Saturday, July 14, 2007



to Scott, David, Thomas, frank.pilipp, karl.wagner, David.Donkin, christiane.wel., Fritz.Wefelmey., faclw, gogrof, davidson.242, ariadnepress, jungundjung, Mireille.Tabah, r.halsall, drescher, lektorat, Elisabeth, Krishna, franzangst, Leland, Stephen, paul.sylbert, RGD, George, HMcH
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# 5-A] of sequential, ultimately complete commentary on Coury/Pilipp's THE WORKS OF PETER [PJOTR] [SCHOENHERR-SIVEC] HANDKE!

now posted at

Apologies for the delay if noticed. First there was the American Scholar infamy

that I made every attempt to punish. This, too, can be accessed at the above blog. [1]

The first reviews of the SIERRA DEL GREDOS monster are coming in:

first review on-line at ArtForum:

http://bookforum. com/inprint/issue=200703&id=264

'Crossing the Sierra de Gredos' by Peter Handke
Los Angeles Times - CA,USA
Lost memories and loved ones, ethnic conflict and Don Quixote -- Handke's new novel is anything but skin-deep. By Thomas McGonigle, Thomas McGonigle is the ...
See all stories on this topic

Nothing of the requisite length and depth; it in the works here.


Since few if anyone but the contributors have read the Coury/ Pilipp collection The Works of Peter Handke, let me begin by quoting Professor Pilipp's chief points, from his long essay The Quest for Authenticity, so the reader will have reference before, I hope, turning to the collection itself and to reading Handke and the three titles on which Pilipp focuses...

HERE Professor Pilipp's summary: "In The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, Handke exposes the process of identity formation on the basis of a systematically linguistic world as arbitrary as yet inescapable and shows how individuals are enslaved by a confining, one dimensional system of normative significance. In A Moment of True Feeling, he illustrates an individual's attempt to rid himself of a thus constructed identity and the ensuing search for an existence beyond universally accepted conventions. Keuschnig's self-discovery is seen to succeed by his withdrawal into the realm of the subjective, aestheticizing and poeticizing the objective and rejecting the conventional in terms of moral, ethical, social and linguistic parameters. In The Left-Handed Woman, freedom from systematic definition and personality defining forces also proceeds from finding sanctuary in a solitary and meditative state where one detaches oneself from any external encroachments to achieve and preserve personal integrity."

Those who read these three wonderful progressively more seriously playful projection screen assemblages didn't imagine, did you, that they could be so klunkily described! Well, it's a profession that can turn Dante into heavy metal. I can't say that Pilipp is wrong in this take on GOALIE, "I am only accidentally I", after all, was KASPAR's last sentence prior to was it Martin Walser disabusing a youngish Handke of such programmatic statements. And I can't imagine that Handke seriously studied paranoid-schizophrenia, especially its linguistic consequences, to arrive at that conclusion, for this famous title. I don't think that platitude was what heated his imagination. But Pilipp is more interesting in detail, and I will come to that. And the disagreements become more interesting at that point, too.

First let me address the issue of authenticity. When I did the translation of the so central text to the great change in Handke, of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, I felt that scarcely if ever had I come skin-close to as authentic a text. Every paragraph seemed shot through with dried chicken shit – the means employed to age, say, Spanish furniture into something saleable as having been worm-eaten for several hundred years! At no time, either, has Handke been that directly and explicitly truthful and complete about who he is, because he could transfigure and poetize it, make the grim story of his family life appear more digestible – one way of reading the text. W.A.T.V. contains a recollection of his first heart beat intra-uterine, of being struck dumb, as only the autistic can be ["the bull of silence on the tongue"], and W.A.T.V. is sufficiently objectified to be accessible to the emotional response not just of its translator but of real readers, those who have not gone dead, those who are open. W.A.T.V. became my heart test, few passed it over the years. Yet another way of regarding W.A.T.V. is as the work that the poor Benjamin scholars are still seeking to imagine, a work consisting entirely of quotations, for W.A.T.V. elicits worlds of references to the well read, yet without being literary in the unpleasant sense of that word; that feature, of being anchored, deeply within human literary history {e.g."The children run under the wind." Kafka], drenched, is something that marks Handke's work from as early on as the truck that Handke has t with quotes form American black mask writers Der Hausierer's, to deepen the dread and terror that the book shows such a masterly way of overcoming… by literary means… I understand the notion of meta-fiction in that sense only. Even then Handke was trying to write "all our story"… and fortunately the allegorical backbone of has always been concretely anchored, no matter the high and strong level of conceptual abstraction he shot for, say, in KASPAR, or DER HAUSIERER, or RADIO PLAY ONE, where he plays the scalas of pure anxiety like a virtuoso.

The impression of authenticity also infuses the works of the less emotional, early period of Handke's production. And if we did not have that impression, a purely subjective, though also then consensual one, I doubt we'd all be all that interested in our man.

Interesting, from the aspect of falseness, are those who suffer false selves, who are inauthentic, and who are unaware of it. The outright hypocrites, live lives successfully split, and suffer few agenbites of conscience. For this see D.W. Winnicott. They are boring, whether terminally or not becomes the criterion of taking them into treatment.

Yet there is the impression of authenticity, and there is an author's truthfulness: after writing A CHILD'S STORY, a book that managed to avoid mention of the child's mother, Handke said he looked forward to lying a little again. Save for the absent mother, A CHILD STORY strikes me as utterly truthful, a period during which I would see Handke occasionally.

Those who know how to read and read in the dozen ways that you learn to read psychoanalytically may recall the item from WEIGHT OF THE WORLD where Handke agrees with his therapist that he is at a remove from his feelings - from there my mind leaps to that MOMENT in A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING [later recalled by Keuschnig in NO-MANS-BAY] where K. catches sight of "a broken piece of mirror, a comb… a lock of hair." - Pere Handke not giving in to his suicidal impulses, that he used to say had pervaded his life, at the sight of some sentiment eliciting objects, what if there had been no daughter in Handke's life at that time? Well, he would not have felt so tied-down, as the departure of his first wife, from being the child's chief care taker, left him. Also, WEIGHT makes note of a brief stay in a Paris hospital, allegedly for heart valve problems. No, it was for tachycardia! And it turned out not to be a big problem, as he notes there; which a valve problem would be. And some Valerian derivative would make all the difference. Why was our man so upset? Why does the analyst Tillman Moser, whom none of the contributors appear to have read, treat A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING under the rubric of ROMANE ALSO KRANKHEITSGESCHICHTEN, but not come to any definite conclusions as to the psychic crisis that its author detailed not just in MOMENT, but in the three long fugueing poems of NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS, and in WEIGHT, and which we can see pervading the earlier work and then fading as he enters a more mythic, open-hearted way of being in LEFT-HANDED WOMAN. Moser is on the money in detecting a narcissistic injury. It's source [s], its particular configuration remains mysterious to him, also since the autism had not become known at that time, and will until you get the basic configuration right: love child, exposed to depression intra-uterine; no birth trauma; two years of exclusive possession of the mother; first exposure to future internalized father figure, his mother's father, grandfather Sivec; inception of ten year exposure to violent drunken primal scenes upon the mother's re-joining her husband, Herr Handke, the forever hated stepfather; autism, which means ultra sensitivity of all senses which nauseas of all kinds; inception usually at age 2 to 3, ["nausea of the eyeballs", for God's sake!]; gauche public behavior; anxiety that ceases as soon as he starts to put pen to paper, or gets hold of the pen!; on the page exquisitely calm; withdrawal under the blanket and then into language… I think that's about as simply as I can put twenty years work on the case of Peter Handke. He enumerates the consequence for us in The Essay on Tiredness.

Handke learned to control the terror in his bed, and language becomes both blanket and control mechanism… exhibitionism, manifest of performance strength. Competitiveness.

Thus, authenticity is not to be confused or thought of identical with truthfulness – truthful would be the kind of factuality enumerated above which can make for a psychoanalytic monograph that needs to be written as empathetically as possible.

For Handke who is a pretty truthful writer even when he confesses it would be nice to lie a little again conceals the unhappy fact that the chief injury was the departure of first wife Libgart Schwartz, readers of SHORT LETTER could see it coming in that text! The wife's attempt to emotionally connect is translated into a physical haunting! So it isn't as though Handke were unaware of the removedness, however his autistic state prevents him from making the requisite contact. It would happen to him again about 25 year later with wife # 2. Besides, there is the being condemned to write to alleviate the basic anxiety.

Understanding becomes easier in retrospect if you happened to see the Wife # 1 and Handke together during that period. As a matter of fact: what took her so long! Left and for cause, for multiple causes. Not just because of her husband's extreme typical autistic emotional withdrawal either. Any mention of the child's mother in any of these texts? Well, in WEIGHT there is a negative comment about "L.'s" facile lyricism! CHILD'S STORY mentions the intercession of women acquaintances who complain about his treatment of his daughter. I myself would only have if I had seen him hit her. But I sure noticed how oddly subdued the girl was as a six year old.

WEIGHT notes how the girl approached her father, telling him she needed to pee. Our author mentions, "well, let's see what happens now!" The sadist persists when he doesn't happen to be engrossed in one work or the other.

Herr Wagner in this collection is then appropriately appalled at the violence wreaked on the daughter in CHILDS STORY. Well, not too surprising in the instance of someone who saw his violent stepfather violate his mother for an entire decade, from age 2 to 10, and who is so easily irritated. Psychoanalytically speaking, these are pretty simple matters. What is unusual is the great pathos with which Handke seeks to contain the ever-present violence in himself. There is the Salzburg girl friend who went public about Handke's violence towards her. Again: CHINESE DES SCHMERZENS leaves Loser's relationship, his breakup with the g.f. in the realm of the mysterious. That is appropriate to novels of course where explanations do not suffice, where intimations leave the mind, the projection screen room to roam.

What I want to say is that the impression of authenticity that a well wrought powerfully conceived and executed work of art conveys is, first of all, an impression on the part of the reader. A text may put you in a depressed state [as many Handke texts do] and you can even trace this state of mind back to Handke's intra-uterine existence, since his mother had to be depressed, losing the love of her life, marrying a surrogate, though using Handke texts as a homeopathic would be an unusual suggestion to make to the mildly depressed. Mild depression makes you a bit more realistic I think.

STATES OF MIND or SELF STATES as they are called, how he induces them may be the chief reason why Handke is worthy of our attention, how he makes us open to the world.

Handke may elicit, as of A SLOW HOMECOMING, great love for the author. You may make inferences about those elicitations, but also give thought to which if any of your own emotional components, Anlagen, come into play. So the issue of "authenticity", au courant as it may be, is not of paramount concern, I don't think. Whether we are we authentic reader responders might be.

What is the most authentic moment in GOALIE? I would say it is when Bloch sees those drops of water scurrying like ants on the hotplate: his state of rage, which anything can trigger into an explosion. A perfect metaphor for inexplicable rage.

When we come up with an answer for what elicits the rage - such as the Prater girl's asking him whether he is going to work today - we are only projecting ourselves into the projection screen that the author has devised. To catch the conscience of the king. That goes from the git-go of Goalie's opening whose grammatical sleight of hand puts the reader into an inescapable paranoid schizophrenic position of its protagonist. Authentic as hell! But devised by a cunning artist! An extremely confident artist by then who has learned to play as a virtuoso with his deepest and nastiest determinants. Free with pen at hand at his desk, or in the hollow tree trunk cradle in NOMANS BAY. An artist, as I realized some twenty years ago when taking apart the screenplay for Der Himmel ueber Berlin who is a great carpenter, collage artist, as he himself tells us - via his sometime woman traveling companion's quiltmaking - in The Lesson of St. Victoire, his great weaving of the sides of his self in NO-MAN'S-BAY: there may be an over-riding concept behind these productions, but its individual components – the wife haunting the protagonist of Short Letter, the woman personae of Left-Handed – all these protagonists, be they male or female are Handke personae – are inversions, the opposite of the state of affairs, and I think that it is best to approach an interpretation of Handke's "fiction" as though they had undergone the transformative process of the dream work. They might be regarded as the final formulation, the secondary revision where the dream is made socially acceptable and pretends to make sense to its creator and to us. These works, at that time, were all written within three months at most. They are post-experiential from an autobiographical perspective, they are the last working through, after the text is done the author can move on… DEATH MASKS … as to the autobiographical components, they are inverted, transposed. I see no need for any of the instrumentalities of what I call post-menstrualism., which shed so little light. Handke is scarcely unique in utilizing personal experience and immediate life stories and states of mind as the basis, source for generalizing communicative works of the imagination; each work is a self-cure! An abandoned husk of the self. However, he is especially confined to the immediately personal because his autism deprives him of large and I would say superfluous swaths of social experience that really are only useful if you become a social novelist or playwright. Yet Handke is scarcely lacking in the requisite empathy, but from a remove, for the entire world.


The three titles span approximately a six year period 1969-1975. GOALIE is pretty much the final product of Handke's demonstration how this second coming of Kafka is able to master, be victorious over anxiety, born to terror [as of age two, see more of this anon]. Yes, what with its frequent quotation: have any of these scholars ever pursued the significance of Handke's saying: "I am so anxious, but everything I write is then so calm," ??? A clue: might this be an instance of the heart of Breuer/ Freud's conversion hysteria, but it's reverse??? Might this be yet one major component of Handke's extraordinary productivity? Since the symptom keeps so victoriously being overcome, yet also asserting itself?

GOALIE is but a slither from DER HAUSIERER, and it is a far less "pure" work. It is not purely phenomenological, registering as are the "experience" parts of Hausierer, devoid, of course of their framing within an analysis of how a crime novel proceeds, the abstract literary distancing of the pure experience, which I would say is that of a child, a consciousness exposed to violent primal scenes; that's what lies in back of it, but of course does not "explain" the work. However a consciousness is always more than a consciousness once you allow of the unconscious and what may be transpiring in its realms. GOALIE is impure in the sense that it takes recourse to expressionistic directly telling sections, as Pilipp enumerates, it has a semblance of a story on which the reader can hang the coat of his self: It leaves less to the imagination than HAUSIERER. [more anon]. At it's end, where Bloch's surrogate goaltender, at one remove from himself, gets fucked, I always felt, projected that that was the moment when a policeman put a hand on his shoulder and said "You are under arrest." Doubly fucked. It certainly is one of the great arresting moment in literature! Bloch may even be based, as so many Handke characters are, day residues of a dream, on some acquaintance back in Griffen; after all, he returns in W.A.T.V. [where the three worker clowns are supposedly modeled on Griffen acquaintences] as Albin, who has spent time in jail, an ex-goalie monteur, who goes to porno houses [just as Handke did during the writing of the so self-chastening LEFT HANDED WOMAN], tosses fire crackers into crowds, and frightens passersby in the woods: the village sadist that I smelled on Handke at my second attempt to strike up a conversation in 1966, and as our village genius has it: "A smell sticks." Thus I propose that The Interpretation of Dreams be your guide to the complicated business of taking apart texts that were composed in dream states, which are anything but dreamy! That required the dissociation that Handke learned so well during his exposure to the primal scenes, if anyone, since Joyce, has been that powerful a dissociating artist I have yet to hear of him or her.

As a matter of fact, the very interesting psychoanalyst and historian Peter Lowenberg has proposed psychoanalysis as a proto-post modernist approach. Here is the link to his paper

As to the arbitrariness of the signifiers: well, Bloch lives in a language world that misinterprets, he is the Handke of that period who is nauseated by language, and his chief difficulty really is that every sense perception signifies, he mis-filters or lacks the appropriate filters. It is a purely neurological condition that leads him not only to make impulsive misjudgements but puts him into psychotic states of mind. Handke play's a language game with one inverted letter, it all goes wrong. I am not sure that one derive a general proposition about the generation of syntax in all languages from this.


MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING is the prose text that follow SORROW BEYOND DREAMS, an account of his mother's life, written near immediately upon her suicide; a book he later called a projection, overstating matters a bit. Recall, that the onset of the mother's pains occurred during a period of its least likely period; for, her amazingly successful son was taking care of her financially, the dreadful stepfather husband was away at TB hospital, her pains were regarded as medically unspecified. "Born to be suicidal" is another of those Handke statements of that period. Indeed, if the cheerful face from 1966 to 1971 seems improbable in light of his Kafkaesque confessions, MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING derives from a genuinely suicidal state, the most interesting and complete, but not entirely, document of what I call the first Paris period being the collection of spontaneous notions collected in THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD. Indeed, one wonders, reading MOMENT and the three long fugueing poems in NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS and WEIGHT, what might be bugging the fellow. It isn't just the mother's suicide. Reading Handke as leaving ample traces of his autobiography - though it may be of states of mind we can see the crisis coming in SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL. There the protagonist's wife is haunting him, an emotional state translated into physical acting out. The chief trigger for the suicidal state that manifests itself is the being left by his first wife and finding himself confined by the responsibility of needing to parent his first daughter. "The worst thing that ever happened to me;" [well, no!] that is the agent for the crisis during which the ghosts, the consequences of Handke's early childhood trauma [the love child's decade long exposure, as of age two, in Berlin, to violent drunken primal scenes] take their toll; the being left and being left over and over by wives. {Read SORROW BEYOND DREAMS, read it closely and imagine what transpired in the psyche of its author during that period, there is an entire literature on the subject.] H.'s way of dealing with the childhood horror was to cover his eyes with a blanket! Lifelong hatred of the step father. Of Germans, of Germany. Rage. Handke's rage of that period does not strike out of the blue. And read his own excellent enumeration in THE ESSAY ON TIREDNESS of what are called sequaelae in the field I am most versed in. Insomnia is the only one of benefit to a writer I suppose, the ability to dissociate is another.

Readers of WEIGHT will recall that Handke had a brief hospital stay, for heart problems, tachycardia I believe, though he then propagated the fiction that he had congenital heart valve problems. Unlikely in light of his passing admission to the Austrian Army [see St. Victoire, where that achievement is the only thing the hated stepfather is ever proud of]. Libgart Schwartz, from what I was able to observe, left "for cause." Multiple causes. Thus, if Handke were to write an astringent autobiographical account of that difficult period, he would not formulate it as "Libgart Schwartz decided to resume her acting profession." [which she had never left, e.g. the film that Wenders made of GOALII] Reflections on one's own contribution to these breakups don't necessarily alleviate the injury, but Handke' lack of any kind of reflection on the fact that it takes two to tango… In WEIGHT Handke notes how he feels like a faggot with his ass stuck out in the air, an apt metaphor for the emasculating effect of an injury the leaving of a beloved can have on a male. In LEFTHANDED [an inversion of actual events, an imagined], we have the notation that her husband is peeing against some wall in company with his buddies. A regression, if you like, to male company. So it isn't as though the truth were entirely concealed, but it sure isn't foregrounded! The same goes for some matters that seem so mysterious in ACROSS [CHINESE DES SCHMERZENS] and THE AFTERNOON OF THE WRITER. None of which, I think, takes away from whatever conviction of their authenticity we take away from these texts.

Yet there is more: Handke doesn't just still suffer from occasional autistic states as he told Ganscher. Socially he continues to behave as awkwardly as an autist. The closest friends are instantly on mushroom rambles in the Chaville forest – however, restaurateur par excellence Handke will cook and display himself and his house to the media! Otherwise, he cannot suffer to have another, especially man, in his house. The uses of misanthopism – productivity for the possessed.

Autism is an exceedingly painful condition because autists, especially those on the high end, in the case of Handke on the genius scale, are sensitive on an entirely other order than what is usually accounted for as "hyper sensitive." If any of the Germanisten have given thought to expressions such as "nausea of the eyeballs", "so nauseated as to turn myself inside out," etc. etc. during that period I have failed to note it. These are cris de coeur. If you followed the most recent controversy, you may have noted Handke defending Milosevics against having the expression "autist" being used as a pejorative. Handke comments on the painfulness of that condition, he knows whereof he speaks. For sake of efficiency I have devised the shorthand, in this instance, of thinking of Handke as having the nose of your best hunting dog, the eyes of an eagle, the sonar of a bat, the antennae of... you name the creature… but lacking the processor for the sheer quantity of incoming [also from inside] information. You may recall Merseault' disgust in Sartre's LE NAUSE: that nausea is elicited by the profusion of an unending vegetative root system: Sartre, there, is made nauseous by an idea, although I have read that he also suffered from great disgust at sliminess and the like. Handke's nauseas, which began to cease with the taking of valium, and who knows of what other medications [you notice the gradual lightening of the once protective dark shades that he wore early on in his career, in the thousands of photos the exhibitionist has had taken of himself, or for which he has posed], his nausea is of an entirely different kind: and the most important thing about nauseas is that it is one of the organisms chief means of protecting itself. I was with Handke in the presence of three physically exceedingly unattractive people – his physical disgust was intense, and it was a healthe aversion also who these people were aside their looks.

A follow up to this sending in another week or so:


[1] It is scarcely that Handke, either as person or some of his products, is beyond critique; it's just that primitive, utterly ignorant obloquy, especially when published under once or supposedly august auspices need to be decimated. The authors as well the editors of such infamies - it also includes the McCain and General loving NYRB - need to be cut to the quick, their narcissistic injuries may act as reminders, don't bet on it, as they proceed in their shock and awe imperial ways where reality consists of their devising.

Then I am trying to finish a couple, too many very different books; there's a review of the SIERA DEL GREDOS BOOK in the works,

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