Sunday, August 19, 2007


Over the Hills and Far Away

It is time readers of the New York Times Book Review were made aware
of Handke, the prose writer, having gone through something like half a
dozen changes. Starting of as a supremely playful demonstrator of the
quelling of anxiety in his first three novels, only the third, GOALIE
[1969], exists in English [in my translation], his nausea, once
including words [he now fondles them] is not like Sartre's idea-driven
kind, but has psychosomatic origins; is the nausea produced by what
for him is "the ugly;" no matter that it hits the same nerve. And that
his hyper-sensitivities are uniquely his.

If Mr. Gordon were as exacting as he says Handke is, he might have
noticed that Handke already shifted to a more open hearted
mytho-poeic, but equally if not more exacting, position in the 1975
LEFT HANDED WOMAN, [whose personae resembles that of the woman subject
of the current DEL GREDOS] the book just preceding A SLOW HOMECOMING,
whose Alaska section must be one of the most articulated responses to
nature in world literature for its selectivity in naming.

What entered Handke's writing shortly after HOMECOMING, in THE
LESSON OF ST. Victoire, was the pictorial Cezanne re-arrangement of
reality {"Close your eyes and see the world arise anew", the opening
sentence of his 1984 Salzburg novel ACROSS, provides a hint.}

With THE REPETITION [1987, "retrieval"] a book fabulously praised
in The Guardian, the promised re-write of both his first novel, DIE
HORNISSEN [1966], and of SORROW BEYOND DREAMS [1972 – Gordon even
manages to find a negative take on Handke's emotionally most
immediately accessible highly praised book], Handke's search ["I want
to be someone like somebody else was once" KASPAR, 1968; OBIE 1972]
rearranged his roots in his Slovenian grandfather and uncles' region;
which provides a hint to the unnecessarily baffled Professor Gordon
why Handke might prefer a continuous existence of the Yugoslav
Federation over its decimation into small consumer entities; his
defense of the Serbs and Milosevic against the more customary "one
devil" theory of history and journalism.

With the three narratives in THREE ESSAYS [especially ON THE
JUKE-BOX, 1989], culminating in the six-sided weaving self-portrait of
himself - as the once nauseated ex-cultural attaché Keuschnig [of 1974
A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING], as writer, painter-filmmaker, priest, stone
mason, super-finicky misanthropic restaurateur, and reader, in the
1994 magnum opus ONE YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S BAY, Handke demonstrated for
stretches – he is the greatest of exhibitionists – the capabilities of
narrative as pure writing music image, as he did already in the 1986
ABSENCE, a narrative that a reader experiences like film.
Subsequent to NO-MAN'S-BAY he then demonstrated that you could zoom like a camera, in the 1996 ONE DARK NIGHT I LEFT MY SILENT HOUSE, into the mind of an apothecary, in the improbably named, Salzburg suburb
Taxham, and make that fellow's dream syntax absorb the readers'
projections, a feat worthy of the Joyce of FINNEGAN FUNAGAIN; and in
his 2005 DON JUAN, the fugueing novella that followed the 2003 GREDOS
he showed that you could write both forward and backward in time while
standing in one place. - I know it is all a little much, the fellow
just turned 65 and has published 60 books, and sometimes I wish I'd
never set eyes on him, but he can't help it, he must write to stay
healthy; his symptom is his salvation. And it is that of real readers whose minds his self-state inducing work opens up.

It matters little that the so other-opinion-oriented Mr. Brown's
search for "opinions" yields so little of note; or that Handke is the
whipping boy of miserable reviewers chosen by overly busy editors.
Gordon has searched poorly. REPETITION and NO-MAN'S BAY are regarded,
rightly I think, as two of the great novels of the past hundred years,
e.g. William Gass's estimate of them. Since Gordon cites the Book
Forum review
http://bookforum. com/inprint/issue=200703&id=264
I would like to point out that as a professor of literature he might be
aware of the classical tradition of Goethe, Stifter, Flaubert, Hermann
Lenz and Bove in whose steps Handke, the last great walker on the
earth, exerts himself as someone who is so infinitely of his medium's
contemporaneous possibilities; and to sensitive responses in the

1] LA TIMES/ Thomas McGonigle

2] Washington Post/ Guy Vanderhaegen

3] San Franciso Chronicle
Crossing the Sierra de Gredos
San Francisco Chronicle - CA, USA

as well as to sites and blogs I and others run on Handke, accessible


These not only contain a wealth of material, but there Handke, his
own severest critic, also is critiqued on his own terms; and flinches
at every lash of the whip!

Gordon's reading of DEL GREDOS shows me that he is the wrong
reader, that is a non-reader, responder for this book, written in large part to memorialize, salvage a landscape. He bristles at being shook up.

About Me

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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