Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Der Bildverlust oder
über die Sierra del Gredos
Translated by Krishna Winston
Farrar, Straus + Giroux
will post the remainder in the next week or so. Michael Roloff
this link leads to a wealth of Handke resources
A- Stifter, Fables, etc…
B- An Overview 27
C- Backgrounds 44
D- Handke’s Personae 63
E- Techniques, ecriture pure 97
F- Handke criticized within his terms 140
G- Image Loss Head-on-170
H- Summation 186
Notes 1-: Pages: 200…
=A: Stifter, Fables, etc.=
"The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important." (Shklovsky, "Art as Technique", 12)
"Literary works, according to this model, resemble machines: they are the result of an intentional human activity in which a specific skill transforms raw material into a complex mechanism suitable for a particular purpose.” Steiner, "Russian Formalism"
Looking through the quotes I marked in my attempt to make sense to myself of the Del Gredos monstrum I notice that one way of approaching it is to read around it at random. Also, that reading just a few pages of it, as it was written, slowly, manifests the true fabulousness in its so precise detail. I can see why Handke publishes his diary excerpts, there are four volumes of them now; there is something awful about the novel form in which these wonderful observations are forced to connect… These fables… says I who feels so easily constrained. m.r.
I also found it much easier to absorb the novel at the rate of about two to three pages a day, the walking pace at which it was composed, otherwise it becomes too rich, at least for me, to digest; although the kind of riches it affords are of a novel kind, and very different from Handke’s richest work, the dramatic poem, Walk About the Villages. Also, reading just a few pages of it, as it was written, slowly, manifests its true fabulousness in its so precise details.
Pertinent Quotes from Am Felsfenster Morgens.[1991]
Erzählung heisst – soll heissen: mit ihr, an ihrer Hand, mittels ihrer eingreifen; sonst ist es blosse Nach-Erzählung (26. September 1982) Narrative means – should mean: to effect, affect; otherwise it is mere narration after the fact.]
Wenn ich romancierhaft die Dinge registrieren oder recherchieren will, gerate ich ungut ausser mich; Paradox: »Nicht beobachten, nicht fixieren, nicht genau hinschauen« als eine Grundregel, ex negativo, für mein Aufschreiben. Ich kann – ja, kann – nur friedlich umherschauen/ If I register or want to research matters in a novelistic manner I loose myself and not in a good way; a paradox: “don’t observe, not fixedly, don’t look at” as a basic rule, ex negativo, for my notating. I am only able to look peacefully around.
Immer wieder spüre ich, auf die Schwelle zum Reich der Erzàhlung gelangt – »wo ich hingehöre!« –, das als eine überwältigende Wohltat. Es ist der Eintritt in das, was Wittgenstein poetische Stimmung nannte, wo die Gedanken so lebhaft würden »wie die Natur«. Aber dazu brauche ich immer wieder die Stille und die Menschenleere; nicht freilich die Menschenferne/ Again and again, having reached the threshold of narrative – “which is where I belong” - I feel this to be an overwhelming blessing. It is what Wittgenstein called poetic ambience, where thoughts can become as lively “as nature.” But for that I keep needing quiet and isolation from human beings; of course not distance from human beings.

Schwellenbewusstsein hiesse: die Aufmerksamkeit für das Ding jetzt auf das nächste dann übertragen (28. August)/ Awareness of thresholds/transitions might mean: to transfer/displace my attention from the one thing now onto the next.
From the Greiner interview:
Handke: Ich kann nicht nacherzählen, ich kann nur vorerzählen. Bei der langen Geschichte vom Bildverlust wollte ich möglichst genau die Geschichte der Sierra de Gredos erzählen. Je näher ich ihr kam, desto klarer wurde mir: Ich muss alles erfinden. Das Erfinden gibt mir ein Triumphgefühl. Wenn ich spüre, es gibt eine Gegenwelt, die nicht unbedingt der tagtäglichen Welt widerspricht, aber sie beleuchtet, dann habe ich ein Gefühl von… nicht Macht, sondern von Etwas-gemacht-Haben. Und letzten Endes das Gefühl, jetzt habe ich das Recht zu leben, zu schreiben. Nur durch die Erfindung habe ich dieses Recht. Bei Gestern Unterwegs habe ich dieses Gefühl nicht, es ist, als ob es gar nicht von mir wäre, es mir zugeflogen, durch mich durchgeflogen und wieder aus mir herausgeflogen wäre./ Handke: I am unable to narrate after the fact; I am only able to narrate before the fact. With the long story of the Del Gredos novel I sought if possible as exactly as possible to tell the story of the Del Gredos Sierra. The more closely I approached it, the clearer it became to me: I have to invent everything. Inventing provides me with a feeling of triumph. When I sense that there exists a counter-world, which does not necessarily contradicts the everyday world then I have a feeling… not of power really, but of having accomplished something. And finally the feeling that I have a right to exist, to write. Only by means of invention do I have this right. I do not have this sense in the case of Gestern Unterwegs [Yesterday on My Way – a major diary excerpt publication – 2006 Jung + Jung Verlag, Salzburg]. When I read it, it doesn’t seem to come from me at all, as though these are matters that sort of flew to me, through me, and then flew back out of me…
Greiner: Der Realismus ist auch eine Erfindung./ Realism too, is an invention.
Handke: Ja, schon, aber ich bin kein Realist. Cervantes ist auch kein Realist. Die mittelalterlichen Epen sind auch nicht realistisch. Sie sind märchenhaft, aber märchenhaft in einem schneidenden Sinn. In der Abwesenheit habe ich den Parzival fast kopiert. Als ich ihn damals las, dachte ich, das ist die Form, so lässt die Welt sich erzählen, so, wie ich sie sehe, fühle und vor allem träume. Denken kann man die Welt eh nicht. Die Abwesenheit ist im Grunde die gekürzte Fassung von Wolframs Parzival./ Handke: Yes, surely, but I am not a realist. Cervantes, too, was not a realist. The medieval epics aren’t realistic either. They are fairy-tale-like, but fairy-tale-like in a cutting sense. With my tale Absence I nearly duplicated Parsifal. When I was reading Parsifal at that time I thought to myself: that is the form, that is how the world might be narrated, in that fashion, the way I see it, the way I feel it and especially as I dream of it. You can’t “think” the world, anyhow. Absence [the 1989 tale that reads like a film m.r.] is basically an abbreviated version of Parsifal.
Greiner: Was war denn die Grundfigur beim Bildverlust? Ich habe das nicht verstanden./ What was the basic schema of the Del Gredos epos. I didn’t understand that.
Handke: Sie haben einen großen Blödsinn darüber geschrieben, so achtlos, fahrlässig. Bevor Sie kamen heute, habe ich gedacht: Es ist eigentlich eine Schande, dass dieser Mensch mein Haus betritt. Ich habe ja immer von Bildern gelebt, von Traumbildern, von Anschauung, und mit der Zeit bekam ich das Gefühl, dass die Bilder ihre Gültigkeit, ihre Realität verlieren. Dem wollte ich nachspüren. Ich erinnerte mich an junge Leute voller Enthusiasmus, voller Unschuld, denen ich zwanzig Jahre später wieder begegnet bin, und ich sah, dass diese Begeisterung verschwunden war./ Handke: You wrote a lot of nonsense about the book, so inattentive. Before you came today I thought: it’s a disgrace that this person should step into my house. I always lived from images, from dream images, from sights, and with time I came to have the sense that these images are losing their validity, their reality. And I wanted to track that down. I recalled young people who were full of enthusiasm, full of innocence, and when I met them twenty years later I saw that this enthusiasm had disappeared.
Greiner interview:
In the above interview at my subject’s abode near Paris
Die Zeit literary editor Ulrich Greiner, who has followed Handke’s work for these many years, commented – in all seriousness as we just read – that he couldn’t make out the why and wherefore of the Del Gredos monstrum. Less ignorantly he might have said: “I understand meanwhile that you need to write all the time, and that one aspect of your work is to leave a written record, that your work also has an autobiographical dimension, that you are your own material, and that is fine with me, to some extent we know best what it’s like to live in our own skin, I see some matters along that line recorded in Del Gredos, but as you said, you don’t like to shoot your wad with one book, and so every few years you feel the need to communicate with your audience, sometimes these communications read like letters in a bottle, I think its close to sixty-five books to date, and so we need to read each of your books to puzzle the very rich you together, and that you like to live and travel and walk handsomely, and I understand meanwhile that you keep needing to invent masks, lenses, personae to facilitate your imagination – I have been following these masks ever since you stopped using a mere consciousness registrar after your first two long prose texts Die Hornissen [1965] and Der Hausierer [1967-see notes]; at which time you were fear-stricken, you said with a big laugh “I am the new Kafka”
now you say that you are the anti-Kafka while also paying homage to his work as being a kind of “Last Gospel”; that is, I am haunted by the paranoid schizophrenic ex-goalie construction worker Josef Bloch and I hope I don’t say anything to irritate you so that you won’t see ants on a hot plate and strangle me. I ditzed all over the United States with you and your Austrian Dramaturg as you fled your wife – who it seems was longing emotionally for the so remote you - in A Short Letter Long Farewell, and nearly couldn’t escape a John Ford Film done by you as Goddard. I became nearly suicidal myself when I read A Moment of True Feeling. I turned into the Left Handed Woman and like you needed to see no end of porno flicks during that chastening. I opened up to nature as never before with your Sorger in Alaska in A Slow Homecoming; the murderous Loser in Across in Salzburg made me see its surround as never before but I was quite troubled by Dostojevskian matters in that book; and I was nearly as unhappy and proud a writer as you were during that Afternoon and got drunk in that Kneipe with that Serbian friend of yours and I, too, felt like “nothing” at the end of that day. I tried to become the many-sided Keuschnig in your One Year in the No-Man’s Bay but it proved to be just too taxing to keep switching identities and perspectives; and though I did not share your trips through Yugoslavia [see notes], I was quite willing to become the Pharmacist in your One Dark Night I Left My Silent House, the next novel after No-Man’s-Bay, to my immense surprise I was taken down the rabbit hole by your writing in dream syntax; and I appreciate your hard-won ability to do Thucydidean notating in Sorrow Beyond Dreams and A Child’s Story and in the various diary publications, but still I don’t for the life of me see why a trip, or however many trips you took to the Sierra Del Gredos and some wonderful climbing expeditions, had to be 350 K words long and take this particular jumbo form… and why it must contain excursions into three or more very different dystopias that are described exhaustively… I am exhausted!”
To which Handke, had he been less laconic in his answer - which was to point out that lots of writers, including Goethe in his Elective Affinities, had worked this and that into their books, that it was a portmanteau, that he too was a collage writer, which Herr Greiner, if he had read Handke halfway closely over the years, might have noticed, too…. but “Del Gredos was his Witikow. And here, have another Schnapps Ulrich. And here’s an advance copy of my newest, just for you!”
“As long as it isn’t that Yugoslav stuff…”
“It’s French, not to worry, Armagnac not Slivovitz.”
If Greiner made a response, it is not recorded. At any event, the interview as now online seems to have shrunk from what I first read. I doubt that he even read most of the book [he wrote a most superficial review which Handke rightfully objected to] which does have those three formidable “hummocks” – those speed bumps, those topes the La Zona, Pedrada and Hondareda enclaves - but has one of the greatest ever pay-offs, especially for a monster of this kind, in its last ten chapters, especially the entire descent from the mountain range where, finally, there is elaborated what “the loss of an image” signifies, though I am still weighing after several readings why with all the weight that Handke puts on that idea of image loss – and I have a long, not quite exhaustive list of quotes - and having of an image its loss at that point does not strike me as the idea of “God is dead” did Nietzsche. Ought it not have seemed inevitable to me, ought I not have had a kind of premonition of that impending loss? Not that I had the two times in my early life when something went “poof” in me, and I had only retrospectively, much later, some understanding, so it must have snuck up on me, some notion what had produced the disillusionment. But loss of image in the case of our hero/ ine, a bankiéress who strides forth, initially, with the kind of extra-ordinary self-confidence as Handke did in his early life, is more than just a disillusionment. Should it not shatter the reader as it does her, matter that is magnificently described and evoked – through images!
 So as I put temporarily final touches to these musings I am still puzzled whether I have absorbed enough of this, textually, for long but not all stretches as fabulous a book as I have ever read, in which respect Handke is the true successor to the Joyce of Dubliners raised by several degrees, adumbrated, as I think I will be able to show.
 A journalist can of course always place an interview with our exhibitionist author, who lets Greiner into his house, albeit reluctantly, whereas the closest friends are not even taken for the once mushroom expeditions in the Chaville Forest any more, and Handke toys with Greiner, threatens to kick him out. He’s got the upper hand, and can’t stand not having it. Not that Handke does not give great and serious interview to serious people, such as Thomas Deichmann of Novo [see notes] or the book-length three day interview with Herbert Ganscher published under the title Ich Lebe doch nur von den Zwischenräumen [I only live from Thresholds/ In-Betweens], and of course Herr Greiner is familiar with Stifter, Stifter and Siegfried Lenz are two authors on which Thomas Mann, who Handke at one time felt was a lousy writer, not that that kept him accepting the Thomas Mann prize last year and cursing it right afterward too!, and Handke are in agreement. Thomas Mann noted that "behind the quiet, inward exactitude of his descriptions of Nature in particular [in Stifter] there is at work a predilection for the excessive, the elemental and the catastrophic, the pathological."
I myself became aware of Handke’s fondness of Stifter as a kind of simulacrum when I translated a long beautiful Stifter quote from Rock Crystal [NYRB Books, Marianne Moore [!] one of the translators:
 that forms a beacon in the central section, the beginning of Act II – where Quitt and his factotum Hans also elaborate Handke’s dramaturgy - of They Are Dying Out.[1973]; and the influence starts to show during Handke’s Salzburg period once he has had his Cezanne experience during the St. Victoire wandering book around 1980. But I had not read Witikow, not until now, to sniff out what Handke meant, unless he was just putting Greiner on, as he can dunce interviewers, and so I did, and it was instantly accessible on line:
and I was bowled over by the opening [my translation]:
 At the upper reaches of the Danube you come on the town of Passau. The stream has just now left Bavaria and grazes this town at one of its noon gates to the Bavarian and Bohemian forests. This gate is a strong and steep cliff. The bishops of Passau have built a mighty fortress on it, the main building, so as to defy, occasionally stubbornly defend themselves against their vassals below. Towards the morning of the main house, on a different stony ridge, there stands a smallish house that used to belong to the nuns and that is therefore called the “nun’s estatelet.” Between the two mountains ridges there runs a gorge with a water spurting out of it which, regarded from above, is a black as ink. That is the Ils, it comes from the Bavarian-Bohemian forests, which sends its brown and black waters Danubewards and here joins the Danube whose midnightlike shores it etches with dark bands. The main building and the Nun’s Estatelet look down at Passau toward midday, Passau which resides on a broad earthen back on the other side of the Danube. Further back of the town is yet another water that flows in from the distant noonday high mountains. That is the Inn which, too, flows into the Danube at this spot, but also clasps it at its noon-side but is of a gentle green. The thus augmented Danube now continues in the direction between Morning and Midday and has at its shores, especially at its midnight ones, strong heavily forested mountains which are extreme outliers of the Bohemian forest that reach the water here…[6]   
That opening, with a little updating, might derive from the best that contemporary Austrian literature has to offer, I especially love the way how the times of day are used as directionals, I expect that Josef Winkler, too, among many others enjoys a relationship to Stifter. Auden, Louise Bogan, other American and British writers of the 40s and 50s did too. Not only that, I knew exactly the region where the panorama plays, at the confluence of the Danube and the rivers Inn and Ils where for a year or so in my early childhood I had felt like a prisoner under police supervision in one of the monastery castles that beetle over the edge of the cliffs: and the midnight dark the pitch black ink those dark green and those browns imprinted themselves memorably as did a huge forest that a monstrous storm felled, an army laid low, I was impressionable when it came to huge event of that kind whether I witnessed them or read about them, country-sized destruction wrought in Siberia early in the century, apparently by a meteor as you found out later in life; cities going up in fiery smoke, very much of the then present, the destruction of far off Long Island by the 1938 hurricane…
That Handke would cotton to that painterly opening and to Stifter’s great nature descriptions did not require second thought. But for that he didn’t need Witikow. Witikow was Stifter’s last book prior to his committing suicide; the one after Hochsommer; and it is a curious work indeed, especially I imagine for someone like me. For after that painterly opening in a setting that had not changed all that much in my recollection of it, of imposition of memory on this text, a dark region, a gypsy with a dancing bear, a church chapel just outside attached to the monastery castle, and probably has not since medieval times, Witikow becomes a saga fairy tale of heroes and loyalty and the church set in the 12th century told in a beautiful formal classical manner.
I say especially to me because after leaving my imprisonment in that huge monastery castle only one quarter occupied, those huge hallways never entirely explored, I returned to our place, a thatched roof farmhouse villa outside Bremen and spent months upon months reading my absent father’s virgin collection of fairy tales and sagas that derived really from as far back as the 12th century and earlier, and started having druid dreams near and of the nearby “devils moor”, and if you gave me a place name you could get a fairy tale explaining its origins… so that reading the gestures, the deferences, the heraldry albeit among a catholic knights, paid in Witikow, I am back in that medieval world - but I am not: Witikow was written in the 1860s by an acquaintance of Metternich and at least on the surface it paints a picture where there may be struggle and quarrels but these are resolved, Witikow is an authentic hero – the nameless bankiéress in Handke’s Del Gredos, the chief vehicle surrogate for Handke in this book, we find out more than usual, more than usual is invented about her, all very Handke affinity, but still far too little, but more than about the usual Handke surrogate, though her expedition has certain heroic qualities, and she has a kind of dark night of the soul, she becomes undone, towards the end, but the parallel, the immediate comparison to Witikow creates no sparks on this flint stone. That exteriority and the representation, the dialectic that Handke is after, if represented, in another more suffused way. There may be tensions in Witikow, but the Church is ultimately fair; matters are tense… but matters do not fracture, though Helena Ragg-Kirkby “demonstrates [in her book on Witikow] - largely by way of close reading - that this is Stifter's extreme masterpiece. Beneath the surface of Biedermeier stuffiness is a vision of fracture, emptiness, meaninglessness, and mania not only more radical than that of any other 19th-century author, but arguably more radical than that of any 20th-century author, precisely because there is such a disjuncture between text and sub-text. In his final novel, Stifter simply leaves the future behind” [see notes].
Be what Ragg-Kirkby says as it may, Witikow bears no sign of 1776, of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, of 1848; Protestantism is not foreshadowed; perhaps it was the pure artificiality, that it is a self-conscious invention, of the book that Handke meant? Something I would not have known as a child, or have promptly forgotten I would have so got wrapped up in the adventure, very formal as it is, of that tale. The formalism, the completeness of its rendering, there I can see an affinity with Handke, who is both quick and slow.
Del Gredos, however, is only partially artificial in that sense; fabulous in a very different way; part realism part romantic, a lot of intertwining narrative, but also some dramatic set pieces and other dramatic performances that hark back to Walk About the Villages. though it has very modern fairy tale qualities and techniques that Stifter could not have dreamt of though he must have seen Daguerreotypes which came into existence in 1839
However, not all people welcomed this exciting invention; some pundits viewed in quite sinister terms. A newspaper report in the Leipzig City Advertiser stated: "The wish to capture evanescent reflections is not only impossible... but the mere desire alone, the will to do so, is blasphemy. God created man in His own image, and no man-made machine may fix the image of God. Is it possible that God should have abandoned His eternal principles, and allowed a Frenchman... to give to the world an invention of the Devil?",
I will enumerate some of Handke’s extraordinary repertoire of technical inventions in due course, but when we come to that moment towards the end when our hero/ine loses her “image” I find myself longing for an author who could put this loss in the terms of an authentic fairy tale, say the way Günter Grass did with the conception and birth of Oskar Mazerath on that potato field near Gdansk in the Tin Drum [See Walter Benjamin’s essay on Leskov for this], a mare, because I think such a powerful and succinct formulation – which would constitute the threshold between the workings of the conscious and unconscious and the communal – of what transpires in our the hero/ine would have been instantly comprehensible and would have obviated Handke’s need, quite wonderfully in most but not all instances, their extreme enumeration, the ego flailing away [see the separate section: Loss of Images, Head-on], a numerousness which might mean that the Handke “dream bird” can no longer dream the world back together but certainly enumerate it and make us re-experience it renewed refreshed, freshened better than by the biggest Gemsbock.
As Peter Hamm and others [see notes on the German reception and where I have posted them on the Bildverlust page], points out in his for my taste too uniformly positive piece on Del Gredos, this connection to and loss of images parallels the Don’s loss of Quixotism, quite aside the fact that the narrator, whom our hero/ine goes to visit, resides in the old village of La Mancha, near Ciudad Real in southern Spain. And perhaps the tilting at windmills are some Handke editorials distributed throughout these three recit-like “hummocks”, La Zona-Nuevo Bazaar/ Pedrada and Hondareda.
=B-An Overview=
 Since the Del Gredos monstrum appears to present difficulties even to confirmed Handke fans, let me provide a rough overview of the terrain of this mountain range of a book.
First of all, as indicated in the Greiner interview: Del Gredos is a fable, but, textually, of a uniquely fabulous kind, and en lieu of describing the for me indescribable, and since I hate impressionistic comments except among friends who understand each other, a quote, a chunk of a quote, so you get a feel for the subtle and not so ways in which matters are made fabulous, at least for me, it could come from nearly but not quite everywhere in the book, which has a couple of thin patches aside those topes which is Mexican for speed bumps – that I will attend to too:
“While the child was speaking, sentence after sentence, a strip of light traveled beneath the plane which was flying at a perceptively lower altitude now, moved across the plateau, and caused a band of asphalt to shimmer, a reservoir to glitter, an irrigation canal to flash. A topsy-turvy new world on the first day of the journey [but hadn’t several days passed already?]: the sky above the glass roof nearly as black as night, with a hint of the first stars, and down below the sunlit earth. In similar fashion, on the way to the airport, an ancient crone, without her dentures, had come towards her, driving a factory-new race car, as if trying to set a new record, the car’s number emblazoned from stem to stern. And similarly, the outskirt’s troupe of drunks had been hauling cases of beverage from the super market to their lairs in the wood – without exception bottles of mineral water. And was that possible? a flock of wild geese, flying past the plane window in a long, jagged V formation from right to left: “Arabic writing,” the boy commented. And could there be such a thing: in the same fashion a swarm of leaves swept past the window, holm oak leaves typical of the plateau? And where and since when did this exist?: and next a pale-pink of snowflake like blossoms, as if the almonds were abloom and had almost finished blooming, now in February early March.” [page: 77-79
You can see how Handke makes matters fabulous when he cooking as he is nearly entirely for the first ten chapter, and it is something to behold how he inhabits a woman’s consciousness, when she is not being the ice queen; and here something that, basically, falls into the realm of the strictly realistic convention, also fabulous, I find, in its way:
 "None of the other trees had such spreading crowns ass the giant oaks, or oak giants. At the same time, the branches in the crowns were inter-woven, forming a dense mass. And nothing made a more powerful impression of devastation than all th oak crowns lying smashed on the forest floor. Yet even these almost countless heaps of broken limbs offered something to observe. On its way down, one of these giant trees had fallen on its equally large, equally broad, giant neighbor, which in turn had fallen on the oak in front of it and now they lay there as a single trunk, forming a sort of transcontinental line, all pointing toward a common vanishing point at the very end of the continent.
    This line was rhythmically punctuated by the ruined crowns, or crown ruins, w3hich had the appearance, lying on the ground, of enormous cages, cages intended for games, for they were wide open in all directions, with remains of tangled branches..."

[As a matter of fact, read that entire section of the destruction of the forest from the bottom of page 37 to the end of the chapter on page 44 and if it’s not your cup of tea, as we know you can’t really talk anyone into liking something.]

Now something that I find less than illustrious, it derives from the "Polvedera" section Chapter 17, pages 207-214, which when I reached it struck me, the first time, as merely written, not experienced and felt as the destruction of the forest section, so apparently is: to me!:
“"All the passengers got off [the bus] except the children way back in the rear, who at first id stand up like the rest but then sat shoulder to-shoulder on a barrier now lowered in front of the library in the bus's mid-section. As they stood up, it became apparent that some of these children were already adolescent. Today was their library day, their school had sent them out to become acquainted with the northern foreland of the Sierra, and particularly, in that connection, to familiarize themselves with borrowing books, with the people lending them, and likewise with the books themselves, with locating titles and authors, with books as artifacts and articles of value..." Pages 207 to 214

There is nothing really wrong with this from a point of ordinary writing or reporting, and that is exactly it: it is ordinary it is not one bit better than reportage, most of that chapter, which I think is imagined as Herr Handke claims he needs to do. I have more to say about this un-experienced and unfelt Polvedera section later. Handke is just putting in his dutiful two or three pages a day. No matter that he claims to Greiner that he is not a "Profi", he is and had to be from early on. It's insufficiently concretized too, this section: is missing the anchoring images, individuality.
To get back to my overview:
From the end of Chapter Six whence the first of these three quotes, our bankiéress is finally on her way and about to land in Valladolid, six chapters to depart, during which you could have flown around the world, talk about time being slowed down: one cannot speak f plot in the ordinary way but of a kind of waving forward of a both broad and intricate series of internal associations. [more precisely on what I have in mind anon.]
Chapter 7 contains the first of several expansions of the Handke’s version of Euripedean/ Goethean alternating discourse from Walk About the Villages, which there had been given to the “sister” and directed at her arrogant brother poet; here the businessman who feels the bankiéress bankrupted him directs a long series of accusations at her. Not only does it hark back, but it does so in the same rhythms, which the translator of W.A.T.V. has interiorized. In the great play The Play about the Film About the War [1999] Handke re-uses a great attack aria from They Are Dying Out [1974], recognizable only by its rhythm by its translator. Also on to of page 251, Chapter 21, Handke again takes recourse to W.A.T.V. form of alternating discourse. Bach and many others of course did the same thing, so does any good carpenter.
Secondly, Del Gredos’s  formal arrangements: Handke here appears to use the well worn convention of the “as told to”: a retired bankiéress hires a scribe, who happens to be located in the far off village of La Mancha, near Ciudad Real in the south of Spain to tell her story. O.K. you say, I know how that is going to work. But no, you don’t, you haven’t the faintest, unless you read carefully and would never guess what Handke makes of this proposition, that is that the bankiéress and her narrator are two sides of the same coin, and that they merge for stretches, not a single reviewer that I have read in the U.S. [not many anyhow] or German [nearly too many to count], which means that the book has not be read closely or really experienced has picked this up. What that signifies, and what Handke makes of this requires the reading, preferably at the rate at which it was written, a few pages a day, to realize. I find it absolutely astonishing, textually, and from the point of view of the reading experience, it is in textuality that the best sections of the book reveal themselves.
Thirdly, the way the book is woofed and woven into a peculiarly hefty cloth, which is what stymies the speed reader, something is dragging him, and it is not the lack of the usual plot, since a great deal is in fact happening from one sentence to the other and inbetween. More on that anon.
The U.S. edition of Del Gredos is 470 pages long, has approximately 350,000 words and consists of 40 chapters of somewhat unequal length. We cannot speak of plot in any ordinary sense, but of a kind of progressive deepening of interiority as our hero/ine and narrator – her story is always told and filmed, she is inside the story being told, inside her film, by her self-consciousness if you wish, depart her finely nameless – Handke on naming and not is a whole chapter unto itself – North Sea seaport. [Chapters 1- 3 a departure which, however, continues to be woven, stitched into the following 7 chapters that is until she is well up close to the foothills of the Sierra del Gredos] and recourse to past thought never ceases, so that the beast in its entirety becomes a kind of basket. If this were an analytically oriented tome you would think of a spiraling down, but it is not, although Handke once said that “he understood everything,” neither this book nor Handke, the author also of the very great play “The Art of Asking,” which avoids all “whys, wherefores, whens and hows,” is  a man who swears or gets much from that poor thing called “understanding” which is what you end up with as a fallible consolation prize from the labors of analysis; sometime it seems worth its weight in hours, at other it is quite paltry.
The first chapters also detail the arrangements between the heroine and the author of the book about her;
“According to the contract, the same prohibition applied to names of persons and indications of time. Persons' names were admissible only when they were clearly products of the imagination. "What imagination?" (the author). - "The imagination appropriate to the specific adventure, and to love" (she). - "Whose love?" - "Mine. And indications of time only of this sort: One winter morning. On a summer night. The following fall. At Eastertime, in the middle of the war."
 describe the setting and her living and leaving habits. She is hounded by a mad male lover, as Handke I suspect must have been occasionally by an infuriated inamorata, as in No-Man’s-Bay. And as a kind of past the setting, not just her own living and departure arrangements [which I suspect resemble the author’s] then hangs in the back of your [my] memory [still] like a Dutch landscape painting with harbor and town, nicely delineated, one of those incidental happenings that is such a pleasure. This is so subtly and well drawn that the overall image of the setting, the third dimension as it were, sticks even more than the foregrounded details about her living arrangement.
Chapter III contains perhaps the best 5 thousand words I have read in near 70 years of reading [I escaped into that world very young via a magic writing reading pad], a set piece of the devastation wrought by a hurricane near Handke’s abode in the Forêt de Chaville from which I quoted briefly, which I find does not belong here, for it sets too high a standard for what follows [see anon: Handke criticized within his own terms].
In Chapters 10/11 our hero/ine approaches and enters the first of three dystopias LA ZONA/ NUEVO BAZAAR, an ultimate military industrial shopping police state shopping complex, a dramatic interlude whose telling is quickly transferred to a different narrator than either the heroine or her double the narrator [As though our capable ex-bankiéress couldn’t voice her opinion about a place she has been to before!] an invented historian, and from a plus perfect point of view. Though this section Chapters 11 + 12, contain some amazing moments in the life of out hero/ine, which I will discuss, the entire LA ZONA episode, constitutes a major interruption in the book’s continuity, as do the later visits to two other,  progressively more ambiguous and better integrated and progressively less dystopic entities, Pedrada and Hondareda.
Since the book has a filmic dimension it is also possible to experience entering LA ZONA as a film episode. I say film, since the bombers and tanks that accompany her as she approaches this concoction of a set piece seem to be of a WW vintage, no matter, I say concoction because I feel both too well and too ill read in literary dystopias, except that the kind of Japanese bunk bed bank safety deposit boxes where Handke, so improbably, puts up his bankiéress might derive from matters he saw during his wanderings through Japan though I doubt that this five star hotel inhabitant put up in any of them. I say improbable because our bankiéress would have found a way of driving around this La Zona, or not stayed a single nite. It exists in the book for the sake of rather heavy handed [I find] critique of the worst features of militarist capitalism gone wild and which I wish I could read and experience with the same innocent eyes with which I take in his descriptions of nature - that’s what I mean by editorializing by which I mean to say if I were to address that subject I would try to tease out how insidiously these aspects of our world have entered our everyday being. Handke the dramatist and writer of “recits” is at work here. Nonetheless, the La Zona section has some fine incidents as our bankiéress wanders around La Nuevo Bazaar, best of all the moment when her double appears and murders her lover and starts slashing everyone around her, until the police take her away: that is Handke’s now familiar amok runner that has its own Handke literary history going back to Josef Bloch in Goalie and Nonsense and Happiness [1976] via the chain wielding Alaska native in A Slow Homecoming [1979], Loser as righteous murderer in Across [1984], best actually in many transfigured passages of Walk About the Village [1982] the psychopathic side of our easily troubled author who I gather in Moravian Nights [2008, a book whose reading will be my reward for completing this labor], confesses to having wanted to and nearly killing a live-in companion, the thus famous actress Marie Colbin, but who knows what she did to so provoke our easily provokable, in retrospect I am always glad not to have been tossed off the cliff of the Mönchsberg where Loser kills his Nazi in Across after I had beaten Handke at Taroq and he was so infuriated that the great exhibitor wouldn’t show me the re-imported [of which I had not an inkling] Libgart Schwartz and in showing me the way down pointed out where Salzburg poets commit suicide! see Ein Besuch auf dem Mönchsberg
Looking back at my very excitable very Bulgarian self at that time, I can easily see my having been provocative to my then friend and host, though the other players seemed to like the life I brought to the table which is described with the enigmatism of Cezanne’s “Card Players” in Across. Handke who regards [or used to] his rage as “sacred” – actually it is just that his so hyper sensitive nerves lack sufficient modulators! In A Child’s Story [1981] he confesses to having slapped the head of his baby daughter when her crying while he had to deal with a flooded basement upset him, he easily she might have been killed or permanently injured from a slap she seems to still remember. So if you think you are in for a travelogue, dear reader, you have something else coming, or have Sierra schist in your head.
Handke expands the exploratory and reflective dimension of the “Assayings” [late 80s early 90s work which I will discuss anon], and also ideas and moments from the great novel Nomansbay [1994]
and by the time I came to the descent in Chapter 36 I felt I had crossed the Sierra this way and that way numerous times been at the crest, up and down and internalized no end of magnificent observations and it appears our adventuress has actually spent an entire year [and I suppose it took Handke about a year to do the actual writing of the book] and you at 3 pages a day will have spent quite a few wonderful weeks and months with the book there and I was thoroughly, and not all that pleasantly confused about where she was, at what crest, disoriented, a near primal experience for me which is why I have gotten literally lost in a landscape only once [in an ashen burn during a forest fire in Alaska] and make it a point to try to get lost in cities so as to find my way, like the heroine herself:
“Now came the moment when she wished she were home on her own property on the outskirts of the riverport city, or under her fruit trees there. Never had she experienced such indecisiveness in herself, just as the point in her journey and her hike where her destination lay at her feet, and not only figuratively. This amused her even more than it took her by surprise. One step forward, one step back, one to the left, one to the right. And her initially jerky, puppet-like indecisiveness – her gaze likewise, jerking forward, then back over her shoulder, then up to the summit, then down to the ground – produced a kind of harmony, as if the indecisiveness and the hesitating gradually became dance steps [and, accordingly, she later told the author about her dance of indecision” up there on the crest of the Sierra del Gredos].”
We are back on our way, by bus, as of Chapter 12, winding our way up into the Sierra, and by way of another semi-way station, Polvedera, reach PEDARELDA, and then on foot ascend the Sierra [starting in Chapter 16] and leave PEDARELDA for [2] the third a semi-dystopia HONDAREDA, Chapter 30, still mucking around the hills. These two more ambiguous semi-dystopias are better integrated into the overall narrative, but are definite set pieces to emphasize some of Handke’s views of the state of the world; perhaps these expressionistic sections also exist to make explicable, to lend weight to the books theme of the loss of images: however, if you cut them out, you do not cut out very much of the interiority, the web the weaving of associations that drive the book, that deepens her relationship with her “narrator” twin; and so I at least gladly left Hondareda around Chapter 35 and start the amazing decent toward the narrator’s abode in La Mancha.
= C: Backgrounds =
Upon first inkling that Handke second major monstrum of the kind that he said he hated and never wanted to write, that the 2002 Crossing the Sierra Del Gredos plays with the “as told to” narrative convention – a bankiéress’ story told by and to a hired scribe, possibly a hack, I, having been on the “Handke watch” [skinning the cat every which way] for some twenty years, had the hunch that my man might elaborate on the Socratic dialogue that he employs in his Essay on Tiredness [1989] the first of what are now, including the best of all these assayings, the 2004 Don Juan as Told by Himself {6} four such ventures that he proceeded to write upon, as he noted in Fantasien der Wiederholung [Phantasies of Repetition, 1989 [available in French and Spanish, a shortish excerpt from his parallel diary work book publications, which themselves include four major additional volumes], to get himself ”productively lost,” thus initiating I would say the fourth major stage of his career as a writer of longer prose texts.
The first long stage includes, via the 1965 pure consciousness narratives [pure phenomenology, a pared down, well shorn syntax, devoid of the metaphoric] Die Hornissen [1965], where Handke already makes the telling of the story a part of the story, and Der Hausierer [1967], Adorno, an early Handke fan prior to his 1969 death, observed correctly that mere phenomenological observations can get you quite far, Goalies Anxiety at the Penalty Kick [1969] where the stakes are raised by involving the reader by grammatical means in the protagonist’s state of mind, the already fairly “normal” narrative Short Letter Long Farewell 1971], the historically factual Sorrow Beyond Dreams [1971] and ends with the 1974 A Moment of True Feeling [A.M.T.F;] easing out of a most critical period of his life and sidling up to the second, his “Homecoming Period” with the far calmer and mythic-poeic tending Left-Handed Woman [1976] which includes the title novel “A Slow Homecoming” [1979], the autobiographical wandering book Lesson of St. Victoire [1980] which announces the affinity to Cezanne, and to remaking the world in that fashion, and the non-fiction A Child’s Story [1981], and what I regard as the “heart” of Handke which he [and I] have been living off all these years, even Del Gredos has sections whose rhythms hark back to it, plus a lot of little seed pods:
“Upon being spoken to, it [the hedgehog] paused, then trotted toward her even faster, single-mindedly, poked her with its hard, rather cold, blackish rubbery nose, and said: “Don’t go away. The grounds are so desolate without you. I like hearing your footsteps in my sleep.” The hedgehog had roused itself just to give her that message, and now promptly burrowed into its leaf pile again.” [p.19]
, the dramatic poem Walk About the Villages [1982]. It is very rich, my heart test all these years which so few have passed that I quite understand the high incidents of heart attacks in the country of a puerile culture, it contains all of Handke.
The third, the “Salzburg Period” [1980-89]  which stretches into the Second Paris Period after a year or so of traveling around the world – far more checkered – encompasses the Salzburg novel Across [1984] and novella The Afternoon of the Writer,[1987] the second and third volumes of his diary excerpt publications Die Geschichte des Bleistifts 1981 – whose work-book side details his artistic thinking and plans, and Am Felsfenster Morgens [1989], and with his novel The Repetition [1986] manifests – this is also the second more accessible version of his first novel, Die Hornissen [and an imagined re-enactment of his own post high school graduation expedition] - the ultimate home-coming, to his Slovenian ancestry, and installation of his mother’s Slovenian father, of his grandfather as his father figure; hard work for the fatherless;
Vor die Wahl gestellt zwischen einem neuen Weg und der Wiederholung eines Wegs, entschied ich mich für die Wiederholung, und es war eine Entscheidung/ Felsfenster./ Faced with the choice of a new way and a repetition, I chose the repetition, and it was a decision.
 ¾ of the screenplay for Vim Wender’s Wing of Desire; the novel, or fable and film script Absence [1987]– and the pursuit and completion of certain earlier projects such as that very great text [reading it the grammar grabs you by the scruff of the neck and never lets go, such a different experience from watching experiencing its freshening] for the play without words The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other which is the summa of the early drama work [Prophecy, Insulting the Audience, Self-Accusation, Cries for Help, Kaspar, My Foot My Tutor, Ride Across Lake Constance.] and transition to more fable-like later plays of his mature period such as the great The Art of Asking [Journey into the Sonorous Land].
I will get to Handke’s equally productive second Paris Period, which ensued after a year or so of traveling all over the world in 1989, in due course, but not in quite as cursory a fashion.
The first three “assayings” as I call the Versuche, to emphasize their experimental exploratory character more than the word essay does now - and I think they may also be regarded like dry runs, exercises in a new approach leading up to a major work - culminate in Handke’s weaving six such “assayings,” six chief sides of the author’s self some semi-fictional some would be some not – ex-cultural attaché, writer, country priest, painter-film maker, reader, plus some split-off less attractive attributes in the form of a misanthropic restaurateur in the woods who makes the worlds best food but keeps going broke because he detests most guests and so moves further and further into self-isolation, a character worth the best in Austrian literature; and a medieval “stone mason” who also prances into Del Gredos, all this on the ground of an assaying canvas, the narrator-writer’s fabled residential region, the Chaville forest near Paris, My Year in the No-Man’s Bay [M.Y.I.N.B.] 1994], his first monstrum, the 250 words per page stretched into 1084 pages in wonderfully readable type for aging eyes - suddenly the time had come to impress with a major league book and written in one year [without recourse to his voluminous note books, he claims!], and not only at a desk but apparently also in a kind of crib in the hollow of a, or who knows how many, trees in the forest in which Handke lives
Seltsam, dass ich die Schoenheit eines Ortes an meiner Lust bemesse, da zu arbeiten (zu tun, taetig zu sein). Felsfenster/ How odd that I measure the beauty of a place by whether I like to work there [to do, to be active].
at his study in Salzburg.
[the cradle endlessly rocking indeed.] Try doing that sometime and be successful at it except for a couple of thin spots on the canvas a few lousy jokes and some notions that don’t quite come off and see what kind of reviews it will get you in the United States, in Los Estados Unidos Rosinante Ignorante, from ill-reading frauds like that true middle brow Steve Siegel in the N.Y. Times or J.L. Marcus in the NYRB, where Michael Wood and Frank Kermode had treated Handke’s work fairly until then, something that the editors there, in their Wilsonian hubris, seemed to forget and not scratch their heads and find Marcus’s nonsense improbable [see how I joyfully decimate their stuff at
which also has a huge piece of mine on that book]
from everyone but William Gass in the L.A. Times, the one an only time that Handke has been appraised by one of his peers in all these years in this country.
You can get the abstract at:
or buy the whole piece, but I have the entire text posted at one of the sites[and see Handke reception anon.] These idiots of course miss where Handke might be criticized!
Tiredness,[1989] the weakest of the assayings – the Socraticism produce none of the understanding that the fatiguing items that Handke itemizes cry out for, an instance where phenomenological enumeration does not suffice, and a big caesura this is indeed – and also formally, however is rich in demonstrating the plethora of matters [a psychoanalyst’s heavenly feast of symptomatology] that made my man angry and tired as a young man, insomnia being the only useful derivative for a writer that he, so ultra hyper sensitive in every respect, got from his decade long – age two to twelve - exposure to violent drunken primal scenes [read really read his most famous but by no means best book Sorrow Beyond Dreams, 1971], pay attention to details! Don’t just keep saying how bloody moved you are by the unhappy life of the author’s mother] - for his ambition to become the Napoleon – also the Napoleon of the new writing codes who simplifies Thomas Mann’s Schachtel Satz - of the syntax of the logos. Radical but conserving going to the roots of the language, an inventor and demonstrator of linguistic tools, possibilities in prose and in the theater.
Matters that no longer nauseate Handke in 1989 include going haying whereas earlier a mere sign of it induced nausea in the nausea prone, but pleasant forms of tiredness, I notice, do not include long bouts of pleasurable love-making. Cat on a hot tin roof, Tasmanian devil mating sounds of it above his student room in Graz upset him, reminding no doubt of what he, a great dissociator, not with complete success, shut out during his childhood.
with his half-siblings, I just love how he throws out his chest! Very protective and the younger brother looking up already then.
 Also, “Tiredness” is the first of what are now five or six books written entirely or set, at least in part, in Spain, in this instance Linares, the others being Absence, The Essay on the Jukebox [Soria/ Numancia] 1991, parts of One Dark Night I Left my Silent House [1996], the book announced in and written subsequent to M.Y.I.N.B. and yet a further departure, and of course my chief focus here, the immense Del Gredos; and I gather that the goodie I am withholding from myself until this labor is half-way completed, Moravian Nights also has a Spanish aspect aside its houseboat on the Morava River in Serbia.
The second, and most successful of the first three “assayings,” Jukebox [1991] relates to the theme of the first in the sense that I once saw, as his host was surprised to see Handke suddenly leave a conversation with two of his earliest American admirers, Richard Gilman and Stanley Kaufmann, and squat down, like a woman it struck me,
 who too has absorbed some gestures from the most determining early figure, my also very beautiful mother, at my record player, and I think put on a Beatle’s record to avert whatever intensities awkward difficult literary talk attempts to make contact had elicited in him. Perhaps one of the notebooks that he sold for king’s ransom to institutions that do such acquiring records what went through his mind. During his childhood Handke would flee his parents company into juke boxes at restaurants, and in the process of searching for such an ancient in the town he picked out for that purpose to retrieve one last example of one holding the music of his youth we come to know Soria and its ancient surround, or rather the search and what occurs during it, the trip, the writer’s sensibilities and sense impressions are formalized, structured into a keepsake, an heirloom, as he was initiated into writing by the heirloom letters that the family kept from his two dead Austro-Slovenian soldier uncles. How’s that for an impulse to become a classic in your own life time! And had it not been for Handke’s wish to incorporate those fabled uncles, I would not have gone to some lengths to explore what anthropology calls “the avunculate”, and its intra-psychic significance. Very positive and salvaging in Handke’s case.
The Assaying of the Day I got Lucky It Went Well, the third of the “Assayings,” as one might translate the untranslatable, in this instance, “geglückt,” [Versuch über den geglückten Tag] this inadvertency that sneaks up on you when the depressive least expects it, raises the bar of the formalist enterprise into a revolving around Paris. The occasional “line of beauty” can make a difference. American reviews were entirely obtuse in their response to what Handke was up to, even the sometimes sharp Steven Birketts, not to speak of the unspeakable Margot Jefferson in the New York Times, or Ben Weismann in the L.A. Times who advised Handke to write like Thomas Bernhard, the only other Austrian he appears to know. Alas poor Yorick and I will become Celine tomorrow. Why do editors allow reviewers those moronic liberties? The idiotic NY Times Book Review piece on The Repetition suggested to the author that he ought to have his young hero expound against Tito! But the Guardian had a great review which I have posted on the site, too; it happens, also in the unlikeliest of places: Cosmo ran a review of One Dark Night where the reviewer was captivated by its dream syntax element! He got it! What a surprise! also posted at:
The Assayings, aside their formal delights, their artfulness, their grace – a matter that this culture is deaf to it seems - which for me becomes too virtuoso in Day [a frequent occurrence before Handke realizes he must move on] also contain explorations of town-scapes and how Handke approached these towns and include some passages and observations on traveling by bus, as does M.Y.I.N.B. which like so much else from earlier on then finds an exaggerated version in Del Gredos, sometimes for better at others for worse [entirely in my sometimes equivocal opinion], Handke’s chief mode of transportation; aside being one of the last great walkers on the earth, perforce of his being periodically seized by color blindness [see Lesson of St. Victoire] which prohibited his achieving a driver’s license; and thus in need of frequent friendly chauffeurs, a disability it appears which, however, did not keep him from being regarded as fit for Austrian military service, the only accomplishment that his dreadful stepfather took pride in [ditto, L.St.V. & S.B.D.]; nor the alleged heart-valve problems that the inveterate exhibitionist mentions as the cause for what I think was a panic attack that landed the then distraught Handke – in the early 70s – briefly - in a Paris hospital, where Valium then seems to have done the trick to subdue some of the anxiety. [see Weight of the World.]
By the time of the 2004 Don Juan, the final “assaying” I suspect, the book subsequent to the Del Gredos monstrum, Handke has become a master and his title character, as he goes from one beauty to the other, moves backward as he moves forward, in ever quicker steps, and does the side-step, but is also rooted in a place, not too far from No-Man’s Bay Chaville, and the form dances; an amazing balance is achieved between virtuoso impulses and theme and variation. If you haven’t caught on to the fact that Handke is not just a formalist, but a composer whose use of kinesthetic  effects, consciously or not, adds to the strangeness of what you experience as you read him, but now also a landscape portraitist in language, and all these at one and the same time – after all, when Handke is “cooking” he writes like a dream, and anyone who knows anything about dreams knows how over-determined they are, and that if you know how to crack the way it is over-determined…..- this is as good a time as any to give some thought to the significance of that. His Don Juan, however, is no “how to become” a Don Juan, for that you better consult the “Don Juan” who appears in No-Man’s-Baywith the same woman” [!] the fine writer and moon beseeching dog until he gets the moon [whereupon…] Erich Wolfgang Skwara, author of The Plague of Siena, etc.; however, it helps if you can write like that.
The widow of Hermann Lenz, Skwara and Handke at Skwara’s being awarded the Lenz Prize. Skwara is a first rate writer, four of his books are in English, with a firm that does not send out review copies [the miserable Ariadne Press] I just happen to detest men who are intentionally cruel, especially to women. [10]
= D: Handke’s Personae =
As mentioned in the hypothetical Greiner quote at the opening: the first named personae surrogate vehicle that our author adopted, after appearing as pure registering consciousness in his first two books, is Josef Bloch in Goalie. Josef Bloch can be thought of as an [easily!] imagined alternate existence if Handke had not had the great fortune to have a priest endorse his wish to get away from his dreadful home-life and get an education – the bankiéress nameless brother, a criminal and terrorist, is an enlarged echo of Bloch [who reappears as one of the worker clowns in Walk About the Villages, as an ex-con who still has a lot of sadism left in him but now only plays wonderful sadistic jokes] or the psychotic side of Handke. You would be too, if you had had that childhood, one reason that his seeking his beseeching of peace in nature is so powerful. Handke appears as just a writer in the imaginary United States of Short Letter Long Farewell that was written quickly after his trip there, and that exemplifies Handke’s way of imagining and getting hot imagining a slightly different U.S. from the one that he had just experienced, and so it - and all these alternative landscapes - ought to be understood experienced not as a documentary but as one standing in a special relationship to whatever image understanding we may have of the U.S. – it will be no matter whether you decide to do so - and chiefly as a unitary work of writing that, in that respect, adheres [or not] to its own formal laws. Autobiographically speaking, A.S.L.L.F. leaves out the actual author’s habit of insulting just about each and everyone that he encountered during that trip, a matter that I, once I gained some purchase of Handke’s psychological make-up, ascribe to the tad of Tourettism that is a frequent companion of autism. Handke is nothing like that in his letters, and when he curses in his books, it is with well designed purpose aforethought, not out of unconscious habit, and sometimes wonderfully self-ironizing fashion as in Walk About the Villages. However, it is a habit, in person, that has not exactly made him many friends as I then learned during my second stint on the West Coast. At any event, Handke can not be accused of ever being politically correct or false.
The Austrian cultural attaché Keuschnig of the 1974 A Moment of True Feeling, the  novel that follows on the heels of Sorrow Beyond Dreams, is yet another alternate route not taken when Handke is able to leave law school – the necessary preparation for such a sinecure - just before graduating because he was able to make a living as a writer at a young age, and in this instance [and that of Keuschnig’s reappearance in Nomansbay and wherever else] is also modeled on an actual attaché who was Handke’s friend in the Paris of A Moment of True Feeling, with a daughter about the same age as Handke’s first daughter Amina.
All these and the personae to come – Sorger of Slow Homecoming, Loser of Across, Filip Kobal of The Repetition, the many Keuschnig’s of Noman’s-Bay, the Pharmacist of One Dark Night are focused lenses for a particular objective and their evaluation depends on how well ground these lenses, these mediums are [see Techniques anon]: they exhibit and delimit, and they transmit particular states of mind and of being, powerfully, they take the careful reader over, poetically evoke [see Notes for Handke’s poetic project to make the world accessible without concepts] which of course is why we read Handke, that he alters our state of mind, and Handke takes great trouble with these masks: his reading in schizophrenia to get a handle on Bloch, starting to translate while imagining the Left-Handed Woman’s profession, and finding it to his liking; becoming something of a geologist himself for the sake of Sorger in A Slow Home-Coming, certainly a perfect perspective, perfect antennae from and with which to experience Alaska, requiring the kind of scientific poetry that Musil had sought. Loser in Across is made into an archeologist. For the sake of The Repetition, Handke learned Slovenian well enough to be able to translate it, the name of the surrogate hero Filip Kobal derives from a 19th century Garibaldi type insurrectionist: don’t think that all these independence movements are anything new. They, that kind of identity nationalism are the inevitable development of the destruction wrought, of Royal and aristocratic lineages, by the French revolution and Napoleon. The contradiction continues to live in Handke with his Austro-Slovenian identity and preference for a Yugoslav federation.[see Notes] We have the six versions of Keuschnig – ex-attaché, writer, country priest [the only also actual living person to appear in the book, a close friend of Handke’s, and that Handke is as a writer and might easily have become had the seminary been more to his then liking; a film-maker painter, a reader, in No-Man’s Bay as a kind of confirmation of Handke’s processes, but you can’t nail him down to a single one, perhaps the sum of them, since he certainly has all those sides, and then some. I see no particular reason why the Pharmacist from that amusingly named Salzburg suburb Taxham in One Dark Night I Left My Silent House is a pharmacist, but perhaps I should re-read the book; perhaps he takes hallucinogens and thus has easy access to dream syntax. The Writer of The Afternoon of is unmistakably the author, but not just that: only one slice. And now we have a retired hugely successful bankiéress and I will list her qualities anon.
You could of course say and object that this is a dreadful case of self-involvement on the part of this author, he only displays, exhibits himself, as Handke does in every including socially objectionable ways. Not only has Handke over the course of these 40+ years of writing novels and plays [I will come to the difference between them shortly] only exhibited varieties of his self for a particular purpose, but he has also published tomes of diary notations, of apercus: but we, all cases of one kind or the other, all dreadfully limited by the host of trauma that seek to wreck us, certainly get to know Handke, the Handke “case,” awfully well, and since he designs his works of art as projection screens, but also ourselves under his influence, certain works of his, such as Public Insult, and Hour can make us as self-conscious as he is, more precisely conscious, with cleaned consciousnesses too – somehow that seems humanely enough for words in particular arrangements to accomplish, not that we don’t always want more to happen. However, unless you are married to the guy or are his child, his being so one-eyed with his work is not such a dreadful matter as the actress Marie Colbin found it who accused him of being a such a one, which Handke, the country priest of the world, is not at all at a certain remove. And for once we really get to know someone who is really worth knowing! Isn’t that something in this world of predictable beings! Predictable politicians?
Few close acquaintances - nay any characters aside personae for the author’s consciousness - appear in Handke’s novels, for a variety of reasons: chiefly of course because he feels that in that fashion he can communicate himself most successfully, and in this emphasis on his fashioning of an focused lens for his self Handke of course is by no means the only significant contemporary author, Philipp Roth comes most immediately to mind in the U.S.; aside the human tendency to be under the impression to know oneself better than any other or imagined person, and the honesty that goes with this solipsism. Then there is the specialness of Handke: his autistic sensibilities, his bat ears, his antennae which are particularly acute at long distances, a hyper-sensitivity that used to make him nauseous about so many matters, and his asociability, his sheer superiority, but also for the isolation of what is called the “autistic position.” The very questioning of language that stood at the beginning of his enterprise.
The first actual person aside a fictional, an imagined lens of the author himself to appear in his texts is one of Handke’s oldest friend, the poet and literary manager Freddy Kolleritsch as the “Austrian Dramaturg” [their correspondence – whose title translates as “The First Obligation of the Citizen is Beauty”] was just published by Jung & Jung]; see a fine review thereof at:
appears as “the Austrian Dramaturg” in Short Letter Long Farewell which fails to mention the visiting writer’s gratuitously insulting just about everyone during his reading tour through the U.S., the Tourette syndrome [frequently found accompanying autism] unloosed when not written in musical sets as in Public Insult.
Handke’s daughter Amina, born in 1969, is alluded to in the poems Nonsense & Happiness, as “he” the child, and in the novel A Moment of True Feeling and becomes the subject of the so honest, finely compressed non-fiction account A Child’s Story, 1980, I say “so honest” because I saw a bit of Handke during that time in Berlin and Paris and New York and noticed that he was someone who needed to display when the child was shown to me in the 1969 in Berlin of the bully cops and the confrontational demonstrators and the for the - bit sometime hippie flaneur - a rather pleasant malecon that the Kudamm had turned into for a while. The book has the heft of an adequate screen memory concentrate of the period and his life, and the more so if read in conjunction with the four books of the first Paris Period Nonsense and Happiness, A Moment of True Feeling, Weight of the World, and Left-Handed Woman.
Handke’s chief German publisher, the now deceased Siegfried Unseld, appears unnamed as such, as an x-ray negative recognizable by anyone who knew him halfway well, as the publisher in Left Handed Woman [the second appearance of Handke’s feminine side, the third being as the bankiéress in Del Gredos] with flowers in hand for just divorced women [1976], who works as a translator as she makes herself independent of men; and that great swimmer and closet-sized Unseld also shows up [severely criticized for having truck with Handke’s nemesis Reichs-Ranicki, also known as the Reichs-Kanickel, see anon] in No-Man’s Bay and as a model for the monopolist chief protagonist Quitt’s ambitions and those of his author coinciding in the 1973 play They Are Dying Out.
None of the wives appear, except as a pursuer in S.L.L.F., lots of allusions to fights – in T.A.D.O. and in the novels Across [1984] and No-Man’s-Bay [1992] and in the naked-ego exhibition Weight of the World, [1975], fighting relationships with “the modern woman” as she appears as a category in a self-serving recit in One Dark Night I Left My Silent House [1994], - you wouldn’t think that someone who wrote Sorrow Beyond Dreams could have a misogynist side, unfortunately life is not as simple as that if only you read it and S.B.D. more imaginatively and reflectively - appear so very enigmatically that the detective then decides to take a closer look: nowhere do we find out in A Moment of True Feeling [1974], the novel subsequent to S.L.L.F. and to S.B.D. that our protagonist, now called Keuschnig, this suicidaly disposed cultural attaché who communicates, drags us actively into his state of dissociations stylistically materially, nor in the parallel diary instant jottings compendium Weight of the World [“process notes” an analyst would say] or the long beautiful musical poems of Nonsense and Happiness [which I had the good but also puzzling fortune to translate] that the chief reason for all this upsetness, the narcissistic injury committed on this particularly hypersensitive head and heart that is so full of its self, on this love child, yes for the first two years of its life which would eventually assert itself over and above a young man’s rage, yes that our author is so distraught because his wife, the once pursuer, the rasante actress – it’s always an actress, because Handke is under some kind of wishful delusion that these materialist sensual beings who need all that love and can not only be light but objectionably superficial and lightheaded, are so much “lighter” – that she has split [“the worst thing that ever happened to me,” no, not even close], left for cause, and left him house husband to a baby girl who constricts his freedoms. There would be a several more times, new editions of the same old same old; like so many, Handke hadn’t learned his lesson that a writer like him ought to have a French saint for a wife not a model nor an actress… or just a cleaning woman as he writes Kolleritsch is the only person he has seen at one point in the past five days during his first Paris Period [1973-78]. And from what one hears of the current forest abode, a maid brigade might be in order. But that’s all right isn’t it? Would you want, say, Beethoven to live a regular bourgeois home life? But what if he had written of that event with the kind of objectivity of S.B.D. or dramatized the breakup, gradual as it was if we look back to Short Letter? Another Bergman film? But look at 2002 and the end of Del Gredos: the Handke surrogate bankiéress suddenly confesses to something of that kind having happened to her, of having availed herself of the strengths that denial can provisionally provide at those times, of having “gone crazy” and then crumpled! It takes a while but eventually our confessor displayer will show us everything, you just have to piece it together as I once did on writing at great length about No-Man’s-Bay, and I quite know what he is talking about, and it is a difficult fate to escape. I gather from fellow Handke translator and knowledgeable acquaintance Scott Abbott that in the 2008 Moravian Nights [which I am withholding from myself until I finish this piece, for reward] Handke confronts the violence he committed on the girl friend that is alluded to in Across [with what I found to be objectionable ambiguities I call them there and in other instances] enigmas that don’t need to be if self-confrontation had occurred sooner. [see, Handke critiqued within his own terms, anon]
The matter of personae, masks is of course different in the plays: there you have the dramatis personae of the repertoire to draw on and fill out, project onto: actors adopting the names of famous actors in Ride Across Lake Constance – what could be more honest than leaving actors as actors, who then “play at” being other [of course famous] actors, as these vessels do anyhow, as they clean the stage of stage conventions, what can a stage be but a stage, and turn the world and its activities into the occasionally rather sinister play pen; and leave the audience without the strap of a story to hang on to! Discombobulated but refreshed, born again. For real for once. Or the Austrian version of the updated commedia del arte crew as business folk of all kinds in They Are Dying Out. At that point Handke might easily have become, if he so chose, a superbly successful boulevardier playwright a la Ferenc Molnar or Noel Coward, but he was after more serious game, the Laurel! Types – “the Prodigal Son poet;” the “construction worker brother;” “the sister,” “the site mother;” the three worker clowns; deeper now, grander in the Euripedean Goethean dramatic poem Walk About the Villages, which also harks back to Baroque allegorical conventions: Parsifal, in rags, in the Art of Asking, a reprieve also of the Kaspar actor creature of 1968. An entire world of fables and sagas and biblical characters is quoted in The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other; “the directors” “the stage manager” in The Play about the Film about the War where we also have characters named “the two directors”, “the stage manager”, “the historian” which elaborates the possibilities of viewpoints; and it would be foolish to nail Handke to anyone of them, perhaps all. [see and the drama lecture for pieces on many of these plays]  If I were of an interventionist Wilsonian mind-set as a director, I could emphasize the positive aspects of the mountain-biker soldiers and foreign reporters! And how Handke would scream his objections to such a distortion!
There is that evidently unforgettable restaurateur in M.Y.I.N.B. who serves the worlds best food [Handke perforce of his autism is very particular in that respect and has written a wonderful play La Cuisine to celebrate, Serbian ham and other goodies.] but the restaurateur is what is called a “split off part” of our author [as distinct from a personae], and thus manifests yet one other side, the misanthrope in extremis that can write a play such as Untertagsblues [Subday Blues]; yet I by far prefer the restaurateur to Handke’s amok runners as they keep appearing throughout his work, or the idiots with whom he claims to have such affinity; as he does indeed, the autistic side of him. Who is that Laufer [runner/ assistant] who fades away after the Alaska section in A Slow Homecoming…? who are the enigmatic Taroq players in Across [well Handke did play and the one time I did with him I played him under the table because I played like my also determining grandfather with some poker thrown in and it turned out that Handke can’t handle losing and then won’t show off to you the re-imported ex-wife], they were interesting successful people as I recall. But it is better that they appear as enigmas. The Del Gredos woman has a brother, allegedly a major criminal… who might that be, a purely imaginary built on the foundation of Handke’s petty criminal younger half sibling who appears is dying an early death as did his half sister… mention of this brother crops up throughout Del Gredos, but I see little purpose to it, unless he be another “split-off” part, the bankiéress masculine side: after an extraordinary snowstorm high in her Sierra our heroine suddenly comes on a prison fence, her brother on the other side. He is her obverse. Cut! Dream or film? An irruption from the unconscious. There are several mentions of “the unconscious” in the book, and I thought: why lookee here! What hasn’t my man discovered, the realm u.c. and it’s many mansions! At one point our heroine is suddenly face to face with an apparently chalk white faced woman. Cut. I think there is a web of weavings going on behind the overtly followable handing-offs between narrator and subject, but this Korreptitor will leave the enumeration tracing of those intricate webs to one of these fine Germanisten to discern in detail the way they analyzed the musical forms behind the early plays.
Handke, who writes the most exquisite description, say of a mulberry tree or berry, feels that doing so of human faces is taboo [I know a lot about my man’s numerous quirks, there was a time I became one of the world’s experts on nausea, and all the different matters that singly or in combination can produce occasional bouts of color blindness, I became lost in the fastnesses of autism, but have not the faintest in the instance of facial taboos], and so you don’t get any descriptions of faces, something at which few writers excel, I can’t readily think of a one who gets much beyond the standard platitudes. Compared to a good draughtsman writers are pathetic. But our heroine has a strong right hand. She is so sturdy I would hire her as a mule for my sierras. For what she endures in that snowstorm on top of the Sierra it would kill Durango, my mule Durango, for sure.
The German critic Reichs-Ranicky, a kind of poor man’s Georgy Lukacs [like the great Georgy he has a deaf ear when it comes anything that falls out of his even more limited parameter of what constitutes realism in contemporary literature] with whom Handke has had the most unhappy relationship ever since Handke wrote a wonderfully derisive and gratuitous piece about him in the 60s…. appears as a madly shitting bulldog in the walking book St. Victoire; which would seem to say more about our village sadist’s roots than the allegedly so designated who certainly shat most nastily and pettily and destructively on Handke’s work ever after, and knows just enough exactly where to apply the knife, how to wound pettily. I have no idea who the Parisian “quilt maker” is in The Lesson of St. Victoire who accompanied Handke at least part of those wanderings, not that Handke wasn’t making quilts of his own already.
The bankiéress is the one time that Handke has taken the trouble, in a prose text, to outfit a single vehicle with a bit of a past, a history, with a rudimentary family and memories. Just enough to leave her sufficiently mysterious in all her fabled being! In an interview subsequent to the publication of No-Man’s-Bay Handke said that he could easily have written a big social novel about Salzburg a la von Doderer’s Trudelhofstiege, and I had to laugh. Handke is the last person to write a social novel, you can’t be as misanthropic or asocial as he, and there are quite enough of these novels and there will be many more; and that is not why Handke has readers.
As vehicle for Handke, let us take a close look at the bankiér woman and what drib drabs out about her, and what we are not told, what is avoided, surprising in an as told to, lived with bio as this supposedly is.
First, she is “retired”, now privately wealthy – as Handke could assuredly said to be in achievements at the time of the book’s composition in the first years of the 21st century. The “nameless one”, as one might call her too – despite or because she is referred to as “Ablaha” occasionally - derives from a village background similar to Handke’s, but it has been transferred to a Sorbian [ethnic minority] village in South Eastern part of the reconstituted much diminished Germany with which Handke, with half Slavic [Slovenian and famously pro-Serbian for the Serbians attempt to hold his beloved confederation together] background had familiarized himself, with hints of Mongol hordes minglings occasionally glinting adventurously in his face [is that what is meant by the Turko-Arabic additive? Hans Amman, in a first rate review, thinks it is because Cervantes’ book is presented as a translation from the Arabic, see the German reviews I have posted at the site]. However, as village it remains generic; the disappearance of its ethnic individuality infuriates the bankiéress’s brother, who has some of the features of Filip Kobal’s [The Repetition] revolutionary 19th century model, and periodically appears, once out of prison – but not to any intrinsic purpose that I can see - as being on his way to a warrior type country. Special unusual proverbial closeness between brother and sister exists allegedly among the Sorbians [all right, if he says so, incest I think runs more deeply in the side of moi 1000 old famille that Charlemagne settled on the East side of the Rive Elbe to vanquish or protect against incursions by the Slavic tribes! And it does for the sake of keeping property in the same hands!] The name Handke’s, that of his stepfather, is a transmogrification of a Polish word.] The bankiéress’s memories of her childhood – and its family figures – the internalized images - that had returned full force and been transfigured in Walk About the Villages] - are fading; [a most important orientation for him, or impetus for alternatives, for transfigurations, since neither mother nor stepfather or father are useful models as compared to the mother’s father and the fabled dead Partisan uncles] and as they tend to fade after such an intense midlife revisitation as transpired in his instance. Handke, after all, writes as “the, our surrogate”, has been since early on, the country priest side of him, the one who wants to avert anxiety. Since he has no choice, since he must write, is “condamné a ecriture” the word in his instance indeed sometimes becomes flesh. There is very little of this in Del Gredos since “the scribe” off in the La Mancha, though he intrudes thoroughly into the text as a recorder and questioner, reveals next to nothing about himself, nor in that process of so doing, or she about him.
We do not find out much about how our bankiéress got into this line of business or the stages of how she became frightfully successful; it sort of happened; she fell into it she fell in love with handling money to get out of her “ghoulish” death obsessed village; yes, I know “what makes Sammy run” can derive from just about any culture of poverty. But for a change we have some concrete “motivation” to satisfy American reviewers if no-one else; that she must have then become so ambitious and brutally efficient as to make all those enemies is not especially surprising and we have one wonderful encounter with someone whom she bankrupted, incidentally [which Handke certainly has had great ability in making particularly when the Tourette syndrome is not muzzled by his pencil] except that she is liked in the immediate vicinity of her residence, and her leave-taking from it I think lets me infer how Handke takes leave from his abode, in a nicely nameless North Sea Port, we can’t tell what language is spoken, which however seems to have an adjoining near aboriginal Forêt de Chaville like the one that Handke haunts day in day out, that too is a transposition within this agglomerated composite. As a bankiéress she is well versed in Marxist concepts at one usufruct point and that Handke knew his Marx was at least already evident by the time of T.A.D.O. [1973] though you could say that one of the early Sprechstücke, Cries for Help, my favorite now and one that I regretfully never put into the kind of shape it ought to be in with the troupe that did the first Handke plays in New York in the late 60s, is not just looking for a primal scream but does so out of an existentialist Ur-Marxism position. But Ablaha seems to have done, and knows real, good a bank can do in helping build, and a few of those actually still exist in this country; small and sound and integrated into their communities and not just major shysters. The reasons for her having enemies in a business that sort of everyone knows takes elbows and brutality and business killing does not need to be spelled out; and so her alleged fame and infamy don’t require detailed elaboration, she seems world-renowned; she has affinity with ancient financiers of wars, such as Fugger, and traces of their doing, the truck he had in financing Charles V’s wars, are encountered during her traversing the Del Gredos sierra and foothills. The book becomes deeply rooted in European history in this fashion; whereas in Handke’s case for a marvelous writer to have made so many enemies requires some special detailed explanation, which I could but will not provide here, it is irrelevant to my subject; but no doubt also friends with the help that he can render his village and to other writers - noticeably always his lessers. Handke, very much prime example of someone who at the very least must be the equal of the great ancestors but jealous of more contemporary occupants of the Laurel bench, eventually granted that he learned a few things from B.B. as he certainly has while bettering him in some of the things he does in his dramas. Those equals in contemporary fame, the jealous one does not get along well with them and his comments about them afford few insights. And, his least attractive side, his righteousness, will spill forth even after he has just taken the trouble to try to disabuse himself of the same. See the Tablas of Damiel for this at
and keep in mind with what alacrity Handke came down on Günter Grass when the latter related, something that had been known for nearly forty years, that as a 17 year old he had been a member of the Waffen SS. “Grass ought to have known..” etc. All the things Mr. Handke might have known at a much later age! You could have given me and my cousin guns aged eight and we would have been delighted, not to die I don’t think, but to knock off a few of the first foreign troops in the neighborhood.
Ablaha has a couple of children, a daughter or her daughter’s double enter into the book with great longing and there are role reversals between the two; which doubles her personality in age etc!!!; there is little mention of husbands, though he is longed for as having been “the one”, whom she lost, but there are no specifics, they don’t play featured role in her recollection, no reprieve of the Left-Handed one’s withdrawal from a marriage, though we can think of Ablaha as a Left-Handed woman who, say, switched from translating to banking, and reached the pinnacle, but the pinnacle does not suffice, as it didn’t either for Quitt at the end of T.A.D.O. who then beat his head to death on the rock of ages.
Our bankiéress if anything suffers from being unapproachable, an ice queen; though that is entirely untrue once you become involved in her musings, her overly rich interiority. Since the age of her children differ so widely they might derive from different husbands; as Handke’s two daughter, from different wives, are about 20 years apart in age. She wishes to have a writer write her biography although not the usual kind; any special reasons, such as “to set the record straight” is not provided; she gives conflicting instructions; for her its own sake then. No mention of a possible publisher, no need to spell out advances, the writer though nor represented as a “star” but as something of an oddball is sufficiently established, since she is monied there is no haggling… and she goes to visit him in his spot the La Mancha, it turns out that she has crossed the Sierra many times before and evidently likes doing so; normally, even if she picked this far-off writer, a subject of that station and wealth would have the scribe come to her; it is a matter one ought not to press, it is a convention for the sake of the book and its chief purpose is to memorialize a landscape and its corresponding interiority, or as Handke wrote in W.A.T.V. “to salvage a swatch of blue.” And that he does at least as magnificently as Stifter. He is a classic, arrivé!
There are intimations of guilt, but that is all, for a long time, and their mysteriousness I find unnecessary: guilt of a business kind? Apparently some, but not all that grievously. Anyway, her trip is not one of penance. It is an adventure that goes awry. Not that Handke has not a few Dostoevsky critters living inside him, which pop out especially in Across. The reasons for guilt feelings are not specified until towards the end. The equivocal feelings to guilt also hold true for Handke who in the third volume of his diary selection Am Felsfenster Morgens [1989] notes that he’s turned guilt off the way you do the light. Well, maybe that one morning. One can also become guilty by not killing someone at the right time. The various great economic criminals of the immediate first decade of the 21st century present, probably only feel guilt if they are caught, and chiefly for having been.
At moments the thought occurs that the bankiéress and the narrator of her story are lovers; briefly intensely; one moment reminds me of that burst of love at the end of A Child’s Story or La Victoire. When I run into a sequence in the Nuevo Bazaar section where, most improbably, the bankiéress resides in a kind of Japanese bunk bed bank safety box type garage [part of Handke’s trip around the world trove], first described as Spartan beyond belief, suddenly has a heavy nearly goose-down type bed covering as she lazes and goes so deeply asleep as to sleep-crawl! into the adjoining bunk bed and spoon cuddles a double of her daughter, the thought occurs that as the real author was writing his at least dutiful page or two a day, among the many other levels of intimacy – and experiencing, as filmed narrative, dream syntax – he is writing a dream where the laws of ordinary behavior cease, and if you suddenly wish to sleep more comfortably, wish fulfillment will be your room service! You need to be, or rather: the text forces you [me] to be even more attentive than Handke’s text’s normally do. Speed readers and those whose mind are stuck in journalese – in the invariable iambic pentameter in which journalism is written, with what consequence? - will quickly give up I imagine. And the inverted world of Nuevo Bazaar starts to right itself gradually with lots of twists and turns on the road to Avila Sierra del Gredos. Is there a similar sequence of entering hell and coming out of it in Witikow? At the end of the book in one of its greatest sequences - the subject and narrator split is resolved in a kind of Liebesleben affirmation to differentiate it from anything Wagnerian – a name I have not once encountered out of Handke’s pen!
As compared to Handke’s way of grabbing his readers by the scruff of their eyes of his shorter works, - e.g. “Close your eyes and see the world arise anew” [Across 1984] – Del Gredos is told, gently entered and even more artfully with a better touch, as is appropriate for epic tales,
She wished this were her last journey. The place where she had lived and worked for a long time now always offered more than enough new experiences and adventures. The country and the region were not the ones in which she had been born, and starting in childhood she had lived in several altogether different lands and landscapes.
 Raised by grandparents who were avid travelers, or vagabonds, to be more precise, who seemed to change their nationality with every border they crossed, she had pined for a while in her youth for the long-lost land of her birth in eastern Germany, familiar to her not from her own memories but rather from stories, and later from dreams as well.

than and as was Nomansbay for that matter [there in the first person by one Gregor Keuschnig, a fine pun on Handke’s origins in a hovel, a Keusche - Hoveler Hardy would have called him - where the peasant is meant to be keusch – chaste but is nig, not [?] - whom Handke readers will recognize as the once suicidal Austrian cultural attaché of the 1974 novel A Moment of True Feeling. A.M.T.F., is told in the third person and is chiefly remarkable for two matters: that moment whence love suddenly blossoms forth at the moment of despair in the form of some possibly sentiment-laden images – a mirror, a comb, a strand of hair - which moment might give pause to those readers who had become familiarly used to the until then frequently nausea-drenched [by everything including language which he nonetheless handled so well even then, later he learned to fondle words[“Ich bin jetzt ein Wortklauber.”], and he admitted to the therapist he saw at that time, in the mid seventies – Weight of the World - that his feelings were inaccessible to him, when they did become accessible it is quite wonderful to behold and too much for some] author and so be less puzzled by the less nervous mythic openness as we see it developing in the subsequent novella A Left-Handed Woman [L.H.W. 1976] and then reach extraordinary fruition in the Alaska and San Francisco chapters of A Slow Homecoming [A.S.H. 1979] where the author succeeds in creating a lyrical diaphragm – anyhow a medium - to communicate, transport his experience of that vastness into that of the reader [14]: the inner of the outer communicated as one to affect another, Handke creates projection screens that fathom you! [if there is something to fathom!] - correlatives [you recall old Possum’s ambiguous formula] which draw on your being - that would seem to be the nub of the ambition of these various personae lenses behind and through which Handke conceals reveals, nay exhibits and exerts himself, elicits his readers, this not quite preternaturally compensatorily driven exhibitionist [see Notes].
Subsequent to his Cezanne book - The Lesson of St Victoire, 1981 - he incorporates word-anchoring painterly elements into his prose style starting with the 1984 Across [where the affinity to Stifter starts to show]; and, two, A.M.T.F. that is, by the author’s ability, by stylistic near mannerist means, to induce equivalent suicidal state in the reader sensitive to the materiality of such stylistics, of sheer textuality if you will a technical virtuosity that characterizes Handke’s plays near immediately and his novels as of the end of his first but certainly by his second, as yet untranslated into English but into the Romance languages, Der Hausierer [1967, [see Notes].
Del Gredos, written around the turn of the century, subsequent to Handke’s Yugoslavia texts [see Notes] and the previous novel One Dark Night I Left My Silent House, [1997] is the second of the kind of 1000 page monstrum that Handke, whose other novels, except for The Repetition, are compact, novella length, or scarcely longer [and for a long time were cooked to completion, after due preparation, in just a few months], the first being – when he says I won’t it will not be long before he will - compared to the first 250 K M.Y.I.N.B., qualifies as a true 1000 page monstrum with its 350 K words, but is confined within a bearable and not overly threatening 760 pages in German and 470 in the paper saving, eye-straining long lines of type yet ingeniously well-designed American edition, and thus downplays its monstrum-making impression but certainly, during some stretches – which I will address - proves a far greater challenge to the reader, not that Handke goes out of his way to make matters difficult, he never has, rather the opposite. But though Del Gredos has some stretches with travel by plane and by Landrover and bus, it is written in walking time, and so speed readers and speed freaks of all kind - and the degree to which speediness infests our very being would seem natural? – need to slow down, are slowed down if they really start to read [Handke insists that a book creates its own patience.] and abandon their “natural” [?] impatience, though are not slowed down as much as a reading of another walking book of Handke’s, who had become the King of Slowness then, The Repetition, Handke surrogate young Filip Kobal’s walking through the Dolminen, the Karst of Carinthia/ Slovenia, makes you, inexorably, such is the power of its syntax, the influence it, Handke’s state of mind, his being, also his anaclytically depressive side [read S.B.D. and think of the mother’s state of mind as she was carrying her bastard son to term, left by the love of her life, marrying a surrogate], exerts also syntactically and playfully – Handke’s claim to fame, the “melancholy player” as he calls himself, to our attention, and the means at his command - and Del Gredos has some of the same force, with a couple of fat speed bumps – topes – woven in. And as Jim Krusoe pointed out to me many years ago: how the depressive state that some of the earlier books convey then lifts towards the end! Hey, all you addicts of anti-depressants, read, get inoculated, and see what joyous stuff reading real reading of Handke can be.
My hunch about Handke’s use of Socratic interchanges…
“…And she was utterly amazed; and just this once she wanted to be seen this way on film, in a full screen close-up. The author: “Should this go in the book? May it?’ – She “Yes.”
was not entirely off, and as you read Del Gredos you need to be on the alert for alike sudden cryptic interchanges – there is an internal dialogue going on ‘tween narrator and subject; but, chiefly, the narrative interchanges between narrator and subject occur more on the order of tectonic shifts between hired narrator and his subject a retired bankiéress, what overall I compare to a “double helix.” You could say that the narrative of Del Gredos is a double helix, his apparent use of the convention of the “as told to” form, except that for stretches, the most convincing, the twins are so closely entwined as to become one, before they disentwine again, and that has something to do not only with Handke’s mix of realism and invention but especially with Handke’s “innerworld outerworld” procedure which he himself discusses in the book:
- a time when mere actions as a source for the plot seemed to have been exhausted long since – than the astonishing and unusual juxtapositions of the external and internal, the interactions and indeed the resonances, thus also appropriate to the time or era of her story, or even “lighting the way” [like the rose in the old poem] Or lighting her way home, or around the corner? [p.310]
She sensed , no she saw and felt that her book, after all the intervening explications and descriptions, which of course were just as much part of it [a little like the lasso-like, looping serpentines along which the bus was rolling uphill] was now back to simply being told, or, even better and lovelier, was telling itself, was approaching that must sublime of narrative sensations when “it narrates itself,” “I, you, it, all of you she, we are freely narrated, out of one country into another, at least for a while, and again and again in this fashion, and now and then, as the entirely appropriate rarity and precious thing in the book of our life.” [p.216]
And the elimination of that inner-outer might be the point where a story can simply tell itself, as well as some other matters about her and then the state of mind into which a reading of the book can put you [me] and how Peter Handke at least during certain stretches of writing is healed. I expect Handke knows all this only too well. Some may recall that during his period of extreme nausea Handke felt so nauseated by himself that he wanted to physically turn inside out! – Now, that he’s been flipped, has access, if also insecurely at times, to the love that he imbibed so richly and exclusively until age two, all of Handke’s inside, his soul, the summa of his being, still wants to exhibit itself and does for long but not all stretches in this book.
Anyhow, this is also an attempt of mine to account for my reading experience.
Technically the narrative procedure is the shifting from one narrative part of the rope to another, a handing off, a climb it is, and the manner in which this hand over hand handing off is handled is one of the books many technical achievements, as is its handing down then, its denouement; there is also a section toward the end that is told in the first pronoun plural which indicates that narrator and subject are together [?] or is it she and a reporter or an observer whose viewpoint is introduced at that stage to amplify what the heroine and narrator tell, and the description of the first dystopia La Zona [and grossest of three inventions-envisionments] is quickly given, and a surprisingly quick hand-off it is, as though the bankiéress couldn’t be entrusted with the proper vision – who so surprisingly actually stays in this hideous region for some time [!], the laws of probability are excised for the sake of a recit of sorts, a dramatic interlude, if read as a sequence from a lousy sci-fi it improves, that indeed would fit a play or film - to “a historian” –[see Notes]
Overall this shifting back and forth between narrator and subject, for me, however, is merely that, a mere shifting since, fundamentally there is so little to differentiate narrator-medium from his subject – they derive from similar village background, two sides of the same coin… the narrator adheres, for long stretches, to her very being and interiority like glue for long wonderful stretches [Chapter 4 through the end of Chapter 10 of the altogether 40], and improbably so from the perspective of the “as told to form” [?] not even the greatest analyst could be such an immediate and deeply empathic ultra perceptive participant double and mind reader unless he inhabits her very being and sensations; the author empathic with himself; yet dissociated; this only works from the perspective of wanting to achieve a unity of exterior and interior anchored in images, or dissociating from self while moving back towards it – Handke’s characteristic since his earliest dissociated states I would venture - and the bankiéress’ amazing multiply image-imbued and -anchored stupendous self-confidence in her grandfather’s vest with metal stitching in it - here Handke’s famous innerworld and outerworld become one in the writing, the “as told to” convention is activated on a narrative psychological level, textually, is joined!!! the paranoid schizophrenic position, as we are put into it at the opening with purely grammatical legerdemain at the opening of Goalie.
Handke takes the trouble to articulate what monologue interieur and stream of consciousness could only record, manifest, with some other viewpoints – a historian at one point, a reporter observer at another - entering when it suits the author, Peter Handke.
Handke is no Joyce fan subsequent to Dubliners, though he claims to have given Ulysses a number of tries [we can find him using the rhythm of the end of The Dead at one point in No-Man’s-Bay, just as he either tries to compete with or pay deference to the buzz of Beckett’s metaphysical bees from Molloy, though for that one does not need Beckett.] However, Dubliners, for the Anglo-American reader, can be imagined as one of several starting points for a deepening, for a departure from realistic narrative. Beckett so clearly took the “make it simple” route out of Joyce who ended with his “night language book” which really opened up for me during a psycho-analysis, a sort of entirely unexpected goodie. Handke is not one for multiple punning except in his early play Quodlibet [As you like it] where “the king’s conscience” is caught by way of auditory projections, hallucinations [i.e. the U.S. atrocity of Me Lay becomes “My best lay.”]. And certainly not of Tom Wolfian type of mimicry which seems to suffice for so many to evoke “reality.” Handke’s whole work, his view of language can be regarded as a being undertaken under the lens of a Quodlibet quest. So how DO you get to a form of narration where
Narrative means – should mean: to effect, affect; otherwise it is mere narration after the effect.” Felsfenster.
that is activist, that engages the reader, disconcerts him, whatever.
In his first novel, Die Hornissen Handke is a pure registering phenomenologist, who with a shorn, pared down language steps even back behind Kafka [see Notes] and all of what is registered is cast in a kind of “as if” state, in the subjunctive, tough going for those who have been ordinarynized by more standard modes of narrative; who expect the writer to do most of the work for them; in Der Hausierer the main texts are purely phenomenological registrations by a terrified consciousness:
 [“How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably and remain fixed on the paper!" Henry Fox Talbot, 1839]
which texts, however, are fitted between a highly intellectualized narrative of the procedures of the crime novel, which actually mislead as to providing real answers of why the consciousness is so terrified. Handke’s simplest way of evoking terror, and mastering it playfully, is in Radio Play I.
As a dramatist, or say writer of texts to be performed, Handke was instantly activist, by addressing the audience and telling it was experiencing in Public Insult, by subjecting it as much as the protagonist Kaspar to a demonstration of a sometimes painful language deconstruction and re-education; by withholding a plot line for the audience to straphang its to be diverted selves on to in Ride Across Lake Constance while playing Ionesco-like Wittgensteinian and other language games, cleaning their clocks while cleaning away the clutter of the old drama conventions and thus completing Brecht’s project of catharsis by means of a non-Aristotelian theater [i.e. no blood and guts but some very sinister emanations]. And also a high musical formalist in the efficiency with which he conducted these affairs that bore affinity to the less serious “happenings” of the day, the 60s to 70s. All these works were also highly conceptual. This was not some American playwright who was going into a forever workshop with his mess of a text.
In my Handke drama lecture I use one of the poems from the then, 70s, contemporaneous Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld to illustrate a variety of matters: Handke’s hysteria, his theatricality, and playfulness, his virtuosity, and his ability to ritualize himself out of the fear [and us if we are affected by the interior drama] by means of writing, out of that state, and this poem, Singular and Plural in English, also contains a moment of irruption from the unconscious that manifests itself in a materialist grammatical [italicized] manner.
Here it is:
“On a bench in the park sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: I am sitting on a bench in the park next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: We are sitting on a bench in the park, I and a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: A Turk with a thickly bandaged finger is sitting with me on a bench in a park.]

We are sitting on a bench in the park gazing out on the pond, and I see something swimming in the pond, and the Turk is gazing out on the pond:

We are gazing at the pond, and I see an object swimming in the pond, and the Turk is gazing at the pond:

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass, propelled by swimming ducks, making its way to the shore, and the Turk is gazing at the pond:

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass swimming shoreward, propelled by swimming ducks, and then I see the tuft of grass floating away from the shore, propelled by ducks swimming in the opposite direction, and the Turk is gazing at the pond:

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass that, propelled by swimming ducks, was about to be washed ashore and then, propelled by ducks swimming in the opposite direction, was about to be washed back into the middle of the pond and now, propelled by ducks intersecting the two groups of ducks that are swimming in the opposite direction, float suspended in place, and the Turk is gazing at the pond:

We are gazing at the pond, and I see an object I took to be a tuft of grass or something I took to be an object that I believed was a tuft of grass suddenly disappear after it had moved in place, and I stop moving my head in time with the object on one and the same spot: that is to say, I am startled or, I am startled, that is to say, I stop moving my head in time with the object on one and the same spot, and no longer move at all, and the Turk is gazing at the pond:

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a duck surfacing with a tuft of grass in its bill, and I am tired of gazing and am satisfied, and the Turk is gazing at the pond:

We are gazing at the pond, and, without seeing anything, I remember the sports writer who talked about death, and the Turk is gazing at the pond:

A Turk and I, we are sitting in the park on a bench and are gazing at the pond: I am sitting in the park on a bench next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: I am sitting on a bench in the park next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: next to me on the bench in the park there suddenly sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger, which he is extending away from his other fingers: in the park on a bench sits a Turk with nine unimpaired fingers which he presses to the palms of his hands: on a bench in the park sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger and gazes out at the pond.
Some people think this reads like a cuckoo clock, they are the one’s whose head the cuckoo laid at the very least its egg of insensitivity to the materiality of texts into. [go to
for a more elaborate commentary]
In his prose texts – [some early ones collected in Begrüssung des Ausrichrats, some of these have been translated and are in a variety of collections] he show not only his affinity to but also divergence from the then Austrian avant garde – the Wiener Gruppe, the Stadtpark Forum in Graz, but to their indebtedness to the Russians and French and to Peter Weiss [see Notes], he manifests great virtuoso capacities as in a 25 page retelling of Kafka’s The Trial – the first real instance of activism in prose is the first page of The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick:
“When Josef Bloch, a construction worker who had once been a famous soccer goalie, reported for work that morning, he was told that he was fired. At least that was how he interpreted the fact that no one but the foreman looked up from his coffee break when he appeared at the shack, where the workers happened to be at that moment, and Bloch left the building site. Out on the street he raised his arm, but the car that drove past – even though Bloch hadn’t been hailing a cab – was not a cab. Then he heard the sound of brakes in front of him. Bloch turned around, behind him there was a cab, its driver started swearing. Bloch turned around, got in, and told the driver to take him to the Naschmarkt.”
At which point the reader has been put into the same discombobulated misinterpreting state of mind as poor Bloch. In every other respect but for imprisoning the reader in the protagonist’s state of mind – the grammar of his mind - this could be the opening of a detective story by his favorite “Black Mask” writer Raymond Chandler. Goalie has the semblance of that approach, but uses it to enter a disturbed, ultimately psychopathic mind. Take a look at what Vim Wenders has made of this: it is just a story filmed from the outside; we must infer, perhaps we instantly empathize with the protagonist’s state of mind: we are not put into it. And what a big diff that is! And how it points to the problematic of the need to communicate in a new over-dermined manner. However, Bloch lives in a discrepancy which eventually catches up with him, and off he goes to jail.
Prior to writing Goalie, Handke had read in the area of schizophrenia and even nominated one title for book of the year. The state of mind has the clinical name of a position and stage that Melanie Klein discovered to be fundamental to infants, to human psychological make-up, and which of course has good Darwinian survival function and necessity, the paranoid schizophrenic position or state of mind. You can give it a name or not, but it will exist all the same, and poor Bloch is in it, and he is not a two years old; and there is no mother around to suckle him out of the depressive into the more reparative position either! Handke used to need to write nearly all the time, his oldest friend Kolleritsch was once upset that he flashed pen to paper while they were walking, girlfriends of course could not help noticing, I found this perfectly all right, Yeats’ friends also bore with him when he started composing poems out loud, I recently read in something that Helen Vendler wrote, Handke was always cooking, he even noted in Weight of World [the only diary publication of his to exist in English, matters are far better in the Romance language] that his baby daughter said: “You’re writing again.” Because it appears only with pencil in hand is he calm, [living proof of the conversion theory in reverse as it were, the great and patient Hans Kohut felt that if the infant succeeds while masturbating during the primal scene, that he could overcome the fear of destruction] is he whole in his so productive state.
Handke is of course a truly extraordinary being on this planet, with the eyes of an eagle, the nose of your best hunting dog, and the sensitive skin of a dolphin, but lacking in the modulating function to accommodate that sheer sensory input, and used to be nausea ridden, and is a beauty addict as the children of very beautiful mothers tend to be. However, this love child’s paradise was rudely
interrupted as of age two, for a decade, by being forced to witness violent drunken primal scenes [really read Sorrow Beyond Dreams, like a forensic analyst, don’t just keep saying how you sympathize with the unhappy life of his once enthusiastic mother.] Thus Handke becomes whole in the writing and Del Gredos has some long sections where the Innerworld and the Outerworld coincide. And a lot of other amazing things.
It is of course far more difficult to demonstrate how language entraps you in a novel than it is, say, in a language education play such as the then, late 60s early 70s, contemporaneous Kaspar. In as much as Bloch’s position and anger is also that of the expressive author, the healing, repair or whatever you want to call it, will occur through words, in the writing – how to sell your symptom for your whole life as opposed to needing to pay a shrink - not through the extremely complicated in time transactions within the patient analyst dyad, but in this instance in the writing, in the writing of particular texts, a certain quantity, a durée is required where the inner and outer are healed, and this Handke gradually learns to accomplish in ever grander fashion and does best at great lengths in Del Gredos where the inner and outer join as we find it flowering so richly most times, Del Gredos which is a book of a heroine who knows, most self-consciously, that her experience of leaving her nicely mysterious North Sea port city and environs and getting underway to cross the great central Spanish sierra to meet her narrator in the La Mancha in Southern Spain, is being overtly narrated. She is inside a tale, or inside the experience of being self-conscious. That is, it is an epic, of epic length, a long rope divided into forty chapters, more finely woven than in the No-Man’s-Bay weaving, undulations of numerous themes and internal conversations going on inside her, that form an unpredictable hive in back of it, a mesh a filigree that shows a magnificent mind working in the background [that is the externalizing direction monologue interieur has taken, I would venture, and which is why I suggest just read two three pages a day, at the same pace at which the book is written, otherwise it becomes too taxing, just too rich, and rich in a different way than is his Walk About the Villages dramatic poem, it needs to be gradually absorbed, it communicates in generally unaccustomed ways], or anyway a great seamstress who picks up strands and then can move forward again [it really is something to behold this back ground mesh, as though an entire world of associations were turned outwards, always accessible to the weaver, what a manifestation that is! How it tips forward and back throughout this book, these waves.], something new in Handke’s way of working, which points the way to his next book, which extrapolates this back and forth stitching in simplified down form for his Don Juan tale]; and certainly in long stretches, it is in this manner that the percepts, the descriptions, back ground stories, themes are so wonderfully articulated and the real reader becomes enmeshed in the author’s experience of the Sierra del Gredos, in him, and how he wishes us to experience this.
But Del Gredos is also very much of the filmic now. Our heroine is not only aware that her story is being narrated as she proceeds, but as a once actress in a medieval film – time is telescoped and expanded - she seems never to have recovered from that experience either, she sees, wishes to have herself filmed at all times,
“Love quest!” she had thought, with one eye on the film above her head, the other on the landscape far below, feeling simultaneously stared at from the air, from the film, quietly fixedly, from a distance, unapproachably, from as close as anyone or anything could possibly be… “[p. 63]
“Suddenly she felt as though she and the boy were about to be filmed; as though the camera were diagonally above them, quite close, and the command “Action” or “Movement” or merely a near inaudible “Please!” that could be read from unidentified lips had already been given.” [p.75]
“…And she was utterly amazed; and just this once she wanted to be seen this way on film, in a full screen close-up. The author: “Should this go in the book? May it?’ – She “Yes.”
 “During the drive she toyed with an inexplicable notion, and not for the first time a notion somewhat reminiscent of her sensation in the airplane of being filmed: that the present moment was being narrated at the same time as something long since past or perhaps not long since past but not so of the present moment. And besides it was not she who toyed with the notion that the two of them were traveling – no, not simultaneously but rather exclusively, in a narrative: the notion acted itself out for her, without any involvement on her part. And since she had been on the lookout for signs from the time she sat out, she took this, too, as a sign. And to see and feel herself being narrated was something she considered a good sign. It gave her a sense of security. In the notion of being narrated she felt protected along with her passenger.” [p. 8
“If this were a film, her daughter would have got hooked on drugs, and she, the mother, would have been jealous of her youth. But this was no film plot.” [p. 177]
“For the most part, however, she was performing in this film alone.”
She is always performing – how perfect for an author such as Peter Handke who not only has made two lyric films of his own [Lefthanded Woman + The Absence] but who is one of the great honest to goodness performers on the page and who loves being photographed; at least I know of no other author, no author I know of has ever had himself photographed so much, also posing [something at which he looks to be awful, the self-consciousness shows in the body language]. However, this extreme form of self-consciousness in all these matters and the great wish not to be, points to Handke’s wound, out of which he writes; and which establishes his deep affinity to Kafka. 
This seems to be the “Felsfenster” [the window in the rock]…
The introduction of the filmic element into narrative prose may be the greatest among the numerous innovations and renovations that Handke has introduced, also from other sources, over the years, for the sake of impact, to make contact with his readers, for the sake of prose text to be communicative. How future prose writers will avail themselves is, as they say, anybody’s guess.
The subtle or whatever shifts between narrator and subject in Del Gredos – with sudden revenants, film-like intercutting, going into powerful longing dream section fulfillments - is the entire trip being filmed, the bankiéress once acted in a medieval film, she feels she is always being filmed, in the last chapters Handke reuses the subjunctive mode from his first novel to vary the filmic dimension by raising it as a possibility, thus actually augmenting that quality –
The emperador or the actor playing the emperador in a historical film being shot just then in the Sierra, or whatever he was, had taken his place at the head of the table as one of the dinner guests.” [244]
Charles V’s procession re-enactment introduces history as a fairy tale component – indeed he must have been carried along a similar route - and I as reader have the eerie sense that I am also experiencing long sections of the book as a film – which aberration of course makes me question the text, my way of reading - but not as overtly as I did on reading the fable Absence [1988] that Handke mentions in his Greiner interview as being his retelling of the Parsifal saga [news to me it was who is especially fond of this title for being free of crazy Keuschnig Loser irruptions and symptoms] where the loudest tank I have ever heard [and I saw my first tank implode at me through a huge disintegrating barn at age 6, in a propaganda film after seeing them being transported on flatbeds on trains] explodes out of the text into my peaceful reading, it is just text, suddenly appears out of the nowhere to shock me the reader out of my reading induced trance [a filmic quality aside some muttering about matters being dramatic that not a single American reviewer seemed to become aware of, though they did when Paul Auster did something similar a few year back] all of which – and what an all it is! – transforms the experience of reading long stretches of Del Gredos into magical linguistic prose when Handke is on his game and he does bring this reader close to a sense of being at least in a text, preferable to the world I read around me [as I said the famous split between inside and outside is healed, from say Chapter 4 to 10 – not at all moments, still - and also in some other stretches toward the end]… except that he is not always in Del Gredos… an epic that requires a marathoner’s breath, some stretches, I will detail them anon [quite aside the three major topes], the marathoner is running on automatic, the writing becomes a routine, it lacks the passion that you [anyway I, the Handke addict] expect from every Handke sentence and formulation, that extra twist that each of his sentences has, that fillip, that surfeit, that surplus; and he is just a pro [though he claims to Greiner, who does not dispute him, that he is never a “Profi”, as he who had to make a living at this trade has been, too, since quite early on.] See anon discussion of the “Polvedera” interlude where the writing, if you read in sequence suddenly looks thin, Handke writing out of “sheer” unexperienced imagination?
I have discussed the grammatical legerdemain of which Handke avails himself, and how he objectifies his own near suicidal state in A Moment of True Feeling, how a very similar personae, the Loser in Across, however, is as it were just a new edition of Keuschnig of A.M.O.T.F., albeit one who is a better and more concretely anchored as a writer, it does not require the unhappy murderous Loser to make these descriptions that hark back to Stifter, that are an updating, does it? And before quoting Edmond Campbell’s accurate and interesting observations about what Handke does in One Dark Night I want to point to another technique Handke uses, periodically, and massively in Del Gredos, to induce a states of extreme skepticism into the text: [p.163]
“And the lone pedestrian now, who surprisingly looks unlike the others, otherwise so similar to one another, and in general stands out, more staggering than walking, not because he is drunk, but rather out of seemingly terminal despair, his eyes crisscrossed by it as if by ceaselessly scratching and scraping razor blades, in his hand on other side two knives at the ready, no, not yet at the ready, not yet snapped open, and why not? why not yet? when will he brandish them? what is holding him back?, and how does he even manage to place one foot in front of the other, to hold himself halfway upright, to avoid collisions?: extraordinary that he can make his way…”
Edmond Campbell made a first rate observation about Handke’s prose maneuvers in One Dark Night I Left my Silent House on which I will elaborate in more general fashion at the end of this section, something that Campbell terms “the Handke effect” using a quote from One Dark Night I Left my Silent House to illustrate what he meant.
Campbell writes: “ I’ve been spending some time trying to figure out what makes reading Peter Handke’s fiction such an unsettling literary experience, and I think I’ve isolated one of the formal techniques he uses to achieve his peculiar ambience. I haven’t given the secondary literature on Handke more than a passing glance, so forgive me (and maybe even gently inform me) if I’m retailing what turn out to be critical commonplaces about his work. First, an example, from Handke’s 1997 novel, On A Dark Night I Left My Silent House. I’ve chosen this one because the effect is fairly obvious here. The protagonist, a pharmacist from a Salzburg suburb whose wife has left him, has gone for an evening drive and now sits on a stump in a roadside clearing near his car. The novel is narrated in the third person, and seemingly a very “close” third, sliding at times into second person, as here:
Crouching down to see what was happening from close up; and besides, crouching you were closest to yourself. Yet the field of vision remained as broad as possible: the parked car, in which, with the increasing dusk all around, a curious brightness seemed to have been trapped, the seats very obviously empty, and as if there were more of them than usual, whole rows of them; beyond it the airfield with the last plane rising into the air, at one window that passenger who thought he could rub off the haze on the outside on the inside; to the right, on the highway, an almost endless convoy of trucks, white on white, United Nations troops deployed against a new war, or rather returning from there (a few trucks were also being towed, half burned out); to the left, the training place for police dogs, at the edge of the forest, where one of the dogs seemed to have just got caught in a culvert and was howling piteously, while another, growling almost as piercingly, kept leaping at a man hidden behind a wall, burying its teeth in the ball of cloth in which the ‘fleeing criminal’ had wrapped his lower arm, then refusing to let go and hanging on stubbornly as the man ran in a circle with him, swinging the animal through the air.”
Even though the passage seems to be focalized through the protagonist’s perspective, it defies basic physics for many or even most of the specific details to be available to his point of view. Most obviously, of course, the pharmacist wouldn’t be able to see the airplane passenger futilely wiping his window (and still less would he see the haze), but there are other distortions as well. The crouching position described in the first line (after which no change in posture is given to us) makes it highly problematic that the protagonist could take in the convoy of UN trucks on the one hand and the policeman training his dog on the other, especially considering that the convoy is described as “almost endless” (i.e., seen disappearing into the horizon) and the dog trainer is at first “hidden” behind a wall. Such a vista might be available to the pharmacist were he crouched on top of a hill, but he’s not. In the Newtonian physics of conventional realism, what you see from a crouch is your shoelaces, yet we are assured that “the field of vision remained as broad as possible” (but not “his field of vision” or “the field of his vision”). Could it be that when the pharmacist crouches to draw “closest to himself,” some other physics takes over, a kind of Handkean quantum mechanics? It’s a strange new self-communion that has the result of seeming to evaporate its subjectivity into the evening air. Even the switch to second person contributes to this evaporation, paradoxically suggesting at once a greater intimacy than the third-person – as if the pharmacist were now recounting his own impressions to himself – and a greater distance, in that the invitation to the reader to closer identification with the protagonist simultaneously dissolves his specificity as a particular, situation-bound pharmacist from a Salzburg suburb. This move ‘closer to oneself’ is therefore ambiguous, and could include a swerve away from oneself or the discovery – even the in-habitation, so to speak – of the realization that one might not be one at all. There are other things of note in the passage – the suggestive locution “on the outside on the inside”; the “white on white” of the trucks; the lurking savagery in the possible faraway war (Serbia?) and the police dogs in the middle distance – but the main effect, and what I’m calling (just for fun) the Handke-Effekt, is this destabilizing of conventional novelistic focalization, at least in its “close” variants (third-person limited, first person, and second person, leaving out for the moment third-person omniscient). Like Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt or ‘alienation effect’, it’s a species of defamiliarization, but what it defamiliarizes most of all is the depiction of consciousness in traditional realism. Conventional focalization overlaps with the sensorium of the character, so that the reader sees what the character can plausibly see, hears what the character plausibly hears, etc.; Handke subtly violates this. Think of a sort of bathyspheric bubble around the character’s head, start moving the bubble to the left or right, or up and down, outside the range of physical plausibility, and there’s your Handke-Effekt.
All I can do is report my experience, right? The only tangibly real are the ink of the letters on real paper or on a screen [a huge difference there because screens instantly hook into unconscious fantasies and processes] being read by real though aging eyes and processed by a brain and its various functions that has been reading nearly 70 years – I did start young with a magic tablet when you rubbed it letters rose from it, now I read much of the time on a different magic breast! And what would Hans Georg Gadamer say to that?
I have alluded to the ways in which Handke manages to alter states of consciousness in some of his plays. In My Foot My Tutor [a ritualized master-slave relationship in a bucolic setting, a kind of out-take, simplification of Brecht’s Puntilla and his Servant Matti] we only hear sounds, that can be interpreted as being quite sinister; moreover, time is slowed down in extremis; Public Insult makes its audience self-conscious and not only about attending plays; in Ride Across Lake Constance the systematic linguistic procedures and the consistently odd behavior of its actors breaks down the audiences concepts of ordinary experience and they either revolt at being so disabused of their customs [as did the first subscription audiences at Lincoln Center 30 some years ago] or they are delighted at seeing the world with fresh eyes [see Notes]. In all this Handke succeeds most successfully in The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, wordless like Tutor, its succession of images, also of a fabulous kind, entrance, do not just discombobulate, and there Handke avails himself of the a quality that continues to exist, a soupçon from its origins in hypnosis, in the psychoanalytic situation.  It is a paradisiacal state, and I recall dipping into it at least for a stretch or so every nite that Ride played in New York and Hour did in Seattle.
These procedures - so much more difficult to pull of in a lyrical epic, which is what Handke has been writing for quite some years now – also point to his activism as a didactician, where when he starts to editorialize, as he does at moments in Walk About the Villages or address the world at large [Villages contains countervailing points of view] Handke has less of a chance than most other preachers. No wonder, thus, the occasional note of deep pathos, at what his poetic enterprise achieves.
Long stretches of Del Gredos make me hot. And by chapter 31 [3/4 of the way through the book] the epic tone – that assuredly is one thing he meant by his reply to Greiner - that this was his one great lyric epic - and reach and lens becomes quite grand and magnificent, and just in time, considering what a bit of a slog it has been for this reader his third time around the three different lessening more or less well integrated dystopia recits that Handke has his heroine visit and observe and explore, also for the sake of some editorializing. I read the book twice in German several year ago and decided to keep off commenting on it until it was published in American, and enjoyed am enjoying Krishna Winston’s translation more than the original, a first; is there a way of paying a higher compliment from translator to translator??? One lucky s.o.b. Mr. Handke!
F: Handke Assessed within his own Terms.  = 
At the inception of college freshmen year, the summer before, I had come on the work of William Faulkner and, having become obsessed, then managed to arrange each and every elective around Faulkner. During the course of that obsession – Sophomore year I metamorphosed into Kafka , Junior year was Brecht and Lukacs, Senior year Pound and Joyce – Musil in grad schooo - I also read every review that Faulkner had received before he won the Nobel prize, and being this inveterate incurable optimist as which I slipped out of my optimistic mother’s womb that I continue to be, did not think I would ever encounter a similar outrage of stupidity for the rest of my ephemeral existence. Even though I was instrumental in persuading Farrar, Straus to take on Handke in the late Sixties and translated all the early plays up to Walk About the Villages, and directed some of the early plays when nobody else seemed interested, and two books of poetry, Innerworld  and Nonsense & Happiness, and one novel, Goalies Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, I did not become a Handke obsessive until or with the translation of Walk About the Villages. This work was completed during a critically open and emotional part of a psycho-analysis, and the translation work, shouting the text out over and over, proved useful for the work. I wrote at some length about that experience in the Postscript to the Ariadne Press edition of Walk About the Villages. Even so, it was one or two moments, where the protagonist of Handke’s Across [Chinese des Schmerzens/ The Chinese of Pain as it ought to have been called instead of emphasizing the protagonist’s throwing an old Nazi overboard as it were] says “no” where he ought so evidently have said “yes” that alerted me to the “case” that Handke is. And as the say, the rest is history, at least part of my history as a Handke sleuth these past 20 years most of whose work has been one of the few joys in this paltry dreadful time; someone whose work by and large, there are exceptions, elicited love in me, which the early work certainly had not. As the bastard child Handke produced book after book and controversy after controversy these past twenty years, I nonetheless, aside moments of fury, had a kind of motherly protective love elicited in me. That was a first, and not necessarily a feeling that improves one’s judgment, as that deepens too in the course of time, so one hopes. And part of that history is the discovery of the mind-numbingly stupid reviews Handke has received not just in this country but also in his own language community. The only conclusion that this leads to is: trust only the few reliable reviewers if you must – e.g. the daily reviewers of the New York Times have given Handke a wide berth all these years - remember that reviewers first job is to get their review past a censor who doesn’t know the book they wrote about; that they themselves are usually thwarted writers; that they are not paid sufficiently well; that once they have positions of power they become like everyone else who has power. I.e. Go to book stores, browse. Make up your own mind.
Thus I could not but help notice, over time, Handke asking to be assessed within the parameters, terms of his own work and, judging by the frequent misunderstandings, aside willful viciousness, that has met his work over the years from a rabble that would be instantly disbarred if they pretended to be lawyers; that is, the most amateurish expression, a guttural “ah” is preferable to their impressionist nonsense, their conceptual gobbledygook, let me do such rough assessing for once, in Handke’s own terms as much as I can discern them, and the conclusion I come to on the work in focus here, Del Gredos, surprises even me.
Since I am still having difficulties responding, understanding his first novel, Die Hornissen – I might be too stupid to keep its various levels of what is what in mind at one and the same time, no matter how much I appreciate the subjunctive as if state that the text puts me in, let me say that his second novel [see Notes] Der Hausierer, was instantly transparent to my understanding and I find it quite perfect within its very open aesthetic and human conception; I am quite capable of responding to the very short sentences in which the phenomenological percepts are cast in the main text, they sink into the mind pool of words and elicit, chiefly fear! If you seek other terms by which to judge it, you would have to say, as you would about Hornissen, that its wide openness is too responsive to too many interpretation, but that is the nature of a projection screen mirror which makes you aware of what the work elicits in you, the test of such a mechanism is the degree to which it works, which means I suppose that I need to install some version of an ideal or average reader here?
The subsequent novel, Goalie, although it derives directly and logically from the psychological preoccupations of Hausierer, the one true meta-fictional book that Handke has written, however is by no means as open or as pure: starting as a reader’s involvement in the grammar of the protagonist’s mind, it is severely limited and focused, not only that: it uses a variety of other means, a return to the strictly phenomenological, but also Handke’s first use of expressionistic descriptions, so that at least technically it is a kind of mess, and its arbitrariness does not stand it in good stead: Handke swallowed the bitter pill of the laziness of his audience and proceeded to introduce at least semblance of plot and story, and that helped a lot in making him a success as a prose writer. Goalie is of course more directly active, it appears to have a “story” that you can follow, not just a movement or state of mind that you attempt to fathom as it exerts itself on you; Goalie succeeded in finding a response with a wide audience whereas the first two texts remain favorites of purists such as I, pure responders. For Josef Winkler Hornissen was one of the early texts that convinced him to be a writer, that spoke to him, as did Peter Weiss’ Shadow of the Body of a Coachman + The Conversation of the Three Who Are Walking, in which latter case I follow him, as did Susan Sontag whose The Way We Live Now leans heavily on Weiss formalist procedures. Weiss’s Leave-taking from My Parents: Weiss is the post WW II writer I feel the greatest affinity, closest to.
Goalie was Handke’s first prose success, he was already famous as a playwright, which had not been in his plans at all initially.
Most judgments of course are extrinsic to texts. Degustibus disputandum est, Adorno wrote famously. I find the early plays – from Prophecy via Public Insult, Self-Accusation, and Kaspar to Lake Constance – entirely successful within their own terms, formally and in being capable of fulfilling their intentions, mysterious as these continue to be to most American theater goers accustomed as they have naively become ever more, to versions of the naturalistic. The concepts behind each of these works is wide open as only a genius can and need be. Living among the conceptualists downtown NY for some years I then came to see how few of them were serious.
You might, say, find Prophecy boring in hammering in, belaboring to the point of pain, demonstrating what Susan Sontag later did in her essay on Illness as Metaphor, or My Foot my Tutor’s formalism boring, however both texts achieve what they set out to do.
Short Letter already tends much more in the direction of accustomed narrative than did Goalie in its narration of an invented kind of U.S. It uses a kind of film cutting. John Rockwell, in his review in the NY Times found the book extremely cold, and I still have that puppy for him to take to bed; an extrinsic judgment. Handke himself keeps complaining, recently, about its stupid opening sentence! The only time that it is, but to no ill effect. Sorrow Beyond Dreams is scarcely perfect… and Handke himself expressed dissatisfaction with it and not only in the last sentence “I will get back to all this once more later” and he continues to be his own harshest critic one of many reasons that he continued to write at such a clip no matter how pleased he can be at how well done some of his things are: “Hm, I did that pretty well,” you/ he says as he looks at the work in the bookstore. Hey, I wrote that! Surpris surpris! Sort of half estranged from your own product. As he then returned to the themes of S.B.D.  in The Repetition [not that any of the supposed fans of S.B.D. actually have noticed this in all these years] He is rightly unhappy with his arrogance in S.B.D. toward his real father, a Herr Schönherr, a married bank employee from the Harz who was stationed in Austria as the Germany army company treasurer at the time of the great author’s conception… and in exaggerated fashion once said, what did I really know about her, “moi mére c’est moi”, but S.B.D., imperfect as it is in so many ways, hit the spot, I think for its very inarticulateness [and that inarticulateness points here and in many instances to the deep inarticulatable sense that the mass of humanity has how in some sense, existence and its travails cannot be really put into words, and so they grant a grunt of recognition to its half-articulate expression, and some monsters such as Franz Xaver Kroetz then make a living off that inarticulateness: it connected emotionally, something that Del Gredos, the bankiéress evidently does not, a bit too much of an ice queen, too regal, no matter how evident her near desperate need of love is; and connected emotionally as a few of Handke’s subsequent works, formally so far better, have even come close to doing, A Moment of True Feeling, The Left-Handed woman; The Afternoon of a Writer. How many people are touched by the deep pathos that informs the Alaska book, A Slow Homecoming? which touches me, though it is a kind of fragment, most deeply of all his prose works [see Notes].
Moment of True Feeling [1974] is actually considerably more radical than Short Letter… because Handke has found stylistic means by which to convey “states of mind” within narrative that is the crux of the matter and it is latent from early on: it’s just me in my confused anxious or whatever murderous state of mind. How to convey that and get paid for doing so! I mean: what if he actually had followed his suicidal impulses of those days, he’d said that that thought had pursued him from early on: and then he gradually becomes this affirmative wonder! Well yes, love burst forth, but not in an effusion, but concretely anchored in specifics, in images, the first obligation of a real writer.
I have already mentioned the puzzlement that A.M.O.T.F left despite the state of mind that it induces: and to criticize the book for being unnecessarily enigmatic might be more than merely an extrinsic judgment. Formally, it slacks off toward the end, too. A Child’s Story I find sufficiently perfect, though again a reader might ask: well, where’s the mother? what happened? The same critique certainly applies and far more justly to A.M.O.T.F and the 1984 Across especially now that we know what really went down back in the early 70s and in the 80s in Salzburg [“It takes two to Tango” says the song that sings at you as you cross the bridge from Ciudad Juarez to El Paseo], and also about Afternoon and One Dark Night, mystifications instead of true mysteries do not a wedding cake make even though they invariably supply pleasures over and above your puzzlements. The 1973 play They Are Dying Out, despite its many great delights, could be said to be intrinsically unsuccessful in taking that turn toward a hero who beats everyone and then can only commit suicide by knocking his head against the rock of ages. Here and there are moments and notions in Nomansbay that do not come off, such as the two Germanies being at war with each other [Handke seems to have seized on some ideas from someone he hates for being such a much cleverer, astute essayist, the HMSS Enzensberger’s “Civil Wars”!]; the bad joke that Handke makes about his own distraughtness when he wrote A Slow Homecoming in the Hotel Adams. It offends me, he does something similar, I gather, in Moravian Nights with Filip Kobal, the protagonist, showing up as a failed screenwriter to participate in those Boccaccian tales: some of Handke’s self-deprecating in-jokes do not come off, and it appears he lacks a good experienced editor to tell him so. Handke once said that except for his first book, Die Hornissen, he just gives the m.s. to his publishers and the print it! Now, I gather he rewrites in galleys: ah how valuable these Proustian articles will be once they are sold! Thus arrogance, unnecessary arrogance, a surfeit thereof, will claim its toll.
To get back to Noman’s-Bay: In all other respects except the very minor ones just mentioned, it is as truly successful self-display of an artist’s existence and exploration of his surround and his various sides, possibly the greatest that has ever been written; yes, the fights with the woman that he met on the bridge across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez to El Paseo, which, as compared to me, Handke only knows from the film A Touch of Evil. Actually, its allusiveness works wonderfully poetically fine for me in this instance, who once had his hat stolen by Mexican street urchins as M. and I were walking back to Gringolandia.
The hat, Mexican Juarez colors in the background. [1985]
The play Zurüstungen zur Unsterblichkeit [not in English yet, Preparations for Immortality], Handke’s Grillparzer play, starts off with a kind of Fifth Avenue bang, but for reasons I do not fathom, its formalism runs dry at moments, needs to be faked, it may be the interference that the problematic Nova figure from Walk About the Villages runs for Handke there [she of the final monologue that left me as a translator yapping for air at its Hölderlin heights]. One Dark Night has those two superfluous recits, one on “the modern woman,” the other on “narcissism”, where Handke does not get one iota beyond Freud’s formulation that if no one else loves you at least you can love yourself, not exactly “state of art” as Teddy would say; but I suppose if you live long enough in France you start putting recits into your novels. Dark Night is sufficiently splendid that these recits are like horseflies that you shoe off the splendid pelt and its marvelous observation of animals crowded onto the triangular grassy spaces left by highway clover leafs.
I have discussed the four Assayings [on Tiredness, the Jukebox, the Day that Went Well, and Don Juan, in the “Background” section and have nothing to add to that here. The fable Absence I find completely realized within Handke’s terms. Ditto for his most serious effort, The Repetition. I don’t propose to quibble. Handke expresses such happiness when he encounters some real understanding in a review. He himself provides this frequently of other writers, most famously I suppose of the work of Hermann Lens. He has also expressed over the years the frequent wish for another lightning strike as occurred during the writing of A.M.O.T.F. All I can suggest is a good analyst, there are many in Paris, but self-understanding, which is all you get, is a gradual process.
There are a few mystifications in Afternoon of a Writer that cry out for explanations, but if Handke provided them it would become a far more complex work, wouldn’t it? I find The Play about the Film about the War [1999] great indeed , though a playing version in English would need to pare down a text that is written to be read, Handke’s realistic pessimism about frequent performance of these great texts seems borne out, thus his publishing them as what is called “Lese Dramen” in German.
Considering the sheer volume of work that this writing machine has produced in 40+ years, there is amazingly little real shit. I recall objecting violently to an essay that longed for Julian Schnabel! I don’t think Handke needed to “stay” that badly “in the picture” as to write  Untertagsblues [Subday Blues it might be called in English, or “road rage blues” see http://www.handkedra,
for a three thousand word piece of mine on it], peddling his misanthropic side it looks like to me, and not done with the conceptual succinctness of the early plays, as which it might have worked less monotonously.
With Del Gredos Handke might just have bitten off a bit more than he could handle, though I couldn’t be happier that he tried. Chapter III contains perhaps the best 5 thousand words I have read in near 70 years of reading [I escaped into that world – and as a part wild child into the woods - very young], a set piece of the devastation wrought by a hurricane near Handke’s abode in the Forêt de Chaville, which I find does not belong here, for it sets too high a standard for what follows. I would have to say that these five thousand words – the description of the after effects of the Tormento Tropical that hit northern France around the year 2000 – I had expected that he would memorialize that event at some point I even sent him a shoebox full of Northwest cones to further exoticize his French forest than it is comes to us in No-Man’s-Bay - sets an impossibly high standard if he is to maintain them for another thirty seven chapters! And I am amazed that supposed teachers of realism, I would call it “one of the realistic conventions” in prose [there are many as many kinds of realism as… ] , such as the tenured Neil Gordon of the New School and Literary Editor of the Boston Review fail to heed the sheer “realism” of this section and of the long stretches of frequently descriptions of nature throughout the book as the author takes the reader across the Sierra Del Gredos. I would ask Gordon to return his money, for his review, on line at the New Times
 site, has nothing to do with a book he did not even read; and he ought to be fired from the New School and give up his editorship. The man cannot read much less write. It’s hard to believe that Frank Conroy, my oldest friend for many of my younger years, saw anything in the guy when he told him at Iowa to go East. Perhaps the editor of the NY Times Book Review put him up to do a vengeance piece, however directly or indirectly. It happens and there are stiletto wielders galore. And that of course would make Gordon even more or a scumbag than he already is. Ditto for that fraud of a lawyer Michael McDonald at the Weekly Standard 01/14/2008, Volume 013, Issue 17.  It’s wonderful to behold that the chief organ that supports the unitary presidency and its pre-emptive wars then becomes a real sob sister in the matter of human rights! I don’t think Goebbels + Co. had as much fun as Karl
Del Gredos had a most perceptive review by Guy Vanderhaeghe in the Washington Post [Sunday, July 29, 2007; Page BW04]
on the basis of which I resolved to read this Canadian novelist’s novels; and a good enough review in the L.A. Times,0,2189379.story?coll=la-books-headlines
Someone didn’t spend sufficient time with the book at ART FORUM
[for comment on some others see Handke reception in the Notes.]
I would say that that section in Chapter 3 that details the after effect of the hurricano belongs into a kind of second edition of No-Mans-Bay which might also include an additional chapter Handke has already written, the fairy tale about going mushroom picking with his second daughter, Lucie in dem Wald mit den Dingsbums [Lucie in the Woods with the Thingamajigs], which for some reason is not in English where it would sell like hotcakes the way it has in German - don’t think Handke cannot be cute!] a lovely affectionate tale by a father who is making up to his second child what normalcy he failed to allow his first. If Freud could keep adding to The Interpretation of Dreams through I think eleven editions, Handke has the perfect vehicle for that in No-Man’s-Bay. The tormento tropical section sets an unmaintanable standard here. Some mountain climbing sections come close. So do the last five chapters. Materialistic innovation such as the skepticising sections that I mentioned, dream and film writing, the confusions between the fabulous and the strictly realistic, which falls into what a great interviewer, Herbert Ganscher  discussed with Handke about his naturalistic use [I would say materialistic – the trafficking in avant garde matters as a young writer does have its uses] are indeed spectacular achievements. Behind the linguistic/ pictorial problematic lurks the return to the ideogram. The return to the Mayas in the form of mass sacrifices.
I recall Handke writing me in New York in the mid to late 70s that he “was now able to do anything he wanted as a writer” – and since I had translated and directed some of the early plays I more than noted this as I was mindful of what sustenatu performances my genius from Griffen was capable of, but scarcely imagined, even had I had the time, what would follow: A Slow Homecoming, A Child’s Story, Walk About the Villages and The Repetition which proved to me what he meant, of which I had not the faintest really, but it was a statement that sticks, and so I didn’t inquire specifically what he might have in mind, but my hunch that he meant his ability as a writer proved correct. I didn’t really know how to describe, then, what occurred to a reader at the opening page of Goalie, how you, your mind, your being is captured grammatically by those few sentences; what the significance of all this innerworld outerworld business how deep it went even though I had translated the poems and knew that they evoked inner states via outer events; how Handke induces states of mind; a very different way of proceeding from any writer before; or could have imagined the road he would take or that his work could, after the early favorable reception, also based on a misunderstanding, then encounter such resistance and incomprehension among so many; but my stupid preternatural optimism keeps getting dumbfounded. As I noted at Lothar Struck’s blog:
the directors who did the early plays and claim to love “oh I love Handke” and I know the lot, the sorry lot, especially here in Seattle, Kurt Beatty, Burke Walker, Steve Pearson now in South Carolina , Richard E. T. White at Cornish all of whom were involved in early Handke work, Beatty, a truly dreadful director, actually played Kaspar, deserve the accolade Kanaille once you get to know them closely.
So let me assess Del Gredos within the various parameters that Handke himself has stated and those I/ you find to be intrinsic to its composition.
1] Del Gredos is meant to be a book in some ways like Stifter’s Witikow, and also analogous to Cervantes’s Don Quixote. O.K. as to length and ambition I suppose, also as an epic; although the analogies are fairly extraneous. Handke has never lived on or off literary referentiality, no matter how deeply influence manifests itself, say, in Walk About the Villages, however not in mere referentiality but as revivification through new usage or context. So in fact you do not need to be some huge literary scholar with elephant’s memory to get it or be affected, say, by “children run under the wind.”
3] As a major character, the many sided bankiéress Ablaha certainly qualifies. Does she have a Sancho Panza or a donkey with her? No, nor any friends, not exactly, I would at least take Durango along.
 However since the drama is an internal one, she does have a couple of significant others that play intra-psychic role to whom she is attached, two kids, and a brother, but no friends as such. The way that she and the narrator, her twin, consummate their love at the end leads me to believe that Herr Handke chiefly loves himself and his ability as a narrator; I’ve run into this before, as in the last 100 pages of what is otherwise, save for the figure of Katherine, a truly dreadfully stuffed goose of a book, Frank Conroy’s Body and Soul about whom Wilfred Sheed once observed that Frank chiefly loved himself.
3] It is not meant to be realism, but realism rewritten, activated, fabulated, made fabulous, and not just that: it, its nature descriptions are meant to exteriorize a heroine’s interiority. Since Handke does not invent other or imagined characters’ interiority, as Joyce – and others - can be said to have done in Ulysses and also in Finnegan via invention of a whole new night language that indeed harked back to some kind of Irish inflected Indo-European everyman and woman’s dream night lingo, we can safely [?] assume [nothing can be safely assumed?] that as Handke has done so far his entire life as an author he will infuse his vehicle, the bankiéress Ablaha, with manifestations of his very own unique conscious and preconscious and unconscious via observations of the outside, as he writes. There’s a rough plan and then off we are on a year’s writing adventure, we have a few off days here and there, and they show, but overall the vehicle delivers the goods of memorializing the Sierra Del Gredos.
There are those for me problem topes La Zona/ Nuevo Bazaar, Pedrada and Hondareda. Description of the first, of La Zona is entrusted, ex post factum as it were, to a historian; the last of the three is chronicled by a reporter/ observer in a Swiftean self-negating fashion which is quite funnee, about the only humor I find in the book.
3] I have mentioned the way the narrative rope is handled, have given far too short shrift to the three dystopias, that present a problem for me, and find the opening two and a half chapters perfect in their way, I expect that is something of the way that Mr. Handke departs his abode in the bight, in the nicely nameless North Sea Port, and the way it is sketched, delineated, also some of its odd details, stay in your mind a long time. I have mentioned how the book works through what might be called a constant inter-stitching that goes on in an externalized background, Handke’s great mind. I have noted my dissatisfaction with the transition, also on a technical level, from chapters 10 and 11 to the Nuevo Bazaar section [see Notes] and my feeling that the Polvedera section is flat, unexperienced, otherwise Handke would mention the invariable dust motes that you and your lungs and every electronic instrument carry with them near forever after being exposed to such a pulvo area. Overall, the movement from beginning to the foothills [excepting Nuevo Bazaar] is splendid if you read at the careful pace of three pages a day. I will return to many a section of the book many times in my remaining days, but I doubt that I will read it once more I its entirety for a fourth time. I read No-Man’s-Bay five times, all in one location, a Hmong 24/ donut shop on 45th Street NE near Roosevelt Blvd in Seattle that seemed to be the right place, what with Smerdyakov and various other derelicts for company, and at a faster clip. And I was besotted in my element. I think the reason that one needs to read Del Gredos so slowly has to do with Handke’s having, for stretches, become even better and deeper.
= G: Loss of Image: Head-On! =
Del Gredos, for short - the l o n g would include the unfortunately untranslatable Bild Verlust [Image Loss? Loss of Being, or sense of, would do the trick in some sense; disillusionment?] - which “having” of an image, “having inside the self”, a natural reference point, a touchstone, for its bankiéress protagonist and refinding and losing and refinding is the interior drama that parallels drenches a very long trippy text to, and a reference point for, the inhabitants of the three dystopias, through, and beyond the spectacularly, with spectacular specificity so richly and often lovingly described Del Gredos Montañas, here a list of most of the ways in which Handke defines their importance, and it is amazing that not a single reviewer whom I have read, aside Klaus Amman, has commented on this drenching theme:
„What effect did the images have? They ennobled the day for her. They ratified the present for her. She lived off them, which also meant that she used them and made good use of them. She even employed them for her work; her ventures; her deals. I she had an almost magical [“legendary,” as the articles put it] ability to focus on the matter at hand, to display “supernatural presence of mind at decisive moments,” not only having all the facts and figures in her head but also dazzling her partner or counterpart in negotiation by serving them up a “a numerical witches’ brew,” she owed this talent to something she had not yet revealed to any interviewer – and what words would she have chosen? – namely, to the intervention of these images of hers in the workday.”[p.12]
“A single image, mobilizing itself and her, was all she needed, and the day would acquire a peaceful aura. And they had penetrated her since childhood, some days fewer of them, some day whole swarms of shooting stars…” [p.13
“Everywhere under the sun the images were dying out….
“…the author she finally commissioned to write the story, who suspected, or “had the inspiration,” that her “quest” expressed a “terrible guilt” – he unintentionally turned the tables on her this way during their first conversation. “And you expect to achieve some sort of expiation as a result of expressing these matters?” No reply. [p.14]
“…Poof! the diminutive library along the city wall of Avila, with a view from its windows of the foothills of the Sierra del Gredos, and the woman became untouchable to her attacker.” [p. 14-15]
“…the stories linking her with various animals also had something to do with receptivity to images. The most timid animals were precisely the one that recognized [yes, “recognized”] when someone was “in the picture,” got the picture, registered the image. With such a person they forget their timidity, and not only that. They pulled the person into their own existence…[p. 19]”.
“Without warning, the image of a deserted beer garden, shaded by chestnut trees, in the hills above Trieste on a midsummer morning came to her, and she spread her arms.” [p.30]
“She kept silent. Only her eyes gleamed, thanks to the persisting image which it was up to her to intensify…”[ditto]
“She regretted that, it made her uneasy. For the images she had previously received from the word were all linked, as if obedient to a law, with places where, when she had actually been there, she had experienced unity or harmony – of which she had not been aware at the moment – that, too, such a law? Even if these areas were beautiful:”, “lovely”, or even “picturesque” [that in it self already constituting a sort of image of an area], that did not contribute to their subsequent image-worthiness; rather, they had to have left an imprint on you, without your knowledge, from which later a world at peace, an entire world in a still possible peace or perhaps precisely that “enclosure of a grander time”, will have taken shape, unexpected and hoped for.
    In the meantime now, the images, specifically those morning fresh ones, were increasingly limited to an area, which, every time she was there, had shown her a peaceful face for only brief moments, but more usually a hostile, menacing one, yes, more than once a cannibalistic face, the face of death.”
    “With that the woman had finished serving him. From now on he must make his way alone, then at least without her. With the help of her images she had given him a push, and that must be sufficient. But why does he look at her in the hostel courtyard as if he still lacked something?”
    “She put her finger to her forehead, which meant: to be mindful. The image of a brook, the glittering water oppressive?”
“After the arrival of that word image – “It flew to me, came sailing to me” – she had driven on at a steady speed.”
    “At any rate, each image among the thousands was under control of its receiver, even if it had flashed by in the twinkling of an eye, as if the receiver were also a transmitter. What remained of the image was the imprint, which, before it faded, sooner or later, and in some cases not at all [in this case comparable to an unusual dream], could “bear fruit”, and this without exception [whereas with dreams this was the exception]. And one could decide which of these images would bear fruit – as the selection and utilization of those just described rested on the intensely personal choice made by the one “image person” in question.”
    “”Those images, she dictated, for the moment more “banquière” than “avuntière”, to the author, “are a form of capital. Capital without any exchange value whose owner one only remains only if one chooses to use it to the utmost… “
“And she gazed along the line of her shoulder which swiveled gently as she did so toward the far-off horizon, now at her back, and fell into a silence that lasted for some time and became more profound with every breath, eventually giving way to something like a pulsing, and gradually drawing in the author.”
…with the omni-present images of shopping, organized events, happenings, and other stimuli in the foreground [and in Nuevo Bazaar these foregrounds predominated], prevented even one of those images from poking her, images that, according to her conviction, represented and refreshed the world for her and for everyone, and were the main point of her book.”
“Yes, in contrast to my terrors and bad situations, the images become present to me playfully; the image itself is a game in which an entirely different present is in effect than my personal one. The images play out in an impersonal present, which is more, far more, than mine and yours; they take place in the grander time, and in a single tense, for which when I consider them, the images, the term ‘present’ is not really appropriate – no, the images do not take place either in a grander or a grand time, but in a time and in a tense for which no adjective, let alone a name, exists.
[This more than echoes a passage from Walk About the Villages. m.r.]
“The image sparks, the will-o’-the wisps – within us – no, these are no will-o’-the wisps – continue to occur, flashing and flaring into our midst, “Except that they no longer have any effect. Or no: they could perhaps continue to have an effect. But I am no longer capable of taking them in and letting them affect me.” – “What affects me instead are the, is the ready-made and prefabricated ones, and directed at will, and their effect is the opposite of the old ones.” “These new images have destroyed those other images, the image per se, the source. Particularly in the century past, the original sources and natural vein has been stripped, and people now cling to the synthetic, mass-produced, artificial image that have replaced the reality that was lost along the with the original image, that pretend to be them, and even heighten the false impression, like drugs, as a drug.”
But anyone who has recognized the loss of images in himself can at least say what the image and the image once meant for him.” – “Yes. The images, the instant they appeared, meant being alive, even if I was dying, and peace even if war was raging all around; which makes it clear that an image of horror is incompatible with the kind of image of which our story should speak.” –“These images, in the face of the transitoriness and destructibility of the body. Even if only one came to me in a day, just a brief flash I saw it as a sequel and continuation, as part of the whole: images as the comet’s tail of the world’s survival, sweeping over the entire earth and revitalizing the smallest nook and crannies. “A single image spark from any place whatsoever – strange that its name always accomplished the flash as well – allowed me to see the entire globe – what used to be called the eumene, the inhabited world, and reinforced the conviction that we all belong together… “The images were epiphanies.” [462-463]
“In the image, internal and external seemed to be fused into a third element, greater and more lasting.  The image represented the value to end all values. These were our seemingly safest form of capital. Mankind’s last treasure.”
“O image, my life spirit: show me the space where you are hiding.”
“In earlier times quite a few people had the ability to summon to the inside of their eyelids the residual image of a place, weeks or months later.” 197
“And then came the loss of images.[Not until this point was the author allowed to use this expression]. Loss of images? For the time being? No, once and for all.  Personal loss of images? Her own? No, general. Universal. A general universal loss of images. Who said that? How could one say such a thing? The story said it. Hers and mine, our story, our story said it. It, the story, wanted it this way. This was how the story visualized it.” “The danger here in the fern forest was of an essentially different kind. Her fall, caused by the abrupt loss of images, was a small fall on the outside and a large fall on the inside. Yes, first came the loss of images , and only then did she get tangled in her own feet, which caused her to tip sideways… On the other hand, acceptance did not mean wanting to die…” [444-5]
There is much else I could quote, but I think you get the drift. Images are for the banquières, for Peter Handke’s the most heartfelt, the spark of life.
“Her fall, caused by the abrupt loss of images, was a small fall on the outside and a large fall on the inside.”
This is the epic’s major theme as Handke also told Greiner. And the outward of the inward is evoked magnificently from chapter 35 onward. And for me it raises some question I think I can answer, and some I cannot without taking a poll of real readers of Del Gredos.
How could one say such a thing? The story said it. Hers and mine, our story, our story said it. It, the story, wanted it this way.
The literal and the figurative in one, whose loss has as a consequence a descent. I recall a sentence from Walk About the Villages: something to the effect of the dissonance that ensues internally upon a huge loss as your psyche descends into hell, a sound of the jet crashing from on high, eeeeiiiahh, it is good to know why atonality is so much more honest than all the harmonics that are played to us. I tried to think of equivalent to this in my own life. Handke seeks harmony in a world that still can be said to have it in his version of nature, which is not that of “red in tooth and claw,” I think we can see why he, with those destructive furious impulses inhabiting him, seeks that kind of harmony with all his being, a would be Apollonian the Germanisten will call him.
  I am trying to think whether the book has earned this descent:
“How could one say such a thing? The story said it. Hers and mine, our story, our story said it. It, the story, wanted it this way.”
whether I ought not be shaken when that moment comes, as I am by participating in the Ablaha’s so spectacularly powerfully described descent down the southern slope of her Sierra? I am bothered by something that strikes me as an old saw:
“people now cling to the synthetic, mass-produced, artificial image that have replaced the reality that was lost along the with the original image “What affects me instead are the, is the ready-made and prefabricated ones, and directed at will, and their effect is the opposite of the old ones.”
This merely reminds me that Handke has never really lived in a city, has a skewed notion of what occurs in those also “natural neighborhood”, as much as I grant him his observation at how what is put into our psyches is determined by a variety of mass media. What surprises in that respect is how vigorous psyches can be nonetheless in freeing themselves, asserting themselves despite the so whelming.
I try to think of moments of something similar that does not involve a jet a jumbo jet crashing in a dream.
I come up with two long ago moments: During one, I must have been 13 or 14 year old, I was walking up Eagle Rock Road, in West Orange, New Jersey, I had already passed Thomas Edison’s famous laboratory that stands the foot of that 600 foot high rock with Prospect Park on top from whose look-out moths can be dazzled by the lights of Manhattan. And the air seemed to be seeping out of my psychic tire, it had nothing to do with walking at a good pace or being short of breath. If you had asked me then what it felt like, I would have said: “I seemed to have lost my belief in God.” Now I would say that it must have been my second and last year in West Orange and West Orange Junior High School, that this moment marked my first, and quite unconscious, except for the sound of that hissing psychic tire, disillusionment, probably not just by the near entirely dreadful school I was at, in West Orange, but of the illusions with which I had come to the United States two years prior.
The other moment occurred about four years later, and in Berlin, during a junior year abroad I had taken to re-familiarize myself with the country whence I had I felt fled in 1950. I was reading, reading Georgy Lukacs’s The Destruction of Reason in my one room in an apartment I share with a grad student at the FU which I avoided for nightly theater expeditions to East Berlin and her tennis-ball-playing Hungarian sheepdog [looking like what they herd, they have a curtain of wool before their eyes, but nonetheless can leap high to catch that ball bouncing off the wall] and I suppose if I would have said the first time around that what punctured me was a “fading belief in God”, the second time could be a dissipation of “belief in reason.” There are other matters that conspired to affect me in that fashion to produce that disillusionment that I will not get into here; in retrospect I could also trace to that moment my falling ill with a case of mono, from which I did not fully recover until several years later I spent a good deal of time, nine months, in Alaska. Question is whether those moments also coincided with the loss of specific images that anchored me.
“Her fall, caused by the abrupt loss of images, was a small fall on the outside and a large fall on the inside.”
Is it my reading? Have I not participated been drawn sufficiently deeply into Ablaha Handke’s interiority to have felt this coming, ought I not collapse with her? is something I ask myself, and maybe I need to read the book once more. But at that moment I do not feel a similar implosion. Ought it not be inevitable that
 The story said it. Hers and mine, our story, our story said it. It, the story, wanted it this way.”
ought it perhaps go unspoken and remain implicit as she suddenly descends into physical destitution, a woman shorn of all her beauty, living under ferns with half-asleep soldiers [good images that!].
It is a critical moment in the book, and I cannot come to anything like a conclusion.
=H: Summary =
Handke has become a kind of 19th century author as he wanted to at the start of his spectacular career, with a body of varied work, 65 books in 65 years; prose texts, some of them great - A Slow Homecoming, especially the amazing Alaska opening chapter, The Repetition, The Assaying of the Jukebox, No-Man’s Bay, the Del Gredos only great for certain long and magnificent stretches, as noted; the forthcoming, in English, Don Juan and Moravian Nights, Der Hausierer, Short Letter long Farwell among the early novels; the documentary accounts such as A Child’s Story, straight autobiography, volumes of poetry Innerworld, Nonsense of Happiness, four volumes of published parallel journal entries [Weight of the World unfortunately is the only one in English, leaving out the great workbook-diary Geschichte des Bleistifts which journals if they were read would leave the interested less mystified if they can’t follow what he’s about and doing in his work as he progresses and develops – I count something like seven stages – overall, though the prodigal son is still in a kind of self-chosen exile outside Paris, the country whose passport he holds, even with some land in Serbia, invites him frequently to visit, and he does so, also to assist in the upholding of Carinthia’s Slovenian heritage. An extraordinary series of early conceptual plays - Kaspar and The Ride Across Lake Constance being the most famous was succeed by a set of great, deeper ones – Walk About the Villages/ Art of Asking, The Hour We Did Not Know Each Other; in one of which, Walk About the Villages [W.A.T.V. 1982], the great compensatory exhibitionist displays himself beauty marks and all in his entirety, if you want the heart of Handke, 1996 in American, which no one reads or knows the degree he has drawn on all these years; which points to Handke being also much of a carpenter – his favorite craft I expect also for deriving from such a clan, of Slovenian and Austro-Slovenian provenance, who will re-use an aria, say that of attack in the boulevardish They Are Dying Out if he finds it as good as he can do, 20 years later, in the 1994 The Play About the Film About the War that is indebted to Brecht and Kipphart and Grass – that is within that great tradition – to which Handke adds his own filmic and high-spirited twist. “What the hell, just substitute the words,” shouted J.S. Bach to one of is sons!
     Translations of Euripides and Sophocles and Shakespeare, the sort of thing you also have to do however great a pleasure it is so as to become a living classic, I am surprised at the absence of any Latin author, even their nature poets, while Handke when he is not writing his own stuff has also done contemporary authors, American [Walker Percy, Slovenian [Lipius], French [Emmanuel Bové, Goldschmidt, Mondiani, Genet, etc], surprisingly no Spanish author yet considering his deep affinity and time spent there.
 Every seven years or so our now sometimes master used to molt, with some very interesting transitional periods, who knows how many other feathers are in his quiver if he lives as long as his grandfather Sivec did, and how many more skirts he will chase… and wears a new dress and becomes more profound and proficient and intricate of mind, although his adherence to “Quodlibet” – the projection screen for language to test the conscience of the king - never swerves. He is, has been since early on a “pro”, which means that he can fake it when he is not on.
Wittgenstein and the reading of distinctions in Roman legal punishment code he claims brought clarity into an unusually angry childhood noggin - note the plethora of ticks and matters that make this super neurotic author angry as a young man in Essay on Tiredness; which is why he – his various literary linguistic accomplishments – deserve the Nobel prize for whatever it is worth in publicizing the work, say for “Linguistic Chemistry,” and a coronation, what the hell why not if it makes him happy although his receiving it is unlikely for the funny injured way he went about defending his fragile amour fou Yugoslavia [see Notes]. He’s lucky in no longer needing the money, now that he’s sold his voluminous notebooks these past years, he received their weight in gold. Anyway I hope so. He only stays at the very best hotels – say, The Drake in Chicago - and is the finickiest of chefs [see Nomans-Bay and Del Gredos, too, for this], for reason of being autistically hypersensitive, an autism that entails a touch of Monsieur’s Tourette’s syndrome that, however, can be contained when he formulates it in the form of musical sets as in his first success de scandal, Offending the Audience; when not, he claims the excuse of “sacre bleu” and sounds just like his Slovenian grandfather.
All this pride in his success is not just for having originated in the Austrian equivalent of a log cabin, a Keusche, a hovel! in an out of a way place like Griffen, Carinthia, what if he had not had the opportunity to attend seminary in Tanzenberg?
Thus one might assume that Handke is some kind of esthete, by no means by German Ernst Jünger or Botho Straus measure, though he certainly has an aesthetic, modulated I, analytically trained, would say by having had an exquisitely beautiful mother as model for beautiful faces during the first two years of his life, no wonder he loves the Romanesque so much. He nearly throws up at the sight of the ugly, and I wish I did too, but I’ve also got so much Prussian in me that I will die at Stalingrad because I can put up with just about anything – nine out of ten times the physically ugly have an ugly character too; beautiful ugly is something else entirely – they are the most beautiful of all. - He is asociable as hell, women split, crying “quelle horreur” leaving him to his work and hunting mushrooms in a forest outside Paris. He doesn’t even take his closest friends mushroom picking any more [peaceful beings he regards them as he makes the best mushroom stew in the world]. He will see no one for weeks on end except the maid or maid brigade to clean his aging bachelor quarters; but if an interviewer or the media show up he will cook up a feast and not be bored either pleasantly or unpleasantly and not kick them out within a few minutes. In other words, just another K.U.K. screwball, who, however, as he writes, “also scratches himself at all the same places.”
Ever more artful – a quality that appears entirely unappreciated in the land;a composer, a formalist par excellence, formalism exists for efficiencies and emphases sake, to compact the marble, who has kept becoming a better and better writer. He out-brilliances everyone for long stretches, still jealously [lüstern] competitive, as I noticed with some fright at Princeton back in 1966, and I am not talking about the great exhibitionist’s first great act of righteous public display – without the exhibitionism of course not the great performances on the page or on stage.
He was whelped clutching his first book describing his mom’s borborygma in 1942 and never stopped. No, no such luck or ill wind; however he did I think his mother’s early sorrow at not marrying the love of her life in the form of what is known as “anaclytic depression.”
I think even now he needs to write all the time, compulsively, to stay calm, and of course for other reasons, a case of vigorous productive conversion hysteria if ever there was one, writing is in other words to which Handke is condemned, as symptoms go it is by far the only enjoyable and socially useful and saleable one of his plethora, perhaps the world’s greatest writing machine with the ambition to become the best writer of a certain kind ever, Handke has been literally novelizing and exhibiting his self for over forty years, a great legerdemain jongleur, the best part of the compensatory exhibitionism [for a decade’s worth of exposure to violent drunken primal scenes, that long term trauma wound - of course you need to have the talent to compensate, too! Or you could be entirely psychotic] Again: read S.B.D., as though you were a forensic, don’t just keep saying oh how moved you were.
NOTES: 1-000
The most complete link collection for Handke material accessible via the web.
[1] Alaska
[2] Yugoslavia
[3] Biography
[4] Publications in German
[5] Publications in English
[6] Die Hornissen/ Der Hausierer excerpts and commentary
[7] Helena Ragg-Kirkby
[8] Stifter /  one line
[9] Frucht, on exhibitionism
[10] The three topes Nuevo Bazaar, Pedrada, Hondareda
[11] Secondary Literature, selected
[12] Across  EXCERPT
[13] Gilman, Richard
[14] Slow Homecoming Excursus
[15] Scott Abbott
[16] Lothar Struck
[17] Short Letter excerpt
[18] W.A.T.V. excerpt
[20] Thucydides / have
[21] absence /1st page on line
[22] Peter Strasser
[23] Edmond
  [1] ALASKA
Handke’s A Slow Homecoming, especially its first Alaska chapter, occupies a special place in my response to his work, and in my life. I think sometime in the early 70s he wrote and asked what winters were like in the United States, and after comparing the Rockies to the Alps, Vermont to Bavaria, I said if he wanted something really different he ought to try Alaska; as he then did on a few occasions in the mid-70s, forgetting, not that it needed me, that he had asked me; and then writing the book – it appears in considerable duress, that he then made a bad joke about in No-Man’s-Bay - in the Hotel Adams at Fifth Avenue and 86th Street in Manhattan, a neighborhood I knew well since the late 1950s. I saw him a couple of times during that period and did not worry in the least about him, since he seemed to be a rabbit when it came to writing, and I myself was deep into survivalitis on various fronts. The book appeared I think in 1979, no one sent me a copy, so I did not buy and read it until I got to Vienna on the way back from a month in Bulgaria. And being on a high from that extraordinary visit I was entirely overwhelmed; and I think I know sort of why. I had spent nine months in Alaska getting graduate school out of my system, two as a firefighter, six as a geological surveyor’s assistant. I had never written about it, until now, and really all I had was a string of anecdotes, some of them of moments of extreme danger, some of great pleasure, especially those I associated with an all night Jazz club by the name of The Timberline where Edna Ferber had allegedly written Iceberg; it was a club with its own still in back and the living was easy and King Pleasure was one of the from down-under performers. What I mean to say is that I had never considered the experience as a whole, of having spent so much time in by and large vast dark green virgin territory, in the Brooks Range, by the Yukon, in the Alaska Range, all over the interior, most of it on foot, some of it by rubber raft. But it turned out that I had absorbed that experience after all, en gros, and Handke’s chapter articulated that for me as I tried to articulate it in linguistic and literary and psychological terms here. Meanwhile, with Caribou Barbie having brought the state very much back to mind, I actually found a way of stringing these anecdotes together under the aegis of the “what if” “what could have” made me stay in Alaska for the winter, instead of getting the willies as I beheld the developing night time McCabe and Mrs. Miller life on Chena Ridge drop-out scene; flying out from one day to the next instead of driving back south on packed snow as I had planned. It turned out: a particular woman might have taught me how difficult it is for me to be confined in a cabin for long. But I was merely a convenience to her. I would have learned something that I only learned some years later.
 On my return from pastoral Mexico in 1993/94 I became aware of the disintegration & of Handke’s controversial involvement in what became a parallel war. Knowing of my man’s extreme exhibitionism, I initially found his so involvement and so publically very much suspect. Although I was well along with a psychoanalytic monograph on Handke and had followed his taking a Slovenian direction with his installation of his grandfather as a father figure in The Repetition, I did not, as did lots of Slovenians, until further study, appreciate why someone who seemed to hold Herderian views on the existence of independent tribes and liked lots of check-points between them, then favored the continued existence of a fragile federation to such an extent that he might also support the Yugoslav federal government [Milosevic] in its endeavor to hold that union together. Noting that Handke’s Slovenian grandfather had voted for the first Yugoslav Federation back in 1921 [Slovenia was independent from 1919 to 1921 after WW I] I acknowledged that as an impetus quite aside Handke’s walking and visiting the entirety of that country as it is laid down not only in The Repetition and Die Hornissen, and in wonderful sequences in No-Man’s-Bay or his, age 23, having written Hornissen on the Island of Krk.
 As I then read Handke’s texts and his various public statements  during the three followable comings of this controversy - tirades his ex-inamorata Marie Colbin called them - they struck me rather as the wounded cries of a child, thus “amour fou”, and that then put the question of authenticity on the back burner. Petulant acts such as returning the Büchner Preis, his disavowal of any worth in Habermas as a philosopher for having supported NATO intervention – I was reminded how much sounder my man was with pen in hand instead of his loose mouth. The first of Handke’s Yugoslavia texts – Neunte Land – struck me as a form of wonderful special pleading, and I think it’s the best of the lot, although I came to quite agree [and not only with Handke] that the trigger for the disintegration was Herbert Genscher’s recognizing the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, I did not feel that anywhere [except I suppose the great play that Handke got out of the experience, The Trip in the Dugout Canoe: The Play about the Film about the War,
for my piece on this] did Handke really appreciate the drive, the desire of the various tribes to try to go their own way [regardless of their being manipulated, fools have to be allowed to make their mistakes?]. The purely descriptive parts of the other texts are of course quite wonderful, as usual, and that Handke wrote in metaphor and refused to abide by the cliché expressions in which his “humanity hyenas” as he so fittingly calls them, want you to express you condolences – that itself led to misunderstandings galore – the source of most misunderstandings, after all, as Nietzsche said, is that the dog was God’s first misunderstanding... one guess as to the second - but it occurred to me, it puzzled me and still does to no end why someone who only left law school just
before graduating because he was already successful as a writer and had the idea that a law degree might enable him to hold the sinecure of an Austrian Cultural Attaché, should go about his witnessing in this way, no matter how beautiful. Indeed the idyllic persists even during war, I recall it only too well from my early childhood days during WW II. However, Handke’s charge against the French media’s anti-Serbian campaign I then found confirmed by the same simple-minded process in the United States, a process in which the so-called intellectuals – definition of which is a modicum of skepticism and reflection and research if possible – proceeded to follow like the rest of the media fed sheep. I believe Handke also preferred the Yugoslav federation over the fat EEU.
Fondly as I recalled the few months I once spent in Dubrovnik, it really was not in my well-laid plans to sniff out all the reasons for the disintegration. Of course it is manifold, and needs to be thought of sequentially, three dimensionally. And I came up with the following summary reasons: 
1] A hollowed out socialism; Handke himself noted in Felsfenster  n 1988 how much colder matters had become; and  devolution into ethnic identities
2] A state the urges of whose various ethnicities were barely contained under
Tito’s management;
3] The end of the cold war and the U.S.
unwillingness to keep footing the bill for “our” Commie S.O.B.
4] The world wide urge in a younger generation for a neo-liberalist agenda,
which in Yugoslavia took certain extreme forms such as roaming young war
lords, Arkan!
5] Thus Genscher’s acknowledgment of Croatian independence in some sense, though precipitating – but let us not forget that it would have happened anyhow.
6] Tjudman’s making the Croatian Serbs 2ndclass citizen, and you know the hideous rest. The U.N.and NATO intervention were near inevitable or the wars would still be
going on, that the final upshot would be the U.S. base Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, ah well, NATO has been the U.S. hound dog for a long time!
7] And of course "the media" and their needs, which Handke can only curse, and of course how do you have time in extremis to lay down all the proof of distortions and lies.
There have been three comings of the “Handke-Yugo Controversy.” The
first on publication of “A Winter’s Journey”; the second, on the event of the Kosovo war; and the third on the occasion of Handke’s so ostentatious visit – I knew he would as soon as I realized that the Tribunal would let Milosevic die in prison – at his funeral. My guess is that the way these controversies have played out pushed Handke into a more obstinate Pro-Serbian position than he wishes to occupy, for being hailed as the sole defender of Serb national interest and Serb anti-EEU nationalism. He is of course entirely right in that considering the continued simple-minded blaming of the Serbs. With every other tribe allowed its nationalism, why not the Serbs too?  The single most hideous statement I found in what is now a good-sized book shelf worth of stuff on these controversies was Susan Sontag’s in the Sunday N.Y. Times magazine at the time of the bombing of Belgrade and Yugoslav infrastructure: “Now the Serbs are the victims.” Even assuming that that statement contained a modicum of sympathy, it demonstrated in nuce how ignorant one can become rehearsing “Endgame” in Sarajevo. And her statement and my judgment of it [and this piece of ignorance does not disqualify work of hers that I cherish, as I continue to mourn her absence on the scene] as she tried to disqualify Handke for having his
own, so much more differentiated and rooted take on the matter. Handke
of course never denied anything, rather the opposite especially in the contentious matter of Srebrenica, not that he isn’t as capable of wish fulfillment as anyone else, however he tried to put different emphases.
Handke in Kosovo, assisting an ancient Serbian.

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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