Friday, March 30, 2007



Dear Editor Wilson,Here comes a detailed letter about Michael McDonald's atrocity "THE APOLOGIST The Celebrated Austrian writer Peter Handke appeared at the funeral of Serbian Dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Should we forgive him" [pages 59-69 of the print edition Spring 07 issue of the American Scholar. ]. It is but the latest, albeit crudest and most ignorant and distorted, baffled as much as baffling self-righteous libel to appear in the United States on the same subject; and if it had not appeared in the medium that bears the title scholar and is sponsored by the crossword puzzle champs I can't imagine anyone paying it the least heed. McDonald's piece is but the latest installment of the forever same caricature of Handke's political position on Yugoslavia which is then employed to cudgel the work of an author that one misreads just as badly. It's the old two sucker punches in a row. As an editor you failed to exercise due diligence, or were/are a partner in crime. Since McDonald appears unable to read, I am not surprised at his misuse of language. And whoever carved his piece from whatever cutlet he presented to you, produced a most disjointed text.I have little confidence that you will publish the devastation that I will visit on Counsel McDonald's - a lack of confidence due to the failures of editors of The New Republic, the New York Review of Books or The New York Times to respond to my, Handke's first translator into American [see my bio at ] and other's letters objecting to gross and ignorant misreadings of Peter Handke's fallible work and political positions and person - thus I post this missile on-line at:http://www.artscritic.blogspot.comThere you can also find posted, six months ago, a detailed take on Peter Handke's association with the late Slobodan Milosevic, plus all pertinent links. A good source for pertinent information on the unfolding of the controversy has been online, in English, for more than half a year, good time for McDonald not to need to distort the most elementary matters, if that had not been his intent from the git-go: myself, cleaning up after the stupidities perpetrated by the corrupt U.S. literary culture, feel like one of those old women that Hans Magnus Enzensberger keeps seeing knocking the mortar off the bricks from the buildings destroyed after men have gone to war. Many of those in Belgrade, Iraq and Afghanistan, and metaphorically in desperately provincial Seattle.PART ONE- POLITICSMcDonald opens and closes his mugging with tendentious and not pertinent quotes, to lend some kind of pretend weighty frame to his drivel, so let me, too start off with a few quotes, from Handke, and others, which are to the point.Handke: " "What I did not say" in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "I have never denied or played down, not to speak of sanctioned, any of the massacres in Yugoslavia from 1991 – 1995." ... "When it comes to the wars in Yugoslavia, let us forget all comparisons and parallels. Let's stick with the facts of a civil war that a disingenuous or at least unknowing Europe instigated or at least co-produced, and which are terrible on all sides. (...) It is a fact that between 1992 and 1995, in the Yugoslavian Republic, and in Bosnia in particular, prison camps existed where people were starved, tortured and murdered. But let us refrain from mechanically linking these camps with the Bosnian Serbs. There were also Croatian and Muslim camps, and the crimes committed there will be punished in the tribunal in Den Haag."Botho Strauß [first rate playwright, and someone who might be described as a "stylist" - as which McDonald describes both Grass and Handke, which neither are - writes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "What remains today of Bertolt Brecht, a poet who valued the revolution over human life and whose only opposition to the bloody Stalin was a spot of dialectics? What remains is someone who changed the theatre more lastingly than any other European author... What remains, at the end of the day, of the alleged bard of the Greater Serbian Empire, Peter Handke? Not just the most gifted poetic craftsman of his day, but an episteme-creator (to use Foucault's term) as only the most outstanding minds can be, a milestone of seeing, feeling and understanding in German literature. Those who fail to see guilt and error as the stigmata (or even as stimulants in some cases) of great minds, shouldn't busy themselves with true poets and thinkers."Frank Schirrmacher, editor in chief of the Frankfurter Allgemeine, the paper that gave Handke the hardest time for his position on Yugoslavia, on the fiasco of the Heine Prize:"Honouring someone, regardless of how controversial he may be, and then openly declaring him unworthy of that honour, without anything else having happened, is the ultimate form of social backslide. It turns the literary critic into the henchman of the politician. With the politicians' interference, the critic's objections to Handke now sound like a denunciation to the police."Martin Mosebach writes in Die Zeit on the Peter Handke affair: "Too bad the American ambassador who encouraged Slobodan Milosevic to wage war in Bosnia didn't come to his funeral in Belgrade. Someone like Handke who remained faithful to the dead Milosevic is much more worthy of admiration than all the Western politicians who made it possible for Milosevic to commit his crimes while he was alive."Handke in the Neue Zuricher Zeitung:"Where is there any order from Milosevic? How can you bring him together with Srebrenice? I don't know. And on top of that Milosevic was no dictator. He was an autocrat who exercised a semi-authoritarian regime. The press was free, but the television was state-controlled. I don't have any opinion about Milosevic. None. I can't find him either good or bad. I don't want to compare him with Ceausescu or Saddam Hussein, for me that's wrong. Setting Milosevic up as the major evil of the Balkan Wars is a simplification [for the entirety of this fascinating interview]Aren't the scholarly often the worst deadbeats! What a chump you are Editor Wilson to be mining the same dead vein, and with the likes of McDonald as your Kumpel! As you continue, you will see the story that you missed!I ask the several thousand recipients of this communication to comment, if they wish, at the site or reply directly to me and to join me in my call for the resignation of Editor Wilson. But if editor Wilson wishes to run this response in his pages, too, or on the American Scholar web-site, be my guest. I link to you, you link to me, and then you will be on life-support!For stretches I simply quote McDonald and comment, finding that the most efficient way to decimate his assertions. I quite realize that I am that "chien Andalusien" baying at the moon but, that way, I can at least "bark my way!" as old "Blue Eyes" used to sing. From the beginning now, point by point:1] The "we" in the rhetorical "Shall we forgive him"... ": are "we" using the royal "WE", what assumptsionary accusatoryness, what band of McCarthyite vigilantes might this "we" comprise? Is that your editoral board, the Phi Beta Clan, the heavy exercises of the right frontal lobe, or the 100 French "innelectuals" [George Herbert Walker Bush's pronunciation] that endorsed "Bozo" Bozonet's canceling of the greatest play of the past 50 years, Handke' s Faust, 1998 "The Journey into the Sonorous Land: or The Art of Asking".[Not "recent" really, as McDonald, who has no idea of the progress of the rake's work, has it: subsequent and far more recent the second in a great sequence of three amazing plays is "Hour" 1991, Handke's Yugoslavia play: "The Play about the Film about the War" [1999] that provides the full range of his takes on the subject; "Subday Blues" [2005] "Traces of the Lost" 2006/7 ] which entire series starts with Handke's richest work WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES [1992, Ariadne Press], a dramatic poem whose language reaches Shakespearean grandeur, Handke's Euripedean/ Goethen [alternating discourse] pean to the "Rolling on the River" aristocracy of the working class... Perhaps the "we" refers to the same 100 French "innelectuals" who are demanding the criminalization, in analogy of German criminalization of denial of the Shoa, of denial of the Turkish genocide on Armenians, whose 100 strong intercession in behalf of that idiot Bozonnet McDonald fails to mention but with whose dismissal at the end of this sorry affair he commiserates, whereas they might actually look to the denial of French colonial atrocities and collaborations with their occupiers, those French whores. [Handke's position vis a vis Yugoslavia and Milosevic had been well known in Yugoslavia prior to Bozonnet's dermarche].Yes that "we": You and Mr. McDonald? Mr. McDonald and all the other McDonalds? Or does Counsel McDonald comprise and presume to speak for some consensus of U.S. "innelectuals"? I can't imagine, except perhaps certain reviewers for the Weekly Standard and henchers for the New York Review. As to the rhetoricals of "forgiving", which McDonald thinketh we ought not: Who is doing the accusing? Where forgiveness exists as a possibility there must be a conviction? Or is this sorry "counsel" - for that presumption "The American Interest" - judge jury and executioner and insinuator of the deep lie all in one? Poor, ill-served "American Interest" that numbers at least one huge war criminal in its midst.For on a level of true world historical, truly unforgivable criminality shall we forgive his employer client Zsigismund Brezinksy, the initiator of the "destabilization of Afghanistan" [now a "failed state" in "tink thanks" language]. Shall I forgive the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter for signing off on Brezinki's brilliant idea, an idea with malice aforethought if ever there was one, or Reagan Casey for following up the organizing the Mujahadeem and providing these proxies with Stinger Missiles, and then betraying these legions to their own flukish [Ossama bin Fluke and his millions that could buy 1000 Toyota four wheelers at the drop of a Turban] devices? The thought is enough to give poor forever obsequious Hennery the K of Wurstburg on the Hudson a break from being lambasted haunted hunted for endorsing, enabling Pinochet. I doubt that you want me to go on as I could for pages along the same line. A country of 25 million human beings! Big time crime! Very cute. Let counsel take care of Ziggie before he sticks it to Handke, let all American rights hyenas turn their attention to U.S. prisons, to the wages of 200 years of U.S. imperialism, inland and in Central America. Or does this all go "without saying"? Yes, poor Handke, he has a screw loose, if only he'd get of this Serbian kick he is on!On a level closer to the crimes of association and ideological artistic confusions: there is poor old wonderful Pound's overvaluation of the aesthetic; Elliot's hideous anti-semitism; the head wound Celine suffered during WW I; Hamsun an apparent Quisling though I do not know the details and allow that his ill repute in may be ill founded; no end of other politically engaged who run afoul of politics, if Handke in fact did, which is not clear to me at all no matter that he is the biggest showboat of them all [which makes him suspect in some respects]. Will not the time come if it has not come already that the words "Special Forces" and the "U.S. Marines" strike as much terror into hearts as the words "Waffen SS" still does in some?I followed the entire controversy from its inception in the early 90s to its current status,[see early long takes of mine at the site ] and also Professor Scott Abbot's rejoinder to Michael Schneider's review of "Journey to the Rivers" as "Justice for Serbia" is properly called, which the New Republic refused to run]and as someone engaged in a very long term Handke project knew of Handke's deep, very deep intra-psychic affiliation to Yugoslavia [read Hornissen, his first novel, its accessible repetition THE REPETION for comprehension of this] and his great familiarity with the Dalmatian and considerable sophistication about the in and outs of Belgrade and other politics [he is not fooled in the least by the ultra nationalists]: and what struck me most was how to the very quick its dissolution injured him, most manifest in petulant public outcries, violent verbal counter-attacks: when I see and hear something of the kind, it makes the me, the me who I am mostly now, sit back and listen and become puzzled... and not rage back.Do I forgive Susan Sontag for writing in the New York Times Magazine on the occasion of the Kosovo bombardments "and now the Serbs are the victims". Yes, I do: because it proved to me how utterly ignorant she still was, ignorant say of the half million Serb who had to flee Croatia, even after acting out some kind of human rights scenario film in Sarajevo [is she one of those "disinterested" observer of the kind that McDonald invokes into his fictitious tribunal that convicts Milosevic?]. I forgive her because of her essays, for the gutsiness of the position she took after 9/11; for her essay on U.S. Torture, for many many things, certainly not because she was a sorry novelist no matter the NYRB's attempts to prop up that part of her reputation which seemed not have convinced her insecurity in the matter; but because she really was a spectacularly good egg as only American girls can be: for that is a what struck me the first time I saw her, in Princeton at the Gruppe 47 meeting that May 1966, "why that's the kind of American girl that you want with you in an American car", and "oh my Gawd, you could really talk to that formidable head, that real intelligence, that didn't jibe with that bod!"I do not forgive the simple minded Serb and Milosovic blamers such as Roger Cohen of the NY Times, or any cowardly simpleminded vigilantes or any of those who make life easy for their heads...I can't really forgive the NYRB, which really knew better for the previous reviews they had run if not for many other reasons, for unloosing a certain Marcus on Handke [see + for a point by point emendation of the literary points in Marcus's piece] and then using the political disagreement to lay waste to Handke's work. Most amusing was Marcus gunning for pro-Serb sentiment in Handke's then latest book in English, "One Dark Night I Left My Silent House," dismissing it as "just more dream-writing" but then failing to note the dream wishfulfilment of some damaged blue and white trucks being towed westward on the Salzburg Autobahn. A dreambook all right, never before had a writer succeeded in engaging the reader in the syntax of a dream, how much closer can the transmission of one innerworld into another innerworld get, in literature? What amazing literary possibilities are opened up - never to be further used! [On the couch it can make you think that telepathy is for real!] No blood of course as McDonald seems to prefer, well there must be enough of that on the streets in D.C. and at Walter Reed, and if he wants to have it written about, I think bodice rippers might just be his style. I could go on, but I expect you notice in the matter of my forgiveness the rarity of it.Handke's exceptionalism where McDonald uses Günter Grass to attack Handke: why not let Handke bear the consequences of regret for his personal crimes and derelictions - over the years he has expressed his heartfelt regrets for any number of matters, for which the once supremely arrogant and still hot tempered and sometimes quite pathetic takes responsibility, and if he was mistaken in his evaluation of Milosevic [see anon] I expect that he will not wait as long as Günter Grass did to own up to his act of [perhaps convenient]cowardice.As a matter of fact, on Grass's admission that he had spent 45 days at the end of WW II as a member of a troupe so desperate for members that it created foreign divisions in its name, if Handke's most unattractive side, his righteousness did not spring forth with alacritous cries of "shame", the same Handke who a year before had, at his desk, written with fine self-deprecating irony about that streak of his. see the entire wonderful piece where Handke explains why he won't appear as a witness for the defense. My thinking on his explanation for this refusal is that it does not jibe: although Handke of course was not present at any of the occasions during which Milosevic might have ordered or failed to prevent crimes from being committed, nonetheless the appearance of someone who visits heads of the Austrian state, as a character witness... if you see what I mean. I also thought of Handke's once saying that he did not think he would hold up well under cross examination if ever accused of anything. Perhaps that was said during a time the he was more down on himself. But, conceivably, the idea of being in the limelight for perhaps some days on that kind of hot seat then thwarted his exhibitionistic impulses.Your Mr. McDonald, and yours and "The American Interest's" he is, feeds into the sheeps' wish for the simplest of the simplest being the case: that the big bad wolf from Progarevic [and that is where the funeral was permitted not in Belgrade, McDonald] in as much as the sheep are interested or go the immense labor to get some drift of what really went down: it isn't just the distortions and the propaganda, but the sheer mass of information that your scholarly mouse needs to chew through; you need, literally, to become a historian in short order in order to have some idea how something like the disintegration occurred within the span of 20 years. Who might these disinterested be in McDonald's:"Even accepting Handke’s version, his having taken respectful part in the burial services could not be interpreted as anything other than a sign of his support for Milosevic, a man most disinterested observers believe to have been responsible for a series of wars that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people during his 13 years in power."I ask: who might any just one of these of the "most disinterested observers" be?Stephen Schwartz, the once estimable Christopher Hitchens; Neal Acherson whom I recently caught burbling that it was all Milosevic's fault; Roger Cohen; the judges of the tribunal; the millions whose solitude has been muddied by the falsifications that they have absorbed?No, there were no "disinterested" parties [if McDonald means to say "objective" or whatever disinterested might mean coming from him] only interested parties; Handke's was for peace and as McDonald seems to have realized the continued existence of the federation; my guess is also because as of the mid-80s Handke adopted grandfather Sivec's identity who had voted for the federation as a contiuance in some form of Austro-Hungarian federation in 1921, not that this wish of Handke's for a dream federation did and does not contradict his once feeling that there ought to be tough borders between small countries each with its own treasured language, among no end of contradiction in the "Swiss Cheese" that Handke has become. Once the federation devolved into ethnic and religious strife, as compared to conflict within the several states, it became M.s's task to defend, first of all, the Serbian minority in Croatia that was given 2nd class status; something that led to Vukovar; which led to Galbraith calling for us.arming.... Each stage brought, brings, a whole new set of equations into play. Yes, and each of these then small nation states is permitted its nationalism, has it endorsed by the West, but Serbian nationalism is found heinous, why might that be the case?But I don't think that this way of proceeding will get anyone anywhere. And no: it does not appear that it was McDonald "overflow crowd of some 20,000 radical Serb nationalists" at the funeral; I trust Handke's differentiated report that yes there were some, but that the mood chiefly was one of somber mourning. McDonald is intent it appears to turn the Serbians into Nazi type fascist: it is he who is the fascist in being a fitting writer for a new "Der Stuermer."McDonald also uses "disinterested" in claiming [how would he know?] that M. preferred Handke as a "disinterested" observer than a witness in his defense. No, Handke felt M. was innocent, that the case had not been proven ; and, to my considerable amazement, Handke bases his conclusion [but perhaps he was joking, you can't quite tell, always, when he is pulling some idiot reporter's stupid leg] on the smile he saw cross M.'s face when the court prosecution threw everything including the kitchen sink at him in its list of crimes: on the principle, I suppose, well all we need is one count, and we'll find one among those thousands. Handke felt that this tribunal was not appropriate, that the cards were stacked, with which I tend to agree in as much I was able to follow the trial at this remove [and I did not just rely on the hopeless Marlise Simon and the somewhat better Nicholas Wood of the N.Y. Times] and Handke felt that though M's underlings were fit subjects for the court, including the two chief Srbska Bosnian Serb accused, Mladic and K. that M. ought to have been tried in Belgrade by his own people. McDonald with his "most disinterested observers"thus sets up something that does not exist, another fictitious consensus following on the heels of his fictitious "we" of parties that have concluded, and in a "disinterested" state of mind that M. was guilty of Srebrenice... Some counsel! I can see him disbarred, getting thrown out of court in short order! Based on what I managed to get of the De Haag trial, I could not convict beyond a reasonable doubt. If Mr. McDonald's has some specifics: please share them with us! Hey, he might even convince Mr. Handke that he had it wrong.Most disinterested observers agree that squirrels like to consume nuts. An observer has been there, he or she has seen, it makes no difference whether they are interested or disinterested. If McD. had read Handke's Sommerlicher Nachtrag [A Summer Sequel], the second of his travelogues he might have noticed that surrogate Serb that Handke has exclaiming at the sight of Srebrenice "I don't ever want to have been a Serb" [or words to that effect] which made me, initially write: "who the hell asked Peter Handke who just gone through the hard earned task of becoming a Slovenian to turn into a Serb." Well, if you repeat a lie often enough, like Ronald Reagan, enough people will believe you and and you will win the election.What troubles me most in the whole affair is that Handke hasn't said a peep about M.s' posthumous Belgrade conviction for murder of his predecessor. I can see no real interest in Handke's being served in stubbornly insisting on M.s innocence, on his being [merely !] a tragic figure [definition]. Obviously,it brings the Bozonnets the Mcdonalds out of the wood works. Since I used to be acquainted with Mr. Handke and translated most of his plays I myself have good reason to give some real cred to his opinion, his instant x-ray vision of ugly people, not only physically ugly but "dark" people; that he might be right about M. If I had the confidence that I have now with respect to his judgment in that respect my life, my "career" in publishing might have been very different. Handke nearly throws up at ugliness. M. was a nice block head of a Serbian, but it is not merely a matter of looks, though I think Handke has as much of a blind spot when it comes to feminine beauty as I do, he with all his actresses, who he imagines to be as light as when they dance across the stage; I myself was brought up so protected as to have been the most gullible of critters, meanwhile one of the nastiest much bitten Kettenhunde!Unless, Handke just has a stick up his ass! Which he can too. Handke calls them as he sees them, also in his books, quite unsparingly. Also, the powerful. Including his own now deceased publisher, Siegfried Unseld. No matter that he is an upstart if ever there was one.Anyone who reads Handke's autobiography of everything that is in him - WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES - will also make acquaintance with Handke's self-acknowledged "dark" side. Nor does Handke "gloss" anything over. My findings find that the hyper-sensitive autistic Handke since the inception of his exposure to violent primal scenes at age 2 [the born to terror] has only represented the horrors glancingly, and refuses to do so in the usual cliches. It is all there in the travelogues, just off stage or underground in the plays, in an observation, to his friend Thomas Deichmann, the editor of Novo, who has featured Handke on three covers, Handke mused that maybe he ought not have written these travellogues so metaphorically and theatrically. Yes, for sure: who understands anything but a sledge hammer? Certainly not Michael McDonald.That is not what the bloody minded McDonalds of this world want: they want real t.v. blood and they demand it all the time. And instead of taking care of the wages of imperialism in the United States or in Central America they turn into human rights hyaenas in every other part of the world.As to Handke's appearance in P. [not Belgrade as McD. has it] I bet and won: put a camera an interviewer within Handke's sight... He is what he accuses others of being in that respect, a space displacer... He has to hog the limelight! He is a media darling. On receiving his honorary doctorate at age 60 he promised to remove his "idiocy" as he called it, from the public sphere for the rest of his life. That rest lasted about two years, and he crept back in with an interview on publication of his "Del Gredos" novel in France, a big interview with Greiner of Die Zeit, and his refusal to ever accept any further prizes when it looked as though he would not win it for his weakest play ["Subday Blues"], and a fine piece in Literaturen on why he would not appear as a witness in Milosevic's behalf, and with a new play and new book coming out in 2007, the Milosovic funeral made for the kind of media orgy that allowed my man to "Play the game. Stay in the picture" as he calls it! As a youngster he dreamed of appearing on the cover of Der Spiegel, and I know what the pathos of his deprivations and the many reasons that made him so. But doesn't he ever have something to display aside his Carinthian "Schwanz" when the groupies used to show up in Paris! More importantly, without that overpowering drive to display himself we would not have the great works. But the closest and oldest friends are instantly taken mushrooming in the Chaville primeval forest, whereas if an interviewer or a T.V. crew show up: the great chef Handke [he ought to link up with the Handkes in Ohio who have a famous restaurant!] holds forth: perhaps the access to the mirror makes him overcome his nausea of other bodies a place of his own.The U.N. court recently absolved the Serbians of genocide in Bosnia but found it responsible for failing to prevent Srebrenice. The chief culprits for this well planned massacre are Karadic + Mladic, by all accounts. If Milosevic knew that this massacre was being planned, did he wink for it to proceed? Could he have prevented it if he knew it was being planned. I lack the information. So does McDonald. Handke, the last I heard, evidently feels that M. could not have prevented it. If the opposite proves the case I expect we wil hear from Peter Handke. He knew the family, visited with M. jail, was invited to be a witness for the defense, to the funeral?Who is more responsible for the mutual crimes in Kosovo? M. had to secure a minority ethnic; some of the Kosovo Albanian leaders, Madelaine Albright's pals, are now on trial in de Haag. Perhaps Handke misjudged, was deluded, his judgment impaired by sentiment. But that M. ought to be known as "the butcher of the balkans" is the conclusions of simple and ugly minds."Did Handke believe that, because of his prestige, people would shrug off his act of solidarity with the “Butcher of the Balkans”? McDonald asks.One] among many reasons Handke gave for attending to funeral was precisely to make a demonstrative gesture [as I knew this great exhibitionist would when given the right opportunity, oh how well my Vegas bet in that respect turned out!] to disavow the moniker "dictator" that is invariably affixed [in the so monotonous US of A.] to the name Milosevic. Milosevic was elected three times and lost his last election, and then, albeit rather reluctantly, gave up his position. [see Handke's words at the beginning of this section]. Eventually M. was delivered over to the Court in Scheveningen as so many monsters have not been. An autocrat for sure, as Handke, who has occasional autocratic flourishes of his own, acknowledges numerous times in the several important statements and the host of interviews he gave subsequent to his notorious attendance, and a great majority of which have been online collected athttp://www.signandsound.comfor nearly a year; or more recently, amplified by me with a long thoughtful finding athttp://www.artscritic.comBut which, though the McDonald cites Handke's words in P., and have been online, fails to provide.Additionally, in various numerous interviews in his now again media orgy, Handke provided a few further reasons for going. To absorb the athmosphere for a book about a tragic character, although his most recent, the 2007 Kali is not it.What gives me pause is M's posthumous conviction in Belgrade, where Handke felt was the fit place for a trial... I have sought to find out... perhaps H. would say, to be condemned posthumously without having had the opportunity to defend himself...I suspect that P.H. is giving Milo a bit of a break, that M. is part of the dream that refuses to disappear entirely, that M. has a bit of grandfather transference going on; but that is just a guess of mine based on what I know about how Handke finally wrested a father figure out of the grandfather. Perhaps my guess makes too much sense I tell myself. It's the best that I, who loves answers, can come up with. Handke's little book Rund um das Grosse Tribunal, strikes me like the Handke cat sneaking around the hot sauce but refusing to put as much as a paw into it. Handke is a trained lawyer, who did not take his final exam because he felt he could make it as an independent writer. If not he might have become what he envisioned as a career that could be combined with writing: an Austrian cultural attache - and with his touces of Tourettism might have been the exception to the rule of an excellent crew; and as which cultural attache personae he appears in several books.Handke also defended M. against the accusation of being an "autist", pointing out that this painful condition ought not to be used as a pejorative. Handke, the savant, knows whereof he speaks. He has the nose of your best hunting dog, the eyes of a cat, the ears of a bat! The skin sensitivity of a Virginia Woolf.What is that paragraph about the history of Austrian enthusiastic welcoming for Hitler about? Why is it in this piece? I myself would connect Maria Sivec enthusiasm for German soldiers... to that enthusiasm. Otherwise it would seem to be another instance of dreadful editing on your, Mr. Wilson's part.Although Handke writes like an angel he is nothing of the sort. My chief objecting to him is that meanwhile writes so well, that I can abide little else that I set my eyes on. He is both the most loving man I know, and a man who can be as "humorless as death.""bad when i am bad, very good when i am good." True enough. Now on to Michael McDonald, literary critic!
Monday, March 26, 2007

=B=II McDonald the Literary RockerPertinent quotes from McDonald on Handke's works and my commentary:It appears the few if any U.S. reviewers and critics have realized - exceptions are the late Richard Gilman and Frank Conroy, and the still living great William Gass and the near great John Rockwell - that no matter that Handke has gone trough approximately six stages as a writer and dramatist since his appearance of the world stage in 1966, he has remained true in his fiction and his drama to the knowledge that all you can do with words is to create independent works of art, artificial creations, projection screens in which the innerworld of the author poet in play with the outer world affects the innerworld of the reader; the longing for authentic communication through and approximations of states of mind. Handke is a formalist in the sense that the romantics thought all works ought to approximate music, and the laws of formalism, with its themes and variations, from Bach to Hip Hop, is the most efficient way of doing so.Deriving from an initial experience where everything material, including the sheer materiality of words, nauseated Handke's senses that, e.g., he needed to wear dark glasses at all times during those days - "nausea of the eyeballs" was the most extreme expression that someone, who I think still suffers from occasional bouts of color blindness, found for this experience, a matter I decided to trace to its complicated vari- and over-determined origin. And what a great learning educational experience it has been. The vagic nerve which produces the feeling of nausea to defend us against ill-making interior and exterior matters of all kinds is also irritated by sheer excess of information, in the case of someone with Handke's autistic hyper-sensibility it does so with much greater ease, since the autistic may have far greater input but, let me put it this way, have only the standard processor and modulator - the words "sensory overload" makes a kind of everyday language sense.Although Handke initially - the Handke who had had eight years of Greek and Latin, whose acquaintance with law and its fine distinctions had brought some clarity into his angry adolescent noggin [read "The Essay on Tiredness" to see the plethora of his symptomatology as a young man], as he would later write - despaired at getting out of what is called "the prison house of language," it is of course astonishing to note with what perfection he operated to create works such as his first "Sprechstuecke" to make an audience aware, by means of these "happenings" of the imprisonment, these social lattice works, in which they reside, how painfully self-conscious the experience of "Offending the Audience" can make that audience as it becomes more and more aware of itself. [McDonald: "The most remarkable attribute of these works [the early plays] is a total absence of action... Other than language itself, nothing happens."] is McDonald on the subject writing from D.C in 2006/07 who evidently never underwent any of these experiences at the well reviewed, by the Washington Post, shows of these plays by "Fraudulent Productions" in that city]. Nor that of the dissociating experience, magical, the "cleans your clock" experience of "Ride Across Lake Constance"[ 1970] or that of the play without words, consisting of nothing but beautiful stage directions, so much approximating musical notations or those for dance, "My Foot my Tutor", [1969] and one of the great texts, in German, also consisting of directions only, for "The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other" [1991], a mesmerizing series of tableaux that leave all of your senses freshened, leave you reborn because it makes you see that much more keenly, nearly as keenly as the autistic Handke sees perhaps, until you have to deal with one too many nauseating idiot like Michael McDonald. That, say, the 1971 "Goalies Anxiety at the Penalty Kick", by means of syntactical legerdemain, for which Handke had prepared himself by reading in the field of paranoid shizophrenia, purely by mean of syntax, puts the reader into the same paranoid schizophrenic state of mind as its protagonist/ personae/ projection screen of the eventual murder ["Hey, McDonald, there is some blood for you!"]Josef Bloch; or that a real reader, who does not look for an experience above and beyond what he is reading, whose mind has not become cluttered with notions that words ever loose their material quality, will experience the novelistic fairy tale, "Absence" [1987] as though he were seeing a film.What Handke achieves is to make the prison house playful, more and more inhabitable, as he has absorbed, slurped up in his insatiability, for language to fill the void, the entire classic tradition; but, finding especial use not just for Flaubert but for Goethe, Eichendorf and Stifter and the one contemporary writer Handke and Thomas Mann agreed on, the fairly recently deceased Hermann Lenz; Francis Ponge Francis Ponge, Grillparzer, etc etc. It is amazing what Handke has absorbed and then transformed to his use. There are dissertations or long scholarly pieces, few showing evidence that their writers as writers have been influenced by such intense exposure, on Handke and Nietzche, Handke and Stifter, Handke and Rilke, you name it.That oddly cheerful, astonishingly vigorous person, that idiot, who announced in 1966 "I am the new Kafka", meanwhile presents himself as the "anti-Kafka" which is closer to the truth once he accessed what lay prior to the terror, fear inducing experiences of his childhood.I don't think McDonald has read more than one single Handke novel, and even that not to completion or he couldn't write: ""Who reads (outside of the classroom) Robbe-Grillet and the other nouveaux romanciers from whom Handke has learned so much?" and some of the other matters for which I will take him to task. Nor do I think he knows German though his talk about "the early novels" might lead the ignorant to believe that he does. McDonald is a fraud, a worse fraud than the fraudulent critic Lee Siegel; he is either a hired or self-appointed literary assassin who however with the fifty pot shots he takes at Handke not once hits the barn.The object of his exercise is to ride a blind easily mounted high moral horse, and to hell with what is trampled along the way. He's a Stryker Brigade in one. If he at least knew Handke's early work! He does not mention a single one of the 30 plus works Handke has produced since 1974.He cites a single paragraph from the 1974 novel "A Moment of True Feeling", and probably does so only because Updike refers to it, and so he feels he has some kind of backup:"As though the sky now partook of an alien system, it became too high for the high towers of civilization in the foreground of the picture, and against the compact, menacing background the human landscape degenerated into a junkyard. The deep blue with which a time grown plethoric weighed on the world was the essential—the scattered leaflets down below, in which only fear of life or death could beguile him (or anyone else!) to find the slightest meaning, were a secondary, minor factor. Keuschnig saw the sky arching over the Place de la Concorde as something incongruous and hostile. "as being typical. This is the novel into which Handke dissociated the suididal state he was then in. The then young lay-abroad, whose mother had recently committed suicide, couldn't handle being left by his first wife, finding him the trapped house-husband to a toddler daughter, for cause I might say in the way sleep walkers come together and abandon each other with as little sense as the would be famous actors of "Ride Across Lake Constance" have. Handke began to fugue, as you can read the three great fuguing poems in "Nonsense and Happinesss", he noted every involuntary thought that popped up in his noggin in "Weight of the World," and, as we can read there, ended up hospitalized, for tachychardia attack it looks like, started to ingest valerium, the anxiety inducing nausea softened, and he experienced that "Moment of True Feeling" that is the object of that novel, which Gunner McDonald never got to, even that one book, that McDonald appears not have read through to the end: love burst through, disproving in advance what an idiot, a complete moron who does not even know that linguistically he contradicts himself within just one sentence, named Michael McDonald would write appr. 30 years later: "HANDKE HAS NEVER abandoned his bedrock faith that language is merely a set of debilitating fictions used to mask reality." [How can language, either written or spoken, be a fiction? Does it contain some kind of black matter?]Instead of continuing to be nauseated by the materiality of words, Handke becomes what he calls a "Wortklauber" - he begins to love them, in somewhat Rilkeish fashion if you like, they become endearing, like his darling sparrows; one step up in the world from being a "mot juster" as he had always been. Handke, who had agreed with his psychotherapist that he lacked access to his feelings, becomes possessed by the extraordinary love he had absorbed as a child, from intra-uterine [yes, someone who knows how to read an author like Handke in the dozen ways that analysis then teaches you to "read" also finds those memories in his work, in the great, the ever so rich "Walk About the Villages"] and during the first two years of his life from his bounty-fully beauteous mother; at least for a while, he opens up to the world, as is evidenced especially by the first chapter of the title text of "A Slow Homecoming" so that one might come under the impression that even if all of Alaska were consumed by Dick Cheney's energy consortium it continued to live in Handke's response to what it had once been. Handke's dissociations lessen, yet his powers to be in the necessary dissociative state of mind to produce these amazing texts is not diminished. If that amazing pretender McDonald knew anything about Robbe Grillet or perhaps he is really thinking of Robbe Fricasse, [yes, just one thing, Mr. McDonald - give me a single item, just one - not the "so much" that Handke allegedly learned] he would cite the one Handke text where, if you have absorbed Robbe Grillet, you can sense RG's work as providing a kind of supporting grid: Handke's amazingly lucid Der Hausierer / The Panhandler[1969]. It is a series of 12 I think separate, alternating texts; the even numbered ones consist of extremely short sentences in the present tense, sentences by a consciousness that is evidently watching, that is transfixed by a horrendous, barely glimpsable series of bloody [more blood, McDonald! oh what terror inducing horrors are just off stage]; the odd-numbered sections, in italics, provide a kind of sequential meta description of the essence of crime and detective novels. The book was written during a period during which our Kafka redivivus was demonstrating over and over again [the "Innerworld" poems, "Radio Play One", "Kaspar"] what mastery he had acquired over his fear, that he could induce it and keep mastering it, as he did, too, to a large extent during his ten year exposure to violent brutal primal scenes, read "Sorrow Beyond Dreams", Mr. McDonald. And it is not a novel you fraud, it is Handke's most famous book, it is a biography of his mother's life, even those who have little use for the rest of Handke find it a great text. "Sorrow for Gunner McDonald." And evidently, Handke as a person with literature as his medicine, as his defense against the terror of the dark night, very cooly very hotly utilized every formal means he could get his hands on. The consciousness reporting sections, a demonstration ad absurdum of pure phenomenology Mr. McDonald, also apparently contain no end of quotes from American and British crime novels cited by Handke from their German translations, which is one reason it does not yet exist in English, since a discouraged me failed do ask Handke whose "Kaspar" I was just translating if he at least remembered what books they were from and what pages. But "Der Hausierer" exists in Italian, French and Spanish. Since Mr.McDonald claims to be working on a literary biography of Curzie Malaparte I assume {???} that he knows Italian. Poor dead Malaparte he trembles in his grave at what is going to be done to him: "Nothing is emptier than an empty swimming pool." No, nothing is emptier than Michael McDonalds brain! Or rather,filled with crap.Handke as of appr. 1974 became a writer composer who could achieve any effect he wanted; except, being autistic, he was never going to write socialist realist novels like Heimito von Doderer, no matter his vain claim that he could have. For his autism also implies an imprisonment in what is known as "the autistic position"... from which we sense that immense longing to break out, to make contact, that impresses the reader of Handke's first novel, "Die Hornissen" [1965], which he would later re-write in the more accessible form of "The Repetition" [l984]; yet Handke - as he has said in a sentence non of the scholars that cite it have ever followed through on: "I am so anxious and everything I write is then so calm." Since the basic source of Handke's writing is anxiety inducing libido, its transformation into calming text implies the opposite of what Freud and Breuer called hysterical conversion, or a way of productively dealing with it; since writing is not only Handke's chief means of staying emotionally well, but also this industrious and ambitious savant's gift; of his ambition to be the recipient of the laurel crown... he is indeed condemned to be the most productive living author, and who does little if any revising of his first and only draft; and who has also translated some of the greatest and other fine texts, since though he may write one book and play a year, that still leaves a lot of other time that needs to be devoted to keeping pencil in hand.As the author, also, of biography ["Sorrow Beyond Dreams", "A Child's Story"] and artistic musings cum walking tours such as "The Lesson of St. Victoire"] and of travelogues [three of of the 7 of his Yugoslavia related texts] Handke makes also for an excellent, pretty regular kind of first rate reporter and historian. I saw enough of him from the mid sixties to the late 70s to certify that he's got the essence of things right in, "A Child's Story" [1980] [part III of the Homecoming Quartett].Mcdonald writes: "Similarly in his first novel, as well as those that followed in the 1970s such as "A Sorrow Beyond Dreams," "A Moment of True Feeling," and "The Left- Handed Woman," Handke dispenses with linear narrative. In its place, he offers readers a static “story” built almost entirely around the inner thoughts of characters who discover that life is absurd and language inadequate to their needs."Let's see now: "Sorrow Beyond Dreams" is an account of Handke's mother's life, evidently McDonald has not read it. He is just looking at a list of published books."Static stories?" eh? Lightning fast tortoises perhaps. Action, cut, another bucket of blood for McDonald: I was always under the impression, as its translator, that Vim Wenders managed to extract a pretty good well-moving story line from "A Goalie's Anxiety of the Penalty Kick" [1970]. "A Short Letter long Farewell [1972] sure moves like crazy all over the United States! The suicidal Keuschnig of "A True Moment" [1974] seems to do a lot of pavement pounding in Paris! Sorger in Alaska ["A Slow Homecoming", 1979] moves, albeit already as the "king of slowness" as which "The Repetion's" [1986] walking syntax can induce a sense of true being in its readers following Filip Kobal on his way to Lubliana.And as to psychology, the abandoned husband in "Lefthanded Woman" [another personae for a side of Handke], does a lot of peeing against house walls in the company of his male pals! What ought Handke the allegedly non-psychological write: a dissertation on the emasculating, crushing effect of being abandoned by your wife? In "Weight of the World" Handke notes that he feels he is walking around as though his ass is stuck out high, like that of a homosexual! It appears that McDonald like so many Americans like to have their texts and their films with characters that have a set of psychological categories in which they can then be discussed away, the horror of psychological pseudo-understanding which is worse than denial; real people as it were, instead of encountering their being. The work is rife with the under-currents of psychodrama!McDonald: "In the 1980s, however, after delving into the philosophical writings of Martin Heidegger, he ventured outside the minds of his characters long enough to offer readers finely drawn evocations of natural landscapes," Mr. McDonald has it.I have come across a single mention of Heidegger in Handke who finds his work monolithic and unapproachable. Handke's close friend the poet Kolleritch, however, is reputed to derive useful backup from it. I would say that first of all Handke did not and does not "delve" whatever that might mean in the context and that to respond to nature and to communicate that response so that a reader can respond, sure as hell did not require Heidegger. In Handke's case it required the knowledge when to name and when not to. Stifter and Hermann Lenz yes, Heidegger no. Stifter and Lenz because they gave Handke the confidence that you could create texts other than those that merely reproduce an ugly world, and Cezanne, but in which the world's horror appeared as the occasional distant thunderstorm or burst in like a chain wielding Inuit. Handke is oblique, McDonald. But never intentionally obscurantist."But Handke has hardly been silenced or relegated to obloquy." I have not the faintest what this might mean "to be silenced or relegated to obloquy" - does McDonald feel it is time to throw in some big word? Is he slipping this nonsense past an editor? I gladly subject McDonald to an endless withering stream of obloquy, however. But only because his nonsense appears so improbably in the once wonderful "American Scholar."McDonald: "At his best, as Updike has remarked, Handke is 'a kind of nature poet, a romantic whose exacerbated nerves cling like pained ivy to the landscape.' And Updike cites, rightly, this passage [the same one from "Moment of True Feeling" see above] But his [Handke's I presume] visionary power of description has little in the way of intellect behind it to engage the reader. 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."Some of this nonsense I have already dealt with above. But here are a few comments:I am glad that precision continues to be surgical!Handke may wish to escape the McDonalds of this world, but someone who knows psychology as intimately as he does so as to be able to forego its pedestrian enumeration, is certainly not as foolish as to want to escape it. Handke is first and foremost a materialist. He may have his foolish mystical sides, but the thought of escaping psychology of all things, I cant imagine it crossing his mind. The alleviation of the painful states that his autism can still produce is quite another matter. Just because you don't write psychological motivations for your characters, but leave them implicit, as the impressionist lyrical novel [say Henry Green, or D.H. Lawrence, or the Joyce up to and including "Portrait" have always done] doesn't mean that you as an author propose to escape the great complexity of human or any kind of monkey motivation. You want "real life" in your books, McDonald: you get the Pope's nose, Michael McDonald.As mentioned before: the cited paragraph is an instance of Keuschnig's dissociated state."Little in the way of intellect" ... I see: a phenomenologist like Handke is supposed to demonstrate to a moron like Michael McDonald the operation of the sytem prctp. in conjunction with the linguistc system? Pray why ought poetry demonstrate that the poet might also have the most powerful :"innellecual" capacities, which however, only manifest themselves in his powers to give musical form to his product? Such calls for intellect coming from the McDonalds of this world!Perhaps McD.s statement is really a projection of the fact that he has an inkling of how intellectually deficient he himself is?Updike used to feel that Handke was the best living German writer; upon reading Updike's review, in The New Yorker, of Handke's "The Afternoon of a Writer" [1987] I decided to forgo Updike reviews, and only read his wonderful pieces on the visual arts. But therefore it would be interesting to discuss - I think I will write him - what he thinks of Handke now that an extraordinary painterly element [van Ruysdael] started to enter his work as of the 1984 "Across."The Mcdonald wants real people ... well, there is always the rampaging surrogate for Handke, the Loser of the 1984 novel Across [Chinese des Schmerzens]. But I think what reality- deprived McDonald wants from novels: he wants real life! Like you want coke to be real, which, in its original green glass bottle, always at least made for a great douche. He wants words to make him forget all about words. Naif realism, here we come. He wants Handke to be something that he isn't, but can only respond to what he knows already: to "real life"... my preference is for "unreal life!"As far as I am concerned, Handke is batting around .750, pretty high on the totem pole. Occasionally, his grandiosity gets the better of him [the 500 k word "Image Loss: or Across the Sierra del Gredos, [2002] or he does something just "to stay in the picture" [the 2005 play "Subday Blues" might fit this desciption.] He is best, as he knows, at a 30 to 40 thousand word clip of his concentrated efforts. For example his "Don Juan" [2004] which moves both forward and backward simultaneously, in time, and, as usual, is also anchored in one place as its protagonist moves from one city to one woman to another in the course of one week, is even better, more cleanly and clearly articulated than the two great Assayings, as I call them, the one "About the Jukebox" and the one about "The Day that Went Well" in "Three Essays" [1994]. Think of H. as composer with the inclinations of a Cezanne, to create alternative verbal worlds that stand in an unusual relationship to the world that we inhabit. Handke is also a didactitician, a kind of activist Wittgenstein. To live in the age of Goethe is many a Germanist's pipe dream, I am glad to live in a world that at least has one Handke. He nourishes me as no other writer does. A few pages of Handke, one good analytic essay, my friends the smart crows and I forget all about the McDonalds of this world.

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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