Sunday, February 08, 2009



The Handke -Milosevics-controversy is addressed at the

The text is also accessible at:
with the photos that are important in this instance
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Part II ought to go up later this week. Michael Roloff

 by Michael Roloff
Das lässt sich alles vom autobiographischen aufrollen” …[„That can all be regarded from an autobiographical perspective.“] Handke to Herbert Gamper, Ich Lebe doch nur von den Zwischenrauemen. [But I derive my sustenance only from the inbetween, the thresholds.”]
“Stay in the picture.”
“As if everyone, all over the world, had his daily visually artistic task; the task of being an image for others.” Peter Handke
Peter Handke is what Harold Bloom would call a “strong author,” a contender for the laurel wreath, who brooks little competition among contemporaries [“how hot blooded writers are amongst each other.”] and seeks to demolish the greats of the immediate past while wishing to assume the pantheon even during his life-time, an ambition in which, with his several dozen novels, a dozen or so great plays, diary publications and what not, 65 books altogether in 40 years of writing he has by and large succeeded.
   However, Handke is not just a hugely ambitious and productive author, it appears that he is condemned to write, he is not healthy when he does not, already in the early 70s he started filling notebooks upon notebooks, flashing his pen in the presence of acquaintances and friends, always cooking [proud of how “geil” – German word where the English “hot” fails to include the implication of “lewd” - his formulations are], and as he states above in the hugely revelatory book length interview with Herbert Gamper, he uses his self – various versions seen through personae lenses - as his chief material to affect his audience. Handke is also a powerfully driven, compensatory exhibitionist - perhaps authors need to be exhibitionists as much as visual artists in however sublimated a fashion – both in socially and culturally accepted forms [plays, novels, films, autobiographical accounts, published diaries of the most intimate kind]. And if one wants to put the matter in a nutshell: Handke exhibits his self by means of conveying and producing states of mind – via his projective innerworld outerworld innerworld procedure - and thus affects his audiences more powerfully but also in a very different manner than authors generally do. He may also be the most photographed author ever, also posing, see
As to the socially unaccepted manner of Handke’s exhibitionism to produce a reaction: not to worry, dear voyeur, we shall get to that too. Handke says that he “writes out of his wound.” The chief reason it is possible to approach Handke and his work also from a psychoanalytic perspective is because he has exhibited so much of himself and left such a rich trail of data.
Peter Handke was born on December 6, 1942 in Griffen/ Altenmarkt, in the province of Carinthia, Austria. According to the midwife’s extant report [1] he was carried to term and born head first without birth complications, which does not prove that Handke’s subjective birth experience – no matter that our skins are desensitized at birth and is nicely massaged as we pass through the birth canal - pace birth trauma notions – may not have been experienced as a trauma: I cannot prove a negative. Handke might be able to evince memories of that experience if he underwent an analysis and experienced a complete regression; but to the best of my knowledge the only time he consulted a therapeutician – apparently of the Catholic persuasion - was during his crisis years in Paris in the early 70s; not on the couch but en face [see the first and most revelatory of his diary publications the 1975 Weight of the World/ Das Gewicht der Welt: [2]; and the memory of a “first heart beat” as we find it cited in his great work of the imagination the play Walk About the Villages [1981/2] cannot be taken as evidence of a personal memory of an intra-uterine experience at the fetal age of four or five months. His midwife’s report [3] thus neither confirms nor disavows Handke’s future speculation that something dreadful had happened already at birth; many other dreadful matters were to happen to Peter Handke in the future, subsequent to the first two presumably wonderful years as his mother’s love-child.
Handke’s mother, whose sometimes exceedingly unhappy life he memorialized in Sorrow Beyond Dreams/ Wunschloses Unglück [1971] [4] shortly after she committed suicide, aged 52, derives from a carpenter farmer clan by the name of Sivec, of the Slovenian minority in Carinthia, who fell for a member of the German army stationed in Griffen, Handke’s actual father, a Herr Schönherr, a German Army company treasurer and bank employee from the Harz Mountain Region in Germany, who was married, and who [“carried to term”] must have fathered our genius out of wedlock in spring of 1942. Since the love of her life, the aforementioned Herr Schönherr, did not leave his wife to marry Maria, we can presume that she was in a depressed state of mind during her pregnancy; and that the incipient depression that Handke has frequently mentioned – and which, from my perspective makes him more realistic than he might be otherwise - may indeed be an instance of what is called anaclytic depression, a state of mind absorbed intra-uterine, as so much else, as we are still finding out; quite aside the love child relationship that continued to fuse Handke to her subsequently to the point of considerable identification: to the extent that he said once, exaggerating as he can when he speaks, about his mother, the protagonist of Sorrow Beyond Dreams: “What did I really know about her life? Moi mere, c’est moi.” Approving eye contact, smiles, joy. A love child imbibing love, confidence, approval. A resource to have recourse to, however a resource which, as we will see, that can be severely shaken. [///]
    Unable to marry Herr Schönherr, Maria Sivec, however, then  married a fellow suitor for her affections, a surrogate from the same German Army company stationed near Griffen, a Herr Hugo Handke, the future monster in his stepson’s life and psyche, who provided both her and her offspring with a last name that has now become famous, whereas we might more accurately think of Handke, if such names are needed, as Peter or Pyotr Sivec-Schönherr-Handke which would also serve as a hint at a complicated cultural identity of someone who was to write, in 1968, the play of the fatherless generation, Kaspar {“I want to be someone like somebody else once was.”}; or maybe as “the one and only ever Count auf und von und zu Griffen” as which he appears in certain photos.
At any event, by age two: a loving mother, perhaps overly loving, a doting stepfather … a rural environment… the immediate prospects are favorable, even during war time, even though the future “Keuschnig” – “Hoveler” Hardy would have called him - is living in just a Keusche…
One alternative that Handke has not imagined in all the various personae he has worn, tried out [5] as an author is what his life would have been like if he had had his grandfather as father from the beginning, no Hugo Handke to bring horror into his life… no Berlin from 1944 to 1948, no bombing attacks: He might have become a fairly well adjusted leader of the Slovenian minority, their pro se lawyer, a great one, a member of parliament; and not an obsessive writer. The mother's father, old man Sivec, the "Ote" as grandfathers were called in that region, would assume the father figure in H.P.'s intra-psychic world only in the mid-80s and be finally installed as such after impressive psychic labor [“labora verimus” – the quote at the beginning of “The Repetition” - in this instance too; not just in finally learning Slovenian well enough so as to be able to translated from it!]
 as we can read in Die Wiederholung [1986] The Repetition] Handke’s 1980s rewriting of Sorrow Beyond Dreams [one of the chief sources for information about his early childhood]. This grandfather, notorious for fits of Zeus-like fury, during the 20s and 30s depressions repeatedly kept working his way out of near bankruptcy and during the 1921 plebiscite voted for the "Slavic option", that is for the first Yugoslav federation; and kept reaching under skirts until he died well into his 90s!
 However it is war time in 1944 and Maria Sivec, who seems to have taken marriage seriously, joins her husband, Bruno Handke, who was wounded and is unfit to return to the front and works on the tramways in Berlin, apparently already with another woman. At that point, in Berlin, in 1944, if we are to believe the account Handke gives in S.B.D./ W.U., there ensued Handke’s decade long exposure to violent drunken primal scenes and it is to this exposure to this decade long trauma that we might sensibly trace the plethora of symptoms that Handke evinces subsequently in his behavior, as they trickle out in his autobiographically colored writing and as he enumerates them in his Essay on Tiredness [Versuch Über die Müdigkeit, 1988][6], the various rages and angers that made him tired as a young man, the numerous intense nauseas that did not start to abate until the mid-seventies, the emotional difficulties he has in living with women, right: one would not assume that someone who wrote the so empathetic Sorrow Beyond Dreams might end up a misogynist: you wouldn’t until you gave some thought to the rage the love child must have felt as it kept seeing its love object violated and not entirely unwillingly. The ill effects of witnessing such violent primal scenes has been well documented [7], yet I keep thinking of medieval customs and where they persist with entire extended clans and their beasts procreating in one space: not violently, not drunkenly would seem to be the needed caesura in my thinking; Handke’s need to show male visitors out of his house - unless it be the visiting media through whom he can exhibit himself;
he used to take friends for walks through the forest; now he does not even do that any more; and his recourse to a compulsive need, the being condemned to write, to write himself not only out of poverty into wealth but also into health, in both of which endeavors, the once “I am the new Kafka”
has succeeded to a considerable extent, capitalist wealth being easier to acquire and maintain than psychic equilibrium in the world and literary environs such as they are. Among the derivatives from this exposure that are conceivably useful to a writer, as opposed to being problematic for a regular life, I can find only three: [1] the ability to dissociate, conceivably trained already during that decade, which lent Handke a head start in that requirement for a writer of his kind – think Joyce’s pointing to Rembrandt’s painting of the woman “paring her fingernails”; [2] to put a blanket over his head as he did as a child might point in the direction of the incipient wish towards transfiguration; to not represent the bloody drama head on; to disavowal; to states of dissocation; and [3] insomnia – you can always write or become one of the best-read persons on this earth: I once witnessed Handke devour a long poem – it was the German translation of a long poem by the considerable Bulgarian poet Lubomir Levchev – if it was a milkshake through one draught on the straw; and then to be judged to be good. At that rate….
In 1948, shortly prior to the Russian sealing off transit to the West [Junes 24] and the inception of the famous “air bridge” to Berlin, Maria, Bruno and Peter Handke [and the younger half-brother?] cross the border from East Germany to the West, an event that appears to have left distinct memories of anxiety in Handke. Although Handke initially acknowledged Bruno Handke as his father, he evidently suffered from the relationship to this progressively more violent alcoholic; while his closeness to his mother’s father, grandfather Sivec, provided some relief and future orientation. If we are to believe Handke it appears he withdrew into reading at an early age. On this photo, we see the future defender of the logos, nicely proud and throwing his chest out, protecting
his two year old half-sister and four year old half-brother, dressed like an utterly Austro-German kid of the time, 1948-1950 I would guess. However, these two other children of Maria Sivec-Handke appear not to have been as welcomed as her first, and lived anything but illustrious lives. Peter Handke, it might be noted, for many years, mentioned that all his life he was haunted by the thought of suicide.
Prior to moving to Berlin in 1944, Handke’s grandfather Sivec, a farmer carpenter, who will play such a significant future role in our genius psyche, can be presumed to have doted on his first grandchild. The mother’s two brothers, whose deaths during the war and whose wartime letters [which became a family heirloom] will also play a highly significant if not central role in the future writer’s psyche and in his writing – as absences, longed for - were presumably already off to war, in Yugoslavia during which they both perished.
Stepfather Handke, so it appears, was despised by the clan in Carinthia; hating him became child's play for the jealous love child, poor chap, not a bad-looking fellow at all who must have regretted his wager to win Maria’s affection. Handke’s later hatred of the stepfather is unique for its lack of ambivalence; the hatred of the stepfather also manifests itself in fairly unambivalent decade-long hatred of all things German. Later in life H.P. will admit that a bit of self-hatred probably plays into those sentiments! The real father, Herr Schönherr, when he appears in Handke’s life to go on the customary father son trip on High School graduation – cited in S.B.D. - is looked down upon with Handke’s then customary arrogance – whose defensive nature I assume requires littler elaboration; a treatment that decades later elicits regrets [8] Thus Handke’s oedipal constellation - the mother’s first-born and love-child, the mother’s father the father figure, dead uncles; no relationship to the actual or the stepfather’s family - Handke becomes a kind of specimen case for the fatherless generation, a generation that more than usually fashioned itself after their grandparents. I have come on no mention of the other grandparents in Handke’s so autobiographical work, except that he took the trouble to find out that there was no incidence of temporary color-blindness, one of his afflictions, or color-blindness of any other kind, among any related family member [The Lesson of St. Victoire] 1980. I spent much time tracking down the phenomenon, but came to no conclusive finding; it might be a matter as simple as the expression “seeing black” and a derivative of Handke’s rages. However, the first time I talked to Handke he was wearing sun glasses an in an environment that could not have been more generously and soothingly lighted and he said it was a matter of his eyes, so it may be a combination of factors, genetic inheritance, hysteria, anger combining to produce the liability which must be one reason he never learned to drive: the affliction would prevent him from getting a driver’s license.
Shortly after his birth, Peter Handke was baptized a Catholic. [For this, as so much else, see not only Sorrow Beyond Dreams + Adolf Haslinger’s Jugend eines Schriftstellers]. During his “homecoming period” – from the years 1966 to 1979 in Germany and France – in 1979 Handke also resumed his relationship to the Catholic Church, especially to its sacred texts, that is until he left the Catholic for the Greek Orthodox persuasion subsequent to his unhappiness with the Pope’s insufficient opposition to the bombing of Serbia during the 1994 Kosovo campaign during which Handke acquired no end of publicity and notoriety in expressing his preference for a continued Yugoslav Federation. Certain parts of the culmination of Handke’s Homecoming Cycle [A Slow Homecoming, A Child’s Story, The Lesson of St. Victoire] the play and dramatic poem Walk About the Villages is infused with Catholic imagery and feeling and in a manner that will touch all religious. His side as a possible country priest is expressed in the 1993 No-Man’s-Bay in that the only actual person in that book who is also a side of the Handke’s, and not just another elf of his self with all those elve in it, is his country priest friend from his early days in Carinthia.
The inception of exposure to those violent drunken primal scenes in Berlin that he mentions in SBD coincided with the bombing attacks, that were to provide the title of his first novel Die Hornissen. Certainly, bombers and being bombed played a role in baby Handke’s life, as they did for longer stretches in my own, where they elicited a traumatic dream that turned into a screen memory of events that transpired at the time that British bombers started to attack Bremen in 1940.
As of September 13, 1948 until June 1952 Peter Handke attended the classes of the village school in Griffen. Subsequently he attended the first two classes of the "Öffentlichen Hauptschule für Knaben und Mädchen" (14. September 1952 - 10. Juni 1954). On 7. Juli 1954 he absolved the admission test - upon his own wish, supported by the village priest - to attend the Catholic-Humanist „Gymnasium” Marianum [Tanzenberg], a school designed to produce priests, an alternative life Handke might have led and that is expressed in one of the six sides imaginatively autobiographical novel My Year in the No-Man’s-Bay [1993]. Handke’s invariable comment about his boarding school is that the bodies of the alien fellows there nauseated him, and he traces his nausea at fellow bodies to this experience!, and it is a noticeable defect of Die Wiederholung/ The Repetition that no matter how finely – Stifter refined by Vermeer is one shorthand way of putting it - an alternative yearning childhood is re-imagined in there, the author’s verbal imagination flags when young Filip Kobal, Handke’s Slovenian alter ego, enters the seminary. This nausea is the first of numerous, including nausea at language, of his sequaelae nauseas that Handke mentions, culminating in what Handke in “Nonsense and Happiness” calls “nausea of the eyeballs.” [More on “nausea” anon]. Also, no matter the unhappy making home environment that he had just managed to escape, Handke is filled with home sickness. There is also an all-important dream that Handke had at the Seminary and which he recounted in great and extant detail to his mother, of becoming her brother, his uncle Gregor, whose war time letters were a family heirloom for the Sivecs. Within the internalized oedipal world, the assumption of the avunculate, as anthropologists called it, is an unusual solution within the outward family constellation as I have described it, and it points not only to Handke’s sublimated oedipal wishes but to his friendly protective attitude towards his mother. That the dream was noted down and communicated points not only to the relationship of intimacy with the mother, but of the author’s own awareness of its importance.
In 1959, on the occasion of conflict with this seminary school, Handke changed over to the regular federal “Gymnasium” in Klagenfurt. During this period Handke composed a 16 page autobiographical report “My Life – Part II.” He was also writing for the school paper, “Die Fackel” [The Torch, same name as Karl Kraus’s famous journal] rather typically expressionistic things he has said. In 1961 Handke passed his matura with the highest marks. His interest in Slavic culture was evident even at that point, as he decided not to travel with his school class to Greece, but traveled to Slovenia by himself [see The Repetition’s – the promised re-writing of Sorrow Beyond Dreams but in some ways also of his first novel, Die Hornissen - imagined reliving of that event, where his alter ego Philip Kobal, named after a 19th century Slovenian independence fighter, is on his way to visit an uncle who is studying horticulture in Ljubljana.
In fall 1961 Handke began his study of law at the University of Graz, the idea being, since he planned on being a writer even then, that a law degree would enable him to acquire the sinecure of an Austrian cultural attaché, which if not a sinecure has provided him with one of his chief alter egos in his writing, the suicidal Austrian Cultural attaché Gregor Keuschnig of A Moment of True Feeling [1974] who however, at that point, starts turning into the anti-Kafka, when love burst through [putting it bluntly: mother’s love bursting through one could say] at the sight of a series of emblematic images; and as the now ex-attaché of the aforementioned 1992 major opus No-Man’s-Bay who makes mention of that unforgettable moment. In Graz Handke initiated contact with the literary circle "Grazer Gruppe" and its leader Alfred Kolleritsch, who will remain a life-long friend [their correspondence just came out with Jung + Jung under the title of Schönheit ist des Bürger’s erste Pflicht]; published things in the journal “manuskripte" and attached himself to the group of writers associated with "Forum Stadtpark", becomes a contributor to Manuskripte, writes for Austrian Radio, apparently helped edit Ossie Wiener’s Die Verbesserung Mittel-Europas, and by his early 20s, if you look at these contributions, goes about his business in a surprisingly professional manner. In the summer of 1964 Handke took time off and went to the now Croatian Island of Krk and completed his first novel, Die Hornissen, at his third try it appears; and after its completion said I will write another and then I will write another. Die Hornissen is suffused with longing for the missing uncles, whose war time letters were regarded a family heirloom, which may figure in the over-determination of Handke’s choice of profession: his books, many of them, have a quality of letters in a bottle, also I imagine because of his autism, a matter to which I will come shortly, to which Handke confessed in his interview with Gamper [at which point of reading a whole series of clicks, little epiphanies – Eurekas, ahas - went through me!] the isolation of that position but also Handke’s hyper-sensitivities. Die Hornissen is also drenched in fear as is Handke’s second novel Der Hausierer [8] as are most texts of that period: but ending always in the victory over anxiety! The anxiety the fear is played away! At least in the writing: “I sit down and am in a state, and what I write is then so calm.” Handke notes apparently to his own surprise!
If by nothing else, these early works are marked by an unusual ability to handle language in a serial form, to the point of virtuosity; and the creation of texts that stand in the unusual relationship to the world; that is, by means of an extraordinarily rich repertoire of grammatical maneuvers the world that the words refers to is placed into a conditional existence, exists as an “as if”, the “as if” also being one of the forms of defence; and that, therefore, the world of words, of syntax, becomes a world with laws unto itself –

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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