Korin, a middle-aged Hungarian archivist, is one day sifting through files when he happens to come across a piece of literature which he deems one of the most important documents he has ever found. Depressed and likely mentally ill, he sets out to eternalize this document before committing suicide – an act he has already decided was inevitable. But how can he immortalize this piece of text in a way more permanent than the usual? The internet is his answer – its own homepage. Thus he travels to the center of the world, New York City, in order to preserve it online with the help of a more technologically literate translator.
Throughout the novel, Krasznahorkai seems to be making a comparison between humanity and literature – using Korin to represent the former and the document (titled War and War in the novel) to represent the latter. War and War concerns four men returning home from war only to find it following them no matter which way they turn. It is the story of men who seek peace but cannot find it, just as Korin strives to find his own form of peace, whether that be through figurative immortality, death, or simply passing on his story. And though he wants to end his life, he also seeks to be remembered. Just as he strives to immortalize this document, he strives to immortalize himself. These parallels between Korin and the document (the “search for the tree of life” and the search for peace) render them as one and the same.
In the end, Korin’s suicide occurs after the website’s apparent immortalization, and what he believes to be his own with the plaque on the wall of a museum. But if one visits the website itself (https://warandwar.com) the reader immediately sees that this is not the case. The internet gives the illusion of permanence, yet two major issues lay at hand with that view. First, the vast amount of information makes something as small as Korin’s project nearly impossible to find. Even if that immortality were achieved it would be like the Sybil of Cumae – hanging in a cage, aging, immobile, waiting for the death that never comes. And the second possibility is actually what occurred to Korin’s website. A false immortality only held together by our modern world’s lust for wealth. Once that greed is no longer satisfied to whoever may so require it, life will be wiped and erased – a blank white background with black text. Unless, of course, you are one of the lucky ones; one of those deemed worthy of eternal preservation.
Not only was Korin unable to become immortal, or make immortal that which he loved, but he could not even pass on his own story. He attempted to tell the seven children who tried to rob him, the beautiful woman at the station, the lover of the translator, but every single one of them either deemed him insane or could not comprehend a word he said. And so he was left to attempt the impossible and fail. Krasznahorkai used Korin to show the minuscule life we lead on Earth. How everything we do will be forgotten, the work we strive to achieve will be lost, our stories never told, and all that may be left of us one day will be a plaque on a wall in a foreign museum.
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