Friday, March 16, 2018


“You may fancy an artist’s work as much as Foie Gras  despite the chance that if you meet that artist in person it will be the goose.” Freely, after Arthur Koestler.800-364-3039





HANDKE’S DIE OBSTDIEBIN / ALEXIA, THE FRUIT THIEF – a verbally and narratively marvelous portmanteau of a wandering Handke book –  
translation of whose deceptive German sub-title


“An Ordinary Trip to the…Heartland”

would do the title trick, too,

    in ONE respect____
could not be a simpler book:

A NO-MAN’S BAY author sets out in high summer August days

"This story began on one of those midsummer days on which if you walk barefoot in the grass you will get the first bee sting of the year. At least that is what kept happening to me, though meanwhile I know that the days of the first and often unique annual bee sting usually coincide with the white clover starting to bloom, at ground level, where the bees, half-hidden,  scurry about.”

on an expedition into the Picardie, a picturesque region north of Paris where the likes of Van Gogh, too, have found visual inspiration, and first acquaints us with the goings on in his immediate surround – fans of the great NO-MAN’S BAY

may be interested how those environs have fared - and in Chaville; then takes a trip to Paris and further, highly observant, to the initial stop destination, Clergy-Pointoise – that is the first fourth of the book at which point he substitutes Alexia, the incidental Fruit Filcher, a rural religiously inflected flaneur vagabond in her mid-twenties, most adventurously explores in three days the 60 kilometer stretch from Clergy-Pointoise via Chars to Chaumont sur Oesne along the river Voisne and on the Vexin Plateau.

Here, the links to visuals of these locales/

Images of the river Oise:

To Chaumont &  the river Troesne

which – as he - the Austro-German-Slovenian author – states - in FRUIT THIEF as well as in NO-MAN’S-BAY - has been an immigrant haven for a long time.

Those who have read the book and then check out the links will be smitten by the potency of Handke’s powers of description.

ALEXIA, FRUIT THIEF, thus, could function as the most delightful guide book to this stretch of the Picardie, or as an idiosyncratic compliment or conjunction to the more official boring kind to an area, meanwhile rife with touristy inns!

As we find out from Handke’s longtime - occasionally Handke-fired but reinstated - Suhrkamp editor Raimund Fellinger

ALEXIA, THE FRUIT THIEF – a book of 150 k + was written - by hand in pencil - between the months of September and December 2016, and thence, in galleys, underwent Handke’s now customary emendations.
   It might go without saying though the saying in this instance becomes quite interesting: the reason why ALEXIA necessarily underwent considerable preparation [though probably not in further exploration of NO-MAN’S-BAY environs that Handke must know as he does the back of his hand], but of the Picardie, for that stretch of land to be portrayed in such ravishing detail –  for an author to know each minor hamlet in the area even a genius fast perceiver like Handke requires time and footwork - explanations for which close acquaintance is I would think that Handke and his second wife Sophie Semin have bought themselves a rural abode in the region, the second out of Paris home for Sophie who - see MORAWIAN NIGHT – escaped the “cold salamander” NO-MAN’S-BAY abode that is reserved for “cold salamander” preparations of veritable manu-scripts, where Sophie – note the abundance of books - failed to transform herself into a book. [1]

ALEXIA, FRUUIT THIEF might, thus, also be fruitfully read in conjunction with the NO-MAN’S BAY author’s other recent expedition, the one to Paris - THE GREAT FALL - which ALEXIA references so acutely toward the end during a stretch when she suffers what might be called “a soul’s dark day in bright sunlight” – i.e. the parallel state of mind between the two books in that respect – and yet the soul, though it seems to want to, does not quite inhabit St. Teresa of Avila or vice vera.
THE GREAT FALL is finally being published, this 2018 Spring, by Seagull via U. of Chicago Press, and provides the other side of this NO-MAN’S-BAY dweller’s existence. [I regard FALL a kind of successor to THE AFTERNOON OF A WRITER, and equally troubling except of course for the writing.]

Here the link to THE GREAT FALL

and to Scott Abbott’s and my discussion of it & to the customary collection of reviews.


In light of the foregoing suggestion that FRUIT THIEF can also be read as a guide to a particular stretch in the Picardie I image that Handke  could have easily have just done a variant of one of his travel accounts, condensations 

and not bothered with the exertion of inventing his surrogate, Alexia, and on the train already is on the lookout for her who then turns the exploration of the Picardie into an adventure story that I read with the same excitement that I as a kid used to read Karl May - not an experience I ever thought I would have with a Handke book.
  Via Handke’s doppelganger Alexia, the fruit thief’s wanderings become the subject of the narration which becomes ever more playful and adventurous, with a host of side essays, anv vignettes, quite a bit more alacritous {my favorite word these days that I am no longer so meself1] as Handke, now in his 70s, might be himself – getting all wrapped up in a blackberry thicket? - at least physically. It is in this fashion that FRUIT THIEF becomes an agglomeration with all kinds of asides – a real Handke book – impure – agglomeration being a term that the book itself uses when describing [in such great detail!] the Picardie town of Clergy-Pointoise which French rationalization has assembled and made weird after WW II - and Handke uses agglomeration as the French have and with I would think entirely unintentional irony, unaware I expect that the term might also be used to describe the FRUIT THIEF portmanteau whose “modern” features may or may not be intended by an author proudly conservative in many ways.

Not only does Handke seem to have a lot of fun with the monologues and other digressions - the dramalets - integration of his abilities as a dramatist [more on that aspect anon -  and on
some individual brief essay-like passages - that break but, surprisingly I must say, never slow the underlying narrative drive once the adventure into the Picardie is underway after Alexia’s one night at Clergy-Pontoise, and it is a strong narrative drive I never expected from Handke who usually manages to slow things down - but I guess it just goes to show that a claim he wrote me at the time he completed A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING that he had reached a stage where he was “capable of doing everything in his writing”, that he had the kind of command if you are in charge of all the instruments in a symphony orchestra.  
Subsequent to translating WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES and ever after, especially with HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER, I have had no reason to doubt his claim.- And it is the sort of thing that ought to make you shiver it is so spooky!
Handke is an exhibitionist with something to exhibit. Each of his exhibitions is a “look Ma’, no hands,”, a Seiltanz, and though a few of his works and acts were scandals - his initial public appearance in Princeton in 1966, the premiere of PUBLIKUMSBESCHIMPFUNR/ OFFENDING THE AUDIENCE, and JOURNEY TO THE RIVERS

his appearance at the funeral of Slawomir Milosevic’s is the only instance in which he made the world at large – and the world is no Backfisch – blush.
However, the adventure as a whole, Alexia’s, is not any old adventure – it has stages, it has an ordeal, Alexia acquires a male follower, a Pizza delivery boy who attaches himself to her, but whom she does not tell to go away as she delightfully addresses a dog that won’t stop following her. For a stretch she turns into Hamletina, there is an amazing act of salvation – of a moribund cat! And perhaps in that sense Alexia’s journey is analogous to a kind of passion. However,
Handke has said a number of times, as well as in ALEXIA, FRUIT THIEF itself [towards the end] that his idea of epic narration is modeled or inspired by Wolfram von Eschenbach, the 13th century author of Parzifal and of Wolfram’s Willehalm. And he also states that no story of his can tell itself – it requires the intrusion of the narrator and he does here any number of times saying “that’s how the story want
‘s it”.  
FRUIT THIEF mentions the name of Wolfram a few times and refers directly to Willehalm at the end and FRUIT THIEF also sprinkles in some French, but in fact that’s   pretty much the only matters that these two so entirely different epics have in common.

Its [Willehalm’s] account of conflict between Christian and Muslim cultures, centering on the warrior-saint Willehalm and his wife Gyburc, a convert from Islam, challenges the ideology of the Crusades. It celebrates the heroism, faith, and family solidarity of the Christians, but also displays the suffering of both sides in the war and questions the justification of all killing. Gyburc, whose abandonment of her Muslim family and conversion to Christianity are the immediate cause of the war, bears a double burden of sorrow, and it is from her that springs a vision of humanity transcending religious differences that is truly remarkable for its time. In Gyburc's heathen brother Rennewart and his love for the French king's daughter, Wolfram also develops a richly comic strand in the narrative, with the outcome left tantalizingly open by the work's probably unfinished conclusion. .. Wolfram's supreme qualities as a story-teller.” 

Handke, who -  early on - noticed how his equal as artificer James Joyce had managed to assure himself of continued scholarly attention and, thus, of one feasible continued life for his work, pulls the wool over the eyes of current scholars, leads them down the garden path, sie gehen ihm auf den Leim, they invariably seem to fall into the trap and buy his red herrings, most grievously here the professor reviewer for LITERATUR KRITIK who falls for Handke’s suggestion hook line and sinker!

 Pal and admired scholar Scott Abbott fell for the suggesting that MORAWIAN is a book about narration – as though Handke required a tome of 500 + pages for that purpose!? - these dear people miss that Handke wrote an earlier version of Moravian called SAMARA

that was already typeset at which point the author discovered opportunities to elaborate; and since he is the publisher’s star author he is indulged and the first setting is junked but ends up with the Austrian research site.
MORAWIAN has the kind of open-ended set-up that would allow Handke to add any number of further chapters once he’d got a drift of how or whether to present them with equal metaphoric dramatic aplomb and painterly force; that is the Morawa, the boat on which these “A Thousand Night” tales are told, could be set adrift down the Morawa River into the Danube and end up in the Black Sea.
MORAWIAN NIGHT features not only quite a bit of walking and all over the map, especially but not exclusively in the Balkans, and has its share of Handke’s wonderfully described bus rides, too, and is rich in the kind of Handke raisins that will keep the scholars busy busy busy.
Oh yes, Wolfram provides the appropriate – to high summer weather that pervades the entire book - opening epigraph:
   Man gesach den lichten summer
in so maniger varve nie
[Never have you seen high summer in such many-splendored colors!]

Filip Kobal’s focused wanderings in THE REPETITION had a Parsifal-like quality. Yet Handke’s five epic novels – THE REPETITION, MY YEAR IN THE NO-MAN’S BAY, BILDVERLUST, ACROSS THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS, MORAVIAN NIGHT, and the current FRUIT THIEF are all very different kinds of epics

FRUIT THIEF [2017] is Handke’s fifth epic of a kind of “monstrum” he once promised he would never commit [thinking they would remain incomplete, e.g. like Musil’s, who died prematurely in exile in Switzerland of a heart attack in 1942].
Each of Handke’s major oeuvre of the epic kind – not including the one would-be monstrum that Handke left the way he had feared he might – are major exertions and have specific wandering locales and no matter how different from each other narratively – it is typical for Handke not to repeat himself or as little as possible - and what a nuisance for reviewers and the like – these epics are wandering walking novels – written by an author who noted in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES that

“It has become hard to walk on the earth,” as indeed it has with the impediments to human and to animal locomotion that the Autobahn builders have put in their way, as they have in the Picardie as well.
   Many shorter works, too, e.g. the novel ONE DARK NIGHT and the assayings ON THE JUKE BOX & ON FATIGUE contain amazing descriptions of walking’s  pleasures and difficulties.   

1] Langsame Heimkehr / A SLOW HOMECOMING [the novel part of that American edition which includes CHILD STORY & ST. VICTOIRE]

 is the one incomplete Handke work, which I believe was meant to have epic proportion - Handke referred to his plans as a “Staatsroman” – a kind of official undertaking!? the size of a state? – at any event, something grand that perhaps was meant to demonstrate explore a continuity of large geologic forms?; its protagonist Sorger, a geological surveyor, the novel’s inception in a fairly pristine Alaska – it is dedicated “to the snow” [!]- hints at epic ambitions of that kind…
It was I who pointed Handke to Alaska around 1970 when he wrote asking what American winters were like, though he seemed to have forgotten all about the suggestion by the time he returned from Alaska in 1978 - as he did other matters - to NY to write the book.
 SLOW HOMECOMING’S opening Alaska chapter had a profound effect on me for my having spent nine months in that vastness - fighting forest fires and as a surveyor - see

from the last chapter of my Screen Memories] - traipsing and boating the length and breadth of that huge area as far north as the Brooks Range, inducing an experience of wholeness and immensity of a kind that is more than oceanic or otherly oceanic and that remained unresolved until I read Handke’s chapter… May you, too, have experiences of that kind to resolve!... Great San Francisco chapter, but then the text sort of “peters” out – perhaps the locale and time where and when Handke wrote these parts and then, exceptionally, ran out of words – he had been rehearsing its first sentence… “Sorger had outlived many of those who had become close to him; he had ceased to long for anything but often felt a selfless love of existence and at times a need for salvation so palpable it weighed on his eyelids,”… for years on end!  [FN

- in the Hotel Adams on East 86th Street in Manhattan in a room with a view of Central Park in a quiet very upper-class area. -
Perhaps adverse 1978/9 NY conditions are to blame, or over-eagerness to make the transition from less ambitious stuff - I know of no other uncompleted Handke prose work; a few plays expired in draft stage, and but for certain matters which I will address in a footnote I would have asked Handke to go with me when I stopped working around 10-11p.m at my Tribeca office and hit my downtown bars and music clubs CBGBS and MUDD and SCREECH where the pretty ones when they wanted you told you up front, love making became like breathing, and it happened to be the rare time that I had not a main squeeze, and Handke, if he had wanted, would at least have a bit of a good time to look back upon. That NY period then disabused him of his once explored idea - for him and his daughter Amina - to live in Manhattan or its suburbs.
Up until SLOW HOMECOMING Handke had written a handful of often ambitious and complex but also typically laconic condensed short books, [FN] and survived a major crisis upon the suicide of his mother, and the first wife going disparu to his director Klaus Peymann for about as good and valid cause as wife can have to leave a neglectful layabroad who only writes or wants to talk about writing – epic intention can be said to be perhaps hinted at in the immediately preceding LEFT-HANDED WOMAN – 1976 - or can be found retrospectively latent.
For WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGE, part IV of his ‘home coming’ cycle, however, Handke was prepared, prepared himself as you can read in the untranslated - into English - [its predecessor Weight of the World had done well] Geschichte des Bleistifts / History of the Pencil [FN].

At any event, it was nearly ten years before Handke then completed the first epic walking novel and what a book it is!
THE REPETIION rewalks a post-graduation trip and refigures SORROW BEYOND DREAMS and is certainly one of the most important Handke books for me who happened to read it while under the influence of the slow pounding surf of the Pacific, waves that roll in all the way from storms in the South Pacific and so was in a state of mind that I could respond to the book‘s pace and rhythm. And not only for me:

Of the invariable ludicrous reviews that the NY Times Book Review has bestowed

on Handke’s major efforts the most idiotic and impertinent was of THE REPETIION where David Price Jones inveighs against the protagonist – an 18-year old - for not lambasting Tito whose image appears during his perambulation through Slovenia and its Carso following the footsteps of a horticulturalist uncle to Ljubljana. The fellow who wrote this and the editor who published this review ought at the very least to have been flogged, if not shot; capital punishment in egregious cases of this kind might just do the trick of preventing the like of this kind of review. Jones is one of the four NY TIMES reviewers of the four NY Times reviewers of these major titles – others are Siegel, on NO-MAN’S BAY, a Neil Gordon of SIERA DEL GREDOS, and one Joshua Cohen/ MORAWIAN NIGHT [lets not forget the NYRB and the hacks that a tired Bob Silvers used, Adam Kirsch and the Marcus]

 who can regard themselves as fortunate not to have run into me while I was in the Chihuahua and carrying side arms as I rode out and made sure that the overhead vultures accompanying me were well-fed!  
Take a look at the Guardian review for compare:

2] One Year in the No-Man’s Bay 1994

walks not something approximate a straight line but CIRCLES - about half a dozen times - while exploring the half dozen sides of an artist, a circling that is prefigured in the preparatory assaying THE ESSAY ON THE DAY THAT WENT WELL which circles Paris ever more rapidly, among other matters it accomplishes.    Handke, now well prepared for the marathon, wrote the 250 k opus in one year and by pencil – first and final draft but for some work in galleys - his congratulatory publisher, the Gauner Siegfried Unseld, finding  an m.s. of this kind unacceptable a typist was found; and Handke has been rewriting and adding in galleys ever since. - Note my report about how good reading this book five times in one year made me feel – testimony to Peter Strasser’s  Handke, ein Freudenstoff  / Handke’s joy-producing Stuff

not that anyone but the fewest of the few in this godforsaken nerve-dead country seems to have been so affected. I account for this effect on me – who might have reasons not to be so affected by matters Handke – by Handke even intra-uterine having been a mother’s ultra love-child, surrogate for the love of beautiful Maria Sivec’s life, and then just look at the photos of her and baby Peter, how their eyes are in love with each other

   As mama’s boy Handke who with all that autobiographical writing might be a bit more aware than he seems at times yet eventually realizes he received a bit too much of a good thing, and that surfeit has entered what he loves most and then spills over to a good reader like meself – now  you go falsify that claim of mine!
Siegel’s review in the New York Times needs to be compared with William Gass’s to show why fraud Siegel ought to have been strung up ages ago.

3] Across the Sierra del Gredos [Bildverlust] 2004

memorializes Handke’s travels and walking tours in a particular region – the la Mancha - Spain and uses an impersonation of a BANKIERESS for the same reason that he uses Alexia in FRUIT THIEF: to free himself from his notebook and to be imaginative and playful and suggest alternatives, though the Banker side of Handke is less appealing than that of the almsgiving Stair-dweller Saint! But since those trips to Spain were in the company of ultra-wealthy magazine publisher Burda the ultra-competitive pasha - that too is Handke - may have invented the Bankieress for that purpose; or she incorporates some Burda sides, who knows? – However, Neil Gordon the NY Times reviewer has not been much heard of since I took exception to his travesty - turns out once oldest and dearest friend Frank Conroy, then at the Iowa Writing Workshop, told the ass to head East. Frank unfortunately wasn’t around anymore for me to complain!

4] Moravian Night 2011  \

fellow Handke translator and aficionado if not venerator Scott Abbott and I discussed at length and came to loggerheads on an egg or chicken question. Scott felt that book’s subject was “narration”, as the book at one instance claims, I maintain that Handke devised his own “Thousand and One Night Scheherazade” to accommodate a host of auto-biographical matters and does so in a few instances in the most supreme poetic way, and could have gone on forever with the kind of Handke tales that amuse me and Mari Colbin who and I nearly got married because we would never get bored telling each other Handke stories – see her review of Malte Herwig’s Handke biography

which that sad case Herwig managed to get an Austrian news service to withdraw with a threat of suing for a huge sum which of course it would have taken a huge sum to defend.
No suit against me or darling Mari! the sixth Handke wench I have come to know; and - as Freud mentioned a few times - there is no better way of getting to know a person than to know their sexuality in the bedroom.
   To summarize: Handke has been writing, compulsively as of necessity, more or less formally imaginatively inflected auto-biography since the beginning. [FN]

Handke will be known as one of the great Catholic novelists –  say, Bernanos and Walker Percy –  a writer and dramatist who - though touchingly anti-modern in some respects - malgre luis his allegiance to the logos has had little choice but to be a forever innovator; so that the greater his fathoming of the past the more playful and profound his innovations. 



At what point while thinking of memorializing his perambulations in the Picardie did the idea of using Alexia as a medium occur to Handke? For, initially, during the first quarter of the book -  set in the NO-MAN’S BAY environs - there is no mention of her.
The author sets out on a fine bee-sting high summer day but there is no mention that he will be looking for Alexia the Fruit Thief. Only on the train to Clergy-Pointoise

– nearly a quarter way into the book - he mistakes a young woman all bundled-up for Alexia, and that is how we find out that he is looking for her, and he finds her and with her, sometimes through her eyes and ears, we first of all explore and dissertate on the agglomeration Clergy-Pointoise… and - but for interesting authorial descriptions, much later in the book, of what he the NO-MAN’S BAY writer is up to, narrating in the first person singular or, later, for a while the plural  - Alexia remains his medium for the expedition from Clergy via Chars always along the river Voisne to Claumond sur Oesne – a 60 kilometer hike that feels like a  it took a month – it is so rich in observed detail and thought.
 . Clergy-Pointoise itself is explored for not quite one day - one afternoon and night and early morning - and I felt I really really knew the place and how to get around it – testimony to Handke’s power as a writer to inscribe details into my mind – but I can see no particular reason why Handke needed surrogate Alexia to narrate his acquaintance with Clergy-Pointoise or to spend an amazing night in a house in mourning or to describe the few old village parts that rationalist modernization have spared, not consumed in this agglomeration: great stuff! And narrated at diary easy-going pace. - Or Alexia being quite unable to get back out of town as the hedged-in sub-urban circular developments keep interposing themselves – you and I know them well from the US of A.
   Anyhoo, who is this Alexia that Handke needs her, to tell his Picardie story in the form of an adventure?   - First of all to make his acquaintance with the region, acquired over a number of years, interesting and the pace certainly picks up once Alexia hits… not the road but the river Viosne valley!

Generally speaking, Alexia, methinks, is yet another of Handke’s surrogates, Josef Bloch, Keuschnig, Sorger, Loser, Filip Kobal, etc., etc.

She is Handke’s dissociated medium which points to his ability – manifested most manifestly in GOALIE, where Bloch is presented as a paranoid schizophrenic, and via grammatical sleight of hand puts the reader in that state of mind – which means that Handke as a person is the very opposite of anything of the kind since he seems, at least when writing, to be able to dissociate a medium surrogate and, thus, has that rare ability also at other times – spooky, to understand a schizophrenic state of mind – and I think at least the equal if not of a higher order than Stephen Daedalus using the image of paring of fingernails on a Rembrandt painting to describe the objectifying writing process [FN]

In that respect each of these mediums surrogates are cut from the cloth of their author, amusingly as in the case of „Keuschnig” of A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELNG & NO-MAN’S BAY – someone who dwells in an Austrian peasant’s hut and is „keusch” – chaste, which Handke  - though he used to need to make serious attempts in that direction certainly was anything but for decades, and which is the sort of thing that can get a layabroad into all kinds of trouble and have consequences – the fear of  that girl in the reeds in MORAVIAN NIGHT that is ready to assassinate, and similar paranoia in NO-MAN’S BAY are entirely justified, Erinyes all.
   Sorger and Loser, too, indicate qualities of their creator, the Bankieress presents me with identificatory problems but perhaps she is Handke’s capitalist side to which he admitted to Mueller in one of his interviews; that Taxham fellow who is used to write in dream grammar in ONE DARK NIGHT is most interesting, and Alexia, St. Alexius twin, is being used here most imaginatively and perhaps wishfully as the kind of youthful adventurer the author is not quite anymore now in his 70s.

More specifically, Alexia is said to be the daughter of the Bankieress from Crossing the Sierra del Gredos, irrelevantly since this is just a novelistic touch which adds nothing and which Handke could have spared himself. Chiefly, Alexia strikes me as the younger sister of the Lefthanded Woman. [FN] She is chaste – not withdrawn from a husband yet she has the chastest of dreams, a sixteen year old’s dream it reminded me of – and this is the sole section that gives the reader an idea of who she is, as does her behavior of not hooking up with her companion -
The dream allows the possibility of a future husband, and though not entirely non-carnal, I find it hard to tell whether Alexia – who earlier on suffers an amusing episode as Hamletina – might not be on the opposite way to the kind of nunnery that Hamlet tells Ophelia to get to – or even to assume the soul of St. Teresa of Avila who is mentioned in the context.  Alexia, the twin sister of St. Alexius under the Stairs

does not have her name because Handke is courting the M Windows’ helpmate ‘Alexa!’

Come the day that Handke makes his peace with the Internet even though the Austrian state’s literature department has created a site for the material that he sold them for a hefty sum.

How  truly wissenschaftlich / scholarly  and scientific we are going to be remains to be seen.

Alexia is presented as a vagabond who has been all over the world – to lots of the same places that Peter Handke has been: Alaska, Detroit, Spain’s Sierra del Gredos and is said to have just returned from… has Handke been? … Siberia! However, associations with these places are not even a bare minimum and don’t add anything much. Are part of what strikes me as a rater desultory attempt to satisfy certain not altogether pleasurable novelistic requirements. Sketchy and contradictory-- About as much as the disconcerting refrain that Alexia, a haute bourgeois French dropout, is a fan of Eminem, no mention of French contemporary chansonniers.
Alexia also does quite a few things that Handke does in other “walking” books – such as walk backwards prior to getting underway in a forward direction! She and thresholds share the thresholders apprehensions in that respect.
She seems to be in her mid-twenties - but as you get to know her she is a twenty-something who does not hook up with young  Valter - the pizza delivery boy who - as compared the dog that is so amusingly told to split in one of the book's wonderful theatrical passages - follows her like a human dog - and they spend a night in separate rooms in the Auberge Dieppe and she has that fascinating chaste dream - our Fruit Thief is said to have tramped all over the world and gone half a year to the university in Pointoise but is entirely atypical of such world travelers and of contemporary young women and does not seem to be Laocadie, Handke’s 2nd daughter, though Handke might have consulted Laocadie in some matters relating to young French women if he had had real interest in rendering such.
I have this hunch that Alexia only occurred to him about a quarter of the ways into a book that might also have remained just a detailed account of one of his expeditions with the Picardie, which would have been a well-developed but far less interesting travel diary that would have been devoid these numerous essayistic passages that indicate an author of some experience with existence and are not penned by Alexia and have little if any bearing on her..
 Alexia  or an  adventurer like her might have been there at the bee-sting start, as traveling companion who, e.g. regards the NO-MAN’S BAY with fresh eyes? - Why this cumbersome way of suddenly looking for her and finding her? Not elegant at all. Within the context of a lot of verbal razzmatazz Handke performs a few mis-steps and does so in the way he describes the [his] analog - that he cites on page  x the star midfielder of PSG [Paris-St. Germain] who makes the world’s most astonishing shots - a supreme genius - but is then awkward beyond belief! -“tollpatchig” a deceased German critic who gave Handke the hardest of time, called it, a supreme genius who can be bit of an idiot – idiots with whom Handke feels such affinity as you read his texts! A bit like the KASPAR of a play of his.  

Alexia is said to be the daughter of the Bankieress from Sierra del Gredos – a matter that adds nothing, one aspect of ‘novelizing’ that Handke in rather ordinary and desultory badly edited fashion exercises here; as little as finding out in MORAWIAN NIGHT that Filip Kobal the protagonist of THE REPETION now writes film scripts – the only time that this “in-ness” of  being in a Handke-world worked for me was when Josef Bloch, the paranoid-schizophrenic murderer of GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK who is arrested at the moment that the soccer ball, to his immense surprise, hits his midriff, resurfaces in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES as one of the worker-clowns and mucks around the woods frightening the natives.- Handke, once upon the time of A Slow Homecoming, said he would never be novelistic in this fashion, and this way of being “in” was something that used to annoy him in Thomas Mann. Alexia the vagabond can wander anywhere she likes and does not need the obvious motivation of a not overly exciting family get together as an excuse, we hear nothing about it until the end as it is about to transpire. “That is how the tale wants it, the way the tale tells it.” is a frequent imprecation by an author who admits at the end that he, a dweller of the NO-MAN’S-BAY, is writing the book. He could easily have come out and said, “It’s me Peter Handke, I am writing a Peter Handke Book, and using Alexia will be a lot more fun, allows my imagination and playfulness to roam as I can’t just do in a notebook or a travel account.” And no one would mind – certainly not this late in the game.
Alexia’s expedition becomes s so rich in adventurous richly detailed events that I felt I had been underway for weeks – not just the three days for the 60 kilometers from Clergy to Chaumond - a distortion of my sense of time which might be yet one more of Handke’s customary head games – defamiliarization - that he has been playing, differently each time, since OFFENDING, especially in The Ride Across Lake Constance [fn] and THE REPETITION –
As her creator’s magnificently observant eyes and ears during his exploration of a stretch of the French country side, Alexia only rarely engages in incidental filching of fruit her three day trek - once she takes over for Handke the NO-MAN’S-BAY narrator - familiarizes the reader so intimately with the Picardie – the three towns Clergy-Pointoise, Char and Chaumond and the river Voisne and the Vexin plateau that I suspect future admirers will want to retrace these footsteps - just as current admirers have followed Filip Kobal’s itinerary as he traverses the Karst/Caro in Austro-Slovenian The Repetition./

Alexia at one point is said to be on her expedition looking for her mother – why the Bankieress of all people might be lost like that lost cat in these wilds is an issue that is never explained, it makes no sense. Alexia smells her perfume in the tiny chambre that she spends a saintly night in at the Auberge Dieppe, but then it turns out that the object of her expedition was a family get together at the end of her trip in Chaumont sur Oesne – no mention of anything of the kind throughout and why that arduous adventure preceding a family get together?
It seems to me that all this contradictory family material seems to have been made up along the way as Handke was writing and felt that Alexia needed some kind of novelistic architecture which I regard as entirely superfluous but for one instance where Alexia receives the kind of a paternal advice that Handke might have addressed to his own daughter and of which he is making fine fun here as a persiflage. A few times, then, Alexia references something her father said. But that is that.
Alexia is given a brother ten years her junior, she calls him a few time, it turns out he works at her final destination Chaumond sure Oesne as a carpenter’s  apprentice,  and his profession affords Handke the opportunity to once again sing that craft’s praises, which I - once upon graduation, and at Breadloaf Writers on the weekends and nights, worked as a union tile [Pollacks!] and {Wops] marble worker’s apprentice - entirely share. But there was absolutely no need in this wonderful epic jaunt through the Picardie to equip Handke’s surrogate eyes and ears with a family of any kind. Or to leave this material in badly and contradictory fashion lying around like woodcuttings at workbench that was not cleaned up. Was the book in that respect meant to be left a bit “dirty?” - For all I know that may be intentional – the book is an assemblage – not just an adventure story with some brilliantly recounted adventures, but all kinds of small essays .
Are his editors and first readers frightened of the fellow who I was appalled to read recently gave his old-time Austrian editor Jung a tongue lashing? [fn] - But I think I am wrong and Handke knows that the reviewers need a simple hook for their work, a simple motivation, most of them mention that the object is a family get-together or the search for the Bankieress mother - and not the “dark day of the soul” that Alexia suffers and its reference to Handke’s THE GREAT FALL, not that amazing near unending reprieve of the end of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES with its even grimmer sayings such as “be enamored of your despair.” [When will someone write a great dissertation on the influence of that great play on Handke’s work for nigh forty years, how it keeps efflorescing?]
 End of some very minor caviling on a book that I am reading like a Peter Handke book - but where I praise as highly as I do here, and I know the fellow knows how to dissemble and play games and is self-indulgent as hell and I love nearly every minute of it.

The way the narrative is set up – “that’s the way the tale wants “-and with the author’s admission at the end that he cannot imagine a story where the story teller does not admit of his telling, that no story “tells itself” [but he would agree that dreams do I imagine?]-  he could have just said, say, after leaving Clergy-Pointoise “I am now going to use my medium Alexia, for 1 she is nimbler for such a long trek, and, secondly, that way I can write all kinds of little essays about what transpires.”  But I find it odd indeed that the two nights of her expedition are spent, interestingly in both cases, in different inns, and I wonder whether Handke ever sleeps - during his many country walks - say, under the Hawthorne tree on an August moon, whether at the Bering sea he slept in an igloo? – I note his many interestingly described hotel stays, including one in the Kosovo, but wonder how hardy a vagabond he is while conceding that the likes of Handke and the Norman Mailer of Why Are We in Vietnam, can absorb, say, the wildflowers in the Brooks Range, in a day that take me a week to incorporate.       
Alexia’s expedition becomes also a pilgrimage with ordeals and not so much resembles anything that Willehalm might have experienced but someone seeking sainthood. -  Alexia, the twin sister of our old familiar St. Alexius Under the Stairs 


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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