Saturday, June 20, 2009


Let me comment on your comments, point by point, Scott. but in a disorderly manner! 10] The Repetition being the Handke book that you can do least without! [there's the formula, the right approach! ] I can see. Just coming off a three months involvement in Del Gredos, reading it for the third time, and in a great translation, which also contains perhaps the best five thousand words I have ever read anyone write - the section of the destruction of the Forét de Chaville after that hurricane hit northern France around the year 2000 - I will read it once more for sure... not that I don't have a quibble here and there. Recall the monstrous review by that non-reader Neil Gordon, how nice that Frank Wood agreed with my letter to the bloody NY Times Book Review which of course they never publish when you take one of their regulars apart; or that compleat and total idiot Michael McDonald's [of "The Amurrican Interest" and "The Weakly Standard" inability to read, and mutton dennis dutton only linking to McDonald and not the fine review in WaPo or the L.A. Times, such shits all around, who fancy themselves "conservatives"] I would also have a hard time living also without Hausierer, Short Letter, the two diary volumes Die Geschichte des Bleistifts - for its showing how what thoughtfulness he devotes to his works, chiefly VILAGES in this istance + Gestern Unterwegs, Left Handed Woman, Absence, Juke Box, [Tiredness as an analyst for being told my chap's uncomprehended merely described symptoms!Zvi Lothane, a fine analyst with lots of life experience thinks I'm on the right track analytically with Peter's traumas], No-Man's Bay, and of course sections from many other books... so if you left me on a desert Island with nothing but handke's works... I'd be fairly happy this age... not missing the pony tail parade all that much... 1] Since I translated GOALIE, perhaps it ought to be one of my favorites... but wonderful book though it is, I think the preceding DER HAUSIERER which is not in English [but in the Romance languages, i.e. "L'histoire de crayon"] is by far the better, formally, and in the depth of its accomplishment of being a wholesale victory over fear, than GOALIE which derives from one sliver of it. 2] Among the Yugoslavia titles, my preference is for the first, Abschied vom Traum des 9ten Landes, because it goes to the heart of the contradictory matter: peace, federation, individuation of the tribes... with hints of US National Security Directives under Reagan and West European capitalist economic warfare which threw those tribes back into a regression of fraternal strife... the opposite of Philadelphia. However, his involvement in those matters then made also for a great play, which I think of as THE PLAY ABOUT THE FILM ABOUT THE WAR whose translation you are completing. A play very much in the tradition of Brecht, Grass, Kipphardt, Weiss, Hochhut, Heiner Mueller... the great Post WW II German historically oriented enlightenment tragedies... with Peter's invariable Slavic/ Austrian twist.... and awareness of media... I have written about his involvement extensively... to clarify that for myself, on the part of someone who is also very much of an exhibitionist and became part of the story.... 3] It's "Roger" Straus not Robert and he was a shit in many ways, stingy, a gossip, a clothes horse who was afraid of the slightest speck showing on his vest; and a brute; Peter took instant dislike to him; not an independent thinker, thus he went along with the humanity hyenas latching on to the Serbs and Milosevic as the cause of the wars, and of course would never have published JUSTICE FOR SERBIA; a "taker," he took you the way a pretty meat eating flower eats flies; in the sense that he posted that sign "Nobel prize winners wanted", but no number of such winners would ever ennoble him; and tried to get it for free, or kicked those he took from... My friend Christopher Lehmann-Haupt who wrote the NY Times obits for both Straus and Robert Giroux quotes Giroux [go on line at and learn how to "read" obits] as saying he could never complete his history of the firm because thought of Straus was just too distasteful; totally dishonorable bastard he turned out be be. I was with him at Frankfurt Book Fairs , I turned out to have been his pipe line into postwar German publishing while I was still feeling my way, but I found it pretty quickly. Roger's troubles were many fold: primarily that he was not an obsessive publisher the way Unseld, or Ledig-Rowohlt, or Wagenbach or Gallimard or any number of Brit editor-publisher's were, that he was not sufficiently well read, that he felt inferior to the editors around him, gays most of them at that time, except for Henry Robbins, the only one I really got along with, not that I have anything untoward to say about Robert Giroux and Hal Vussel, but Roger happened to despise gays, I couldn't care less as long as they left my ass alone, and so many of my closest friends, such a robert phelps and michael lebeck happened, by the pure accident of sensibility and sensitivity to language and overlaps of taste, to be gay... Fortunately Roger had the good sense to make the pretty much first rate Jonathan Gallassie his successor... though who knows how his son Roger III would have turned out had he not got into the same kind of row with his dad as Unseld did with his son Joachim who, however, then started a firm of his own, The Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt. Farrar, Straus did 11 printings of KASPAR AND OTHER PLAYS but never made good on the promise to put in my final changes on the KASPAR translation - however, they do exist in the Methuen Volume I of Handke's Collected Plays. I made those changes several dog ages ago at the behest of Peter Brook. More on Kaspar anon. FS+G sold the first half a dozen books to various paperback publishers for reprinting, over and over, and so certainly did not lose any money. However, in all these years I have never seen an ad for a Handke book in this country. Roger was a heavy duty socializer and arm twister and if he had wanted to make sure that novels as of A SLOW HOMECOMING got sound reviewers he was quite able to arrange matters of that kind. I knew Henry Raymond of the Times, too. First mistake of his was to publish A SLOW HOMECOMING jointly in one volume with LESSON OF SAINT VICTOIRE and A CHILD'S STORY [to save money and also on the individual presentation which these three very different books deserved, Peter evidently agreed, it's weird but he does have an obliging side in those matters, also in accommodating to the stupid American title ACROSS for CHINESE DES SCHMERZENS because the FSG editor thought "oh we got a handle on how to sell the book, an old Nazi get's tossed!] So what Roger is complaining to to Unseld is something that was easily remediable by him. Handke has had about ten different editors assigned to him since I left there in 1969. Some first rate, the first several, some not, but each of course incapable or unwilling to construct the history of publication... Handke's current wonderful prose translator Krishna Winston is way behind, too! And often as I have pointed out to her that at the very least she ought to read WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES... the groundbreaking richest work of his whence most of what followed was whelped.... she has not. Farrar, Straus, or rather its playwriting division Hill + Wang then also passed on the other great plays,HOUR, ART OF ASKKIG while the allegedly good editor Steve Wasserman ran that subdivision and the quality paperbackdivision Noonday Books, prior to becoming editor of the L.A. Times book review. He and I had a recent brief e-mail exchange where he held i didn't know my ass from any old hole in suggesting that maybe Noonday Books, FSG's paperback division ought to have put out some of these titles in quality paper - well, Handke had a good record in paperback and New York Review of Books Books is doing so now, and with a total of three titles to date, Sorrow Beyond Dreams, and a fine intro by Greil Marcus to SHORT LETTER, and a so so by a postmodernistically confused fellow from N+1 for the A SLOW HOMECOMING compendium, Kunkel. Straus and I then we got into a row over what Peter regarded as the best translation he ever saw at that time [mid 80s] of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, Straus welched on a written promise, and in the to and fro, I then showed him up to be a liar, besides, he'd managed to screw me out of half of my editor's royalties, I'd made millions for the bastard, couldn't get a break when I actually needed one for a change, and all because a man I think of as "an asslicking envious little stiletto man", a certain michael dicapua, who had already ruined a lot of my projects there -- Adorno, Fichte, Hugo Ball - in the late 60s happened to be briefly, but just long enough, to be FSG editor in chief. Had it not been for the estimable Robert Giroux, my bringing Handke to FSG around 1967 would never have succeeded, Susan Sontag backing and all. So Roger Straus both published stupidly and failed to render the support a publisher can render. And with all the alleged great friendship between Susan and Roger you don't see any I don't think of authors she must have suggested on the FSG list. Not on the cutting edge intellectually. All the publisher I worked for were crooks with one or the other degree of legitimacy! Unseld was a Grossgauner for Kultur! It was my tough luck of not knowing about "dark" and not knowing Peter long enough to trust him when he pointed out that the man who would become the other working partner in Urizen was "very dark" or at least very German. I didn't know about "dark" back in 1971, boy do I ever know now!Including my own dark sides! My favorite publisher was Ledig-Rowohlt, you signed contract on a napkin at Harry's bar, and if it didn't work out, you dipped the napkin in a whiskey soda where ever. and never mentioned it again. The way Amina Handke dips the napkin on which her father has written "Amina has been a bad girl again" into a glass of water back at Rue Montmorency! [The little charmer had learned to survive her daddies rages!] More on the fall out from all this in the memoir. Not that I didn't meet some fine people in that world, Mike Bessie of Atheneum, Bill Koshland at Knopf, Sam Lawrence at Atlantic Monthly Press, Martin Kessler and Arthur Rosenthal at Basic Books... among other. Meanwhile I've become a semi-tough old tomcat meself! 4] Ditto for the Slovenian/ German dictionary he created for himself while writing The Repetition. I happen to really like his translations of the ancient Greek dramas, but remember that that's what you have to do to be a German classic in your own lifetime! What surprises me is that he's not translated anything from the Latin! Or Spanish meanwhile! 5] Re Kindergeschichte/ A Child's Story. Peter was a hideous father to his first daughter, he even admits as much in that book; also if you read Weight of the World you can see that... and then felt hugely guilty once he woke up to what he had wrought! I get into that as well as some other of the matters in necessary detail in Part II of the nearly completed Psycho-Biographical Monograph and Memoir that will appear at the handke-discussion blog in another week or so [the opening resumé of the case history is already on line. Mr. Handke is quite dark fellow as he himself knows only too well and as he the great exhibitionist shows us in Villages and in Del Gredos. What makes him so unique is his wild desire to be healed, for peace from those monstrous childhood wounds, and the only thing that does the trick for him is by writing, and so reading him closely, his best things, Absence, The Repetition, No-Man's Bay, Del Gredos, Jukebox, Morawian Night now... have a healing effect on me. Go pick a mushroom in honor of Peter Handke. 7] In my experience, Peter is pretty judgmental of other, especially competitors for the Laurel Wreath! 8] re kaspar: let me quote myself from the memoir: "Rather quietly, it seemed out of the nowhere, [1980 Moenchsberg/ Salzburg] Handke mentioned that his play Kaspar was a mistake, a piece that he regretted; an instance that left me speechless, not just not wanting to say what was on my mind: “So I went trough all that trouble and those aches and pains for that great play” and now it’s author regrets authoring it,” something to that effect whooshed through my head. And so I was too stunned to ask why. Later I speculated about why he might feel that way, and what could be held against the piece, and concluded: well, you could say that it was in some ways noisy, the way Oedipal neuroses tend to be; too harsh though I wish all the sheeples saw it at least once to get a faint notion of how they’ve been brain washed! It could be said to be nihilistic I suppose… and as we found out later - since his homecoming had changed Handke and meaninglessness had been at least assuaged if not overcome, mostly… and since Handke had gradually approached and was about to or was already writing W.A.T.V. [the thought of my then impetuous and nonchalant and thoughtless behavior made me feel pretty uncomfortable when the time came to translate the piece! queasy!]. Anyhow, since he had definitely changed …he was no longer the same person the same Kaspar - it is also a self portrait that piece - who had wanted me to make the main sentence of Kaspar more abstract about ten years before… we were in some respects not in tandem… at that time… " 9] Well, LUCIE IN DEM WALD MIT DEN DINGSBUMS,[Lucie in the Woods with the Thingamajigs] what you call a children's story, is also one further chapter of No-Man's Bay and his obsession with mushroom picking , allegedly because these are the most peaceful of beings and then he turns into delicious mushroom stew. You have to be as obsessed with violence as Handke to be so crazed for peace and quiet!


Scott Abbott said...

Roger, of course. The kind of mistake I make again and again as I hurry to the next thought. Thanks.

You tell good stories here. Lots of them.

Let me just say that I've eaten Peter's sauteed mushrooms with dark bread and Portuguese white wine in the Chaville house after a day-long walk around the bay and whatever his darknesses, and whatever my own -- including relations with my own children -- it was tasty and restful.


what's so nice about handke is that every 7 years or so he molts!
one of the people who makes life worth living in the world of
literature, when you think you've got a handle on his work... he confronts you with a whole new set of problems... not many like that... phlip roth pretty much keeps writing the same book over and over... terrific as he is... bellows was someone who developed... a real companion for life as a writer is even harder to find than a good wife! xxx michael r.

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MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember 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