Friday, March 16, 2007


by early next week, of the 19th of march, i will send a long open letter to the AMERICAN SCHOLAR re michael mcdonald's below idio-tack on handke.

Peter Handke "is the strongest, most inventive writer to have emerged in German literature since, well, G√ľnter Grass". But should we, for this reason, forgive him his admiration for Milosevic? Michael McDonald thinks not and explains so in an essay (unfortunately not online), quoting, with a certain degree of bitterness, Grass, who said the genius was no excuse for dangerous nonsense. But what if Handke is no genius? Because truth, in McDonald's opinion, has little to do with Handke's romantic understanding of writing. "By concentrating with surgical precision on the physical details of life, Handke can paint a horrifying image of the mechanical numbness of everyday habit. But is what he describes really life? Literature is many things, but it wouldn't be worthy of our attention if it didn't have something to do with human psychology—from which Handke clearly wishes to escape. Literature that deals exclusively with the external forms of life ends up being repetitive and trivial—which is what Handke's writing often is. His reputation as a writer is unlikely to survive except in textbooks. Who reads (outside of the classroom) Robbe-Grillet and the other nouveaux romanciers from whom Handke has learned so much?" Maybe Handke would answer, cooly, that 2+2=5 and refer to an article by Robert Orsi. Orsi is Catholic and empiricist. And because of this, he longs for a radical, "abundant" empiricism of visible and invisible realities. The invisible real – such as the bloody tears of a Madonna statue – is embarrassing for Protestants. "The challenge is to go beyond saying 'this was real in her experience' to describe how the real - whether it's the Holy Spirit at a Pentecostal meeting or the Virgin Mary on a hillside or a vision of paradise so compelling that people will kill for it - finds presence, existence, and power in space and time, how it becomes as real as guns and stones and bread, and then how the real in turn acts as an agent for itself in history. An abundant empiricism of the real allows us to probe the conditions of such creativity in culture, where 2+2=5, for better or worse, meaning that the sum of 2+2 can also be cruelty and violence, cultural dissolution as well as cultural innovation."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

# 4] Mireille/ Handke's sense of place

now posted at

# 4] Mireille/ Handke's Sense of Place....
next sending [ # 5] will serve a fillip to what Professor Pilipp makes of Goalie!
I am so pleased to find himself in agreement with Mireille's fine reading on the centrality of "place" in Handke's life and work, in her piece in Coury/ Pilipp's THE WORKS OF PETER HANDKE, not that I don't want to cavil at the lack of response to the individual works, the influence that Handke's amazingly articulated encounter ought to leave in this A student's enumeration. I also feel like saying, nay I do say, that if Handke wanted to write "editorials", and perhaps all art is a form of propaganda, as he of course sometimes does, he would do just that. Or not write on the fine line of ambiguous projection screen
Chiefly, I am going to address one point, how tendentious [or ideological, how "Blut and Boden"] Handke's Taoist, transfigured nature as "mythic" measure might be regarded, as we find it starting to take that course, quite consciously now, as of " The Left Handed Woman," and will focus on the results that the focus of this mythic lens lends to Alaska in the title prose text in what is called A Slow Homecoming. In passing, however, let us remember Handke saying that while he was writing Left Handed Woman he kept running to Paris porno houses! The chasteness of the rural Tao is a tense affair! Handke is also Albin of W.A.T.V., the Josef Bloch of Goalie after he's spent some years in jail, as what in W.A.T.V is Handke not, in the event anyone really wants to tangle with what is perhaps also, among the many things it is, the most unusual and richest autobiographical display ever penciled. One could also hold that nature as idyllic calming place is manifest as early as Handke's first novel, Die Hornissen, or in that poetic text Singular and Plural that I commented on in my response to Weller's piece on Handke's poems. Ms. Mireille is quite right in finding that matters are not as simple as Fourier imagined. However, I found that with Handke's power as a writer that if nature as we think of it disappeared we might at least encounter it in Handke's encounter with it.
Just a bit of house-keeping prior to what will be a story, about me and Langsame Heimkehr, oh yes and at the end a funny story and a few comments about ABSENCE and what interests me in that text.
In Lesson of St. Victoire Handke mentions that he suffers from occasional bouts of color blindness, not that he is partially color blind; and that he has not found anyone in his family with similar problem. I must have spent at least two weeks researching the phenomenon of "occasional color blindness", there is a fair literature on this psychosomatic symptom. Most instances that are detailed in the literature are induced by hysteria, male hysteria is castration anxiety [it's pretty simple, the nerves to the gonad, the eyes and the teeth run along the same strands! in Mexican villages when kids are frightened they instantly clutch their genital area] ; which in the case of Handke's autistic sensitivities, as previously described, are induced by ugly sites, anxiety, "nausea of the eyeballs;" anger, rage make him see black and white, no wonder he prefers the color white and is such a snow rabbit. The angels in Wings of Desire [Himmel ueber Berlin] see in color when they are infused with feelings. i.e...
And no wonder that walking, being in nature, mother nature with all those rounded corners, shelves and terraces is such a solace to sore eyes for the aging mother fuck from Griffen, the chaste Taoist. Rarely do we come on this in such pure fashion. I wrote about the younger Handke's need for tinted glasses; the glasses are now internalized. Valerian.
Subsequent to St. Victoire, in Chinese des Schmerzens [Across], I was surprised to notice Handke take what I call a Ruysdealesque approach to the Salzburg surrounds, he has of course started to paint, sketch too; the prose becomes painterly, the sentences more overtly anchored in images. The danger he runs is of this becoming a kind of art prose.
Oh yes, why am I a Handke nut? Because nearly every sentence is an adventure.
Now to Alaska which I will address in the form of a story. Sometime in the early 70s Handke wrote me, asking what winters were like in the U.S. I wrote back that winters in the Rockies was like that in the Alps, in new England like that of the foothills to the Alps, but that if he wanted something really different he would go to Alaska. I had gone to Alaska as a way to recover from going dead in graduate school in Germanistics, teaching was a joy; most but certainly not some high school teacher type members of the department, I had no problem with the others, some were stellar in their field, it is what they ended up doing to texts that got to me, I was not going to perpetrate anything of the kind, and seeing the walking dead in those departments I congratulate myself on my sensibilities especially since I have seen what has become of many members who are now my age.
Anyhow, Alaska for something entirely different, well not altogether: I was a good enough woodsman.
Handke then proceeded to pay a few fairly brief visits to Alaska, I think maybe a total of three at most during the years 1976-78. When he had returned from his then last visit, prior to putting up in the Hotel Adams in late fall 1978, to write Langsame Heimkehr, we happened to be walking to Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge, in a medium snowfall, it was night, to visit the writer Michael Brodsky, I got a little worried by his telling me that he was about to write a book about Alaska, after those few visits... oh yes, and he'd forgotten as he had a few far more important matters that so very strange man, that I had pointed him in that direction some years ago.
I myself spent about nine months in Alaska, first as a fire fighter, then as a geological surveyor, and wanted to tell Handke a few of my experiences. Alaska was one of those pure experiences which had a beginning and and end, and I when the time came the following spring to return, as I had planned, I shied back, it seemed I did not want to disturb that very clear recollection I had, still have, of sometimes whole days, and if not of whole days of long treks, or rides in a raft down the river or across the Yukon; I have few such seemingly complete memory recollections, also of the people I came to know, a very varied lot, entire conversations, no blurring so it seems in Alaska, powerfully delineated shapes, outlines of the landscape, the deltas the forever sinuous shape of the Big Wide River, the infinite dark green of the flat only rarely rolling scrub spruce and pine thicket blanket, the foot thick moss, the determining permafrost beneath, which can thaw during a forest fire, and if peat burn forever. The black south side of Fairbanks with its music clubs and stills. The Indians from whom I had learned so much while we had fought the big forest fire, who weren't much good when confined to their villages.
But Handke indicated that he was overwhelmed with material, had enough, and I did not persist, but I am reminded of one of his angry women commenting on how self-involved he is, that he doesn't really want to know anyone else's story. Well, the misanthrope makes a great ultra sensitive correspondent. Writing a book on Alaska, based on so little time spent there, it worried me, it appears. Have you read the McPhee? He had. I don't think I asked him whether he had read Norman Mailer's Why Are We in Vietnam whose best parts are set in the Brooks Range, where I had worked too, and are in a way far more amazing since they were penned by a city boy. I had gone to Alaska to be rid of something, specifically of the deadening experience, to get well, with the idea that you could make money while adventuring in nature; and so it had come to pass, and Alaska was absorbed quite unselfconsciously, as a matter of course, the way you go into a river and it leaves a film on you. What was the most important part of the experience, was it this or that person, or that near accidental death experience? Quite a few of those. Including those great instructors in finding your way in a wild that was home to them who might turn raging bulls back in their settlements in the village, that angry chain wielding Indian in Handke's text, history, yes in a way, certainly. No matter that you could find no end of general and individual explanations for his rage.
Having not the faintest that Handke had chosen the personae of a geologist as a lens for his Alaska, I wonder retrospectively, if he might have been rattled by my telling him that I had worked as such a one, albeit pretty much in a "Laufer" role, far into snowshoe times.
It turned out that Handke had prepared that pathos drenched opening sentence and been carrying it around with him for years, and then, by his account, went nearly crazy because the best laid plan was not working lonely in the Hotel Adams, but since he was someone of whom my experience was as someone who was always writing or wanted to do nothing as much as write I left him to his own devices. I had my hands full at the time. On his return trip from Colorado he was downcast, as compared to the return from Alaska and San Francisco where he was very up. It turned out that an Austrian ski instructor friend had died.
I did not read A Slow Homecoming at its appearance, no one sent me a copy of the book, so I picked one up at the 1980 Book Fair and read it on my way back from Bulgaria later that fall, just prior to visiting Handke in Salzburg, on my way to Zurich and way back to New York.
I was fairly overwhelmed[see [dem handke auf die schliche/ prosa/ the "ein besuch auf dem moenschberg" section]
I can't say that anything I ever read had such an evocative effect on me. It wasn't just that, it wasn't at all that the text produced some kind of surge of memories, the wonderful McPhee could have served that purpose,too, and far more specifically, no it did because Handke's nameless writing articulation evoked the shape of this huge landscape, its vastness, it elicited what had been until then a kind of unconscious holistic [?] experience, that I never considered articulating, and so we have these words "mythic" "eternalistic" for them... and our inability to articulate that experience joins, is akin to other inarticulated experiences, such as those we have intra-uterine, and until we enter the deceptive world of words... Handke's text affected me so much more powerfully because we shared an outerworld, and my innerworld turned, entirely unexpectedly, to have been, be in tune with his.
My first employer in Fairbanks had been the U.S. Department of the Interior, which is also in charge of firefighting on a scale of millions of acres . I flew by helicopter, from a manageable 20 thousand acre burn near Galena, on the Yukon, across a year old three million acre burn, to the Brooks Range to a burn of a couple of hundred acres that two crews of twelve could handle, one Banana with 24 men aboard; my second employer was the department of roads of the State of Alaska that surveyed what I later discovered was the route that the oil pipe line would take north of Fairbanks! Someone had really looked at those pocketbook sized brown note books with our topographical sketches and their soil analyses.
It made little difference to me that Secretary of State Seward had bought the territory of Alaska from the Czar in the 19th Century for a pittance, the only time I was reminded of that was that my native fellow fire fighters friends had Russian names! The road, the Alcan Highway, I drove up on had been constructed during WW II, among other reasons, for the lend-lease program to the USSR, black crews from the US South had stayed in Fairbanks and brought their life style there, to which I took like a fish to water in the midnight sun summers. There was only one major railway line, Fairbanks to Anchorage, one major highway. The gold fields north of Fairbanks were merging back with nature. It is easy to ignore the political marks left on that vastness. How few settlements there are in the interior, human kind has not left much of a mark until the oil exploration came.
Handke, it surprised me on first reading, appeared to be looking for signs of peace in the geologic formations; I myself would look for them in the genetic makeup of Bonono Chimpanzees! In certain unwarlike non-competive non-greed based unrighteous cultures. So "geological formations" in his instance ... or is that just Sorger?
It appears Handke for once ran out of steam, out of something, in this undertaking; the title text of A Slow Homecoming Quartet runs out of steam, Sorger is talking to the Portier at night in the Adams, a resident hotel I knew well prior to Handke's settling there for some months in 1978, since I had lived on East 86th occasionally. For many years he said this was the worst time in his life, in No-Man's-Bay he makes rather silly fun of the experience, something that might have been excised. He has called the text "a philosophical" one. Most philosophy and certainly the stance of being "philosophical" are of a defensive nature. Let me put it this way: responding as Handke does in his Alaska text, and also in the subsequent San Francisco section, there is no need for him to look through tinted glasses, no need for glancing to the side. So for those who cannot respond, such as those who only see gold or oil... On the other hand, looking for signs of peace during a war ridden zone such as Yugoslavia and not crying holy murder at every moment can get you in trouble with the righteous!
Now a note and the story about Absence. As a text, Absence chiefly interests me for two reasons: one that it is devoid of the direct intrusion of its author's unhappy psyche; and that as a prose text it can be experienced as a film; that is, it points the way towards new possibilities of communication by means of the alteration of the reader's kinesthetic reading experience; it has a renovating effect; the means our artificer uses to achieve this effect, his technical means are or seem to be of the simplest kind. What a feat, not a single US reviewer noticed, a few made passing comment abou the the text's "dramatic nature". Alas, why bother to innovate?
Now the story: In 1991, subsequent to the mother of all Battles for Kuwait, my girlfriend and I spent a night in the northern-most reaches of Los Padres National Forest, [which mountain range lies east of Big Sur on the California Coast to orient you]. We had taken Carmel Valley Road, which leads from Carmel-by-the-Sea in about 50 plus miles to the big north-south California route 101, along the southern edge of the Salinas Valley of Steinbeck fame, as is Monterrey for having been a sardine processor, while there were still sardines, and its "Cannery Row". After playing a little pool at a restaurant of a once resort called Miller's Landing, by a crossing over a brook that comes out of the Los Padres, a once 40s Hollywood getaway that had turned working class, then hippie, and was again working class, M. and I had wound our way up the several thousand feet into this the northern most stretch of the Los Padres [which extend from Ventura along the California Coast, into Kern Country to the east, through Santa Barbara County all the Way to the Carmel Big Sur area.
Miller's landing has a brook coming down out of the hills... and it is along the course of the brook that you wend your way up into the hills, on a dirt road...
We had spent the night at a hill top, M. had sat down on a fish hook, and as usual had emitted a hysterical scream... though a world class trouper her hysteria had nearly got us killed a day or so before...
Around midday that fine sunny warm Sunday morning as we were wending our way gradually back down, south, into my beloved rolling California live oak rolling hill sides, in the direction of a right turning elbow in the # 101 that would take us back to the coast highway, I started encountering, every couple of hundred yards, the tiniest of barricades, the kind you might put up for bumper carts in a country fair, childlike, painted diagonal running red and white stripes... amused, a touch puzzled, I skirted these pretend obstacles until all a sudden... we I, the Mustang of a car, found ourselves in the middle of a not so simulation of the "mother of all tank battles"... tanks rolling across the crest of hills on both sides...
it was the National Guard, on a Sunday exercise, we had driven into one of their training camps, if there had been a sign we had missed it. I looked at the US Geological Service map of the area I had with me, the kind I used in Alaska, and again five years prior while exploring the SE quadrant of New Mexico: well, well, well we seemed to be in the middle of the maneuver grounds of Fort Hunter-Ligget!The situation seemed was so dire, it shut off M.s hysteria for once.

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MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website