Wednesday, December 01, 2010


As opposed to the succinct, Variety review of MALTE HERWIG’S MEISTER DER DAEMMERUNG
[Master of the Twilight]
posted at
This Old-time Editor and Translator and Acquaintance of Handke’s here does a
through this anything but masterly book.
=with emendations and notes toward the kind of biography that is needed of the Count von und zu Griffen…
And that Malte, what with a good first quarter of a book, might just achieve with another half dozen years in the trenches, also of Germanistik, not to mention psychology, right now you ought to pay 1/4th of 22,99.


A collection of reviews, all in German so far, can be found @:
The most interesting, by Marie Colbin, has been incorporated in the section devoted to her and Handke.

Persons mentioned in this review:
Ulrich “The Superficial” Greiner, Iris Radischen, Hubert Spiegelfloh, Franz Weinzettl, Ernst Jandl, Marcel Reichs-Kanickel, Peter Stephan Jungk [a.k.a. “the moron”], E.G. Marshall [deceased], Herbert Berghof [deceased], Robert Phelps [deceased], Michael Lebeck [deceased], Danny Gordon [deceased], Helene Birnbaum, Lothar Struck [“a.k.a. “Lotharina,” Handke’s kitchen maid cleaning woman], Steve Kroll [?], Mel Gussow [deceased], Jeanne Moureau, Marie Colbin, Judith Thurman, Karadzic, Milosevic [deceased], Andreas Nowa, Jim Stratton, Serbiana, Amina Handke, Katia Flint, Libgart Schwartz, The Scottish Abbott of the Utes, Hans Widrich, Sophie Semin, Karl Wagner, Peter Strasser, Raimund Fellinger, Fredi Kolleritsch, Georg Pichler, Hans Hoeller, Fabjan Haffner, Richard Gilman [deceased], William Faulkner [deceased], Bill Styron [deceased], Elaine Kaufman [of Elaine's and amazingly alive
at the weight of a full-grown hippo!], Michael Brodsky, Patricia Highsmith [deceased], Wieland Schulz [so the passport, a.k.a. Schulz-Keil], Olaf Hansen, Carl Weber [barely alive yet more grandiose than ever], Alan Ginsberg [deceased],  Pamela "Jezebel" Bellwood, Robert Kalfin [?], Donald Daviau, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Siegfried Unseld [deceased], Peter Weiss [deceased], Uwe Johnson [deceased], Jakov Lind [deceased], Pannah Grady [?], Ted Zsiolkovsky, Hans Werner Richter [deceased], Erich Kuby [deceased], Günter Grass, Roger Straus Sr. [deceased], Michael DeCapua, Nancy Meiselas, Wim Wenders, Leo Feldsberg [deceased], Klaus Peymann [very much alive], Thomas Deichmann, Nicolas Born [deceased], Karl Heinz Braun, Cultural attaché Walter Greinert [¿], Helene Ritzerfeld once upon in charge of Rights and Permission at Suhrkam Verlag [deceased... to the immense relief of no end of American Germanisten and other permission seekers]...


It must be a major scandal that the man who wrote the famous, misnamed, A SORROW BEYOND DREAMS about his delightful beautiful mother Maria Sivec’s life made so unhappy by Handke’s stepfather Bruno Handke’s beating and rapes that she committed suicide chiefly because of his impending renewed presence, that Peter Handke, biological son of a Herr Schönemann, himself became so possessed by his stepfather’s character that his features have kept irrupting out of him, over and over, that he is violence prone and thus desperately and often seeks peace, and in the wrong places, sing sorrow! for Peter Handke’s dark side, as becomes clearer from the valuable part of Malte Herwig’s book, the description of Handke’s childhood, its documentation, his beating of his sibling when they would not abide the little utterly indulged tyrant’s wishes, his gratuitous injuring of those closest to him, and his forever longing for the good uncle Gregor, a member of the Slovenian minority in Carinthia who died as a member of the German Army on the Crimean Peninsula in 1943.
What a different life Handke would have led, what a different person he would have become, had Herr Schönemann lived with Maria and raised their first-born together. Schönemann, a German soldier stationed in Griffen, Carinthia, in 1942, as was Bruno Handke, both survived the war: No infinitely depressed mother, no excessive love devoted to their first born, Peter, no anaclytic depression on Peter’s part, the same genius, the same hyper-sensitivity I expect, but not as raw and ready to run amok four times a day [?], not as demonic [?], not as nauseous, chiefly at the sight and sound and feel of so much that is as ugly [?], as confident I expect, but not a “mama’s boy” as which he has the supposed love in his life, Sophie Semin, describe him in the 2007 Moravian Nights, nor as cold as a salamander when he wants his space all to himself [?], not as defensively arrogant I would guess, and devoid of those gruesome feelings of being abject, not as much of a Gregor Samsa cockroach, possibly still anxiety- ridden…… “if only.”

Allow me to put my findings about Herwig’s valuable – chiefly for its first quarter childhood description and the wealth of uncrossreferenced or digested documents from the archives and recherched [quite a few reviewers who know zilch about Handke and his work praise Herwig for his abilities as a researcher, not this boy! But he does good leg work!] - in summary fashion, and let me start with my initial involvement with this great writer, “The first time I saw your face, so much like a fifth Beatle, wearing those gangsta shades” I suppose it would be in an Amurrican musical – at Princeton 1966, a section bereft of Herwig’s alleged abilities as a researcher, Herwig cites Handke’s dislike of the Gruppe, and that he supposedly went right afterwards on a pilgrimage to Oxford, Mississippi to William Faulkner’s place, no… and how easy it would have been for our great “researcher” to get this right, quite a few folks with memories still alive, moreover Herwig contacted me about 18 months ago, but our e-mail conversation confined itself to my stating that I thought Sorrow Beyond Dreams was a fundamental text, turns out that that is not quite so.

After Handke’s famous first major – quite a few prior minor ones in Austria - public performance at Princeton, and after the party that I and Jakov Lind and Pannah Grady gave for the Gruppe at Pannah’s splendid apartment in the Dakota
a complex most famous as the scene of the murder of John Lennon in fall 1980, I knew the following matters about Peter Handke:

1] That he was an exhibitionist – a matter that Herwig, whom Handke uses for this very purpose, nowhere addresses - I knew not only from his first performance where he so famously attacked what had been read at the Gruppe meeting for being descriptively impotent – which his first novel, the 1964 DIE HORNISSEN certainly is not – and Herwig quotes quite wonderfully from it, without going into its “as if” problematics as a literary work of art - but because Handke announced to West German media from the Empire State building that he was “the new Kafka.” We recall the first announcing that he was “the first.” And later Handke would confide  the extent of his exhibitionism to me. Handke has made a spectacle of himself – since age 2 says someone who had a number of affairs with single mothers whose children were none too happy to see Mommy in bed fucking someone else! Once analytically trained I became more discreet and aware, at least in that respect.

2] That he was a potential revolutionary who lacked deference for his elders, that he would break rules.

3] That here was a killer I noticed at the look that came over Handke’s face at the sight of a Max Frisch book lying on a display table as the assembled filed out of the hall. The look of murderous envy and ambition that passed over his face! Looks like that are not easily forgotten, but they can go underground. – Herwig’s book contains Handke’s own admissions along those lines, unless you fail to glean so from his texts. Potentially a compleat psychopath if literature were not his salvation. He wanted to murder Marie Colbin we find out in Moravian Nights. Herwig’s book is complicitous with Handke in the way it elides Colbin’s famous set of charges, nor does Herwig call Handke when he lies to his face that he “maybe gave her a kick in the ass, I don’t know I may have slapped her too.” Handke is the man who once said that if he is caught out he will lie at once, and I don’t think he was lying when he said that. [see anon]. Sing sorrow! 

4] That as someone dressed like the fifth Beatle Handke might have an identity problems, “I want to be someone like someone else was once” – say Franz Kafka - that he was possibly modish, a photo model.

5] That he had eye problems, as he mentioned to me the first time I, one of his hosts, talked to him, his glasses affording, seemingly, a better opening line than what was really on my mind – a set of specifics as to his charge at Princeton, and whose work did he really like, for example was William Faulkner a hero of his as he was of mine, I wanted to talk literature, after all this was a literature party and I did not know his work, but did of quite a few young Austrians at that point… What made him wear dark glasses even in well modulated lighting conditions of Pannah Grady’s multi-millionaire apartment where Pannah’s Beat writer friends would then smash some Persian vases. “Nausea of the eye balls.”  Eye problems. In The Lesson of St. Victoire Handke mentions occasional moments of total color blindness and is speculating whether anyone else in the family suffers the same, perhaps the trove of letters from Peter Handke to his biological father Schönemann that Herwig unearthed mention that. Herwig mentions Handke’s actual partial colorblindness – green and red are cited - but not this occasional complete cessation of color, a kind of imprecision typical of Herwig’s work, I myself once spent a week checking on this of the plethora of psycho-somatic symptoms from which Handke suffers or used to, did not reach a definite conclusion; hysteria is a frequent cause, but my guess is that the proverb “he saw black” might be most fitting in the case of someone who has half those moments per day that he wants to run amok – what if we all did? - or a combination of hysteria and amok. Aside Handke's autistic episodes, hysteria and rage are the prime candidates for an explanation. It is one of a plethora of Handke's psychosomatic symptoms that fit the profile of someone who was exposed to traumatizing violent drunken primal scenes from age 2 until 12. Herwig fails to avail himself of Handke’s Essay on Tiredness which lists everything that used to make Handke tired and angry, or rather tired so angry. If Handke were entirely color blind he could of course not respond to Cezanne as he does, etc.

6] That he was a village sadist as my peripheral vision caught sight of the grin on his face as Alan Ginsberg asked me to translate that he wanted to fuck Handke. Ginsberg insisting to repeat this demand then elicited my rare steel blue Prussian dagger looks and Ginsberg backed off. I saw this dreadful self-advertizer only once more, at the end of my stint at the PEN central committee. Ginsberg wore tie and suit, another clown. Handke it turned out really did not have enough English at the time and thought it was I being propositioned, to put it mildly; a misunderstanding not cleared up until I paid Handke a visit on the Moenchsberg in 1980
The excess of sadism and the impulses to run amok, entitlement and feeling superior, I imagine play into these gratuitous injurious acts towards those closest to Handke. Masochism, an even more disgusting feature, although you may wish for it in this instance, I do not detect in our adventurer.

On the basis of Princeton and Pannah’s Party Handke I can’t say that he was someone I was interested getting to know. Turns out he was an utterly confident fellow who on the basis of having written DIE HORNISSEN and PUBLIC INSULT had dropped out of law school and was announcing, as he would throughout his career, here I am, it’s me, I, Peter Handke-Sivec-Schönemann-Filip Kobal-Loser-Percival-Goethe-II! Of course there existed the possibility that he was more than just a show-off, that he really had something to show.

7] Reading Handke’s texts within the year, that is by 1968 I had read everything then published – a profusion of other plays and essays and the second novel, DER HAUSIERER, followed in short order - it dawned on me that there was more to this man than what I had seen and experienced at Princeton and in New York – and that he would then prove to be a true darling, not just the budding monster, came I imagine as far more of a surprise and of course so did his texts. Playing around with translating the first play texts to see who might be the right translator for him they proved so delightful, both serious and playful, that I decided to do them myself – and the world has not been the same since, my world.

8] That Handke could also be the most insulting person I have ever not kicked out of my house and life is due entirely to my always knowing that he was a genius. I am awed, up to a point. [see anon]

9] That he could also be, especially at a remove, the most marvelous person I have ever met – was no doubt the biggest surprise of all, and which accounts, I expect, why his few loyal friends, all gratuitously injured over the years, bear with him and have not told him to go jump in a lake.

10] That he would take my girlfriend and take her hard at the time and within a few weeks claim that he had not had any woman adventures – either points to his splitness, his ability to lie as Marie Colbin points out in her famous charge,,1518,24228,00.html
or to dissociation, but it sure spooked me
 – on the other hand, the girlfriend the relationship with whom his act ruined, turned out to be a habitual liar, too.

11] That he threatened to abort a non-existent friendship when I fought, in a manner not to his liking, for what he said, at the time, was the best translation he had ever seen, of his greatest text, and the best collaboration I had had it was too, with him the “elbow holder,” WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, finally struck the kind of chord within me that said: “You know kid, aren’t we lucky, if Libgart and I had eloped as I would have with your so insulted and neglected and needy dazzling, rasante wife in 1971, and if you and Judith had not, aren’t we lucky – your work would not have found an equally fine translator responder.” Life with Peter Handke, two adventurers, meet and part. He has the talent, I have the sense of humor and am better at cards.

Interviewer and subject exist in a mutually exploitive relationship. So does the living subject of a biography and his biographer… In each instance the parameters might be examined. Interviewer of a famous subject wants subject to say something to make the interview newsworthy [in this instance Handke supplies, provides access to no end of fascinating documents, which the interviewer, however, has failed to explore or cross reference or digest, and the subject if he knew what they might do to his image might want to keep under lock and key!], infamous subject who consents to be exploited has an agenda [in this instance it is the same old same old, of wanting to keep his name and image in the news, so that his truly great work will not be ignored: should the biography become controversial, so much the better. In the instance of Handke consenting to not only talk to Malte Herwig, who then only talks to Handke’s closest friends and those ex-lovers who are willing to talk – an interviewer  must pay deference just to be admitted into this royal court - the ultra-sensitive, nausea-prone at other bodies in his realm, his space, claustrophobic as soon as a possible displacer is in the vicinity, Handke suffering Herwig’s presence… cooking for him… not immediately taking him for one of his vaunted mushroomings in the Forêt de Chaville… the very fact that Handke treats Herwig as he does other, even detested reviewer idiots, say Ulrich Greiner of Die Zeit, whom he however treats not only to a meal but to the insults they deserve [not in this weeks interview in Die Zeit, however, Dec.1/2010], or toys with them as only a coquettish and sadistic superior Handke can, or Croatian T.V. interviewers and cameramen, to whom - in exchange for being filmed, appearing to the world and addressing it - Handke revealed that he couldn’t believe that anyone might shell as beautiful a town as Dubrovnik: looking at the various YouTube films, here is one, looking at which
you might think that this must be kids’ play, as which the anything but innocent shelling of the medieval walls looks. – Herwig, it appears, was so well fed, so many times, he was treated to so much of the forever bubbling mushroom soup, he lost the critical part of his mind if it was even ever meant to be put into play, or if he even has such abilities. That he is sympathetic toward his subject goes nearly without saying. As a Germanist as which Herwig is advertized, he does not exist, nor as a responder to the texts, but he has other strengths, he is a former Spiegel reporter and a good traveler, he knows how to interview.
The book is advertized as “warts and all,” but if you confine your research, as Herwig has, to friends, don’t even contact Handke’s chief editors Raimund Fellinger or first reader Peter Hamm, the result is predictable: the warts turn into beauty marks, the great peace-loving poet who beats women and even his own child is turned into Mahatma Ghandi II; not that Handke does not seek peace, even in the landscape formations in Alaska, where I as a firefighter yearned for a place to take a bath, and during six months an assistant geological surveyor happened across a lot of valuable mineral deposits but kept my eyes peeled for the hot spring where a friend, an aging Viennese faunist suspected a family of Urbeavers might have survived! Handke seeks peace
 in the most blood drenched landscape in Europe, Yugoslavia – because he knows of his own anything but peaceful nature. – Search on Percival is all I can say! It’s a little late in the game for the kind of patient gradual exorcism of the devil in you that long-term psychoanalysis might provide, or at least ameliorate. Priestly exorcism? give it a try. - Herwig’s MASTER OF THE TWILIGHT, incomplete as it is, devoid of the five years hard work that would be required to round it out, comes closer to a sympathetic white wash of that great Austrian cultural asset, Peter Handke. However, it provides not a single insight into any of the works, nor does it trace the development of Handke’s art – or arts as prose writer and dramatist, which, after all, is what is most interesting in the case of an artist on Handke’s order.
    Yet for the first fourth of the book, it  presents Handke’s childhood in great detail and the reader with a wealth of documents, which Herwig it then turns out did not evaluate or cross reference for numerous contradictions, I thought Herwig fine in being so appreciative of Handke’s ultra-high sensitivity and of Handke’s predicament of needing solitude yet desiring to be a social being and with the fantasy of having a wife in his life and a home, and for the first fourth of the book thought Herwig might produce a splendid book. It was by the time I came on how Herwig elides the specifics of Marie Colbin’s famous charge of how Handke had beaten her up – see anon - that I realized, now with certainty of conviction, that Herwig was yet one more victim of Handke’s raffinesse… or maybe that that had been the arrangement all along, that Herwig quotes a Salzburg friend as demonstrating in Handke’s handling of financial affairs. My sleight of hand man magician has been equally raffiniert [ultra-clever is one possible translation] in administering his appearance and how the publicity machine works in his behalf since his first appearance on the world stage, at Princeton, in 1966, which I witnessed, as well as its immediate aftermath, which Herwig, allegedly a great researcher, was too lazy or whatever to detail – and interesting details these dirty tails are indeed: they will wag life-long! You will write a first rate novel or play, you will call attention to yourself with an outrageous act and those who are hungry to put ink on hungry paper or fill the air waves with voices and images for hungry lonely ears and eyes will be at your beck and call.

Quite a few matters transpired prior to Handke’s going off to pay his respects to Faulkner, our mutually whelming hero – I myself devoted every course but one my Freshman year to Faulkner: Psych 101 had not a mouse called Faulkner.  Shame on you, Dr. Campbell! [1]

Handke mentions during their conversations that if he were to write an autobiography he would call it something like Meine Ewigen Irrungen und Wirrungen – which I think would again be grossly unfair, this time to himself. Handke actually has written his autobiography - not just as you can follow the rake’s progress through his various novels and the personae and consciousnesses he adopts or the various autobiographical accounts - but also as a summary projection of every quality and then some of his Yoknapatawpha sized self, Walk about the Villages. It contains all the shades of darkness too, and all the light and dearness in Handke, and then some. Their whence is a question I have devoted some time to. I happened to have the great fortune of translating Villages, and not just as another Handke play, or something along a list of works to perform. I translated it during a psychoanalysis, with a great analyst, the kind of analyst with whom you can communicate through dreams, and in ways that make you see why Freud life-long had the hunch that there were other forms of communication than normal understanding normally assumes to exist. However, the great analyst had come a cropper, through the usual human hubris, arrogance, of thinking he could not possibly be caught in saying he did not know German, leaving me with just Handke’s text to hold on to for a final shout out for dear life sentence by sentence, and this experience of translating each small Handke projection drew everything out of me, left me a husk, but every thing it drew out of, all my darkest most psychotic sides, showed me to myself as I would not have known otherwise. Udderwise the experience also gave me a hint how the monks possessed by biblical religiosity might come up with some of the great bible translation.

I came into contact with Malte about two years ago when Lothar Struck’s Begleitschreiben blog, where Struck assumes the novelistic Handkean name, “Gregor Keuschnig”
called my attention to Malte going after the German writer and editor Dieter Wellershof for obscuring his membership in the Hitler youth. I came to know Wellershof a little in 1964 when I spent a year in Germany, both East and West, as an Indian scout, first for Atlantic Monthly Press, then for Alfred Knopf, and Wellershof was an editor at Kiepenheuer + Witsch in Cologne, and I thought that when Handke spoke up famously at Princeton in 1966 about the descriptive impotence of contemporary writing [it turned out that Handke only had in mind what was read during those three days at Princeton – all of which we American guests, permitted to attend the last and final day of the Gruppe 47 meeting, had not heard] maybe had Wellershof’s prose in mind. Malte seemed to be on a witch hunt – he certainly is not on any kind of witch hunt in his MASTER OF THE TWILIGHT, a dewitching would be more like it. A George Smiley Herwig is not, and he never came in from the cold since he never ventured there in this book, and I would not hire him as an analyst at the home office either. Eventually Malte becomes more than just a dewitcher, he becomes a soap box in defense of and for Handke, a gradual process that is completed by the time we reach the end but for a fine penultimate chapter which details how Handke, at one time or the other, “destroyed” “finished off” even the closest friends. “Aren’t you done yet, Malte,” in his advertisements for himself, Malte quotes Handke as saying to him: we are in a complicitous relationship, author and subject, perhaps as of the git-go, which is dated here at 2008 or 2007 when Herwig was one of the first to have a look at the archives. A good and honest biographer would also list what he has looked at, and what he has not. Also that Raimund Fellinger, Handke’s Suhrkamp editor, refused to give him permission to quote from his letters that are in these archives, and that that is the name of Handke’s “Suhrkamp accompanist” when he visits Karadzic. Malte is a bit cute, also in the matter of who he has talked to and not – a conscientious biographer this is not, perhaps Handke’s sometime cuteness has rubbed off, or he worked for Der Spiegel too long.
What does Handke accomplish with making his Vorlass [fore-leavings] so available in the archives? Financial independence and five star hotels and restaurants to his taste is of course wonderful – but, more importantly, knowing how scholars will keep your work alive [say, the Joyce and Kafka industries], it guarantees continued attention to your work in the immediacy and for decades to come. Smart move, if scholars stay as fine as Fabjan Haffner, Hans Hoeller, Karl Wagner, Georg Pichler to mention those who immediately come to mind among others I could cite,  his work is in pretty good hands. As to self-image management “old Turkey neck” will have to suffer being taken for a vulture on occasion.
     There is no evidence that Herwig understands what Handke gets out of this. That I will be even more solidly confirmed in my estimate of Handke as a monster...? So what: I also know what a darling he can be. So do his friends who put up with him. I don’t any more, so what.
The other sensation – besides the Karadic one that has been tucked into footnote # 1 - the one recounting, in sparse detail - Handke’s affair, in the early 70s, after his mother’s suicide, with the 14 year his senior, that great French whore, La France herself, Jeanne Moureau, whom Handke stole from a French couturier prince, and then lived a typical five star hotel existence with in Venice and Munich, appeared in Die Welt, that he and Moureau battled mano a mano [the correspondence with Nicolas Born, has Malte found time to read it? or availed himself of the correspondence with Fredi Kolleritsch that contains so much valuable material?] – this aging roué ventures the wild guess that Moureau, who was acting in that most marvelous anti-boulevard play, “The Ride Across Lake Constance,” regarded Handke as the “love of her life,” because - after all - he remained inaccessible, could not be entrapped by this great amoreuses’s charms – I have encountered this crazed outcry a few times in my man-eater friends.  
I have a hunch that Moureau may have been the one woman in Handke’s life, all of whom the author of A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, not just Marie Colbin, has beaten up, actually might have it in her to beat him up. She looks a tough enough broad to me, any woman who can hold her own among those French sadists must be. My guess is that he became the love of Moureau’s life, because he continued to be inaccessible, because writing would always be more important than any woman: writing his salvation in every which way – only in writing is Handke within being, is he not split, Herwig has that right, and with my critique: that is a great deal: Herwig is on the right track, he just needs another five years in the trenches of real research and thinking to follow the tracks to their ends.
At any event, Moureau reappears in Handke’s film Absence together with Handke’s wife to be, Sophie Semin – ah for once not an actress Handke said on first falling for the haute bourgeois Ms. Semin – who left her job at a courtierer’s  within three months… to become an actress! Leave it to Malte Herwig to fail to wonder “why always actresses?”

Herwig has no more to say about the Handke, Kolleritch, Libgart Schwarz Austrian Cultural Asset visit to the United States in 1971 than that the novel that came out of it, SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL is an account of the dissolution of Handke and Libgart Schwartz’s marriage. That marriage was on the rocks already in Berlin in 1969 where Handke was sleeping around. Kolleritch mentions to Herwig that Libgart was a “third wheel” – on that bicycle built for two called Handke/Kolleritch I would say from what I observed and as can be gathered also from the novel, a kind of nouveau roman film as which it is cut, with these personal matters as its ribs. Libgart’s longing for the “sweet man” she had fallen in love with is there represented as a deathly pursuit!
  Excursus NY Spring 1971
An Austrian Cultural Package Arrives for a 21 events in 28 days USA marathon...

By the time the Austrian threesome - Handke, Kolleritsch, Libgart Schwarz - arrived in New York in the Spring of 1971 I had been beseeched by Siegfried Unseld, as he does the Left-Handed Woman to become the Suhrkamp agent to replace the fine ex-Berliner Joan Daves, who had her nose full of that representation. See
for a detailed account of what transpired during the two years I endured working for the Obergauner and his Foreign Rights Hyena, Helene Ritzerfeld, also for the relationship with Farrar, Straus + Giroux.
I had managed to put Handke’s work over at Farrar, Straus with support from Susan Sontag – barely: had it not been for Robert Giroux realizing Handke’s talent that ass-licking stiletto man Michael DeCapua - as I will memorialize him justly in the annals of literature - would have had his way again and as he would have once more in the future and shot down another of my projects. KASPAR AND OTHER PLAYS had been published, to some fine reviews, of as yet officially unperformed plays. I had given up my own royalties as translator to get two plays finally done, officially, at B.A.M. A clown named Schulz, a clown in every which way in American parlance and a clown suit made for him by his American hippie girl friend Barbara Becker [a.k.a. "Slave girl"] had appeared in my office who wanted to do them, since I had not gotten anywhere in a couple of years I had no reason to say no.
Since Princeton 1966 [see Footnote for Princeton] I had seen Handke once more, in 1969, in Berlin, to discuss my translation of KASPAR ["more abstract, as abstract as possible" had been the author’s wish] and my heart had sunk at the prospect of finding the German originals for the quotes from American black mask type novels that DER HAUSIERER contains, I might have asked Handke whether he could help me find them. As it was, GOALIE was substituted for HAUSIERER in the contract I had drawn prior to becoming Suhrkamp agent and thus also Handke’s U.S. agent. I had translated GOALIE, too, by then.
 I had already run around town with a wild ex-pat troupe that had re-appeared from San Miguel de Allende with my friend the actor and writer Michael Locascio and a certain JB in whose scrawny arms “the Hammer” – Neil Cassidy - had expired one cold Mexican Tequila night on some railroad tracks - to give a hint of how relatively hardcore down-low hippie precincts we are now in - and will not except for mere mention indicate what the weed they brought with them elicited in me… - and arranged for one shot performances of PUBLIC INSULT and SELF-ACCUSATION at any venue that would have us, me and my trusty Sony tape recorder, weight about 20 pounds those days. I had worked with Herbert Berghof and E.G. Marshall at his HB studio on two two week performances of these plays and of KASPAR. E.G. Marshall! A memorably intelligent actor. NY was a fairly wide open town those days, it would become far more open in the next ten years. [FN-2]
In Berlin Handke had shown me Baby Amina as we left his dank prince’s apartment in the Uhlandstrasse, Adorno had told me of the ownership of this anything but princely rat hole, and I had thought it perfectly normal - look at Handke’s A CHILD’S STORY, a pretty good account [but for its leaving out the lay-a-broad’s womanizing or any real mention of the girl’s mother!] of those years that also touch on Berlin, and am I ever glad that I like little more than liebäugeln with babies - as compared to the revolutionaries who lacked time and interest for the like in their self-important endeavors. Handke’s “showing” and invariably wanting to go quickly outdoors [we worked at a table at an outdoor at my old familiar Ku-Damm] would eventually become to seem other than “normal.” I had also translated all of the early plays but for Quodlibet, which I would do a few years later during a half year’s trip half way round the world and back on the Hellenic Splendor.
    The Austrian Threesome appeared to think that the Suhrkamp Rep’s small apartment was their home away from home. Handke at once moved them out of the Austrian assigned hotel on Lexington Avenue into his there-after forever preferred New York abode, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Algonquin. Uwe Johnson would stay in the next door, far cheaper, Iroquois. I was beginning to learn the odd ways of the once fabulous seeming writers’ – who it turned out “all scratched themselves at the same spots” as did ordinary mortals - invariable eccentricities. We trouped to the premiere of what struck me as a barely good enough performance, the reviewers, Steve Kroll in Newsweek still comes to mind, seemed to like it fine, so did Mel Gussow at the NY Times. Not so Herr Handke who felt it was just as well it had been done in Brooklyn, of course how would he know that B.A.M. and being outside Manhattan was becoming an “in” thing. He went backstage and must have had unhappy words with the director, Wieland Schulz [passport name, a.k.a. Schulz-Keil.
for during our ride back to Manhattan, to Elaine’s, my home away from home since 1965 when it had just been a hole in the wall on Second Avenue, Handke said that he thought Schulz was very dark. When I, who had no particular reason to be apprehensive, questioned that assessment, Handke qualified himself by saying “at least very German.” I of course was keenly aware that Handke was a genius, but learned to appreciate his x-ray vision for character only with time; that he, too, would prove “very dark” and “very German”, differently of course and with that admixture of salvaging Slovenian Maria Sivec, and incomparable to the ultimate masochist Schulz whom John Houston sent to Mexico City to bring some real whores on to the set in Cuernavaca of Under the Volcano, proud of being a pimp, I could not imagine such perverse character structures at the time – live and learn, never live long enough - came as a surprise only because Handke’s genius had made me forget all about my initial 1966 impressions. Translating these works – challenging, but to understand them would take half a life time, to understand what genius can accomplish.
    I had not had time to attend rehearsals, the Jezebel, the only one who could have accomplished this, for whom I had broken out of a six year marriage, had had the part of the woman in Self-Accusation; however, Pamela Bellwood [King] who had been married to Peter Bellwood of The Fringe had got a good part, in the touring company of Butterflies Are Free I think it was, and had fluttered the coop [sorry I couldn’t resist], and had mentioned that the director shouted. What German director did not shout? – well, I never saw Herbert Berghof shout. It was a first alert, like others tucked away in the  underground storage bin. Handke I imagine was unaware of most of the preceding, and he never asked, as a matter of fact during the 20 years that the relationship translator author lasted he never asked the simplest of questions, such as where were you born, when did you get to the U.S., where did you go to school, whose parents child are you – and so I have to agree with Marie Colbin’s assessment that Handke is a one-eyed mono-maniac, entirely self-involved to which numerous documents testify that Malte Herwig provides in his MEISTER DER DAEMMERUNG, especially the letter to Siegfried Unseld seceding from Suhrkamp Verlag because Siegfried is also publishing the Reichs-Kanickel, and the lengthy diary complaint about Sophie Semin’s son from an earlier affair behaving as unselfconscious possessor of Handke’s space in his house in Chaville. I was never at ease with Handke even prior to what he did with my girlfriend Judith Thurman, and I don’t think just because I was awed by his genius, the early impressions that that then proved so premonitiously accurate [Footnote 1] I expect played into that, if there had been a chessboard out during my visits to Rue Montmorency in the 70s we might have gotten something on, those days when some of us at Elaine’s and the crossstreet bar Eric’s followed every move of Bobby Fischer’s championship games was the last hey-day of my chess. According to a letter Handke wrote to Kolleritsch [see their published correspondence] I was "pleasantly boring" - I imagine he could not imagine how boorish I found someone who didn't have a glass of water for a city walker who had walked some miles to his place and unless we went out really didn't seem to want his guest around for at most ten minutes. One must read WEIGHT OF THE WORLD and MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING to appreciate Handke's state of mind during those days after his mother had committed suicide and his insulted and neglected wife had split. - I was at ease and talkative as could be with no end of people but my then uncomprehended gut feelings made me freeze in the presence of murderers and major criminals. Schulz with his act of being one of the guys and saying “shit” at the right moment  - it took me a long time to admit that Handke had been right about him and in five minutes.
At Elaine’s it seemed perfectly normal, as though we had been flirting for a long time, for Libgart and me to play footsie and hold hands under Table 3 while the Bicyle-built-for-Two Kolleritsch-Handke was entwined intellectually. As we left Elaine’s Handke wanted to take a photo of the three of us, Libgart in the center. I realized by the way she moved my hand away from her tush and placed it around her right hip that she was a woman with finesse. I wanted to “walk back” – to the Algonquin, a mere two miles, but Handke was tired. I seemed to have lacked the finesse to instruct Libgart to spend an afternoon at “a hairdressers.” Either by that evening or subsequently, at the Austrian Institute, on its long winding staircase, I saw Libgart “perform” an entrance from that marvel THE RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE – I noticed how proud Handke was of her as a bewitching and light as air performer. That damned peripheral vision again! Within a day or so I gave a party at my three room apartment at 55th and 6th Avenue and invited two of Handke’s earliest American backers, the critics Richard Gilman and Stanley Kaufman, maybe a dozen people, no one from Farrar, Straus best as I recall, and it was when the two critics and Handke and I were a foursome, and Gilman who had noticed Handke’s use of Wittgensteinian [Philosophical Investigations] forms of querying language in RIDE [Gilman had not experienced a performance and so we, good friends to be, would forever argue about the irrelevance of Wittgenstein to what an audience undergoes as the ordinary logic of their word world is destroyed and they are set free], it may have been Gilman asking some lit-crit question along those lines that Handke dropped out down to the left and squatted down by my record player on the lowest shelf of a book case and put on a Beatles Record [?] that I subsequently realized something had been … too much… perhaps one of those episodes that he terms “autistic” to Herbert Gamper. The “dark fellow” with the Alan Ginsberg Karl Marx visage all the time stood by the window to the apartment building shaft into which I had once tossed my wedding ring. After everyone had left, it occurred to Handke, it was the first thing he said, to say that I had was gay. This might have made for more than an awkward moment, but Libgart who might have of course pointed to herself, quickly mentioned the also departed flaxen-haired beauty, Renate Karlin, who had had to leave to look after her two splendid kids. In retrospect what strikes me as odd about myself that here I am having this passionate affair with Renate, which founders on insane jealousy on my part, and I’d have been willing, money allowing, to run off with Libgart, to wherever. Handke would have had his breakdown a year or so earlier. Renate was a recently divorced professor of art at Sarah Lawrence, who could what my even harder working beautiful painter-illustrator teacher wife had been too stubborn and socially incompetent to do, .e.g. hold her own, and not be fazed by the tough talk at the so male oriented Table 4, the “big table”, at Elaine’s – it took very little really to be admitted to the circle if you were a woman, but only two other women come to mind who could handle it, Anthea Sylbert who was married to my close friend and author Paul Sylbert, and the woman who did the acrostics for the New York Magazine, Mary Ann Madden, and tended to hang with friend Tom Buckley, a New York Times reporter who had been in 'Nam, she had a touch of that forties hard drinking reporter gal about her that seemed to admit you to the male club. Renate was entirely feminine but smart, and charming, and had fine hind legs of her own. And yet… so much for my sainthood. Perhaps Handke still had Ginsberg’s pass at him via me of 5 years earlier in mind, or noticed that I held my cigarette the way my mother had. I might have pointed out to him that he had squatted down by my record player like a woman!
At the Threesome’s return from 21 cities in 28 days jaunt through the US, that is memorialized in SHORT LETTER, they seemed to have headed straight for my apartment, Fredi Kolleritch collapsed on what had been my marriage bed, tachycardia, Libgart, too, was exhausted and got to rest on the daybed in my work space, all I did was some liebaeugeln as Handke seemingly energized by the trip experience asked whether there were any international news stands about: indeed, he had come to the right area, both Rizzoli’s and a fancy hotel, the Carlton [?] had them and were within about a block. Had there been images of him in those pages? I failed to ask at his return. Oh yes, Handke asked me whether I could guess whose signature they had wheeled during a flight to Atlanta. I threw up my arms. Muhamed Ali’s on their way to Atlanta. What kids we all were, straight out of the Ride Across Lake Constance, not to forget its sinister bass line. Libgart and I continued where we had left off with our secret little touches and feelies - all this ever evoked from the twosome, it was Kolleritch who spoke up: "Libgart du bist so anders." Was she ever! Anyhow, I made her feel desired who had not been made love to since the birth of her daughter several years before. And so her finally leaving the monster came as no surprise to me.

Such behavior on my part would have been most unusual if Handke had been a friend. To put it succinctly, if a close friend and I were interested in the same girl, I would inevitably defer: the friendship was more valuable, also if I engaged in Oedipal rivalry – there was that inevitable potential for violence, and as I would find out about myself about ten years hence, what I was chiefly afraid of was my own potential for violence. I could provide some very graphic descriptions of how I deferred at moments of extraordinary temptation when a hussy who was having an affair with my closest friend, who was married but an infidel even prior to his wedding made a pass, and on a ferry boat, one of the loveliest places to make love for its motion… its space ship quality… but leave it to the reader’s imagination. Obviously Peter Handke knew no such deferentiality of reluctances, and thus Don Juan would be in hot water most of his life. Nor would he have stood my Jezebel Pamela’s manipulations as I did until I walked out; and in retrospect I imagine that she wanted to be taken hard. However – puzzling over my both insane jealousy in the instances of Pamela as well as the flaxen haired beauty, and yet willing to run off with Libgart if finances had allowed, I wonder about my “object steadiness” – the jealousy referred really more to my unsteadiness than their potential for it, my possessiveness of myself, quite unsteady at that time, a time that stretched into a fifteen year period of major love affairs and marriages and marriage like arrangements, a state of being in constant love with if not with one then in a short time with another. The charm was on, and then the charm fell off in a dream after I also knew that “charm” was the name of one of the Quarks [nonsense] as my last wife mentioned that I seemed to love our two dogs, ridgeback hound hybrids, more than her. Mangy dog me! Back then, after I broke out of my first, only sensible, marriage, Susan Sontag mentioned that I seemed to look so much younger. I, too, was starting to live the life “against interpretation,” pure acting out. The interpretation evidently is coming now, later.

Handke, the way he behaved, and so shabbily to his wife, seemed, it appears, someone I did not take seriously as a man. That he would turn out to be a Don Juan and Alpha Male and Pasha came as a surprise. His only liking for his wife that I noticed was as she descended the banister at the Austrian Forum – as someone light I suppose and someone whose beauty if shown would reflect on him, as a mere possession.  

    We also had lunch one time at the Russian Tea Room on West 57th, they had gone to see a musical play I think with Lauren Bacall in it, Handke was disappointed in her of whom he of course had those marvelous memories as a film actress. At one point we also met with the translator Joachim Neugroeschel, another mama's boy whose mother via the Austrian Institute had arranged for the meeting. Handke nearly threw up at the physical ugliness of Neugroeschel, whose character would turn out to match his physique. The people I was willing to put up with! Joachim was a pretty good translator, I used him a lot later at Urizen, and when I read my translations of INNERWORLD at the Goethe House asked him to join me with his Celan. There would be a second time that Handke nearly puked, at Barbara Rose as the then wife of the friend Jerry Leiber when I was working on putting some songs into THEY ARE DYING OUT, this was in Paris, at the Rue Montmorency. Her character, too, would match her physique, like her daughter, Rachel Stella by whom I would allow myself to be seduced in 1979 and have a great two old shoes year with until I had to make myself impossible at a time I could not have a lead shoe dragging on me, Barbara had been cute when young, but aged badly. Thus Handke's sense of the aesthetic and the moral seem to match. No wonder he sometimes is overcome with self-disgust.

Once when I arrived at Montmorency there was an Austrian Backfisch groupie already there. We sat around awkwardly for a bit, and I think I left of my own accord soon after, Handke saying his usual call and come again. When I did call Handke mentioned that he had exposed himself and that the girl had blushed! [I didn’t say “oh what a surprise that must have been!”] and that he did this when he was “being a bit diabolical.” I noted the forever diminuendo of saying of that kind throughout. Of course if this had been in the late 70s Tribeca Orgon Box as it had become I myself might have asked, surveying that young flesh that no doubt smelled better, “how do you feel about fucking two men at the same time”, and the chances would have been 50/50 that she would have said: “Oh, I love it.” The Orgon started to become that at about the time that girls started wearing their underwear as outerwear. Imagine what that did to someone with a veritably Japanese underwear fetish like myself!

Another time, this must have been the year of the publication of Als das Wuenschen noch geholfen hat, Handke gave that volume to me and asked if I wanted to translated the three long poems that then appeared under the title Nonsense and Happiness. I started scratching away at a translation at an outdoor restaurant at the Luxembourg airport – I flew Air Icelandic with its Continental in Luxembourg, it was the cheapest, it had the loveliest hostesses and I liked Rekjavik and its duty-free store, and I liked the way New Foundland and Nova Scotia looked from the air what with its numerous rusty ponds, the iron ore deposits – and will, obviously, remember to the end of my days a member of the landed gentry in his riding gear and his young affair rendezvousing there – I recall my envy.   

Later, back on the West Coast in the 80s, I heard of Handke’s behavior at UC Riverside’s Austrian shin-dig, he had cursed everyone as idiots and gone off with a woman not his wife. Donald Daviau who ran that operation before he took Summers off to drive the USA in his Goldwing, of French Canadian working class origins, in many ways a splendid man, did not take kindly to Handke’s Tourettism, and it cost Handke a special issue of the magazine he edited.

Herwig Devasted

After observing how Handke behaved toward his wife in New York in 1971 it was no wonder that the two of them, Handke and Schwartz, became engaged in an Ingmar Bergman film, as I guessed from translating fight scenes of that kind in Handke’s They Are Dying Out.

Herwig’s Karadzic and Moureau excerpts would lead you to assume that his bio is not a serious undertaking: it is, it is fine in getting down Handke’s main predicament, how to live as murderously ambitious ultra-sensitive multiply nauseated plethora of tics Pasha from earliest days on super-entitled writer, who will stop at nothing, must write to be well, condamné to write and be famous and yet wishes to be seen by the world each and every day, an immensely entitled being as of his conception, a future Percival, coddled - the entire family, mother, grandfather, uncle, even the to be hated rapist and beater of Handke’s mother, Maria Sivec, Bruno Handke, the stepfather, tithe themselves to further the little childhood dictator’s career – to not live in the complete isolation which both his nervous system and his work demand but to be socially part of the world, to have a kid or two, to have a wife with whom, preferably, one does not end up in an Ingmar Bergman film. Handke ends up in one Bergman film after the other, Herwig recounts four of them, at length, two too many for my taste and interest, since in fact one will do, it’s the same same same old every time. Handke becomes a Salamander who has to live alone.
Herwig fails to mention that they, Handke and Moureau, fought mano a mano, that is he has not read all the published Handke correspondence and in general the book, compared to the sources readily available to Herwig, looks like a rush job. Perhaps ex-Spiegel reporters still abide by deadlines, whereas a writer does not.
Herwig also presents himself as a Germanist, as such he does not pass muster. Let me just mention two extraordinary failures along that line among a host of minor ones.

1] Herwig baldly claims that at some point Handke abandons his formalist style – without ever specifying what that might have been and what it has become now. Nonsense, Handke is a born formalist, you cannot be unborn, however not born as such you might become one with some effort. Handke becomes a better formalist, a greater artist as he goes along, a lighter artist, more graceful is his line, more and more virtuoso, although not yet as ethereal as some women appear to him. Wolfgang Bauer told me at the Austrian forum at UC Riverside: “In Graz we were all formalists.”

2] Thus it is perhaps not all that surprising that Herwig does not even mention the two or three major changes in Handke’s writing – [b] the one during the critical Paris period [1972-78] from being [a], let’s say, “purely phenomenological” to an “emotionally laden” writer. Or the one where images start to anchor the prose more firmly, say in Across [Chinese des Schmerzens] or – [c]- how the narrative procedures begin to change, as announced in Fantasien der Wiederholung. Herwig lists Gamper’s extraordinary book length conversation with Handke – Aber ich lebe doch nur von den Zwischenraeumen – but follows up none of its  leads. His apparat is padded.
Herwig claims, baldy, that Handke’s NOMANSBAY is one of the great novels of the past century – I would agree but you cannot do so as baldly when there must be at least three books worth reading during the past 100 years of that so immensely literate century. [2]
Although Herwig takes Handke’s word for what John Ford’s work means for him, he has no sense for the mytho-poeic as it started to shape Handke’s work with SHORT LETTER.
Herwig does not understand the prior work that gives such evidence of being a control of anxiety, HAUSIERER, Radio Play I. GOALIE, lots of the poems in INNERWORLD. And so at a certain point I began to wonder why MASTER OF TWILIGHT exists: but perhaps for a limited response to Handke’s richest projection of every facet of Handke’s Yoknapatawka-sized self, the very great WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, none of the texts elicit any response from Herwig, occasionally are used for rather shallow biographical readings, say of A Short Letter Long Farewell as being an account of the disintegration of Handke’s marriage; at the end of MEISTER Herwig quotes at appreciative length from Handke’s two last plays, Bis der Tag & Immer noch Sturm, but fails to flesh out those sections where he skimps – the critical first Paris Period 1972-79 with what Handke’s own texts from or about that period afford him: WEIGHT, A CHILD’S STORY, MOMENT. Herwig agrees with Lenz’s sense that everything that Handke writes comes out of Handke’s flesh… but doesn’t know how to do the kind of meat cutting that would layer the book with excerpts to lend it the kind of credibility that a Handke biography, inasmuch it is not even needed but for the childhood, demands. I can conceive of a 1000 page oeuvre consisting of nothing but quotes from Handke’s books and diaries – especially now that the archive is available – interleaved with letters and a bridge here and there, entitled “Handke’s Atlas.”
     It is difficult to say why Herwig wrote this book, certainly he does not respond to any one text or is the work especially meaningful to him, that the subject of an enterprise such as this might prove sensational goes nearly without saying: E.g. when discussing the three long poems from Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat, published in the U.S. under the title of Nonsense and Happiness, Life without Poetry, Blue Poem, etc. – Herwig fails to note how emotional Handke has become, as compared to the texts of Innerworld and all the foregoing – a thorough reading of Weight of the World might of course tell him why: Handke agreed with an analyst he saw that he was disconnected from his feeling – not it appears just from his foot as he wrote his father as a teenager, which meanwhile was floating around Mars!

Although the search for father figures appeared to reach a kind of wishful closure – so convincingly rendered that our mutual friend the Scottish Abbott’s of the Utes and a first rate Handke translator too, then follows the follows the footsteps of the dream [!] -  with the incorporation of the grandfather in The Repetition [1968] the search for literary fathers, that the Germanist Herwig might have devoted a few pages to, their accumulation has certainly proved fruitful, ultimately finding grandfather ancestral figures in that realm as well – Goethe, Stifter, Flaubert, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Grillparzer, Eichendorf, Hermann Lenz – but the envy-driven hatred of most contemporary near greats or near contemporary greats such as Grass, Bert Brecht, Thomas Mann, Enzensberger persists. Handke had an opportunity during his somewhat breakdown in Paris , in the early 70s, when he saw a therapeutician [see W.O.W.]: We are not responsible for having been traumatized but perhaps for not perpetuating them by subjecting those closest to us to the same traumas. Psychoanalytic trauma theory and PTS treatment are in excellent shape. But you need to do half the work on your own. Ah, the stories, the dramas I could I tell thee about myself! The children of WW II… each family with its own disintegration [s]. Handke’s and mine could not be more different, mine are far more debilitating, about the only thing we share in that respect are the Oedipal constellation, with our mother’s being our consciences and model, and the relationship to father’s and stepfathers. Freud & Co. Ltd. would seem to provide richer surrogates than those he found in literature, which are also mine. I share Handke’s aesthetic. Fortunately, together with a kind of ineradicable nonchalance, I also inherited my grandfather’s sense of humor who was laughing again two weeks after he had been liberated from his fourth concentration camp. Old man Sivec unfortunately did not bequeath anything like that to his grandchild Peter Handke, but a stellar ability to cuss, which Handke then calls “sacred rage” [!] or to re-inforce the autist’s Tourettish proclivities, or Handke and I could have laughed our heads off about the time that I, on reading Across, in the mid-80s, set out on this odd venture. [2]

Apparently Handke had no approval of the manuscript, nor looked at it prior to publication; however, the attention that is bestowed on the book inevitably will be bestowed on the author and his work. If Handke had read the m.s. prior to publication he would have realized in a short time what a lousy book most of it is after its first quarter, and I suspect no more mushroom soup for dear Malte, and
might have realized that a lot of its documents will not paint a favorable image of the so image conscious - as far as I am concerned he is more of an unchanged little monster than ever, although the use of some of the documents – say Marie Colbin’s love letters, written at a time when things were good – are meant to perform the opposite service [?].  Although rightly and sufficiently aware of the Handke’s seismographic ultra-sensitivities, when Herwig finds a letter in which Handke describes to his biological father Schönemann his dissociated states, where he sees his own bodily parts as separate entities from his consciousness, Herwig quotes these passages, unselfconsciously written by the 18 year old Handke, without at least wondering how this strange state of affairs might come about. Let this lack of puzzlement on matters psychological stand for Herwig’s lack of interest in fathoming the nature of projecting involved in Handke’s “inner world outerworld innerworld” procedures, and all matters psychological which appears as great as his subject’s, who, aside “nothing but a writer”, appears forever puzzled by who he is no matter that he is able to describe the phenomena. Most contemporary biographers, coming on an author’s account of states of depersonalization and dissociation [also in the poems in NONSENSE AND UNHAPPINESS], would delve into the sources for these near pathological but creatively most useful states of mind, - not Malte Herwig; who abides by the hoary Goethe quote “Zwei Eulen heulen in meinem Brustkorb” - not that some material to help him along that lines is not readily available.
Herwig, who emphasizes the effect of Handke’s mother’s suicide on the author, appears unaware that Handke in the early 70s in Paris was telling one and all that his [neglected and utterly insulted] wife leaving him was the worst thing that had ever happened to him - no, I would hold that the “metempsychosis”, his being possessed by the evil spirit of the hated and self-hated Bruno Handke stepfather is the worst thing that ever started to happen to Handke, already in Berlin as of age 2, and that there is no priest, be it Catholic or Orthodox or long term analyst who can exorcise it at this point. Handke it appears to have confessed to Herwig that he is still the same troubled being he has been nearly his entire life.
    To the poems in Nonsense and Happiness Herwig has no reaction, about them mentions some stupid reviews, and then Karl Krolow’s, who hasn’t the faintest either in following these three progressively stormier, depersonalizing and repersonalizing fugueing poems. Herwig mentions Handke’s admittance into a hospital for panic induced tachycardia, but has the date wrong by two years, it is 1974, by 1976 our man was writing Left-Handed Woman, [Weight which recounts that experience was published in German by Residenz Verlag in 1976], had moved out of the Rue Montmorency basement apartment to Clamart/ Meudon whence he described the gently rolling hills of Paris. Herwig does not appear to know that it was Valerium that then calmed Handke’s heart, and it may be Valium more than anything which we have to thank for Handke’s first big change at that time. And what about that enlarged heart valve, is it for real or have we one of those conventions to save pride of face as in “Libgart Schwartz has decided to resume her acting career” to explain her disappearance, an acting career that had never ceased, but I imagine shortly before and after she gave birth to her daughter Amina.

Herwig unloads a veritable trove of documents that he himself has not yet explored to the extent that I will in some instances in this review, these are not just documents from the two big German and Austrian archives to which Handke sold his diaries and manuscript for a total of 800,000 Euro so as to be able to stay in Five Star hotels whenever he travels and not require Sigrid Löffler to arrange Heine prizes for him so that he can invite all his translators to go clambering with the mountains goats in the Sierra del Gredos, but also diary excerpts such as the marvelous one where Handke is hugely upset at the behavior and the space Sophie Semin’s son from a previous relationship bring into our lord’s house: you already have a description of the Austrian threesome’s leader at my apartment during their visit in 1971 to New York and I was the Suhrkamp agent and of my visits to the Rue Montmorency.
     Herwig thus quotes from the often wonderful correspondence between Handke and his quite literate mother, grandfather, stepfather, and there is a marvelous letter to Siegfried Unseld announcing Handke’s withdrawal from the firm, on which Handke then relented – and the wife of one of Handke’s half-siblings from his biological father, a Herr Schönemann, who helped conceive the then not so little bastard to be in Griffen in Spring of 1942 when he and his German army unit were stationed in Carinthia, unearths the correspondence between Handke and this man whom Handke initially welcomed once his mother fessed up to his existence. Handke himself approached her at one point as an adolescent, referring to the Bruno monster: “I cannot be that man’s child.”  
The marvelous, impassioned letter by Handke to Siegfried Unseld withdrawing from the firm because Unseld now also publishes Handke’s nemesis Marcel Reich-Kanickel as I think of him [No-Man’s-Bay also contains brief mention of Handke’s unhappiness in this matter, as it relates to Keuschnig’s publisher visiting him in his refugio.] I wish might have found its way into that marvelous tableaux, I must say, as a biographer, I would have introduced the background to why the Kanickel became Handke’s nemesis.
   In the 60s Handke wrote a funny playful essay describing how the Kanickel, as a reviewer, invariably used the same tricks. It’s a playful, not a vicious piece, and if I had been a Kanickel  who had to write two or three book reviews a week, I might have sent Handke a postcard, saying, “hey, kid, if you can tell me how to find a different tack three times a week, I’ll share my income with you.”
    Unfortunately the Kanickel, who once expressed himself favorably about Handke’s PUBLIC INSULT, does not take as kindly to derision as I might have in this instance. He proceeds to devastate two of Handke’s most marvelous books, LEFT HANDED WOMAN & A SLOW HOMECOMING, and does so in the  kind of low-down fashion as you might get from vilenesses like Neil Gordon, in the NY Times Sunday Book Review
or Michael McDonald did to Handke’s CROSSING DEL GREDOS in this country a few years back. McDonald is a sad case who works for a right-wing tank, The Amurrican Interest, Gordon, who heads the writing program at the New School and is an abominable novelist, is the sort of chap I would put out of his misery if I should encounter him in Billie the Kid country where everyone wears a side arm. I mean it. Perhaps Kanickel is also still aggrieved because of Handke’s performance at Princeton. Handke proceeds to describe the Kanickel as a mad bulldog shitting all over an airport runway in Lesson of St. Victoire, we are definitely in a Carinthian village now where the monkeys throw buckets full of shit at each other. The Kanickel claims he has never been so hurt in his life, by this comparison. He will say this a number of other times when other writers decide it’s “pay back-time.” However, at the behest of Siegfried Unseld, who prefers peace amongst his authors and who is entitled to publish whom he pleases [and it is a smart move to publish the Kanickel’s anthologies, moreover it neutralizes him somewhat, who praises Unseld as the greatest German post WW II publisher] the Kanickel writes Handke a series of letters to Salzburg, to find a modus vivindi, as rapprochement. These are returned “unopened“ … what our village idiot savant fails to keep in mind is that the Kanickel, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, who had studied German literature in Berlin prior to being expelled during the Hitler years, became a police spy in post-war Poland, who can spot a once opened letter at a glance! Now this is the kind of material, in greater more delicious detail, that you would want in a real biography. It would provide context – Herwig’s bio lacks, is devoid of context! But for the Forum Stadtpark period in Graz. He fails to note the degree to which Handke, in his way, addressed the concerns of the 60s generation in his early plays, there exist interviews to that effect.

Yet spending so much time with Handke Herwig has picked up quite a few nice details, e.g. Handke, who has been writing with a pencil since 1978 [Geschichte des Bleistifts/ L’histoire de crayon is the title of volume 2 of his published diary excerpts] has developed arthritis or carpel tunnel syndrome of his right wrist… which he treats by brushing the wrist against Brenn Nesseln, i.e burn nettles… dis, replacing the ague as it were. So one must read the entire tome, including its longeurs.

Fortunately Handke is a great writer, otherwise he would just be a monster, yet still a fascinating “case”, a man who would be under no end of restraining order in this country. If you look at the rake’s progress from his first novel, the 1964 Die Hornissen to the 2007 Moravian Nights you could use that cumulation to teach how prose writing can be done. Is being a great writer synonymous with being a great monster – not necessarily I don’t think, you need not be a great writer to commit as much gratuitous injury to those closest to you as Handke has.

Giving Herwig access to material that is not even in the two chief Austrian and German archives of Handke’s work sounds dangerous in the extreme… nay, suicidal… especially if my memorablia contained as much explosive material as Handke’s does… it is fairly devastating I think to realize the degree to which Handke has even falsified supposedly truthful accounts such as A SORROW BEYOND DREAMS or that we now find out that he did not even live with the Marie Colbin but miles apart when she supposedly did not leave him any breathing! room to write so that he had the wish to kill her [whom has Handke not had a wish to kill at one time or another?] – the lame excuse for beating the shit out of her that Handke proffers in Moravian Nights is the most hideous thing he has ever written – the formalist virtuoso account of her not leaving him alone as the excuse for wanting to kill her and beating her - in Moravian Nights. Herwig fails to follow up the contradiction between the lies that Handke offers him over mushroom soup - “oh I might have kicked her in the ass, perhaps I even gave her a slap in the face – and I didn’t feel very good about myself.” Typical Handke lying and belittling is all I can say, see the enumeration of Colbin’s charges, that Herwig, the prettier-upper, elides.

Handke introduced his admission to having beaten a woman, tactical concession defense, as a belated response to former lover and Lebensgefährte, collaborator on a film now Erinye Marie Colbin’s going public, during the Handke/ Yugoslavia publicity wars in the 90s, it has been hanging there in the air ever since, waiting for a response first in Der Falter, which was picked up
with a description of how Handke had nearly killed her. ["Ich höre noch meinen Kopf auf den Steinboden knallen. Ich spüre noch den Bergschuh im Unterleib und auch die Faust im Gesicht...   Solange es Männer gibt auf dieser Welt - Männer wie Dich - einäugig, unnachgiebig, machthungrig und Ego-breit - wird es auch Waffen geben und somit Kriege... Wer bist Du denn, daß Du Dich so wichtig nimmst? Bist weder groß, noch edel oder gar bescheiden und aufrichtig. Ein eitler Schreiber bist Du, der sich sonnt in der Rolle des 'einsamen Rufers.'... Irgendwie wirst Du diesem Krieg dankbar sein, denn er befriedigt auf perverse Weise Dein unstillbares Verlangen nach öffentlicher Anerkennung." A translation of her statement reads: „I can still feel my head bang on the stone floor. I can still feel the mountain hiker boots hit my stomach and your fist in my face… As long as there are men in the world – men like you – one-eyed, unyielding, power-hungry and egomaniacal – there will be weapons and therefore war… Who are you, to think of yourself as so important. You are neither great, nor noble nor modest nor honest. A vain writer is what you are, who suns himself in the role of the solitary prophet… In some way you will be thankful for this war [The Yugoslav wars of 1994-99] because it will satisfy your insatiable longing for public acclaim.”

I gives me little satisfaction but some to agree with most of Ms. Colbin’s assessment, who however herself would I think now disavow her statement that Handke is merely a vain writer – since she herself doesn’t seem to be able not to perform his work, that is to let go. I have already mentioned that I cannot recall a single instance where Handke in what had been a 20 some year association expressed the slightest interest in who I might be, whence I came, my past, etc. Monomaniacal was fine with me once I got an inkling of what a genius he was. Handke’s sexual habits are those of a true pasha, two whores at one time he told me once, a man who really takes his women! The kind of pasha who would have felt equally home as a Sumerian king where the concubines were tossed out on the street and the Sumerian texts cite the biting bitches in the streets. In recent text we seem to have made a rapprochement with the “ewig Weibliche” however, and we – this the royal “we” – lets itself be berated, but we are still locked in a Dostoyevskyian darkness and lacking all understanding. - Occasionally Handke seemed to get lonely during his first Paris period [“only the Portuguese cleaning woman in the past ten days”] days – who wouldn’t be if you behaved as he did! Yet what surprised me was that someone so quickly successful might yet be so lonely that he needed to ask me in the 70s to write to him – once I got a drift on how very different his autism made this idiot savant, I allowed that it was simply so, not that I necessarily understood all those equations even now. Colbin is of course more than right in finding that the Yugoslav wars afforded Handke a golden opportunity for self-display – yet some fine works – especially VOYAGE BY DUGOUT & THE CUCKOOS OF VELICA HOCA - have resulted from it too, and I am overall glad at his intercession, see:
for a host of material on this aspect of Handke’s life, and where I have no quarrel with Herwig’s chapter that tries to show that it was entirely in character for Handke to take this position. – Yugoslavia being the biggest opportunity for self-display, and the one with the worst consequences, of which, it turns out, his close friends in Paris, Luc Bondy, his then wife Sophie Semin and Peter Stephan Jungk, to whom he read Justice for Serbia, had warned him. Had I been there I would have said: go for it, you are right! At least in the matter of the diabolization of the Serbs you are. Even the publicity stunt was as much cause for action as Handke’s sense of righteousness, they have gone glove in hand from the beginning. If you look back to the beginning, you note that this twin-ship invariably appears together. I have no quarrel with Herwig on that score but he fails to follow up on why Handke with all the publicity aspect of the case, going to see Milosevic in jail, showing up at his funeral and expressing his fine condolences and solidarity he then refused the call to be an expert witness on the disintegration of Yugoslavia at the Milosevic trial, and Herwig has read and quotes from Die Tablas des Damiel, and why Handke wouldn’t even write a letter, and an expert he certainly was and is, and after putting in altogether a year of my life over a ten year period on most aspects of that misery I too have one or the other expertise now. The contemplation of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and its treatment in the media and how the horde of prêt a porter “innelectuals” all hopped up and down gave me a glimpse in what Handke calls “the machinery of evil” in VILLAGES – one can see them gnashing in all their gears, and I wouldn’t have a quarrel with priests calling the world evil, I can see how such a mental short-cut might come about.

Colbin Excursus
More Colbin now, the forever Erinye who after she had been beaten would show up at all of Handke’s usual haunts so that he had to head out of town, as in THE AFTERNOON OF A WRITER to find a safe spot to drink with his male pals; and may have been the reason that he fled Salzburg for Paris in 1978 leaving so much material behind with Hans Widrich.

August 9, 2010

"eine verschmitzte, herrlich sinnlose Lebenslust"- GENAU!

Festwochen Gmunden: Gedemütigte Frau und Richterin

  Marie ColbinMarie Colbin las Peter Handke im Gmundner MYTHOS.   

In Peter Handkes Salzburger Jahren Anfang der 80er war der Schriftsteller der Lebenspartner der Schauspielerin Marie Colbin. Bei den Festwochen Gmunden las Colbin am Samstag im MYTHOS Handkes Text „Bis dass der Tag euch scheidet oder eine Frage des Lichts“.

Das MYTHOS in der Badgasse ist ein Ort, an dem nicht über Qualität diskutiert werden muss. In dem kleinen Geschäft mit großem Anspruch stehen Film-Raritäten herum, erlesene Literatur und fantastische Vinyl-Platten. Wer hier Kunde ist, der lässt sich nicht vom Zeitgeist schrecken, der steht auf Dinge für die Ewigkeit. Mit diesem Anspruch reiste die in Salzburg lebende Marie Colbin nicht in ihre Heimatstadt. Für die Ewigkeit – was ist das schon, geht das denn? Sie wollte Peter Handkes im Oktober 2008 entstandenen Monolog bloß mehr Leben injizieren, als es die blutleere Uraufführung bei den Salzburger Festspielen im vergangenen Jahr zu Stande gebracht hat. Das gelingt ihr, mitunter sogar ein bisschen zu lebendig. Sie gibt sich hin, als sei ihr die Anklage der namenlosen Frau selbst aus der Feder geflossen. Handke reagiert mit seinem Text auf Samuel Becketts „Das letzte Band“ und dessen Figur Krapp. Handke bewertete Becketts Werk als die Endstation des Theaters, weil noch mehr Reduktion nicht zu schaffen sei.
Schweigen ohne Widerrede
„Mit deiner Art Schweigen wolltest du bestimmen über mich, wolltest du mir dein Gesetz aufzwingen, ein despotisches Gesetz, gegen das es keine Widerrede gab“, liest und lebt Colbin. Im Raum entsteht eine Ahnung davon, wie es sich zwischen ihr und Handke abgespielt haben könnte. Colbin ist kleines Mädchen, gedemütigte Frau und Richterin. Sie stampft, sie marschiert barfuß auf dem eigens ausgelegten roten Teppich, der sich wie eine Blutspur durch den Laden zieht. „Neiiiiiiiiin“, schreit sie gellend und wehrt sich gegen die Bilder, die in ihr aufsteigen, gegen seinen „formvollendeten Gram“ und gegen seine „Leichenbittermiene“, in der sie „eine verschmitzte, herrlich sinnlose Lebenslust“ zu erkennen glaubt. Colbin mutet sich ungebremst zu, und als Adressat ist Handke an diesem Abend nicht mehr aus dem Kopf zu bringen.
Marie Colbin steht kurz davor, ins Filmgeschäft zurückzukehren, im Herbst wird über die Finanzierung von zwei Projekten entschieden. Bis dahin hat sie noch einen kleinen Teil ihrer Welt zu retten: das Postamt in ihrem Salzburger Stadtteil Morzg, das zugesperrt werden soll. Ein Salzburger Freibad hat sie schon vor dem Abriss bewahrt und damit verhindert, dass anstelle der urbanen Idylle ein Hotel gebaut wurde. Colbin: „Mit dieser Post ist es genauso, sie ist ein kleines Kommunikationszentrum, vom Uhu bis zur DVD kriegt man alles, und es wäre eine Schande, wenn sie es schließen.“ 1400 Unterschriften hat sie schon gesammelt, die Protestliste wird sie den Zuständigen in Wien zustellen – freilich per Post.

# 3 Colbin, her review, the only interesting one of Malte Herwig’s book, an attempted white-wash by Handke via his biographer, that the Erinye thwarts“:],509962


Marie Colbin: Gedanken zu Peter Handke

Gedanken zu Peter Handke
Peter Handke und Marie Colbin im Jahre 1986   Bild: DVA
Am 8.8.2008 fällt mir Peter Handke nach 20 Jahren Abwesenheit wieder auf einem Gehweg zu, beinah wie damals Ende Juli 1983 am heißesten Tag des Jahrhunderts. Wir sitzen im Garten des Hotels Sheraton, und ich sehe seine kleinen Füße und sehe noch viel mehr und es ist mir vertraut, als hätten wir uns gestern erst getrennt.
Ein Jahr später, am 8.8.2009 um 16 Uhr, sitze ich wieder in den Korbmöbeln mit den winterweißen Pölstern, mir gegenüber Malte Herwig, ein junger, höflicher, sehr hochdeutsch sprechender Mann, der ein Buch über Peter Handke plante.
Im Vorfeld dachte ich, es wäre besser, ich rede mit dem Biographen, er könne sich dann vielleicht ein schärferes Bild machen, als er orientiere sich nur am Tratsch der anderen. Malte H. stellte ein Gerät in Tierform auf den Gartentisch. Ein rot leuchtender Innenkörper mit vier dunkelgrauen Beinen in Draht gewickelt starrte auf mich. Das Mikro wirkte wie ein Roboterhund, der jederzeit auf meinen Schoß hüpfen könnte. Irgendwie irreal, dieses Ding. Noch nie zuvor gesehen.
So öffnete ich mich also und versuchte auf die Fragen des Biographen zu antworten. Plötzlich legte mir Malte H. Briefe vor, nicht nur das, er las sie sogar laut. Als wäre ich vor Gericht, so wurde ich jetzt geprüft. Diese Briefe waren meine! Ich schrieb sie als sehr junge Frau an Peter Handke, im Vertrauen und nicht ahnend, dass diese zu Lebzeiten in fremde Hände geraten könnten. Es gäbe da ein Archiv, einen Vorlass, und ich war entsetzt und verletzt, fühlte mich verraten und verkauft. In dieser Hochspannung versuchte ich Haltung zu bewahren und den Fragen zu folgen. Viele Stunden saßen wir da, redeten, und die Vergangenheit riss mir das Herz wund. Ich versuchte zu vertrauen, jedoch gelang es mir nicht ganz.
Am 9. November 2010 wird das Buch erscheinen – das wusste ich, und ich schlief ab Anfang November schlecht. Der Postbote übergab mir das Paket, und ich öffnete es langsam. Ein starkes Coverbild lag da vor mir, auf schwarzmattem Papier. Die Struktur der winterweißen, harten Bucheinbindung erinnerte mich an die Korbmöbel im Garten des Hotels, auf denen wir saßen, der Dichter und auch der Biograph. Ich sehe auch noch den gepflegten Anzug des Biographen, auf den relativ kurz nach Beginn unserer Begegnung ein Vogel kackte. Ich sagte: „Vielleicht bringt das Glück!“ Als ich dann den Buchdeckel aufschlug, fand ich mich gleich im handschriftlichen Tagebuchauszug vom 3. Juni 1984. Sie sagte, ihr rechtes Bein sei zwei Mal in Gips gewesen: „Aber damals war ich noch Jungfrau.“ (Satz auf der Brücke) Ein olivfarbenes Blatt liegt auf dem Text, und dieser Farbton erinnert mich an ein von mir gefärbtes Hemd, das ich dem Dichter schenkte und mit dem ich somit zur Tintoretta wurde.
Nach dem Flashback wurde ich nervös, denn ich wollte mich im Innenteil des Buches suchen, diese Passagen also, von denen mir der Biograph im Vorfeld bereits berichtete. Wie soll ich ein Buch mit beinah 400 Seiten in einer Nacht lesen, das geht einfach nicht. Ich muss also erst einmal drüberfliegen. Die Sache mit Mann und Frau auf Seite 235, ich finde und fliege. Erst mal bin ich erleichtert. Puh, durchatmen, es hätte schlimmer kommen können. Jedoch auch stärker und tiefer, so hätte ich es mir gewünscht.
Da waren Wörter verdreht, vieles fehlte und manches hätte ich so gar nicht gebraucht. Erwarte ich zu viel? Ist es denn möglich, wenn Dritte über Dritte schreiben, dass es der Wahrheit entspricht?
Eigentlich wollte ich das Buch gleich weglegen, da es belastet und alte Wunden aufreißt. Ich versuchte die Emotion abzustreifen und etwas gelassener zu werden, war neugierig und wollte diese Biographie lesen. Zeile für Zeile. Somit begann ich damit. Als würden die Buchstaben aus den Seiten fallen. Der Druck ist nicht zentriert, das mag ich nicht. Mir ist, als würde ich die Buchstaben verlieren beim Lesen.
Dennoch lese ich den Anfang gern, über diese wilde Mutter und den etwas eitlen und doch lieben Vater, dessen Hund auf dem Bild mich an den meines Großvaters erinnert. Es ist kein Collie, wie dort beschrieben, sondern eine Setterart, diese Hunde liebe ich besonders. Ich fliege weiter und lache und bin berührt und bewegt.
Der Biograph war fleißig. Der erste große Teil ist sehr gelungen, finde ich. Die Nacht ist lang und ich lese und lese. Es bannt mich, es ist auch spannend, bis ich dann in diese Frauenspur gerate, und ab da kippt das Buch. Irgendwie stimmt es nicht mehr. Wenngleich im ersten Großteil vieles auch etwas langatmig ist und diese Rückblenden, die Wiederholung der Wiederholung, mich manchmal nerven, so wirkt das Geschriebene dennoch wahrhaftig auf mich. Ab der Frauenspur dann nicht mehr.
Ich erinnere mich wieder an den ersten Eindruck des Biographen. Ich dachte: „Der ist zu jung!“ Zehn Jahre später, das wäre besser. Wie soll ein Mitte-Dreißig-Jähriger eine Biographie über einen beinah 70-Jährigen schreiben können? Vor allem dieses Frau-Mann-Thema, dafür ist er zu jung. Noch voll mit Illusion und Paartraum.
Ja, und dann lande ich wieder inmitten meiner Sätze, verdreht zitiert, und werde wütend. Nicht nur meine Worte sind verdreht, sondern auch die anderer. „Lieber, lieber Handke, vergessen Sie keinen Augenblick, dass Sie mit meiner Frau sprechen!“ Ihr Heller. So wäre das Original gewesen. „Lieber Peter, bitte bedenken Sie, dass Sie mit meiner Frau unterwegs sind.“ Ihr A.H. – so steht es im Buch.
Die Färbung der Zwischentöne, mir wäre die wichtig, denn Heller würde nicht so mit Handke reden. Und wenn es schon ein Tonband gibt, auf dem ich Klartext spreche, verstehe ich die Verdrehung nicht. Auch, dass Heller unterstellt wird, er hätte mich zu dem Polittext 1999 animiert, ist Irrwitz! Denn in jener Zeit hatte ich bereits 15 Jahre lang keine Verbindung zu diesem Mann.
Der Text 99 brach aus mir selbst, aus Wut zwar, jedoch auch aus Überzeugung. Ich hatte eine andere politische Haltung, da mir alles Nationale zuwider ist. Ich wünschte mir damals Handke als Mittler und nicht als derart Wütenden. Ich baute einen Text als Metapher zu diesem Krieg, und ich fand schrecklich, wie mein Text von der Presse reduziert und billigst vermarktet wurde. Dass der Biograph jetzt wieder in diese drei Endsätze taucht und nicht meine politische Haltung weitergibt, verletzt mich. Wozu sprach ich Stunden mit diesem Mann?
Wenn ein Vulkan ausbricht, Lava über dich fließt und du überlebst, dies dann als Tritt in den Po beschrieben wird, dann sage ich, es sollte lieber geschwiegen werden. Ich würde niemals einen Schreiber bei seiner Arbeit aufhalten. NIE! Denn ich achte sein Tun und habe davor Respekt.
Ich möchte nicht, dass so über mich geschrieben wird, denn das ist Lüge. Ich denke, der Biograph wusste nicht so recht, wie er zum politischen Teil des Buches gelangen soll. Er benutzte mich als Art Brücke. Als wir uns begegneten, wollte er den politischen Teil draußen lassen. Ich sagte: „Das geht aber nicht. Das ist nun mal ein zentrales Thema.“
Ich fühle jetzt beim Lesen des 6. Kapitels, dass da etwas nicht stimmt. Dass da zurechtmodelliert wurde. So sehr ich den Anfang des Buches mochte, so sehr mag ich den Schluss nicht.
Plötzlich sind wir im Märchen, und alle sollen den Helden lieben. Ja, ich verstehe, dass der Autor seinen Protagonisten gut aus dem Buch entlassen will, aber heiligsprechen sollte er ihn nicht.
Ich erhob meine Stimme, weil ich dazu gebeten wurde. Jetzt schließe ich das dicke Buch, verlasse das Vergangene, versuche mit den Projektionen und Wahrnehmungen der anderen klarzukommen, um zu überleben, lande wieder auf der Erde und LIEBE MEINE FREIHEIT!
Zur Person Marie Colbin
* 18. November 1957 in Gmunden, absolvierte die Schauspielschule des Mozarteums in Salzburg, nahm dann Gesangs- und Tanzunterricht.
1977 Debüt in Peter Turrinis „Rozznjogd“. In den 1980ern war sie in zahlreichen Film- und Fernsehproduktionen zu sehen.
1984 Deutscher Filmpreis als beste Hauptdarstellerin in „Der Fall Bachmeier – Keine Zeit für Tränen“. Colbin lebt als Fotografin und Autorin in Berlin und Salzburg.
Marie Colbin in Film und Fernsehen: 1980 „Auf halbem Weg“, „Reinheit des Herzens“. 1981: „Malou“; 1982: „Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull“; „Sei zärtlich, Pinguin“, „Miras Haus“. 1983: „Karambolage“, „Das Gold der Liebe“, „Frühlingssinfonie“; 1986: „Die Walsche“; 2004: „Augenleuchten“; 2006: „Die Zeit, die man Leben nennt“.

Having read Moravian and noting that the now Erinye Marie Colbin pursues Handke in that book [much as the wife does in Short Letter] Herwig also does not ask Handke whether he really left his first girl friend at the Island of Cordula/ Krk where he wrote his first novel, Die Hornissen, with an illegitimate child.
     Handke has said that as soon as he is apprehended, say with his hands in the cookie jar, he lies; and I have given some thought to why the protagonist of THE AFTERNOON AS A WRITER, who once called himself “the new Kafka” before he called himself “the new Goethe” has that proclivity to instantaneous untruthfulness. [An amazing moment is when Herwig quotes the perhaps now demented Kolleritsch saying how truthful Handke is! Fredi Kolleritch whom I met during the threesome’s visit to New York and who lay down with a tachycardia on my once marriage bed on their return from their 21 venues in 28 days trip which appeared to have invigorated Handke. Fredi must be senile by now.
Fredi mentions that after the magazine Manuskripte
ran a piece by Elfriede Jellinek that was critical of something of Handke’s Handke threatened never to give Manuskripte anything of his again if they ever did something like that again. Handke the threatener! Apparently bicycle twin Fredi did not have it in him to tell Handke where to get off!  Nor did Unseld, I can’t be the only one? I have that wild guess that the real reason Handke beat up Colbin was because she gave him lip! She comes across as a thoughtful intelligent person in her, the only smart and deep, review of Malte’s book, and doesn’t seem lacking for words or to speak up, and continues to love Handke’s work, if not the person. Our little Pasha Prince has conniptions when he can’t get his way! I am not telling him anything he doesn’t know himself.

I think the answer to the question why Handke lies, if correctly posed, might be found in the equivocal nature of the ending of AFTERNOON: the arrogant injured writer hears himself speaking to the world from the top of the mountain… he hears his own voice on the radio… yet he feels like nothing. Whenever you come on this “I feel like nothing” you can be fairly certain that that is a grand pasha speaking. Lying as yet another form of entitlement, cowardice. However, once you start to lie you are caught forever in its labyrinth. Perhaps I am wrong in not detecting a masochist in Handke, who are the most grandiose of all. I think Handke’s arrogance, utterly justified in the self-confidence he has had in his talent since early on? – but might the self not be calm in that case? Not so hysterical, not in need of so much self-display and media mirroring? - yet does not suffice to overcome the sense of being abject – which connection to Kafka I think is more profound than to Kafka’s hysterical angst-ridden side. Handke is in need of some serious metamorphoses, as is of course the roach motel as a whole.

Herwig has Handke calling the Verlag der Autoren, the socialist collective that split off from the  Suhrkamp in the late 60s and whom I represented in this country for some years, “eine Bande”; to me when I asked him why he had left, he called them “Fascists”. Apparently he showed up one day and asked his earliest dramaturg, Karl Heinz Braun for the rights back to those plays that were administered under the VDA aegis. The way Handke said “fascists” at the time, well it was such a gross misuse of the word that I suspected that there were other reasons, above and beyond even that being “primus inter pares” would not suffice. I have a hunch that Unseld had something to do with it, and Suhkamp’s DM 100,000 investment in the film Handke made of Left Handed Woman. Be that as it may, what is astonishing is that the great legman Malte Herwig fails to interview Karl Heinz Braun who knows where some skeletons are buried. Oh yes, I was amazed to come on Siegfried Unseld’s diary notation that Handke “and with his income had never paid any income tax, but one DM 500.”

Giving Herwig such access might be lethal if Handke were not, had not been since early on, a compulsive exhibitionist par excellence – Herwig gives a fine account of Handke as pop star in the late 60s, a matter of which I as his translator and editor and then, faux mieux, director in New York was quite oblivious, taking him as an all around serious and genius endowed writer from the git-go of my starting to translate him. However, Herwig in this instance as in nearly every other, fails to be puzzled why Handke, a serious writer, might perform in public like a rock star, become a photo model, who frequently also photographs himself - there is no such thing as bad publicity all publicity is good publicity as long as it keeps your name alive and your picture in the public eye. Besides, there is always some occasion to show your face, to speak up righteously. Genius as Handke most certainly is and a truly great writer, he lacks the peripheral vision for social consequences - “tollpatchig” Handke’s nemesis, the Reichs-Kanickel, called him - being so brilliantly observant, and with such a deep gaze, his own brilliance blinds him, and others like him, to the possibility that they too might be observed and contemplated. From early on I noticed that obliviousness, aside matters for which no one can be indicted such as extreme states of depersonalization, autistic episodes, or the compulsion then to insult one and all and everyone, so that you might think Handke suffers from Tourette syndrome… Herwig quotes from a letter that Handke then started to write once he was, happily it seems, put into touch with his biological father, at around age 18. The entire clan in Griffen, mother, grandfather, even the detested stepfather who had been experienced as his real father – although Handke began to sense that he couldn’t possibly that man’s son – chipped in to make a career possible for Handke, a super star since birth it appears, his specialness: they were all willing to sacrifice for it. The Seminary for Priests was not free of charge, families had to pay, I think, 3500 shillings a month! It’s not cheap to escape the impoverished class! You pay through the nose for your future spiritual benumbers. [In Baja California the Jesuits got the goatherds to collect gold dust for them in bird’s eggs strung around their neck, in exchange for tools, so that the Jesuits had the money to build further missions.] After Handke left the Seminary at age 16, voluntarily it appears, he went to Gymnasium in Klagenfurt, then enrolled in law school in Graz, envisioning a career as one of those delights of Austrian culture, an Austrian Cultural attaché with enough time on his hands, a matter Herwig then fails to remember when he discusses Handke’s friendship with the Austrian Cultural attaché Greinert in Paris during the 70s, who had a daughter Amina’s age, I once went along with both attachés on a totally unmemorable Sunday in the Bois de Boulogne, I heard that Greinert, who sometimes functioned as the badly needed baby sitter during Handke’s trips away from Paris, died young, but I always wondered how he felt about the use Handke made of him as yet another Keuschnig. 
    Handke’s sense of entitlement was nourished from early on, from early on he not only looked out for his siblings, but also beat them. Being physically violent is part of his nature, from early on, already at Tanzenberg, he is gratuitously cruel to the person closest to him,  the German teacher who recognizes and furthers his talent, Herr Musak. He will continue to do so throughout his life, as Wim Winder explained to me here in Seattle in the late 90s, wondering whether Handke and I were still friends, no Handke had obviated any such possibility already as of the mid 1970s [one wonders what was done to Wender’s godfather to Handke’s second daughter], which did not keep me from championing his work, or translating the greatest and most detailed and complex self-portrait Handke has projected and objectified ambiguously of himself, WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES; but since Handke continued to think of me as a friend until the mid-80s with his threat to break off a non-existent friendship when I went to bat for his work in a manner not to his liking earned him the kind of wake-up call that must have come as anything but a salutary shock was another reason to think that my man is quite oblivious of the consequences of his actions;  that he is as split as he describes his bodily parts as being from his consciousness, his foot floating off towards the moon. Handke is the sort of fellow who would rape a girlfriend and say to me the following week that he had not had any “women aventuras” for a long time, perhaps it wasn’t even an adventure, but a routine; nonetheless, it sort of took my breath away; and the girlfriend who had been something rarer than a great passion, but a “great fondness”, that turned out to be yet another moment in my “Midsummer Night’s Dreams”; as did Mr. Handke’s thinking I was yet his friend; a lot of women love to be taken hard, a matter about which I feel more equivocal than Mr. Handke… Darwin, another who explains everything, would agree. However, Handke had successfully goaded me, and I would keep my distance except from the work. Handke spooked me, and I tried as quickly as possible not to be alone with him. The writer Michael Brodsky who had come to Urizen Books via Patricia Highsmith and Handke served that foil at those times.

No boundaries were set for Handke when this love child of love children was on his way to become the Mogul of Self, Hermann Quitt, of They are Dying Out­ – a hybrid of Handke’s own unbounded sense of self with Siegfried Unseld’s wish to monopolize belles letters in Germany I would say. Then suicidally disposed Handke has Quitt – one character does tell him to know his limits! – then cracks his skull on the rock of ages, snakes crawling all over it.

Herwig talks to Handke’s sibling Hans who avows that his real father, Peter’ step, Bruno seems to have been as much of a drunkard as any other worker in Griffen, but fails to keep Handke’s ultra-sensitivity in mind, where what might be a cricket chirp to Hans will be amplified into chalk screeching on a slate board for Handke who even in his Essay on Tiredness, of which Herwig fails to avail himself, indicated how furious and tired it made him to have to listen to the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof noises entering his student’s room in Graz. Whatever happened to Robert Handke, the third and belated child that Maria Sivec had with Bruno?
   Bruno Handke’s real children are not as unfavorably disposed toward their father, if only because the mother Maria Sivec’s love is so evidently exclusively devoted to her first born, not to children the multiple self-abortioner probably would just as soon not have had. The dynamics of that family are fair dynamite: Grandfather Sivec is experienced as a surrogate father, there is longing for dead uncles, the orchard book of the dead uncle Georg who had studied horticulture in Maribor prior to WW II is in a nook in Handke’s work room in Chaville… the war time letters of the fallen sons become heir looms: Handke has written a huge heirloom of his existence, his consciousness, for us, one other impetus from early on. Ahnenkult. All right with me: one tear drop can contain the world.

Herwig is excellently appreciative of Handke’s ultra-sensitivity, he is fairly precise but not quite precise enough. That can make all the difference. I thought Herwig might unearth Handke’s positive evaluation to join the Austrian army, the only matter that his step dad Bruno was allegedly was proud of. Herwig’s searches do not go that far.

Herwig is first rate in quoting from Die Hornissen; however, as a supposed Germanist, fails to understand it as a successful literary work of art that translated, plays an “as if” state into that realm. He is appreciative in his reading of Elfenbeinturm, also he understands the rather deeper sense of politics that is Handke’s, akin to the existential Marx of the Fruehschriften, in plays such as Cries for Help.   

One instance of Handke appearing and I availing myself of Michael Brodsky as a foil is the worm hole to matters becoming novelistic and truly worm eaten. The year must be 1977. Handke did not have Amina along as he once did as well, and I decided to go to my, one of the two watering holes in our downtown then urban pioneering idyll, Barnabus Rex, which was on the north side of that very short block of Captain Duane Street between Hudson Street and West Broadway, two blocks north of Chamber, half a dozen of the then still erect WTC, the other was Puffy’s at Jay and Hudson, with author Jim Stratton as part owner. At Barnabus that night the head bartender of that shoebox of a bar that had a bar pool-table and a famous juke box and a postage stamp to dance on, was “Ace”, Andreas Nowa, and I will always recall the way Ace’s face opened gradually into the most welcoming broad happy smile – Ace had studied directing but found that directing the extraordinary goings on at B-Rex, then Mickey’s and ultimately “The Raccoon Lodge,” slaked his directorial thirst – when I introduced Handke to him, whose work he knew of his own accord. Handke and Brodsky talked, I played pool and danced a bit, I noticed that the two of them made attempts in that direction, awkward shuffles. The evening was notable for two matters: one, that Laurie Spiegel, with whom I had taken a loft and lived in Duane Park for two years appeared at the threshold and promptly fainted at the sight of me happily with friends instead of being two-by-four tossed by her after I had moved out from her harridan’s fifth floor , the strapping Aussie sheep farmer’s son the Maoist anarchist Tim Burns carried her home; and Handke whispering to me out of the nowhere that if I needed $ 10,000 for Urizen Books I should call on him.  An observation of Handke’s from that evening has made it into Die Geschichte des Bleistift’s to the effect that he had seen someone who was both playful and serious.  Certainly those were the qualities that had also attracted me to his work, who would eventually call himself, accurately, “the melancholy player.” If Handke had one actress after another because he said actresses were “lighter” [I would say the company of a pretty actress make Handke look better is the reason, and if he feels better he feels less depressed], my marriages and marriage-like living arrangements – there was that one actress which made me resolve never another - were with artists, two painters, two writers, one dancer, one daughter of a painter on the way to becoming a painter herself, and Laurie, the composer, music touched me most deeply of all, and love of Spiegel Musik, their work exceeded love of their fleshly presence. From such delusions many a “La Bohéme” is born. Even now I can fall in love with a poetess just reading a fine translation of a poem, thank you for laughing Basheva. The fatalities of sons of beautiful mothers.

W.A.T.V Excursus

At the completion of the intense onslaughts with which I translated Walk About the Villages around 1983 Handke felt that it was better than any translation he could ever have conceived. He also noted the “cutting” tone it had acquired, and, most astonishingly, seemed to forget, at least for a while, that without his original text nothing of the sort could have been translated. I might have my dreams, but nothing both that grand and intimate and rich could ever even have been conceived by them. Thus the original author remained the only one, by and large, the great exception is Scott Abbot, who has a notion of how good that work is and whence smithy it was fashioned. Yes, Kurt Beattie, who played Kaspar here in Seattle, sensed its richness, and I imagine that first rate director M. Burke Walker did too, in one of whose classes I once discussed it; oh yes, let me not forget Zeljko Djukic of the Tutatoo Theater in Chicago, but that would seem to be it. The J. of Handke’s and my mutual acquaintance merely admired the line “hefty taxes”, so much for heart on that score. It appears also to have been too rich for the vast majority of the German reading public. 
    If you regard the second volume of Handke’s published diary excerpts, Geschichte des Bleistifts, you will note how carefully Handke prepared himself for that work. Indeed, I was very much in a cutting mood, if you haven’t, read Kohut’s great essay on Narcissistic Rage. As fate would have it, my nemesis at Farrar, Straus, a spanieling stiletto faggot, Michael diCapua, had become editor in chief for his lying master, he had already tried but failed to sabotage the Handke project of mine back in the late 60s as he did so many others – a man not noted for a single author of import save Woiwode if you accord Woiwode that status. I might have told Handke that my persistence was laying the grounds for a law suit since Roger Straus had made certain promises but also managed to screw me out of half my royalties on the Hesse millions I had brought him. See my homepage for my unhappy adventures in that skin trade:

In winter 1985, with the promise from another publisher, P.A.J. Press, I left New York for the city that has the bridge with that “touch of evil” to Ciudad Juarez, but all I lost was some street urchins stealing my hat, and another wife and we first spent three months in those two cities, then a year way up in Lincoln National Forest, a fix me up hunting lodge, I reverted to hunting and riding ways and M. and I also did a lot of traveling in the llano estacado all the way to Big Bend National Forest, all along the Rio Grande and across the frontera into the Carmen range, the right kind of wife for that, and, knowing that “nature was his measure,” kept writing Handke little postcards with nature scenes from every hamlet along the way. On returning to New York about a year and a half later the NY publisher who had committed themselves to Villages reneged on their promise, and I - no longer in a rage but back in hunting mode after that year in the wild, wrote them a fine drop dead letter, with copies to the PEN club and to Handke. That finally elicited a response from Handke, I hadn’t heard from him in about 18 months, to the effect that “It was nice to hear from me again” and that such a letter as I had written to P.A.J. was something “one could not do to him.” First thing that puzzled me was this “nice to hear from you again” – might he not have received any of the postcards and letters in the interim? Then I tried to imagine what it might be that was being done to him? What I was doing was for our mutual work. I imagine now that he must have been referring to his precious self-image – of course he took care of that himself a few years later during his intercession in behalf of the Serbians.
Handke’s letter ended with the threat to abrogate our friendship. If you wanted to get my back up, all you needed was to threaten me, especially during that period, and so I made sure my retour postcards [it was a few] to a man who was not my friend, possible friendship had been averted already in the mid-70s, but of whose work I was more than a friend, were legibly typed on my brand new electronic Brother typewriter, the first with a bit of computer memory and plastic spool ribbon, and sent back something to the effect of: “Aren’t we lucky that L. and I in Spring of 1971, she sure would have suited me fine, and you and J. hasn’t interfered with this friendship.” And that was that, Handke might have laughed and we’d really be friends then, I myself had forgotten all about the injury during the translation of Walk About the Villages, had even been grateful for having ruined the relationship with the “great fondness” who had revealed herself to be a schmooze and a macher, no need for me to be a Leonard to her Virginia, as I forget his wretched, I call it his “Bruno Handke side” when reading or being under the influence of the best of him, his work. But no, unfortunately Handke remained true to form and as “humorless as death,” and my W.A.T.V. being the best translation he had ever seen did not keep him from going to Ralph Mannheim and having a second one made. Alas poor Handke is all I can say. However, the appearance of the Mannheim translation, prior to mine, for once totally infuriated me. You find a distorted [the usual distorted I would say of matters of this kind] aspect of part of these events in The Afternoon as a Writer about the alleged former friend who is traveling from one sierra to the other as he goes mad. Humorless as death, Handke appears not to have known, hated being caught, lied, and thus ever so regretfully I must concur with Marie Colbin’s every single point on the estimate of Handke’s character [2], except  that he was “just a narcissistic writer” as she evidently herself does no longer as she keeps performing his work, now no longer fails to appreciate what it takes to become that great a couturier of the language he is to whom self-image yet seems to matter more than anything, how he appears on stage, and whose self-image is so wounded and tetchy; and except, hearing and seeing her perform Handke texts, she certainly is still pretty, but how Handke could have stood her presence for even one night without putting duct tape over her mouth is beyond my ears, who knows perhaps he did but she won’t tell us about having been a victim in a sick relationship for some years:

I imagine the part of my derisive reply to Handke’s threat that got to him was the bit of L. and I having run off together, a reminder of the “worst thing that ever happened” to him. I had yet to appreciate the devastation that that act wrought by looking closely at the works of the period 1971 to 1976, Sorrow Beyond Dreams, Nonsense & Happiness, A Moment of True Feeling, Weight of the World and how Handke imaginatively writes his way out of his injury by several acts of withdrawal, Left-Handed Woman and A Slow Homecoming. And if I had appreciated the devastation then, I might have left out that part of my reply, I would certainly have been a bit more thoughtful than on automatic fury. Handke commented on my poems in my Headshots that I still seemed to be in a fighting mood, I imagine he didn’t think I might fight him, too. At any event, I was now free of the relationship to the person, of course not to the texts, to marry those is fine. Lucky me in that respect, in many ways. I was in a position to remain a getreuer Korreptitor to his texts, sell our correspondence when I needed to, which would fetch far more now I imagine, be a tough on idiot critics as I liked, etc.
Villages was eventually published by Ariadne Press, but is now out of print. That stellar firm managed to sell 500 copies in about 15 years, little Urizen and Continuum Books sold about 5,000 copies of Innerworld and Nonsence & Happiness in a few years, of course we submitted galleys to Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal so the world might know of the existence of these books instead of the cellars in which Ariadne Press’s books molder. There was only one more brief letter from Handke indicating that he had nothing against the publication of the translation being published, to the word and the text we are true, to not much else. When it devolved that no one seemed to be or want to translate the great 1999 VOYAGE BY DUGOUT:  THE PLAY ABOUT THE FILM ABOUT THE WAR I contacted Dr. Hardt at Suhrkamp, who is in charge of foreign rights, and indicated that I would be willing to translate the text at no charge, and prepare a translation and a playing version, since I felt that the text a whole would overwhelm the attention span of my local gnats. Via Hardt Handke communicated that “I should accept” – little did he seem to know that the last thing I needed was yet another albatross to shlepp. If we had not been on the outs this getreue Korreptitor would have gone on translating all the plays:
got a few of them published and only a single one of the late great plays performed in English, The Hour we knew nothing about each other, which works so well because it is, on one level, as unchallenging as dance theater, and no one really understands it and its movement, or grace – can’t say that I’ve run into a single review that comments on that line of beauty that most Handke texts have.
However, unbeknownst at least to Dr. Hardt, the Scottish Abbott of the Utes and his snowshoe hares, the translator of JOURNEYS TO THE RIVERS [JUSTICE FOR SERBIA] not yet the friend he is now, was already translating VOYAGE, Conjunctions was even going to run an excerpt until the J.L. Marcus crime appeared in the NYRB, a task he completed a few years ago, first rate work, and neither his or my after all fairly connected attempts to get it staged show any results so far in this garbage heap culture. Here in Seattle I had initially found interest in Richard White at Cornish,  who then never got back to me for a second date – he was too busy giving away money from the local arts fund, to matters that never never never will get beyond the borders of these philistine surrounds. Ditto for all the ones who once claimed “Oh Handke I love his work.” Bullshit artists, lazy bones, it’s not the system, a better system with these people would re-create the same culture. I.e. matters are entirely hope-less. The few are far too few.


Herwig’s sentimentalizing account of the life of Handke with his daughter Amina fails to emphasize the weight, the imprisonment that that responsibility implied [Baby Sitters!], Handke himself is far better in giving an account in Child Story and in the long poems and Weight of the World. And if you saw as I did what a quiet intimidated child Amina was by age 6 when Handke brought her with him to NY and California you would agree with the women whom Handke mentions in Child Story as berating him for his educational methods. Perhaps like so many parents who have a second set of children he then did better by the daughter he had [despite wishing for a son] with Sophie Semin, Laocadie who however was not as neglected by her mother as was Amina at certain times, whose current profession as a DJ combines both parents as performer while being unusually deferential to the work she shows. Like Handke himself she was then treated to primal scenes at Rue Montmorency and was the usual envious child. What don’t I know? Well, if quite a few women who have been with women don’t show up at my doorstep then, or I run into them by chance.

Herwig has a very nice section on Handke finding refuge with Hermann Lenz after his unhappy experience with the ultimately fragment LANGSAME HEIMKEHR, the title novel of the triptych published as A SLOW HOMECOMING in the US. However, Herwig fails to describe the unhappy experience from which Handke needs to recover, although Handke has been anything but reluctant to describe it in many an interview. In Nomans-Bay Handke makes rather cheap fun of that experience. Stuck with a first sentence that he had been rehearsing for at least a year, Handke resorted to medication.
Herwig seems to have it from Unseld’s now published diary volume that he visited Handke in the Hotel Adams where Handke then was reduced to talking to the Portier and blessing the folks below from his high-on perch, but that is about it for a very important and critical few months, during which Handke gave up the idea of wanting to move to the U.S. and have Amina attend a French Lycé in New York. Herwig knows nothing of this aborted plan, I  checked out quite a few lycés of that kind for Handke, but it is not a widely known matter. It must have been in 1975 that Handke had Amina along and he asked me to drive around some Long Island suburbs – he liked them fine, their to me, boring, quiet as I was about to finally dive into my decade in downtown urban pioneer bohemia, that is about the time he moved out from Montmorency to Meudon/Clamart, where he found the rabbit path that led to the Forest of Chaville, whence he would move around 1990. After Handke returned from Alaska he left his green leather traveling bag in my office and went off to San Francisco, whence we get chapter II of A SLOW HOMECOMING, still in that wonderful ‘no name’ mode, the way you hear Bob Dylan sing by not naming him – and, as I heard from friend John McVey, cursed a crowd somewhere, I think it was at Berkeley where he and Wenders were at some function. Still in the same mode of making a memorable spectacle of himself.
Handke returned to NY rather down it seemed to me by compare with the mood I had picked up on his return from Alaska, he had returned via Colorado, the death of his Austrian ski instructor friend of Chapter 3. I might have inquired if I liked the fellow better and had had not been spooked for years. One night he wanted to get together and as usual I suggested Michael Brodsky who lived in Brooklyn, the Heights or Park Slope, and we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on about as idyllic a night as you can have in New York, a light dry snow falling. On hearing that Handke meant to write a book about Alaska I went into mother hen mode, at the thought of doing this after a few brief visits – now on contemplating the absorption rate of genius I would trust him to get the sense of such a landscape in no time at all - after all, even Norman Mailer had written well about Alaska flora and fauna in Why Are we in Vietnam – it turned out Handke had at least read McPhee’s wonderful tome on that territory, but Handke did not want to hear any of my Alaska stories, he was full up, and I understood that, however I was surprised that he had forgotten that it was I whom he had asked in the early 70s what American winters were like and I had pointed to Alaskan winters being different from anything he might find in Europe he did not recall, and that surprised me.
During those months Handke spent in NY I saw him only a few times more and had not the faintest that he was struggling with the book. Had I not been spooked by Handke I might have asked him to go out with me late at night, my downtown bars and music clubs. I used to work late, and did not have a major squeeze at the time, and one or two nites spent it with an old flame whose company was trying to avert being taken over by two major behemoths of US criminal capitalism, and going over those detail I then got a better idea than I ever wanted to the inter-connect between corruption and politics in New York City. Editing The Handicapper provided an even more gruesome insight, and with that and what went down with Urizen, you then found out that the only good lawyers were with the Mafia. I found out, seemed to find out matters, skeletons, that I had not even looked for, and that you wouldn’t if you looked for them in those terms.
 But I wasn’t the best of company either since the firm was always on my mind, its survival, something Handke noticed, so that when he sent me VILLAGES in 1981 it came with the note “Nothing for Business.” Truer words were rarely penned. If you need the money it is of course always nice to get paid at least the minimum wage.Handke told Nancy Meiselas, his then fine editor at Farrar, Straus + Giroux that he had “fucked up” the book – perhaps so, considering  he had something along the lines of a “staatsroman” [whatever that is?] in mind: at any event, something very grand I suppose – if Alaska is meant to be a response to nameless forms... then....and California section one of ultra delicate responses... perhaps the archives will tell us one. But it would be only in the early 90s that Handke set out on a major canvas – the kind of brick and tome he himself never wanted read. The usual contradiction. It appears that it was in the Hotel Adams Handke started to write by pencil – because his type writer broke and he couldn’t find one with a German or European keyboard, something I find odd, since he lived within a few blocks of what had been “Germantown”, Yorkville, and there still were a number of German shops of all kinds and restaurants about. Also he was in touch with my successor as Suhrkamp Agent, the wonderful Kurt Bernheim, and I imagine the Austrian Institute and Consulate. He might have asked me – but perhaps writing by pencil then quickly proved as fine as it has proved all these year, except, he says, he continues to type his plays, feeling that “dialogue” requires the distancing or clatter of a typewriter, although they are noiseless now!

Another time, I also drove with him and a few other folks, the photographer of the cover which featured the WTC as seen across the dunes of the then landfill in the Hudson, for NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS, Martin Kesselman, was along, but not Amina, I guess I still had the small MG-B, to the Rijs Park area of the Rockaways near where I had lived from 1973 to 75 to breathe clean ocean air. At the sight of the sun setting to the left of Staten Island in the fiery manner of a molten battle ship [say, the Graf Spee, childhood lore] Handke pulled out his pen and made a note. This did not faze me in the least, as opposed to the seriously offended Kolleritsch [see their correspondence], I think I had gotten the point that Handke was cooking nearly all the time – a matter Herwig fails to address.

I might mention my visit to the Moenchsberg in 1980 the last time I saw Handke, a description   is online at:
The gist of it in English is the following. Returning victoriously from four week stint in Bulgaria where I thought I had arranged for the basic instrumentalities of a cultural peace and fruitful interchange, in retrospect I suspect I also came to show Handke something, I had an agenda. He was pissed that I arrived a train late, he who makes it a point to arrive late. We cleared up the misunderstanding of what Ginsberg had been up to in NY in 1966, and the look on Handke’s face back then, in retrospect, looked even more unpleasant. Metaphorically we acknowledged to each other what wounded beings we were. At the table to play Tarot Handke mentioned that he had looked, but in vain, for my translation of KASPAR AND OTHER PLAYS, seemingly forgetting that there was a second collection of plays, two volumes of poetry and a novel. In retrospect, seeing how Handke also belittles his own efforts… but the belittling unawareness I imagine acted as an extra fillip to motivate me,   with my Dermatologist partner, to beat the shit out of Handke and his partner at Tarot [“Ja, so geht es auch” was my partner’s comment to my introduction of the dimensions of skat and bridge and poker into the proceedings – I had never even heard of Tarot until then! Picked up how it works within a minute it seems.]. Perhaps Widrich was there too, his face looks familiar. I think it was the apartment of the man who was in charge of the festival, splendid, ancient, inlaid wood. But I think one of the players was a Germanist, that would eliminate Widrich. Handke, as we find out at the very latest from WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, was not a good loser even as child – even? - and then was so pissed that… he wouldn’t show me Libgart who I had no idea had been the woman answering his phone as he showed me the way back down the mountain, I had assumed the great man living among the “big animals” on top of the hill had got himself a secretary. And perhaps it is just as well that he did not show me Libgart, pathetic as it is to be so childish as to punish people by showing or not showing. And it turns out, Libgart had a room in the 7 room apartment Handke rented from Hans Widrich in the Schloesserl, so as to look after Amina I imagine. So what was he going to pretend to me? That they were actually back together? Anyhow, on my way back down the hill I was shown where Salzburg poets tossed themselves off the mountain, perhaps the same spot where Loser kills his Swastika spraying Nazi in Across and Handke asked me whether I planned on being a child all my life, and after I shouted my assent to that question everything was all right again because he said that that was all right, but later, dwelling on the fact that this was the one day a week of Handke’s socializing and that he was probably already working on WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES I did not feel so good about the performance I had put on, this way of showing him that he was conquerable, mulmig. Veni vidi vici – so I had that in me too, but it was not as I preferred to be. And all those women who want you to put your foot down!

Herwig, that great researcher, had a year and half year’s time to talk to me – I have talked and written as honestly as I could to quite a few people about my life in publishing, to Günter Vahlbusch about the Hesse reception, to Raimund Fellinger about my relationship to Suhrkamp, to Boris Kaschka of New York Magazine for his book on Farrar, Straus and Roger Straus about that relationship – Herwig confines himself to the archives and a limited set of friends – and of course we do not know what he fails to fish from them, except that it now turns out Raimund Fellinger refused to let him use his correspondence with Handke, a fact and problem I would have noted in a biography: Herwig does not but makes a fuss when reviewers mention that omission. To put it into as few words as possible: Herwig has a number of years work left to bring his book up to the snuff of his description of Handke’s childhood. Missing succinct treatment are: the Berlin and Kronenberg Period, especially the critical first Paris Period 1973-78, Salzburg is covered half way well because Herwig has talked to Hans Widrich Handke’s landlord and school mate from Tanzenberg, however Across & Afternoon in tandem with Am Felsfenster Morgens are far more successful in conveying Handke’s state of mind, which is what counts, than anything Herwig comes up with; the three year trip around the world is noted by citing the cities Handke visited!!!  - did Herwig read the diary volume that covers those years Gestern Unter Wegs. Did he have, and what kind of editor at DVA? What kind of time or other pressures were on him for this book to turn into a rush job?

Toward the end Herwig, in a few Spiegel strokes - when Herwig “dramatizes” also in the beginning,  imagining Maria Sivec as a dancing girl at the Hotel in Klagenfurtz where she and Herr Schönemann conceive the little bastard Herwig is at his pathetic worst – now imagines
 Sophie Semin and Handke fighting and it being all over and they both have their affairs, Handke with Katja Flint and Sophie with an actor at Peymann’s premier of VOYAGE BY DUGOUT in Vienna in 1999 Herwig’s imagination turns Spiegel-Bild wet!
     Herwig our great researcher, our journalist so proud of checking his facts, is unaware [1] that Semin only entered Handke’s life that deeply because she was pregnant, or of her haute background; [2] that already prior to Handke and Semin and his two Serbian friends going on the trip that would result in JOURNEY TO THE RIVERS: JUSTICE FOR SERBIA [1994] Handke was emotionally withdrawing from Semin, according to my fairly trustworthy Don Juan Skwara he was; so that by the time that Semin left Handke for an actor [1999] in VOYAGE in Vienna a lot of time and who knows what else had transpired between the two – Semin is quoted in JUSTICE as asking Handke whether he also wanted to deny Srebrenice massacre, pointing to Handke’s awareness at that point to his whelming tendency to denial, a first step to facing as I recall only too distinctly, some very painful matters. Handke said in an interview that it did not make him at all happy, Semin disparu  in 1999 – but no stormy set of poems and panic attacks it appears as when Libgart Schwarz left him [?] – whether his already having a Serbian squeeze in 1999 eased the insult to our Pasha’s Narciss we can only presume. Katja Flint, who did not have to suffer our lover turning Salamander in Chaville, appeared quite some years later, Handke encountered her at a Burda party, has expressed herself fondly in public about our man. I am going into this in a bit of detail only in order to show how utterly deficient Herwig can be, which then lends an air of lack of credibility to everything he does: how can we trust the gist of those many interviews? His notional quotes from them?? Handke now appears to feel that Sophie Semin is the woman of his life, and she is adjudged “ebenbürtig” – a lovely word, better than “my equal”. In yesterday’s December 1 interview with Ulrich Greiner in Die Zeit Handke is noted as going to meet Sophie and his now 19 year old daughter Laocadie for dinner in Paris. Morawische, which Herwig has allegedly read, in its Galicia section, and towards the end with the woman and the alleged ex-writer in the house-boat hotel Moravian Night [Luna] with “the woman” one acquires a sense of the incommensurability of the telling of the sacredness of the intimacy required for “ebenbürtig” to weave its wand to put the mutual demons to rest: Herwig is not up to a task of representing anything of the kind. In the December 1 [print date] interview with Greiner Handke comes across as all sweetness and light [doesn’t cuss him as he did the last time around], but yet proffers yet another set of versions of his relationships to his stepfather, who was experienced as a father until his late teens, and his real father. Thus I don’t trust the sweetness and light either, it might just be another firmly held pose, Goethean as it were.

A Good Spanking!
As Herwig notes in his penultimate chapter all those closest to Handke whom Herwig talked to were injured at one time or the other, however gravely and unjustly, or “finished off” [fertig gemacht] as only Handke’s knows how - let me pay back for one and all and join Marie Colbin in her plaints, but let me do so after first saying that despite the many matters that piss me off in Handke, I have never had the urge to kill him, I don’t think. Moreover his texts – say the ending of DEL GREDOS - elicit so much love in me as nothing but my beautiful mother did, if anyone has ever loved writing as much I can’t think of it. With those provisos in mind I send my servant Hans to administer a thorough whipping, “my hands are too delicate and fine to touch someone” who can also be as low as Handke can be:
Handke visits Milosevic in jail, has been a friend of the family for years, has had his plays done in Belgrade, including Voyage, as he has been keeping the company of the powerful since his earliest days, from actual princes to Caesars of Industry like Hubert Burda, Handke becomes even more infamous by attending and displaying himself at the funeral and playing mourner to the hilt as only someone who is now an actor who mouths the requisite obscenities in the Quodlibet of the World Stage can, and as someone who purports to be an expert on the disintegration of Yugoslavia [and Voyage convinces the reader that he is quite expert indeed] then refuses to testify as an expert witness for the defense, nay, even to write a simple letter!  For reasons of personal experience, I was not all that surprised at my ultimate exhibitionist prima donna’s copping out on that score, ugh, a witness at such a trial is pretty well boxed in, he cannot come and go as he pleases; he is in the cross fire; that would be a bit too much of the sought after lime light, it would singe his wings. All I can be is wrong. As Erich Wolfgang Skwara [the “Don Juan” who appears “with the same woman” in No-Man’s-Bay], a wonderful tattle-tale, once said to me, in the early 90s, as he was also reporting on Handke’s already then becoming a Salamander to Sophie Semin, while we both expressed our confidence that the genius would bring off that great weaving performance: “Let’s see what he’s up to now.” – It was walking arm in arm with Umberto Ecco at the Frankfurt Bookfair on publication of that wonderful book. – In the early 90s I also hear from Erich Skwara that Handke is berating himself for the treatment of his first daughter… writing after all was supposedly easy, meanwhile he had had a second daughter, instead of the wished for son, but for once psychological-minded, foretells in No-Man’s-Bay how grievously Oedipal that relation would have been, which the experience of life with Sophie’s son from a previous relationship I expect rubbed in.
The timing is about right: in about 20 years certain matters dawn on Peter Handke who is not known as a Trottel. In the early 80s I receive a letter saying “thank you thank you thank you” … for the work I did in the 60s introducing his work into the US against opposition within the firm that took him on, on the part of one little stiletto man by the name of Michael DiCapua, meanwhile [then] I’ve pretty well forgotten all about these labors and also about Handke’s boorish behavior when he and his buddy Kolleritsch and wife to be about disparu Libgart Schwartz appeared in New York in 1971 as a piece of Austrian cultured representatives - that Handke had thought he might be fit to be a cultural attaché has always been one of his more amusing fantasies. In a way it is nicer to be thanked that late after the effect, so this becomes the one time I recall being thanked, it strikes me as so odd and touching and amusing. Actually, it also the only time, by any of these authors, German or American! The fine once St. Martin’s Press and University of Chicago Press editor Michael Denhenny had it right when he wrote me a few year’s back: “What we do is written on water.” However, the late awakening of this “thank you” then alerts us to other delayed time bombs in Handke’s conscience, e.g. it took him many more decades to wake up to the fact of what a horror he had been to women. No doubt Marie Colbin’s going public hat a lot to do with that – what if she had not? Would we have those extensive lies in Morawische? However, despite the Dostoyevskyian self-flaggelation as we can find it in Bis der Tag and also in Morawische, judging by the lies that Handke appears to have successfully introduced into the world via our ex-Spiegel ace, the regrets are not all that heartfelt: they are not heartfelt because anything approximating  the why and wherefore of his own violent nature is absent. In Handke’s 2005 novel Kali, the Singer / Actress is meant to “face” her vis-à-vis, the lord of the Saltmine [“Sie soll sich ihm stellen” I think it how it goes] but this never happens, and it can’t happen because the terms of that facing are never elucidated – thus Malte’s title, MEISTER DER DAEMMERUNG [Master of the Twilight] which derives from the 1984 novel Across [Chinese des Schmerzens] is rather unfortunately truer and more fitting of our man than I suspect Malte was aware of, or intended. There is ample mystery to go around not to require Handke as mystifier.

-     Whose face to you see first at a showing of a film of Anselm Kiefer – if it isn’t Herr Handke walking ostentatiously in front of the blank  screen. Something you can count on is Handke popping off to the media, whose darling for copy he has been since his earliest days, when a possible competitor for the limelight is in the news. I love his honesty in this week’s Greiner interview in admitting that envy is part and parcel of his motivation, although, once again, he anesthetizes. Außerdem bin ich nicht gegen Neid, Neid ist unvermeidlich. Ich bin gegen Geiz. Aber Neid? Wenn Leute sagen, sie empfinden keinen Neid, glaube ich ihnen das nicht. Mit dem Neid muss man spielen, darin besteht die Souveränität des gelernten Neiders. Goethe sagt, gegen die Vorzüge eines andern hilft nur, dass man sie liebt. Lieben ist vielleicht ein bisschen viel verlangt, aber man sollte sie anerkennen und sich darüber freuen.“ [Besides, I am not against envy. I am opposed to greed. But envy? If people say they lack envy, I don’t believe them. You have to play with envy, that is how your learn sovereignty over envy. Goethe says that the only thing that helps with the advantages another has over you is to love them. Love is perhaps making too much of a demand, but one ought to acknowledge them and be happy about them.”]
-      The latest of this, as of this writing, November 2010, our careerist calls fellow Austrian novelist Grstein… “a careerist.” I actually am no longer all that annoyed, but like a patient dog owner who laughs or shrugs at a spouse’s tick. Moreover, these proclamation are made, as of old, under a righteous aegis, no matter that Handke in Die Tablas des Daimiel – a quote the Herwig missed even though he quotes from this the most dubious of Handke’s texts - even makes fun of how in the court of night conscience he manages no matter to come out ahead, and uses Ivo Andric’s: Mistakes by others that highlight equivalent errors of our own precipitate a moral disappointment that permits us to assume the strict and noble stance of both judge and victim and gives rise to an inner state of moral euphoria. This euphoria distances us swiftly and surely from the process of personal moral perfection and makes of us terrible and merciless and even bloodthirsty judges.Signs by the Wayside as an epitaph to Voyage by  Dugout, but subsequent to writing Daimiel quickly berated Günter Grass for allowing himself to be inducted into the Waffen SS at age 17 [a well known matter already in the 60s, may the day come that your volunteering for the Marines or the Special Forces of all kind acquire that kind of iconic obloquy] because “everyone knew what the Waffen SS” was, to which I once said and will say again: “and at age 30 one knows not to smack one’s two year old crying daughter’s head if one is in irritated rage because there is a flood in the basement and she is bawling, rape one’s supposed friend’s girl friends and keep beating up women. Or takes pride in lying.”
-          When Handke, asked about Enzensberger’s position on the Kosovo war, replies: Hans Magnus Enzensberger redet wie ein Politiker und moechte die UÇK bewaffnen. Der weiss immer, wo’s lang geht, ein grinsender hoehnischer Zuschauer, der menschgewordene Hohn. Der islamische Sufi Djalâl-ud-Dîn Rûmî sagt: „Sie tragen bedruckte Seiden nicht als Ornament, sondern um ihre Schönheit zu bewahren.  Enzensbergers Sachen sind das Gegenteil, Ornament zur Verhoehnung der Schönheit. [Hans Magnus Enzensberger talks like a politician and would like to arm the UÇK. He is someone who always knows what side to take, a grinning, derisive observer, derision in human form. The Islamic Sufu Djalâl-ud-Dîn Rûmî says: “They wear printed silk not as an ornament but to retain their beauty.” Enzensberger’s stuff are the opposite, ornamentation to deride beauty.” then Handke, in this instance, not only manifests his extraordinary envy of a Suhrkamp compadre who displaces a bit of the limelight and is indeed an enviable essayist, but also ever so unfortunately it seems to me, Handke manifests a certain extreme hatred of his own compulsion to dress up like a beauteous Modepuppe since his appearance on the world stage, and who certainly has adjusted himself with the changing times; who sings a different tune every time; that is, such  extrojective projections smack of self-hatred, a narcissistic conflict on the deepest level [it is always good to re-read the end of The Afternoon of a Writer [1987], if you seek first hand evidence of the split, that of many conflicts that is so productive, it manifest itself in these projections which are entirely lacking in truth-content of any other but of a self-revelatory kind – that is, at those moments Handke is bereft of his greatest strength, his powers as an x-ray machine phenomenologist, which he might turn on himself. Perhaps there is even malice aforethought as in the well-prepared knife for H. M. E. that probably had been ready at least since 1980. Handke’s utterances along that line are as predictable as the midnight hooting of my pair of great horned owls, not as pleasant. That description of Enzensberger, however, must have been lying rehearsed on the tip of the tongue for years, it indicates a conflict within Handke about his own narcissism, and points to the grievous narcissistic wound [s] he suffered as a child. See:
for the full of this. Such projections only tell you something about the projector! Alas!


-     Had Herwig’s entire book been up to his evocation of Handke’s childhood, not that much more can be said on that score, he would have had a major biography to crow about. On that basis I would judge Herwig to be capable of doing a complete rendition in another about five diligent years. What troubles me most about the current and any possible future version, however, is Herwig’s lack of response to or interest in the texts.
The Reception, so far:
One or two of the short reviews Herwig’s book has received I find quite accurate in their assessment, the one in the Deutschland Funk, and Feliciatas – ah to have a girlfriend named Felicitas! – von Lovenborg in the Frankfurter Allgemeine fall into that boat. By far the most interesting response, it is Marie Colbin’s, I have made part of my text here.
     Then there is a slew of idiots who don’t know Handke’s work and haven’t the faintest who praise Herwig as a great researcher as which I don’t. Most surprising is Lothar Struck’s favorable assessment, published under his pseudonym “Gregor Keuschnig” in Glanz & Elend. Struck/ Keuschnig might know better since he did yeoman’s work some years ago now as my editor on my Dem Handke auf die Schliche
I imagine the so solicitous Lothar is either becoming prematurely senile or can’t face that Handke the person has some pretty hideous features, and that there are instances where his personality intrudes disadvantageously into the work. A devotee such as Lothar Struck is what Handke ought to have as a mother French saint of a wife Portuguese cleaning woman for whom her son can do no wrong, devoted and soft in the noodle he starts to sorrow that there will be no more books at a ficciones such as Morawian Nights, thinks that Handke has never written in as childlike a fashion before [no child writes such formalist tour de forces as Moravian has them] is willing to overlook that her son beats the shit out of women, is astounded by Handke calling Madelaine Allbright “Ganzhell” and that Handke has some of his own characters make brief appearances in the book! Alas, what befuddlement will do in our respective Midsummer Nights Dreams! Since  there are so many that do wrong by Handke, why not someone who is besotted, like Lothar Struck the wife Handke never had! Yet his many reviews of Handke's work at his Begleitschreiben blog
and at the first rate German on-line Literary Mag
GLANZ UND ELEND contains many fine and valuable insights
Struck thus can be forgiven for losing his mind over MORAWIAN NIGHTS, sorrowing that this might be the master's last work – in 2007! And a slew since then - on the one hand reading autobiographically but then refusing to do so overall. Lothar is forgiven for this mental lapse, after all if I dwell on the mistakes in love I made for all the pretty girls, never never never in literature, if only the wenches had been books I would not have lost my mind and read some of them better and loved them better...
Struck helps obviate some of junk perpetrated by German reviewers. It really is not those poor sods who ought to be blamed but the editors of these organs, one notable exception is the NZZ [Neue Zuricher Zeitung].
     Struck and Malte can have “kitchen duty” in Chaville and take correspondence courses in Oedipus  101-102, which Handke actually knows, and similar introductions to Paranoid/ Schizophrenia which Handke used to know when he wrote GOALIE, and in the effect of primal scene exposure and in Psychosomatics, and in “what splits in splitting.”  

To each his idol, no matter that Handke makes clear in No-Man’s-Bay that he is not worship worthy. All reviews worth reading are assembled sequentially with their links at:

Michael Roloff, December, 2010, Seattle, WA.
The United States of Idiots.

Since even close old friends of Handke’s like Peter Stephan Jungk have caught on to what one must do to be fed instead of taken for a walk, they too will promise to interview and write and publish something, in Die Welt. Jungk is part of a small Handke Mafia, Ernst Jandl too, that has developed around the fine writer and reviewer Franz Weinzettel at Die Welt - to whom Handke gave maybe the whole of his Büchner Preis money in 1968 - to counter some of the gross stupidities committed against Handke’s work by the likes of Ulrich “Superficial Reader” Greiner and Iris “Das Gör” Radischen of Die Zeit, Hubert Spiegelfloh of the F.A.Z., and that most adversarial of Handke foes Marcel Reichs-Kanickel, where Handke, however, flung the first glove –  a playfully decimating one - nearly half a century ago; yet the Reichs-Kanickel and his wagging rabbit’s foot is not to be taken all that lightly, is as vengeful as Handke, and so does a lot of damage to Handke over the years.  
   The F.A.Z. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung] would seem to be out to finish Handke off, for his stand and actions in matters of the disintegration of the 2nd Federation of Yugoslavia, thus excerpted one of the two sensationalistic sections from Herwig’s biography, the one dealing with Handke and his Suhrkamp editor Raimund Fellinger’s visit to Karadzic in Pele, Srpska in 1996. [Note Handke’s recent interview with Peter Steinfeld where we find out about others that he visited, a Muslim commander, which Herwig might have mentioned, so that there would not have been any need for the interview to set metters straighter:

According to Herwig, Peter Stephan Jungk is so eager to retain Handke’s friendship that Jungk will not broach the tender subject of Handke’s intervention in the media wars that paralleled the actual disintegration of the 2nd Yugoslav Federation, which leads me to suspect once again that Jungk might just be moron enough to have bought into the media account of the disintegration hook line and sinker, he will not broach the subject with Handke for friendship’s sake. Fortunately Handke poses no danger to Jungk as some of Jungk’s other indulgent friendships do,
this a man whose darkness Handke noticed within five minutes in New York in 1971, perhaps you must be dark to see and project such darkness and Germanness and not be an idiot like me to admit it to yourself only after five years of close acquaintance; but perhaps also because Jungk doesn’t have a pretty girlfriend on whom Handke might poach, his unpretty wife Helene Birnbaum however is a frequent portraitist of Handke as photo model.

I think the F.A.Z., at its vendetta’s end, will hang the slaughter at Srebrenice as Albatross around Handke’s neck: if they don’t publish a so-called Germanist Brockhoff’s piece on Handke and Yugoslavia on this year’s Srebrenice anniversary, where this so-called Germanist warns, tries to protect the reader from the insidious parti pris that occasionally slips into Handke’s texts on that subject: no, Handke poses no danger in that respect, possibly as an aging mountain goat to the occasional beauty that strays his way - we had a great story in the great Northwest the other day where an old  goat stomped and spiked a hiker to death:

The F.A.Z. then censors my and Lothar Struck’s comments both on the Brockhoff article and their presentation of the Herwig excerpt. I imagine Malte had no control over where his publisher DVA [Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, a part of Random House, thus a part of the German Bertelsmann media empire, who also own Handke’s U.S publisher Farrar, Straus] placed the first serial rights, but it might teach him a lesson, if he care enough. 
2] Yet what would I have done without Handke’s work, Handke my “tit-bird,” my passerine, the past 25 some years especially so it occurred to me as I tried to summarize the involvement in such a huge body of work? In a long piece entitled “Easing Out”.

I imagine if Handke, say, had got back on the Lockerbie Flight in London in the late 80s I would have written my psychoanalytic monograph,
Reading the 1984 ACROSS [Der Chinese des Schmerzens] in 1986 had finally alerted to me what an in this instance “self-confessed” “case”
Handke was… and I would be further along with the Darlings and Monsters Quartet where someone like Handke appears in both those roles.

Little could I have imagined, even if I’d thought in those terms, that in May 1966, in Princeton, I would behold a kid looking like a fifth Beatle destined to become an Austrian postage stamp in his life time, a writer of Shakespearean breadth and depth – contemplate Don Juan’s sidekick, the groveling sadist who loves women the uglier the better as he gleefully… or Faulknerian for that matter, with a Yoknapatahwka-sized self, the amazing creatures populating his plays, or the restaurateur in NO-MANS-BAY  who serves the best food in the world but will only serve guests that are to his liking, and thus keeps going broke and moves further and deeper into the forest… No Shakespeare no Freud, no Shakespeare no Handke I would guess.

3] I am just now re-reading Across, going back to the beginning of the project and I notice not only the resemblances to the distraught period of the early 70s, ten years prior, and it occurs to me if the work is “meant to be the death mask of the experience” [Walter Benjamin] why we need a second death mask, albeit one written in a less suicidal state of mind, and more carefully in the way it builds from its violent beginnings… A murderous state of mind instead of a suicidal one, quelle difference? And the “moment of true feeling” is a murderous one! However, it occurred to me on first reading already that one purpose of the book was to memorialize, patiently, the surround of Salzburg, and that certainly is well done, as Stifter would have, and it occurred to me to think when I was alerted to Handke’s taking the Stifterian turn – probably way back in 1973 when he completed They Are Dying Out and monopolist Quitt has his factotum Hans – perhaps also meant as a wonderful riff on Puntilla and his Servant Matti - read a section from Stifter’s Bergkristalle and then emotes how it would be to live in that world. Thus back to “restoration Hardware” Austrian style. And eventually the beater of women is to write:
An den morgen
aufgewacht von dem morgenhellen Himmel
über den noch dunklen Dächern
treib aus den den Kaminen schon langsamer Rauch
Die Vögel: sine fine dicentes
Und all Liebe leben.“
4]  A long piece of mine on No-Man’s-Bay can be found at the pages devoted to the book at handke-revista-of-reviews blog:

I read the book at least three times here, in Seattle,  in German, then in Krishna’s translation, aside the first two chapter’s of A SLOW HOMECOMING, THE REPETITION and especially the last 100 pages or so of DEL GREDOS, and JUKE BOX, this is my most significant Handke reading experience. Handke alters states of mind, Peter Strasser once wrote a little book entitled “Freudenstoff” about his experience of these texts. Peter and I are d’accord in that respect.
Not only did I read NOMANS five times, I did it in about as ‘no-man’s’ an environment as you could: Lola’s [a Hmong with scrappy English] 24/7 neon-lighted donut shop between Rooseveldt and 12th Avenues on NE 45 Street crosstown bouldevard, that was peopled
by the down and out nursing their coffee, Smerdyakov, Ben the Persian ex-architect who had had a mental break and tended his gold fish, the Toothless cabbie, various near homeless characters. Lola's
was about half a mile away from where I lived and so made for a nice short walks to and fro during which to digest and come down or get ready for the reading experience. Of course NO MANS at this length has a few beauty spots, the derisive treatment of Handke's Hotel Adam's experience, the business of the two Germanies at war...Handke of course envies Grass first 300 pages of  TIN DRUM... and as fairy tales his novels are artificial.

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franzangst said...

mike, thanks for lending me herwig's book. i have a hunch you are so tough on him because he didnt consult you, and there you wrote a far better and thorough account - however, you lacked access to all those documents which bring handke's absolutely spoiled childhood into focus, and that he was a little monster from early on. the documents make the book valuable. you are right, herwig and handke are basically in cahoot, and my guess is that neither knows the ramifications of these documents.

Scott Abbott said...

Michael, thanks for this brilliant (in all the senses of the word) response to the pedestrian biography of Peter Handke.

I say brilliant because your sentences and assessments "shine." I say brilliant because shining is something I admire in Peter's and others' work, because I find myself dull and wish I were shining, because of the wonderful and terrible ambiguity of brilliance.

Your fine and shining essay is -- forgive me for whatever I may say here, I'm a bottle of chenin blanc into the dark evening -- as troubling as it is convincing. But then you yourself admit the trouble; and for that I thank you. The Aufzeichungen des Malte do none of this, and so I believe him not.

You have personal issues with Peter. That sharpens and clouds your brilliant thoughts. I like the clouds as much as the sharpness.

A 1000-page archival biography. Only this would be satisfying to me. I gag at the opinions of the "biography," welcome the quoted letters and archival material.

I am sorry, guilty in a way my Mormon past taught me, apologetic that my "Voyage by Dugout" translation supplanted yours. I'm an idiot in terms of publishers and translations and protocol. I just did it. And I wish someone would publish the damned thing. And I much appreciate your advocacy for the play even given that you were ready to translate it yourself.

Most importantly for me in your entire essay is your statement "nor is his work especially meaningful to him." I cannot get over that. We're supposed to take stories and opinions from someone who doesn't seem to care about the work? We're supposed to read this book by someone who doesn't know the difference between fiction and personal essay, who quotes from a novel the same way he quotes from a letter, who expresses no love or hate for a single sentence, not to mention a work?

So, I'll take your brilliant, wounded, passionate, admittedly flawed and thus truthful work over the DTV version any day, even if yours doesn't have that fine threaded bookmark.

[a final note: the kaptcha (is that the word?) I must type for verification as I post this is osessed, which feels like a dream-appropriate version of your work, which I miss entirely in Malte's Aufzeichungen]

Scott Abbott said...

I just composed a long and brilliant comment, which your blogger then pronounced too long to process.
A bottle of wine into the dark evening, I'm not sure I can reproduce it.
It had to do with brilliance, in all it's ambiguous glory.


thank you for your compliments SCOTT i don't mean
to shine or be overly ambiguous.
"notes toward," quite simple empirical work.
i genuinely looked forward to the rest of the
book after it's first fourth, pal franz
angst commented that I might be chagrined that
Malte didn't consult with me,
that obviously is more his loss than mine.
but true, i am seriously irked that someone
only consults close friends of peter. what if he
had asked libgart what the trip through
the u.s. in 1971 had been like? all he has
her saying is that there are these irruptions
of his. malte is doing handke's work in cleaning up the image. however, he does shoddy work, he whets our appetite for the archives
but himelf is utterly untrustworthy as a scholar.
shoddy work. will have to be redone
by a conscientious scholar anon.
i congratulate raimund fellinger for not giving
him permission to quote from his correspondence.
didn't it require marie colbin's too - to quote
from her love letters which handke sold!
talking about gross exhibitionism!

not that i am his enemy, but i am willing to let all cats out of the bag, including my own,
i didn't do a complete analysis
to fall back into denial.
the bag of sometimes not that small additions,
which i will introduce into the online text
but also send separately will
have some mangy cats of my own.

malte flogs his book on facebook,
however only lists positive reviews
and refuses to engage in a disputation -
well, with not more than half a clay foot
to stand on i can see why.
i wonder whether peter has read it - or whether
he will do as with the reichs-kanickel letters,
pretend that he hadn't.
who knows, perhaps malte will do a better job
second time around - [but i gather that he
is at work on another, different book]
but why write about peter unless you realize
his immense importance
for the logos, not just for literature.
on my way back from mexico in 1994
i gave a lecture for skwara at san diego state
which i entitled [his having to make
excuse for my approach
to the professors, somehow he managed
to be part of the classics department,]
"handke and the salvaging
of the world by the word" - but peter's work
has that quality. what i miss, but
not only in him, is what analysts call "understanding"
, which is somewhat different from normal
usage means by understanding or the
"i understand everything"...
peter has it in VILLAGES, mingled with
loving irony..
its a very special quality that contains
elements of forgiveness, love, and a comprehension
of how the past through the present lives into
the future at one, a tad fatalistic
perhaps. irony in no matter which color
contains something defensive.


sure i have some personal issues with peter,
i don't think think they color my appreciation
of his work, about which i am quite passionate.
however, if peter introduces very personal matters, as he starts to as of LESSON OF ST. VICTOIRE with his wonderfully gross mis-representation of Marcel Reich-Ranicki, he leaves himself open.
what teed me off no end was how he then
responded, after about 8 years, to Colbin's
indictment - I mean I knew he would at some
point, thus i wrote TOUGH LOVE FOR PETER
He starts off with what we call a
"tactical concession" with the admission that he
had wanted to kill her - and we are meant to think
oh what great self-restraint on your
part peter handke!?? and then this formally perfect
- not one molecule of oxygen escapes formalist
excercise, airtight excuse - in given the reason WHY he wanted
to kill - not over my dead body, buddy, is all
i can say to that. and now we find out that
they didn't even live together, but miles apart.
i was willing to entertain the extenuation
that perhaps she had been in his face all hours
of the day, had not let him out of the house.
what a coward he is, beating
women and childen. apparently he also put
fist to an f.a.z. editor - easy to do in company., which will separate the fighters.
that is when i retch! but i also love the
guy and for good reason. my emc2 for that is:
maria sivec loves flows through him.
one of the weirder experiences was subsequent
to his telling me, in 1975, that he hadn't
had any "woman adventures" in a long time.
at that point i went into what might be called
secret agent mode, was spooked by the guy,
as indicated. however, i arranged for a meeting
between him and the hussy whom i had left
for great passion Laurie, at his hotel,
the Algonquin. Let's see what gives between
the two. Nada. Not a spark. So this had been
his gratuitous billy goat act. and i toyed with
him to see if i could get a reaction, the
truth out of him: 'is it all right if we both
dedicate my translation of NONSENSE
AND HAPPINESS to Judith? Fine with him.
THus my reply to his threat of 86 must have
come as a shock. actually i had forgotten all about it during the translation work, and then had other reasons to distance myself from judith thurman, who i kept within my circle of friends, part of urizen. she even rented office space there. thus i can't really be that unhappy, he helped me see the way. i happen to be someone who does not "put his foot down" with the opposite sex. since you then ahve to do it over and over again. etc.


That odd untruth about going on a solitary
trip with his biological father after graduation,
first of all calling him a "savings and loan creature"
[what if Schoenemann had been a T.S. Eliot
- in the Zeit interview with Greiner he is called
a 'like to be womanizer - Frauenheld ... who is
Handke talking about, his father,
himself, or both of them??]
and Peter then claiming the father had always
been worried that the father-son twosome might
be mistaken for a pair of gays elicits the thought
that Peter has a homophobic problem. At Princeton the general expression was "ach ein Maedchen",
then Ginsberg tries to use me to tell Peter that
he wants to fuck him. Had Ginsberg approached
him already and discovered that Peter didn't
really have English at that time? Possibelamente.
Thus he asked me to translate? Then Peter calls me
gay at the party that I gave for him, with two women who have the hots for me and i for them, on early
photos he looks very much like a Minon,! If
you look at all those photos where he has posed,
often for Helen Birnbaum, he assumes a
compensatory male look, chin out, tough!
One of the basic sources of his creativity
is his bi-sexuality. Not at all surprising in
the instance of someone who is so mother loved
and oriented.

After he objected
to the way i was fighting for VILLAGES
and it was all over - hey, I was free to write
and think about him. Udderwise I might have
gone on translating all the other subsequent
plays the only one of those that has been
done is that absolute genius formalist text
HOUR. I could sell the correspondence,
for ten times less than it would fetch now.
but that way i would get paid for the six
months i had put in on VILLAGES.
Lots of matters would have been easier
if I had been wealthy - I sure would have
never been the Suhrkamp rep, but I might
easily have translated Handke. And
would definitely have taken off with Libgart.
Thus, the advantages of being poor and
getting to know the tongue of everyman,
the most interesting jobs have been menial

SUMMA POLITICO said...!/mike.roloff1

The discussion about Malte Herwig's MEISTER DER DAEMMERUG has commenced, what is not so surprising is that Herwig flogs his book on face book

while yet failing to link to any critique such as the one hers that links to others, e.g in the f.a.z..... Marie Colbin's is the most damning of all. i have made it part of ..

Scott Abbott said...

I'm having an odd reaction to the discussion held in the brasserie in Paris between Handke and Bondy with Herwig present to record the conversation, but not present to engage in the conversation but present to be a little head with camera in the mirror in the 6 photos. Not sure about the inner details yet, but I'll get around to them.

franzangst said...

Mike, I was wondering why you let Herwig's account of why Handke and Peyman split go unquestioned. Herwig, although he talked to Peyman, we don't know when, does not ask him for his version.
See you on Sunday at the usual place.


Franz, my thought on that matter are the following: perhaps Peymann really failed to respond to IMMER NOCH STURM, perhaps it has just become a routine for him... in which case Handke has a point. However, there was a long standing agreement that Peymann would premiere the play at the Burg Theater in Vienna and that the production would then be moved to the Ensemble in Berlin. After the breakup Handke kept expressing these longing for the play to be done in Salzburg, and remembrences of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES premiere there in the early 80s, Wenders the director, and I could see it conming from miles off: sure enough what if the Salzburg Festival is not premiering STURM in Fall 2011... and with a director that Handke has never worked with and that has not done any other Handke, Gontchev I think is his name, a Bugger of some note. My guess is that Handke was angling for Salzburg all along once the Austrian reception of the work was favorable and he is now becoming a favorite son, fat in the wallet. Perhaps Peymann will tell us his side of the story one of the days. EITELKEIT wins the day! Yes, see you. xx michael r.

eisee8sch said...

Do you know the original audio-document of Handkes legendary Princeton statement from 1966(Gruppe 47?)Take this adress:

and take "landmarks" "Gruppe 47"
"Recordings" and go to the audio-track of "Hermann Piwitt" at 15:00



Eisee8, I was at Princeton, but thanks for the link. As you may know, FC Delius recently came out and mentioned that he had witnessed Handke rehearsing! - and it was not the text he read there, but his inflammatory statement. My man is of the ADVERTISEMENTS FOR MYSELF species, but he really does have something to advertise.

eisee8sch said...

Whether he has practiced it or talked spontaneously is completely irrelevant! Or shall we allow only spontaneous utterances? In the literature?


Not in this instance, since Handke would have made the statement even if the presentations had been brilliant. Some were, some were not. He wanted to call attention to himself!POETENCY! Fortunately he himself turned out to be, although the excerpt from HAUSIERER that he read was not in the way "descriptie potency" is genenrally understood. The statement was announcing, like a poem from INNERWORLD "HERE, it's ME, I EXISTS, PAYU ATTENTION." His publisher Unseld of course like it - he spared him the cost of publicizing a new author's existance!

eisee8sch said...

"He wanted to call attention to himself!"
Yes, you are right. Who does not?
Some people can. Others can not.
(Delius doesn't it?)


The rules of the democratic game were those of a U.S. writing course. You may comment
on a specific text, no general attacks. When Hans Werner Richter, whose gig the Gruppe 47 meeting was,
called Handke's attention to these rules, he simply repeated his rehearsed [as we found
out this year] text. So much for spontaneity! However, the way Handke spoke up that day,
cussing the whole world, became pretty much his public modus operandi for quite a few years,
and it did not endear him to many people. What protected him were his texts which, once published and performed, were quickly recognized as works of genius. Normally, it is those who are insecure
in their talent, Alan Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, who seem to need to supplement the attention their products garner for them. Ironically, or whatever, at a party for the Gruppe 47 that Jakov Lind and Pannah Grady and I, at my suggestion, gave at Pannah's super-splendid apartment in the Dakota in Manhattan, Alan Ginsberg at one point came up to me as I was trying to talk to Handke, to get some specifics out of him, and asked me to tell Handke that he wanted to fuck him, in so many words, assuming that Handke did not understand English. Handke understood English allright but, as it turned out assumed that Ginsberg wanted to fuck me! Handke's mis-assumption was not cleared up for 15 years. I myself noticed Handke's rather sadistic grin and thought it was reserved for Ginsberg's so very approach - Ginsberg wanted me to tranlate his wishes. I myself, the second time Ginsberg piped up, gave him my best blue-eyed Prussian stare, and he backed off. Once you smell sadism it sticks in your nose.

eisee8sch said...

Nice story, with absolutely no desire for attention and vanity!

eisee8sch said...

Handke hat übrigens nie verschwiegen, dass er seinen Vortrag vorbereitet hatte! Das Statement beginnt sogar mit dem Satz:
"Ich möchte zu dieser Art von Literatur, die hier bei der Gruppe 47, wie auch zu dieser eben vorgetragenen Prosa, einige Sätze bemerken, die ich im Verlauf dieser Lesung versucht habe aufzuschreiben.


It is an instance where all three parties are under a misapprehension - Ginsberg that Handke does not understand English, I that Handke understood that it was he who was meant to be fucked, Handke that I was going to be Ginsberg meat. Handke was dressed that evening in his customary Beatles haircut, the dark glasses [for his eye problems as I would find out - Pannah's aparment was deliciously lighted in the gentlest of rich glows!] and a shirt of small brown and yellow checks, and looked the Mignon part, which I had passed. Meanwhile both of us have turned into toughie tomcats if need be and Ginsberg is no longer with us. I met Ginsberg one more time, during my tenure at the Central Kommittee of the PEN club. He was dressed in suit and tie. In retrospect, it is the oddest of things isnt it to have to ask someone to translate that you want to fuck them, be they male or female. The evening ended badly with Ginsberg and his Beat friends smashing at least one of Pannah's Persian vases - he might not have if he'd got laid of course.


Handke was rehearsing his statement, a written statement! prior to the end of the three day meeting. That is, he would have read it even I imagine if someone had read something as extraordinary as the opening of THE TIN DRUM, which had premiered at the Gruppe quite a few years before. Or one of Peter Weiss's great texts. I happened to be sitting next to the journalist Erich Kuby, whom I knew from Hamburg, and Kuby knew the name of the fellow in the Beatles haircut - we were sitting at an angle behind, i have a photo at of the event.

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