Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Some Notes on Narcissism, "Nausea in the eyeballs," fugueing....autism.... verbal materiality...

The reading of Singular and Plural in # 3-A is all I have to say to Innerworld. I might have added the idea of "homeostasis", the one good idea Freud claimed he got reading the entire preceding literature on dreams to his I.O.D. If only Germanisten and other disciplines along that line were as sophisticated as to understand Freud's concept of over- or multiple determination! Verdichten/ Dichtung/ Condensation. And its dimensional configurations. There would be no need for Heidegger, Lacan et al. If only they proceeded as Freud did by first studying the nervous system of an ancient fish... how much time they would save by not needing to read Husserl!
I suggest Peter Lowenberg's piece on Pyscho-Analysis as a proto-postmodernist way of proceeding. In light of this mention, I am surprised to note the lack of mention in the bibliographies of Tilman Moser's Romane als Krankheitsgeschichten which includes two pieces on Handke,although Moser was not yet aware of the underlying complicating factor of autism. It also appears that no one has read the rather extensive postscript I wrote to my translation of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, it is rather more than the usual one two page note to lend these editions scholarly credibility. Particularly what it means to translate such a piece in the psychoanalytic situation.
"Psychoanalytic Resources On-line will get you to just about any, including journals, institutes, historical aspects.
Because they would have a drift on how perceptions are processed in the brain, how something like the pure phenomenology as expressed in words in Handke's early work came about...
Ms. Weller's discussion of these poems and the found poems in Deutsche Gedichte and Nonsense & Happiness is absolutely worth reading; she and I might quibble, I am being kind, but then which two people reading the same text don't quibble even if in emphatic agreement in what is basically your better college bullshit session such as her piece?
Professor Weller describes three collections of Handke's poetry but does not address more demanding works such as the Dramatic Poem, Walk About the Villages [W.A.T.V.] the richest manifestation of Handke's poetic capacities; she barely touches, that's all, on Handke's changing poetics. Handke has gone through something like six phases, last time I counted, and the transitions are sometimes the most interesting; and I think he is in one of those transitions presently... treading water a bit...
Professor Weller fails to address entirely Handke's prosody and rhetoric as it changes into the frequent simple declarative line by line that we have left over from the earlier serial procedures of Innerworld and the plays of that first period. He will take recourse to these linear procedures over and over, even in the novels, also at the end of his latest play, Spuren der Verirrten. They made their first appearance in W.A.T.V.
Her essay is no reason not to acquire the book, as Wefelmeyer's deficient discussion of Handke's drama is. Scott Abbott is always worth reading, though, as indicated, there's far more to Handke and Yugoslavia than he addresses. More on that, a summary position of mine, in a later sending.
Having taken a peak ahead at essays I still may comment on, there is a sufficiency of them, I know already, to make The Works of Peter Handke a useful addition to the mounting Handke literature. For example, I find myself in near total agreements with Mirielle Tabah's piece "Land and Landscape in Handke's Texts" and so will probably only add a few comments from my perspective and particular interests and how these texts she discusses affected me.
But let me note: Weller, like Wefelmeyer, and some of the other scholars, seem not to understand:
[1] Handke's playfulness, however more serious and melancholy it becomes as he proceeds; and
[2] that when he formalizes he creates [knowingly] projection screens: e.g. Professor Pillip's reading of GOALIE only tells me something about how Professor Pillip reads [or doesn't], as it might him.
[3] that just about any of Handke's projections are meant to affect, involve the reader in his [huge] self; and thus attention needs to be paid to the numerous techniques he employs to that purpose;
[4] Also, Handke's once saying that of course he has to dole himself out in bits in pieces, he's got to make a living from his symptom of being condemned to write, since he decided not to become, or good early fortune allowed him the foresightful law student, to forgo service in the corps of those wonderful Austrian Cultural Attaches!
I want to comment, specifically, on just two pages in Weller's piece and the poems she discusses there in the hope that it will be an all around eye opener: [p. 246/247 ]
"someone in despair takes his own life
after hearing the word
And someone
who frequently longs to creep away
gives a guilty start
when he hears
the word
the word
the word HUNTING ROOM..."
[I don't even recall coming up with that dreadful line 'who frequently longs to creep away'!!! perhaps this is one of those texts I didn't translate? I'd have to check the book. I did find a way of translating about half a dozen further poems from the book but they then only appeared in magazines.]

Ms. Weller mentions "arbitrariness" as triggering the reactions ... "memories of associations being hidden from view..." "Removed from its functional context, the word signal determines at the same time the limits of this context [??? m.r.] namely that which is charged with anxiety and aversion. Remaining unconstrained by any network of functionality, the first person of the poem comes to experience every verbal utterance as provocation...This is tantamount to saying that every word demands [my emphasis] to be powerfully reacted to, as it assaults, demarcates and forces the subject towards what looked to have been successfully negotiated and hence forgotten.[????] Language in the pathological world of Handke's poem tends to lose its function as mediator between subject and object or subject and situation, collapsing it as it were into an endless succession of empty metaphorical associations."
You notice the word "pathological". Nonsense. Nor are there demands of any kind. The entire paragraph is riddled in nonsense. And couched in hideous unpoetic language and formulations. The subject would seem to be a human being, a fruit fly in a lab is accorded more deference than this standard usage from German philosophy!
First of all, let us recall the intentionality of the title of the book of poems: "The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld:" the attempt to communicate states of mind. This particular Handke poem, like certain sections of Kaspar, puts us [back] into the world of language as pure materiality. It has no associations yet. However, and there Ms. Weller is right on, these words fall into, evoke states of fear and nausea-filled states of mind. The words are not metaphors. They have no images in back of them. Or associations... associations always lead somewhere, that is their nature. The words are circumscribed if at all solely by considerations of absurdity and whether or not they pass the beauty threshold. If they did they would not elicit nausea. I witnessed Handke nearly throw up, thrice, at the sight/ company of three different physically exceedingly unattractive human beings, each of whom also happened to be also morally gruesome in different ways and degrees... Handke's special hyper-sensitivity is a defense... as are all nauseas....
And "initially" [at least for the autistic] indeed "every word" is just like that...Think about that, and how Handke has developed into someone with as deep a sense of the logos as anyone around...
Words in this poem are not yet [integrated] in a syntactic order, Chomsky's generative grammar sequencing has not yet started to put them into meaningful connection with each other.
Handke's once nausea, also at language, at the very materiality of it, on the part of a materialist like Handke with his challenged nervous system, points us in the right direction; and that is not at more language, or set of abstractions. A poem such as the one quoted puts us back into the state of the autistic child who becomes doubly terrified at the inception of the violent primal scenes and the bombing at age 2 in Berlin. Modulations are lacking in every respect except that of masturbating.
It was the oddest thing to hear Handke announce in 1966 that he was the new Kafka, a cheerful Beatle full of effrontery all around... and then you read the texts which demonstrate over and over again the conquest, the victory over fear and terror. Kafka I expect was the best and is the best metaphor for being in a state of continuous, libidinously fueled fright. But no one ever saw Kafka announce himself, proudly, as the first Kafka. Handke suffered as it were from a near perfect form of conversion hysteria in reverse, which is one chief reason why he has remained so productive all these years: you are in state of libidinously generated anxiety, reach for a pen, and everything is so calm, and you long for calmness all around! That will make him a rock of a reactionary by the time he is 89 years old!
Meanwhile, Handke has become, as he puts it so nicely, a "Wortklauber." Cherishing the lovely little words as he does his sparrows. I am glad that he can work himself up into feeling as one with a tree. Certain African and South American and New Guinea natives still do so as a matter of course. From their perspective there is nothing particularly mystical about such a union, only within the split mind of rationalism is there, where the so-called "savage" has been split off.
Of course in Handke's case the matter is more complicated since he wants word and the syntax to match his experience of a world that is also a world of words [as in the SINGULAR AND PLURAL POEM], to be synchronous with his perceptions, and when they are not gets angry, psychotically so, as in the SINGULAR PLURAL poem, where he sees black, or sees some ants on a hot plate and then throttles as Bloch does the the Prater prostitute in Goalie and on and on and on these forever surges from Handke's psychotic core [formed subsequent to his first two years], that nearly killed his daughter in a fit of irritation, or his Salzburg girlfriend... no wonder that he so longs for peace giving forms!
My clues came when I followed up Handke's confession to Gamper about his still occurring bouts of autism. I witnessed them, mystified at the time. At this point we enter the world of genetics and neurology but not yet the philosophy of language though that philosophy would be enriched if you took that tack, it presents a way out from the prison house of language, or from Chomsky's programable generative syntax box, which I think Mr. Handke visited, too, in the 60s. Kaspar, among all the other things that play is, can be regarded as its illustration.
1] Autism in Handke's instance might be regarded as the too intense, quantitative and also qualitative input from the various senses to a modulating system that lacks the resources to process the input. So when Ms. Weller objects to Handke's object world being too large she is being judgmental, is using her perspective of what is "normal." I do not doubt her perspective, but it is a perspective that will not lead to understanding. The aspect of autism that is so pronounced in Handke makes me think of him as possessing the nose of your best hound dog, the sonar of a bat, eyes with double the mega-pixels of any camera around, taste buds of the best taster in Stalin's court [does anyone recall that restaurateur in NO-MAN'S-BAY, that split off part of Handke that a Musil would have loved too, who keeps going bankrupt as he cooks up the world's most delicious food but prohibits all these distasteful guests from entering his restaurant? How fussy autists can be with their food, what great cooks some of them become, like Handke who sings the praises of Serbian ham in his delightful play La Cuisine], and skin - no, not of a newborn, a newborn's skin is quite insensitive it turns out, otherwise it could not endure the excruciations of the birth canal massage as it is born... unless Handke's skin lacked that protection upon birth, which we do not know: the midwife signed the certificate that his birth was normal. Thus Handke's "born to terror" must be taken somewhat metaphorically: however, I think we can date it to 1944 when he, until then his mother's love child [take a look at photos of the two of them together, what a mutual admiration dyad we have here! Beautiful smiling baby, delighted beautiful admiring Mom] started to be exposed to violent primal scenes in the then bomber raid ridden Berlin. And you might even come on the very considerable literature on that subject describing the effects of it, in as much as Handke himself,one of the best tuned phenomenologists, has not described its plethora of sequelae in "The Essay on Tiredness"; you would spend a few days or so looking at what might be the physiological cause of all his nauseas - "nausea of the eyeballs" !! for God's sake, who has given this matter thought? [and make interesting acquaintance with the vagic nerve but not necessarily construct a philosophy of any kind from such knowledge as Sartre did], why he suffers from occasional color blindness, you would take a look at the sources of Handke's irritability, his remarkable hyper-sensitivity, and discover that his autism must have something to do with this... you would look at the functioning of the perceptual system, how percepts are processed by various functions of the brain, ask whether possibly certain modulating functions are absent... the Handke who has a nose of your best pointer, the eyes of a bat, twice as many megapixels the hearing of ... with so much information coming in that his greatest longing might be for no information at all... and with the only relief afforded by reading and writing... and who casts his eyes down or squints to the side not because he is unassertive or squashed but for the same reason that he always is wearing dark glasses during those days: the sheer physicality of what he sees looking straight ahead is too intense!
... I would, I did, and though a lot of psychoanalytic concept have come in very useful, I would not turn to Lacanian concepts or any philosophical concept that Handke himself, bereft of explanations he does not seek, consults. Handke's saying that he first experienced nausea at other bodies in boarding school... give me a break... at any event, one explanation why even the oldest friends and collaborators are immediately taken out of house and into the Chaville forest to look for mushrooms... Possibly claustrophobia, too; or any person, aside a woman or child, will be experienced as foreign, and even a lover for not very long before Handke goes into emotional withdrawal.
It is the persistence of this traumatic event for a decade that really counts, how it was dealt and not dealt with as it became embedded in Handke's psyche; this is not a one time railway accident, from which you might recover in time. So skin sensitive as??? the most thin skinned? As someone who had his skin torn off? Calloused as a consequence in some respects? The words in that poem are "eye sores", "ear sores", initially every word was a wounding... That is what is so unusual and needs to be grasped as we follow his career from a withdrawal in the Handke [Keusche/ hovel] household into reading to becoming a radically important writer... the need to master fright, the ability, the marshaling of literature to do it, and the eventual resurgence of the love he had absorbed during his first two years plus 9 months somewhat troubled inter-uterine existence upon conception in the spring of 1942. Handke's relationship to language as physical objects is sui generis.
The first sense to develop, inter-uterine, is that of hearing...[Handke mentions an infant inter-uterine hearing its mother heart in W.A.T.V.] at around four months... skin sensitivity develops only once you have been born... you do not need your taste buds then, nor your sense of smell... the sense of sight is developed for extra-uterine existence. Brain quadruples in size extra-uterine, no matter that inter-uterine it is exposed to the mother's states of mind.
Handke suffers from what is called anaclitic depression, one of the most profound, lasting features of his writing that communicates itself to his readers, on the part of someone who calls himself [thus for good reason] "a melancholy player" [whereas with all that fright early on he was really a pretty cheerful fellow who couldn't wait to see whether his face might not be on the cover of Der Spiegel!]...because Ms. Sivec-Handke's love of her life, Herr Schönherr, father of her child, would not marry her. We do not cannot tell what other untoward experiences or states of mind were projected into bebe Peter, which he had to hold, in safe surrogate keeping as it were, to make sure that his mother staid alive long enough to give birth to him. See the most conscientuous Dr. Bernard Bail's elaboration of this approach in his holistic psychoanalysis site.
We have few leads as to what precipitated Handke's autism unless it is purely genetically determined. If the latter, judging by what Handke reports about his mother's condition prior to her suicide and about his grandfather, the Slovenian Sivic, it is in that direction one would look. Her existential conditions had much improved at that point in her life, the beating husband was off to a T.B. clinic, her NBA star first born was showering her with gifts! Nonetheless excruciating pains set in, she couldn't sleep; there was no convincing diagnosis. She took an overdose of sleeping pills, and prepared herself so as not to leave a mess. I never liked the pathos of "Wunschloses Unglueck" as a title for a book I read and reread many times: she had her wishes, her streaks of independence, her greatest wish for her son, with whom she seems to have been in nice mother son cahoots, was fulfilled beyond anyone's wildest dreams. So the re-writing of Sorrow Beyond Dreams in The Repetition is more accurate in describing the fates of the women of the region in having many of them die of cervical cancer.
Grandfather Sivec is described as irascible and as indulging in the same kind of verbal Zeus-like fits as can come upon Handke, who, ingeniously, permits himself their explosion by calling them "sacred." Since Handke installed the grandfather as his father figure in The Repetition we may assume that sheer mimicry of the behavior of his grandfather may have sufficed, and acted as a permit to throw fits.
Maria's two other children, Herr Handke's actual children, the boy became a petty criminal, and I believe died of cancer, the daughter died young, on an island in the Indian ocean, the Maldives I believe. Handke makes an attempt, it is a story line that is abandoned half way through, in his Del Gredos novel to transfigure the half-brother's criminality into something grand... the kind of grand criminal he might have become had he not had the luck to get out to the seminary..
But take a look sometime at the photo of Maria's three children at:

How young Peter is already throwing out his chest, and how German he looks as a six, and how protective of his siblings!
I simply provide the link above to the pertinent analytic material, in all the matters I bring up: to Narcissism,to Fugueing, etc. So if the scholars really want to get up to snuff, here's your chance. A summary of my analytic monograph, not as scattershot what I noted here, can be found at: [I don't feel at all that I am done with thinking about language and autism.]

One consequence of too much input is a wrenching... as we see it in autists all around us. It leads to irritability as we find it in Handke in no end of matters... irritability is irritability, it is quite democratic in that respect, yet there is a quantitative increase which can break through a threshold... at which point we might withdraw from the proceedings and sit down by the record player and put on a Beatles record. However, Handke has the capacity for a salvaging constraint, a parameter: I would posit that his exposure during the first two years extra-uterine to the beautiful face of his mother is what augmented that innate capacity, that is the measure... lacking that measure? So it is the ugly that upsets Handke's nervous system, one cause for dis-syncronicity. Since there is so much ugliness around... no wonder that Handke tries to do nothing but write, that is to formalize: that is why the non-formalized involuntary naked ego jottings of WEIGHT OF THE WORLD constitute such an important materialistic trove and comparison, contrast.
In connection with Handke's poetry and work Ms. Weller cites Handke's famous "I was born into terror" and like the various hopeless commentators fails to heed what it might mean to write "I am so anxious when I start to write but what I write then is so calm."
Durzak, who hates all of Handke, or the obtuse esthete Bohrer [Handke may be exquisitely and strongly sensitive esthetically, but he is no esthete like Bohrer, or Botho Straus, esthetes are bound by reaction formation to their once love of the anal sphere as was observed some centuries ago by Freud and his early crew] are not worth bringing up.
Least of all, nearly half a century after the unraveling of most of the say half dozen strings [dimensions] that constitute narcissism would you continue to use the concept moralistically as Durzak and Bohrer and Ms. Weller do. It serves no understanding purpose to go about it that way. Handke himself in the sentence that Weller quotes shows how he has dealt with the narcissistic shield that stands between him and the world, he takes in the world and makes it part of his huge self!, where you can at least, maybe, turn toward yourself. However, he seems to have forgotten this at the short recit on narcissism that is shoe-horned in to One Dark Night [which contains at least two other recits: Handke, most tiresomely, on "the modern woman"; and a cute wish fulfillment as to what ought to have happened to some hated blue UN trucks being dragged back from the South East on the Autobahn neat Taxham/ Salzburg .. this is dream book which syntactically takes you into a dream state, and why not have some recits in it; all kinds of voices can speak up in dreams]. Narcissism as a turning of love toward yourself when there are no respondents. Not one bit better than Freud, who however pointed in the direction that Kohut could follow, in saying that "the ego is first of all a body ego." Jung was far ahead of Freud, too, in that respect. What is surprising in Handke's case is not his sensitivity to criticism [his violent portrayal pay back for Reich-Ranicki's frequently stupid critiques of his work, portraying him as that forever shitting bulldog behind that fence at the air strip in St. Victoire] but the endless need to be seen in public, to display himself on the part of someone who already as a youngster dreamt of being on the cover of Der Spiegel, why the need for endless mirroring? That compulsion, need, continues to puzzle me, though it fits in with his autism and his need to assert himself over all others. But it does appear to be insatiable. Occasionally he makes an attempt to forego the limelight, as he did when he received his honorary doctorate at age 60 and promised never to show "his idiocy" [his words] in public again. Well, I think that monkish phase lasted about two years, by the time of the Milosevic funeral he was already back in full public display, and what an orgy of display and interviews that funeral appearance generated! [the handke/ milosevic controversy an American exposition]
Indeed, it would be hard to explain the plenitude, the riches of W.A.T.V. without Handke's kind of intaking, or the extraordinary response to the natural worlds that the geologist Sorger transmits to us from his few weeks in Alaska.
So let us abandon the judgmental use of the word "Narcissism." Those who use it usually only manifest their envy.

However, to read the three long and one shorter poem sequence contained in the English Nonsense and Happiness, at this late date without reading the parallel works - A Moment of True Feeling and the diary novel naked ego exhibition , it has always struck me Weight of the World, and make connections between the three strikes me as a deficient way of approaching these texts.
This was a highly critical period in Handke's life. We can specify what brought on the crisis and how it affected this particular person at that time. Handke the great exhibitionist, who withholds so little about himself, especially during that period, supplies no end of material. The factors, in sequence [aside the previously sketched predispositions] are: the suicide of the mother, incompletely mourned until the writing of The Repetition ["I will get back to all that later" [appr. is the last sentence of Sorrow Beyond Dreams]; the being abandoned by a neglected wife "The worst thing that ever happened to me." [Reading biographically, you can see this coming, the wife's emotional longing is translated into a physical pursuit in Short Letter Long Farewell]; the being left as house husband for a very young daughter; feeling trapped, as Handke does so easily, constrained, the injured pride, and fugueing in and out of states of feeling alternately connected and disconnected... that is what these three long poems do...state of mind poems but of a far more intimate and dramatic nature than the Innerworld texts. Those are three "fugue states" that are resolved musically in those poems... which is why he survived them at all even though he ended up in a Paris Hospital [see W.O.W.] with a tachychardia attack. He was so delighted at my use of the word "humbug" [bah humbug indeed!] for nonsense! Fuguening in and out of meaninglessness and pure materiality... a kind of discontuous but persisting deja vue state is what fugue states can be thought of: the most important feature of deja vue being that they connect with the experience of having survived trauma. So not to be too worried during those roller coaster rides.
About two of these matters, which appear too embarrassing to mention, Handke lies: "Libgart Schwartz decided to resume acting career" is wrong since she never left it, the only thing she left was an insulting lay-a-broad of a husband! Handke has no heart valve problems since he was regarded as fit for Austrian military service but, indeed, he has a delicate nervous system, and aside the "moment of true feeling" when love set in, we can be grateful to Valium for lessening our man's anxieties, so that eventually he can become the "anti-Kafka"! that also always resided in him. His heart can widen into mythic openness as we can note in Left Handed Woman, the last of the Paris books. It is a widening of the heart born of psychosomatic necessity. And of course we became a great walker...
My problem with the "Gedicht an die Dauer" is that it is chiefly assertion, it does not involve me in Handke's states as the Innerworld and Nonsense do. I quite believe that he is ecstatic at these large variety of natural phenomena, so was I when I lived in the St. Monica Mt. Preserve with a Juniper tree dripping its sap onto the roof of my mountain loft, and the pepper tree and the humming birds all around, etc. and reading The Repetition which made me too a king of slowness for a while. Even more so in a quit rural village/ pueblo in Mexico. Also to be noted is, with all those wonderful natural phenomena, how unpeopled the scenes are. The occasional beautiful woman to whom H. can relate. Handke may have become the blessing high priest at the end of the prose text A Slow Homecoming, but a high priest who takes even the oldest friends at once out of house to pick mushrooms.
As far as I could see, the writing did not manifested signs of the old nausea - that ceased with the flowering of love and the inception of valerian compound - until the 2005 play Untertagblues. It's "wild man's" extreme irritability in the overnight neon of the subway made me think that maybe our man was off his meds, or that the piece had been pulled out of a 60s drawer just to stay "in the picture", since there had not been a play since the stupid reception of "Canoe" in 1999. The newest play "Spuren der Verirrten" derives from "Hour" and is entirely within its linguistic mode. Dis-chronologous! "Subdayblues" ends with the "turning against the self" that Handke proudly indicates as being the preferred object of his aggressive depression.
Handke himself, in W.A.T.V. has written for more clearly about what "the thing in itself" is than Ms. Weller does resorting to Lacan etc. Yes, the prison house of language but then we keep mucking around in it anyhow... Handke actually knows how to step outside, at times. And knows that the only just way to respond to a good poem... is with another poem.
Oh how many scholarly mice the collection of Handke notebooks will feed once he has become an Austrian postage stamp!
Weller mentions Handke's "wound", he has a character in "The Art of Asking" saying "I write out of my wound." I would rather say: no, he writes out of his healthiest polymorphous bi-sexual state while in his cradle in a hollowed out tree in the Chaville forest!

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MICHAEL ROLOFF Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website