I wanted to take the opportunity to comment on your December 2012 conclave
at the Deutsches Haus and provide a bit of background that may help
in your further Handke work.
Friday, December 7th, 6:30 p.m.
Peter Handke in America is an important theme for understanding the writer’s work. Because of his life-long fascination with America, Handke was among the first German-speaking writers of his generation to present a positive image of the United States against the anti-imperialist aversions of the European 1968-movement. Particularly in his early work, scholars have traced his fascination with writers such as John Ford, Walker Percy (whom he also translated), as well as the blues, New York City, the image of the “Native American” and with the beauty of the American landscape. His 1971 novel Short Letter, Long Farewell makes his fascination with the United States the central motif. Handke also lived in New York (after lengthy travels through Alaska), where in 1979 he wrote his important novel The Long Way Round. In his film Three American LPs, he co-produced with Wim Wenders, many of these themes can also be clearly identified.
First, a comment on the above notice for your conversation.
I think it serves no good purpose to put 1968 European Anti-Imperialist sentiments into a contra-distinction to interest in other aspects of American culture - and to do so is what is called creating "false opposites" - of kind and order; that is, the creation of a thoroughly meretricious Piñata, and I was glad to note that not too much was made of it. QUODLIBET incidentally references the My Lay atrocity in its Joycean series of nasty puns of that kind. What might be more interesting is a compare of Handke's large body of work growing out of his self with Faulkner's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
For Faulkner needs to be added to the list of writers who were important to the so exceedingly well read Handke from very early on. After Princeton in 1966 Handke went to Oxford to get a feel of the place, pay homage I suppose at Faulkner's house. Ford the film maker interested Handke, and the very title SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL references the author of FAREWELL MY LOVELY and Handke and his Graz contemporaries interest in the Black Mask writers, in Handke's case as both a breeding ground and then as container for the examination and control of fear. DER HAUSIERER, GOALIE, Radio Play One, etc. After all, Handke's first self-representation was of "I am the new Kafka", in Princeton 1966. We all recall Kafka saying after his first book, "One day I will be known as the Old Kafka" - young Handke was full of jumping beans. I happened to be at Princeton in 1966 and witnessed what turns out to have been a rehearsed attack, I recall feeling that Handke, who was entirely unknown to me even though I had been the Suhrkamp scout in the US who had just got his first job for German literature in at Farrar Straus... that Handke sounded like a broken record - now we find out that FC Delius witnessed his rehearsing his little generalized attack, appropriate to a lot of writers who were not at Princeton. He himself read from DER HAUSIERER, not a good text for reading out loud. Ted Ziolkowsky a Princeton professor who became a friend over the Hesse I brought to F.S. + G. also heard Handke make the claim to be the "new Kafka." Subsequent to Princeton, Pannah Grady, Jakov Lind and I gave a party at Pannah'ssplendid Dakota apartment for the Gruppe 47 and I had an interesting encounter with Handke as he was being propositioned by Alan Ginsberg, and I noticed that I was dealing with a village sadist and, as the genius would write, "the smell sticks." I believe I wrote this scene up at some length in my DEM HANDKE AUF DIE SCHLICHE.
For the US discussion of MORAVIAN NIGHT that fellow Handke translator Scott Abbott and I will be conducting, only in 2014 now it turns out, I just wrote up a short piece that accounts for my relationship to Handke's texts.
By the time Handke would undertake the trip that would lead to SHORT LETTER I had let Siegfried Unseld prevail on me to become the US Suhrkamp agent; and this job entailed hosting the threesome of SHORT LETTER who were on an Austrian sponsored 21 dates in 28 days tour of US campuses - the book, too, retains the speediness and travelogue quality. By that time I had already translated all the early plays from PUBLIKUMSBESCHIMPFUNG to RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE and GOALIE'S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK, and finally managed to get an official premiere of some of these plays, at BAM, which co-incided with Handke's visit. I was glad to only continue to translate the plays and poetry, my strength, quite aside the question of time.
As to Handke's liking for the llano non-estacado of John Ford, those famous wide open spaces, I would attribute Handke's need not to be fenced in to a psychosomatic heart condition, and a general neo-liberal yuppiedom and grandiosity e/g HERR-MAN QUITT, thus the once buergerschreck who needs absolute quiet - for reasons of having ten times the nerves of every kind than the so-called normal person - to Ehrenbuerger, king of the hill, childhood tyrant, "Mutter Soehnchen" to tyrant of syntax is not all that surprising as a curve of ascendency. This however makes for a fun collage
What ctd. utterly astonishing is the development of someone who was so deeply embedded in the world of words to the extraordinary sleight of hand artistry of introducing the dreamscreen, dream writing, dream syntax writing into prose - the sort of thing none of you brought up but that interests me for Handke's use for future novelists on that high order.
- I recall giving Handke as he was going back to Austria, and he had lost his coat, something greatcoatish with a Napoleonic cut I had picked up in Paris , and helping him into the contraption, and everyone - Kolleritsch, Libgart and Handke himself, much amused at this. So I must have sensed his ultimate ambition early on. A bit like my grandfather making fun of Hitler! And we are all fortunate that Handke is only the Napoleon of Syntax! And had a lovely horticulturalist uncle studying in Llubliana! In the mid-seventies he asked me to show him around the Long Island suburbs, just as I entered a ten year stint of living a very bohemian life in Tribeca, but Handke's need for quiet, with its inception in Kronberg, certainly was not meant as a special yen for the unpleasant aspects of suburbia, those are mere incidental. The Meudon-Clamart of LEFT HANDED WOMAN was scarcely a suburb, but a way station.
Handke's behavior during his trip, however, would not have let you assume that he was a genius unless you, as his translator, or close reader, might have reached that conclusion in that fashion. Handke toured the country telling everyone what idiots they were. Donald Daviau who hosted the annual Austrian shindig at U.C. Riverside took offense. - That Handke's neglected and insulted wife would leave him at the first opportunity was apparent. KASPAR as great as an objective play as it is, is also in some ways a self-projection, except that you sure as hell don't anticipate that, or for KASPAR to be so utterly arrogant! I also noticed a then puzzling event of the kind he describes in DER VERSUCH UEBER DEN STILLEN ORT as Handke peeled away from a conversation with me and two American critics who were early fans of his whom I had invited to a small party for him and squatted down by, I nearly said my Juke Box, record player and put on I think a Beatles record. As soon as the guests left he was his obnoxious self again.
Thus SHORT LETTER - FAREWELL LOVER instead of FAREWELL MY LOVERLY - aside being a kind of Godard film, also is propelled by the same kind of fear of women that also marks MORAVIAN NIGHTS, although not as extensively. MORAVIAN references SHORT LETTER.
That the media generated images with which Handke arrived did not fit his experience is not an especially interesting theme to me. Fleeing the Moerderland as the age of 12, child of two 20th of July participants who survived their Gestapo imprisonment during the Siege of Berlin entirely fortuitously, I realized within a fairly short time that the Declaration of Independence had not been written exclusively for me, that American Indians were hard to find in American forests, and that every sexy American car did not come with an sexy American girl.
The Gatsby theme evidently did persist, in no time Handke was staying in the Algonquin and in the best hotels ever after. I always loved the fact that frugal Uwe Johnson stayed in the next-door Iroquois.
Not that it takes me to point out the existence of Alaska or how different winters are there, but that is what I did when Handke asked me about American winters. And I was in a good position to do so, having worked 9 months out of Fairbanks, first as a fire fighter for two months and then as an assistant geological surveyor, and also with Natives, who were great in the field, not so great when they got drunk in their villages and beat up their wives before their wives beat them up. And had I not seen village life first hand I probably would have accepted the rare December job offer - from the Daily News-Miner - to spend a week at a time, a bush pilot taking me from one such village to another, to report on its events. Thus the chain-wielding Indian in LANGSAME HEIMKEHR, like to much else in that book, is over-determined, and perhaps Handke even made the mistake of making a pass at a squaw and lived to write about it. And Mannheim's translation of that first sentence that drove Handke crazy because he'd been rehearsing it for years and could not get beyond it in the Hotel Adams - is a true abortion that lacks the rhythm and the pathos and everything. And Handke liking Mannheim so much as a translator then makes me fear that his own estimate of my work on WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES might be equally off the wall, although he was one of two people who realized that it became a translation "for voice" - "cutting -in the good sense." Scott a good ear too, is the other.
Ample images from Handke's ALASKA experience also entered WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES especially the sing-songs of the four workers.
Now a bit more detail. It appears that you all decided not to talk about Handke and Yugoslavia, but you, Ms. Naqvi, then call Handke's take "naif". Well no, just very different but standard for him, all I can do here is point you to Fabjan Haffner's book and some of my own attempts to puzzle the matter out for myself. The US brain-washed and TV-image filled Human Rights Vultures take on the matter will not do. I recall, Ms. Winston some years back not wanting to discuss her own typical take - as always, they then don't want to talk after they read Roger Cohen's photo essay among the Benneton ads where the big bad wolf from Progarevic personally sets fire to every Bosniak house.
However, Handke's take and the way he dealt with the disintegration of his beloved
Slavic federation accounts for a good deal of the "catastrophic Handke reception" as of the early 90s also in the US. Again, I don't want to repeat what appears in the Handke magazine on that matter, in the form of a long open letter to Robert Silvers, and of a letter to the American scholar, etc. Susan Sontag - who had helped me put Handke over at Farrar, Straus - then saying "Handke is finished" after the publication of his JUSTICE FOR SERBIA set the tone for the intellectual pack. I imagine if Handke had gone about it the way Juergen Habermas - in philosophical political legal economic sociological terms - and not been so passionately engaged... however, that is the way the Mississippi of language discourses, from Habermas to the insidious David Brooks.
Another reasons for the drop-off in interest in Handke is his publisher Farrar Straus interrupting what had been the initial as instantaneous publication of his work in translation subsequent to LEFT HANDED WOMAN, by seven years, and then the mis-publication of A SLOW HOME COMING jointly with the memoir A CHILD'S STORY and the travelogue change in artistic programme THE LESSON OF ST. VICTOIRE. LHW had still been published in entirety in the New Yorker, as might the first two chapters of the fragmentary A SLOW HOME COMING. By 1986 the world had changed, as had editors at the New Yorker, even though FSG had done very well with my two volume of Handke plays, they passed on WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES and subsequent plays and that interrupted the succession in that field. The New Yorker still did a condensation of a section from THE REPETITION a few year's later, but that was it. Subsequent to its own mis-publication of Handke, who realized the lack of interest in his work, Roger Straus then wrote his famous letter to Siegfried Unseld saying that he had a Handke problem, as compared to Unseld who realized he had a genius if an occasionally difficult one, Roger Straus turned out to be someone who would have been better off selling galoshes. A true culture vulture cherry picker says a once picked and screwed cherry. You wouldn't think as much with a firm sporting the likes of Wilson, Lowell, Malamud - but Robert Giroux was their editor. No end of Nobel Prizes would ennoble Roger Straus, and Robert Giroux could never write a history of the firm because it reminded him of Roger. What a close vested banker the editor of T.S. Eliot turned out to be.
Also, Handke must have had nearly a dozen different editors there after I left in 1970 - perfectly fine ones but for the unfortunate period of the mid-80s when Michael DiCapua was editor in chief, who ruined any number of projects of mine. Handke wrote me several times that he felt FSG was not really interested in his work at that time. I don't know what I could have done about it, but I did suggest to Knopf at one point that maybe they wanted to do Handke. And had plenty of trouble of my own kind as co-publisher of Urizen Books.
2) Krishna Winston knows better than to say that Ralph Mannheim translated nearly everything of Handke's prior to her doing the prose, which proves to me once again that she is both petty and not on top of the subject, as she actually nicely admits in the company of folk whom she calls Handke experts but evidently not to others. There are not only my dozen play translations including what Handke called the best translation he ever saw, of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, and two volumes of poetry and GOALIE, but there are also Scott Abbott's translations of JUSTICE FOR SERBIA and VOYAGE BY DUGOUT, as well as Mike Mitchell's of TILL THE DAY, GittaHonegger's of HOUR and THE ART OF ASKING, and I forgot whose of ONCE MORE FOR THUCYDIDES, for New Directions. Perhaps Ms. Winston had just a bad day, I hope the kind of errors she committed will not start to infest her wonderful Handke translations that indeed find the rhythm and sound of the original in a new medium. But a 1993 novel such as MEIN JAHR IN DER NIEMANDSBUCHT was scarcely intended as a "millenial" , for the year 2000, although Handke himself may have been amused at writing a book that was stretched to the kind of 1000 page monstrum he himself once claimed he would never write since they tended to become cadaverous albatrosses such as Musil's MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES... and for which he wanted his publisher to charge the public 120 DM I think it still was at the time. Siegfried Unseld suggested DM 58. They compromised at 78 I think, and Handke, who turns out to be a really good capitalist bargainer got an advance of DM 300,000 - not bad for one year's work.
As to Handke writing a book a year or "so much" - NOMANSBAY has it that it's author
writing in nature, in a tree hollow too, whether that is part of the explanation for Handke's ctd. productivity?
Possibelamente. I can think of half a dozen further reasons. Handke has heart problems of a psychosomatic
kind, walking helps to keep the vistas wide and the brain cleaner. However, to be able to write up to a thousand words a day of marvelous prose is really
not that unusual, although few can do it. If you enjoy doing it as much as Handke and have some positive response to conveying that joy - perhaps willy nilly and via the commodius vicus ofrecirculation we have re-entered Maria Sivec's realm of Kraft durch Freude. Ms. Winston seems not to reflect on what she translates so well. But my chief quarrel derives from her advising FSG not to publish KALI - because this was not new Handke. It appears Ms. Winston does not appreciateHandke's pride in not repeating himself, but, as a formalist, to explore a formal problem to the limits - and then write a kind of summa, say THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER being that of all the early musically formed plays. Or TRACES OF THE LOST as a variant of HOUR. Thus, translate Baby, otherwise keep you hands off, advice that fits quite a few translators.
3) Klaus Kastberger is quite right. Suddenly Handke can't buy himself an unfavorable review, the opposite of just a few years back. Even Hubert Spiegel has come around. On the udder hand, Weinzierl who runs the WeltFeuilliton is a heavily indebted Handke friend, Breitenstein's invariable positive reviews in the NZZ read canned. Things have got so bad that someone named Lothar Struck has assumed the online identity of one of Handke's major literary personae, GregorKeuschnig and no matter that Handke has said that "I am not the one" - as he is not except as a literary artist when he writes -
pays obeyance to Handke's naked feet as he is gardening in Chaville, to see if they smell of mushroom picking expeditions. Chaville itself is being turned into Nachlass zur Lebenszeit Museum and friends bring visitors to traipse in an out. The preparations for immortality are well along the way, and I will sorrow deeply if I don't get my annual Handke fix. What would the past 25 years have been like without it. However, the traumas of Handke's childhood cannot be accounted for to his exposure to the Brummers in the sky over Berlin in the mid-40s, but rather of the intrusion of the violent drunken Bruno Handke into his night life and the inevitable identification with this horror as his father. See my attempt at an explanation of Handke's dark side.
I apologize, this was meant as just a brief note.