groups and pitch contours that phonologists have diligently recorded as the real delineators of spoken language. The thing is that Mr K. doesn't record his stories in spoken form, he writes them, and we don't hear them, we read them, so his persecution of the poor dot at the end, the period, the full stop, is pretty suspect.

I have often read or watched stories where the plot is narrated non-linearly, chopped up like a jigsaw puzzle to be patiently reconstructed by the reader. The whodunit is the archetypal form of this kind of literature. And I have often wondered whether this was an empty trick on the part of the writer, that if the story's events were narrated in the order they occurred, then the story would hold no interest. This concern became fairly acute after reading Stoner, a completely compelling story about the events of a mundane life presented entirely in the order they occurred.

The Last Wolf is perhaps a step up in narrative subterfuge, in that ultimately the whodunit, the missing information that motivates the whole story related to the Hungarian barman in the Sparchwein is never revealed to the him, to the philosophy professor, or to us. But I still have to wonder if there was any story at all about Extremaduran wolves, and the significance of their extinction, a story apparently lost in a travelling motor vehicle, not translated into English, German or Hungarian. Perhaps the last wolf is a red herring, and The Last Wolf is in fact a story about stories, their frailty and the difficulties we have - through punctuation, translation or otherwise - in realising their telling.

It's a good ruse. Usually I despise stories about the difficulties of writing, and this one has an original twist. But what does this story tell me about "the love of animals"? What does it tell me about the last wolf, accidently destroyed with her cub? What does it tell me about my beloved dead cat? Wouldn't a story that did tell me something (not Herman) have been a better story? I check my pockets.

I'm no longer frightened of Mr K. and his long sentences, and would consider reading something else by him, but what if it's another trick?

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.

    fiction hungarian

Chuck LoPresti

168 reviews80 followers

February 18, 2020

The Last Wolf is a single 78 page sentence. It's man vs self vs animal. This is K. working out his human-less void in shorter form. His "style" is unique but easy and purely intuitive. It's visceral and direct but also unhinged and never mechanical. Although less complex than longer format works like The's no less important. I do think this is the best contemporary writer going.

Herman - K. approaches Jakov Lind like insanity with great clarity. Machines, man and animals are juxtaposed to question, much like Montaigne in Of Cruelty, what virtue and horror are originated from. No spoiler here - man isn't leaving this unscarred and I imagine you, as a person, willing to read K. know you have wished this upon yourself. Stare in to abyss - it's looking back, it's never a bore and it happens to be very well written.

Too bad Bela Tarr is done - Herman would make the best horror movie since Otesanek.


126 reviews8 followers

March 26, 2017

man reaches in the dark for god, finds an animal instead


60 reviews13 followers

September 21, 2022

What jumps off from the pages is the writer's ability to articulate just the right sentence for the right situation. The stories are nothing to write home about but the way they are told deserve all the praise. I like the stream of consciousness on the first story where multiple settings, characters, and timeliness are told in a single sentence that doesn't seem to end. Yet you know exactly who's speaking, and where all of this is happening without elaborate description. The second story Herman, or let's say two versions of a same story was more intriguing that the Last Wolf, although the Last Wolf feels like a better representation of the writers voice, and it's a better piece amongst the two.

Seth Austin

220 reviews155 followers

January 10, 2024

Did not expect to enjoy HERMAN - the lesser discussed of the two novellas included here - considerably more than THE LAST WOLF. I'm not convinced the single-sentence story shtick (how's that for alliteration?) is Krasznahorkai's most effective prosaic instrument. But I reserve my right to modify that opinion when HERSCHT 07769 is released later this year.

A few disparate thoughts, for your idle consideration.

Is it unusual synergy that two novellas, separated by nearly 25 years in their writing, should be so convergent in both narrative and theme? Or is that perhaps simply a reflection of a novelist who's been brooding over a particular mode of thought for his entire career? For one, the philosopher in THE LAST WOLF is undoubtedly a prototype for the professor in BARON WENCKHEIM. The rest of the links I'll leave in your hands.

HERMAN is what I would expect would happen if Krasznahorkai had written THE PEREGRINE instead of JA BAKER. Regardless of how I regard that thought, there is constant seduction I always find his serpentine sentences; one which keeps me coming back hunting for more.

Not top-shelf Krasznahorkai, but also not to be missed if you want to understand the mechanics of his disillusioned thinking a little deeper.

    2024 fiction male-author


7 reviews2 followers

January 11, 2021

خوندنش خیلی لذت‌بخش بود خصوصا چون داستان‌ها بیشتر از این‌که درباره‌ی آدم‌ها باشن درباره‌ی حیواناتن. ترجمه‌ی نیکزاد نورپناه عالیه.

Jim Elkins

334 reviews376 followers


February 18, 2018

A Story Diminished by Lack of Ambition, Energy, or Commitment

"The Last Wolf" is a novella, 76 pages in translation, written in what is usually described as one of Krasznahorkai's characteristic long sentences. Technically, that isn't right, because the novella is actually a string of run-on sentences, with ordinary sentences embedded in them. Grammatically correct long sentences are rare in fiction. (See the remarks on Enard's "The Zone.") This form is looser and, I think, less interesting than a single long sentence (as in Raymond Roussel's "New Impressions of Africa") or a genuine analocuthon (as in late Thomas Bernhard).

In the novella, a philosopher sits at a bar and recounts a trip he made to Extremadura, Spain, and to Alburquerque, the near-namesake of the city in New Mexico. The philosopher was invited to Spain in order to write about anything he might choose, and he ends up investigating the shootings of the last eight wolves in the region, in the 1980s and 1990s. He is given an unlimited budget and a translator, and he's driven around so he can interview people. All along he keeps saying, to the bartender, that he has said everything he can, that his thinking life is over, that even accepting the invitation was a sham, that he cannot write anything. In the end the killings of the last two wolves coincide with the end of his story, and -- as a reader will have surmised from the first couple of pages -- he ends up back in the bar, without having written anything.

It's all a common literary conceit: the unwritten text, the unspoken account, actually told, but not to an attentive hearer, or one who will retell the story, or write it down. (The bartender is represented, implausibly, as sometimes falling asleep.) The last of the wolves is the last of his thoughts; his wandering in Extremadura is his meandering mind made real, and so forth.

The story is simply not ambitious enough. If Krasznahorkai had more energy or commitment, he would have explained why it isn't a paradox that the philosopher actually has told a story, and in fact it's the story we're reading. The philosopher didn't write it down, but the author did. How, in the logic of the novella, does a person supposedly at the end of this thinking life manage to write -- really, to toss off -- a seventy-page novella? Of course there are thoughts in his head: we know, because we read them page after page. To make this more ambitious, more consistent, and more challenging, Krasznahorkai could have written out the philosopher's incapacity on the page, showing us what it was like for the to be unable to think.

The philosopher chooses to investigate the killing of the wolves because he remembers reading something about it, and in fact he made a note of it. That is interesting, but it isn't explained: but in a deeper version of this story, we could be told that he is perplexed by his choice of that article, and curious about his own interests and motives in finding it. That could be a sign of his ongoing inability to sort out his own motivations and thoughts. And while he is on the pursuit, he could do more than simply record what he sees and hears: he could wonder if he is being coherent in his intentions, or faithful to whatever remnants of intentions he may have.

By his own account, after all he can no longer think philosophically: but we're never told what that means, exactly, and what could it mean other than an incapacity for rational thought? And how could such an incapacity not vex or even torture the person who thinks he suffers from it? And how could he not wonder, at every moment, what he is understanding and what he isn't?

"The Last Wolf" is unambitious because it makes a very big claim about its narrator's incapacity: a claim that should not just exhaust him, as it does, but either perplex him -- given his apparent ability to continue to think and reason -- or paralyze him with doubt and fear -- given the apparently irrational nature of his investigation. A better model is Beckett's "Ill Seen Ill Said," where there's a claim about the narrator's incapacity, and it corrodes and infects the entire fabric of representation. Here it's just a claim, and the narrator goes on reasonably happily with his life, "incapacitated" only by an unaccountable inability to notice that by telling the bartender everything he has, in fact, written the story he claims he couldn't write.



77 reviews17 followers

January 9, 2021

نسخه‌ی اول داستان «هرمان» هولناک و شاهکار بود و چه دوستش داشتم.


Braden Matthew

Author4 books24 followers

November 26, 2022

A Dostoevskyian World Without God.

I keep thinking about the description given in the New Yorker that “the Krasznahorkai world is a Dostoevskyian one from which God has been removed.”

In these two novellas, “The Last Wolf” and “Herman”, one is greeted with exactly this: a godless world of the hunter and hunted, of animals hunting out of hubris and the loss of (or the realization of there never having been) innocence in the word of nature. With this comes many “disquieting questions” about the struggle between nature and humanity and between humans themselves. What motivates this struggle? The sense of justice not finalized, the irrevocable guilt at what one simply cannot do in the face of crimes against the universe and our symbiotic participations therein?

Krasznahorkai asks: is the one who hunts also being hunted by the ghost of God? Do we set traps at the altar from the enmity inside us or the lack of something outside us?

Ultimately, what one faces in the animal hunt is resistance, and as we know from the title of one of his other major books, with resistance comes melancholy. He writes in the second novella “Herman”: “He was aware of an invincible, stifling power already busily attacking his manicured paths and trails from all sides, crushing feeders, moldering the box- and pole traps and settling over the entire forest like some enormous infernal serpentine vine in mockery of the spasmodic human will that endeavours to tone everything, all that is complex and unknowable, down to its own heroic simplicity.”

Kilburn Adam

121 reviews49 followers

August 3, 2023

Unfolding within the confines of a single, vast, and breathlessly unbroken sentence is The Last Wolf, a tale told by a professor to a bartender, tracing his journey to the desolate wilderness of Extremadura, Spain, on an invitation he couldn't refuse. The narrative threads itself through his obsession with the legend of the region's last wolf, as he and his interpreter meticulously reconstruct the wolf's tragic end and its hunters' relentless pursuit. Krasznahorkai's exquisite prose doesn't offer pause, creating an almost palpable physical tension that amplifies the professor's deep-seated insecurities and the wolf's demise into unnerving vividness. Mirroring these themes in the complementary novella, Herman, a master trapper, initially employed to purge a wild forest of its deadly predators, experiences a moral crisis, subsequently redirecting his lethal traps onto a different quarry. Through the intricate tapestry of these two novellas, Krasznahorkai lays bare his immense literary prowess, crafting narratives that are both stunningly visceral and poignantly beautiful in their execution.


Author11 books84 followers

March 4, 2018

Me pone tan feliz haber leído a Laszlo. Es como descubrir una joya escondida: mientras se lee, uno tiene la impresión de haber encontrado a un nuevo clásico de la literatura universal.

"Herman" (un cuento contado desde dos diferentes perspectivas) y "El último lobo" (una novela corta) son dos historias muy distintas pero que se complementan a la perfección. En cualquier orden que se les lea (ya que, dada su forma de impresión, el libro te permite escoger qué relato vas a leer primero) ambas historias parecen ocurrir en el mismo universo: el de la feralidad sagrada, en una naturaleza tan hostil como bella, misma en la que ya no cabemos como seres humanos. Ambas historias tratan de lo mismo: gente que se encuentra de sopetón con la muerte, con esa parte inconsciente de su ser a la que sólo puede llegarse a través de la epifanía.

Lamentablemente, este libro no ha sido traducido al español (o al menos yo no he podido encontrar ningún rastro de una edición así), pero es relativamente barato si se compra por internet. Definitivamente voy a lanzarme en un futuro a leer más de este extraño autor.

    contemporaneos-int favorites inglés

Edward Rathke

Author8 books142 followers

June 10, 2017

I love long sentences so part of me was primed to love this kind of thing. Both novellas are pretty different, offering very different experiences, but also working together in an interesting way.

But, yeah, really more for those interested in style. The Last Wolf is a 70 page sentence, which is full of self-loathing and digressions, and an interesting story about a man who hunted wolves. Herman is a bit stranger and darker, about a man inflicting random violence upon a small town.

Good stuff. Interested in checking out a novel by him, finally. I've owned Satantango for years.



103 reviews

August 14, 2019

I wish I could choose just a single line to give as an example of how totally immersive this story is, but if I tried then I'd end up just retyping the whole thing. 'The Last Wolf' is completely absorbing, almost addictive; and one of the most unique reading experiences I've ever had. By the end of it I felt as if something about my way of thinking had just inexplicably changed in order to suit the peculiarity of it and allow me to get so drawn in. I honestly can't wait to read more by Krasznahorkai :)

The Last Wolf / Herman (2024)
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