Mr K Released
Mirroring Romania’s drastic transition from totalitarianism to Western-style freedom in the late 1980s, Mr K Released captures the disturbingly surreal feeling that many newly liberated prisoners face when they leave captivity. Employing his trademark playful absurdity, Matéi Visniec introduces us to Mr K, a Kafkaesque figure who has been imprisoned for years for an undisclosed crime in a penitentiary with mysterious tunnels.
One day, Mr K finds himself unexpectedly released. Unable to comprehend his sudden liberation, he becomes traumatized by the realities of freedom—more so than the familiar trauma of captivity or imprisonment. In the hope of obtaining some clarification, Mr K keeps waiting for an appointment with the prison governor, however, their meeting is constantly being delayed. During this endless process of waiting, Mr K gets caught up in a clinical exploration of his physical surroundings. He does not have the courage or indeed inclination to leave, but can move unrestricted within the prison compound, charting endless series of absurd circles in which readers might paradoxically recognize themselves.
‘Both amusing and alienating, the variation on a theme that is Mr. K Released naturally raises questions for the contemporary reader in an increasingly troubled world, where the illusory nature of human liberty increasingly shows itself not to be a thing of the past.’—World Literature Today. Read the full review here.
‘The prison’s underground world complicates ideals of democracy and self-determination and stands in uneasy contrast to a prison environment that should be authoritarian but is oddly lax and porous. Mr. K Released is an engrossing novel of ideas that is entertaining and challenging in its strangeness.’—Rebecca Hussey, Foreword
‘Mr. K reclaims his initial center-stage status in the novel’s closing chapters, and his storyline concludes with an apt, if predictable, reveal. Yet Visniec purposefully leaves several subplots unresolved. Perhaps this decision acts as the author’s final commentary on Romania’s shift to democracy. Despite three decades of freedom, unknowns remain. Answers to big questions are impossible to predict, but in Mr. K Released, Matéi Visniec valiantly dissects the possibilities, producing an entertaining, layered novel that succeeds more often than it fails.’—Benjamin Woodward, Words Without Borders
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