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Saturday, September 8, 2018


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Perhaps you will indulge my below brief? Not just for Handke’s sake, but for literature, for the logos for whose sake, at least best as a not total idiot like myself can tell, has done more in recent memory to salvage and elaborate.  
However, near invariably, ever since his intervention in behalf of “justice for Serbia” in the early 90s, not just he but his work, initially well if of course imperfectly received, has been defamed in the U.S, and English-speaking domains for what I have come to regard not as just another marvelous exhibitionist and defiant performance of his, but an act of great courage – as a German-Austrian Slovenian he might well have left the matter with Slovenia becoming independent. Folks basically keep reviewing the same “Journeys to the River” that upset them so much in the 90s, and have neither read his preceding or subsequent Yugoslav-centered texts. I myself, who feel ambivalent about Handke as a person, for cause, then must have spent at least a year of my life mucking around the Yugoslav troubles, not what I thought I would be doing.

Handke’s love - one cannot argue with love, can one? - for the 2nd Federation, and its inheritor defender, Serbia, overcame whatever inhibitions, and what his then closest friends in Paris advised.
   Here two links that tell the story of the sorry U.S Handke reception.

However, you may feel about the Yugoslav matter, or how differently and less contentiously Handke might have dealt with it, his work, starting I would say with his great 1981 dramatic poem WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES [Ariadne Press] and the novel part of his “Long Homecoming” cycle, and his first walking book, THE REPETIION [1985], provides its readers with increasingly richer experiences, in the instance of Homecoming of an encounter with Alaska as nature as such… see my
The walking rhythms of The Repetition induced in me a profound sense of being. Mannheim does a creditable job in having similar pacing in the translation, though in general I far prefer his current prose translator, Krishna Winston except in those instances when she comes a cropper at difficult critical instances.
 I have friends who share my conviction that the end – the Berg und Tal Fahrt of SIERRA DEL GREDOS - is the greatest ending ever written; if you take a peak at the beginning of Gredos you will find a few pages that describe the root system of one the trees that were felled by the Orkan that hit Northern France in the late 90s – as finely perceived as a Vermeer painting or as Eudora Welty describe matters in her Oranges – her peeling of her pear made a lasting impression.
The opening of the epic narrative Moravian Night manifest the most extraordinary gradualness and artfulness – if only for his artfulness ought the mature Handke be praised to the skies.
The most recently – summer 2018 - published translation of his work, THE GREAT FALL

has a similar though equally powerful but shorter denouement to that of Gredos.  

What most likely – if we are to believe him – is the last of his five epics – the 2017 Alexia, the Fruit Thief [following The Repetition, the 1994 One Year in the No-Man’s Bay, the 2000 Across the Sierra del Gredos, and the 2007 Moravian Night] is a most joyous and adventurous exploration of the French Picardie.

I read large stretches of it with the same excitement that I read Karl May’s adventure stories as a youngster. Handke being Handke and wanting to assure future scholarly attention to his work – next to Goethe and Kafka he is already the third most written about German author and his notebooks are shared between the Austrian and German national archives and are accessible on line

– gets the scholar mice on their way by claiming, also in interviews, that Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century Willehalm stands in back of Alexia! Such a sly bastard!

It turns out that young Handke practiced writing the way Yehudi Menuhin did the violin & as a twenty-something reviewer for Austrian Radio it looks as though he was possessed of all critical knowledge and instruments!

As dramatist

Handke has Shakespearean dimension; of especial to interest to you might be the great political dramatic text, the best thing that he got immediately out of his involvement in Yugoslavia, Dugout Canoe, the Play about the Film about the War’; its first rate translation by Scott Abbott can be found in the Spring 2016 issue of Performing Arts Journal - Canoe is at least one step beyond Brecht in that it manifests the awareness of media as god.
 One first rate piece - 1997 Zurüstungen für die Unsterblichkeit. Königsdrama, (Preparations for Immortality: A Royal Drama), play is the only one that remains untranslated and Handke, last time I saw him, expressed reservations about Kaspar – which takes off from the Kaspar Hauser legend - one of his most famous and often done major plays – and its slavish translator then   dwelled on what one might object to in such a tour de force about language and politics [well worth doing again this point!]: that it was a bit noisy, hysterical, the way Oedipal contentions with a father can be, perhaps nihilistic in its ending, too anarchist?

For me the most fruitful approach to all his work, especially the plays - in conscious disregard of the usual literary categories - is to regard them as happenings and, thus, to dwell on the experiences that they createSeveral of the plays - THE RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE & THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER - achieve catharsis, in mysterious – by Aristotelian or Brechtian/ non-Aristotelian, but in seemingly positivist and therefore that is   expected ways, Ride via the use of Wittgensteinian language game-querying breaks down the resistance of the audience, at least mine who as the translator of anything but a “reading play” had really no idea what to expect from a performance: certainly not such a liberating experience as I would not  have again until I had what are called “good hours” while doing a psychanalysis. - Hour, the play – it is wordless - does something similar via an unending succession of change of images of the personages that appear in different, often fairy-tale garb; something subliminally mesmerizing occurs. Hour also manifests Handke as a supreme linguistic virtuoso: He takes you by your syntax as though it was your braid and does not let go until Z – it is one of the very great texts! 
The other great plays are the prize winning family resistance drama 2012 Storm Still, The Art of Asking, and of course his very first and still amazing essay-play Offending the Audience. And I think the last work I will have translated, the 2010 play that gets to the heart of pornography and erotic love, The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez.

 The work starting with the greatest and richest play, the 1981 Walk About the Villages and 1985 The Repetition certainly came as a huge surprise to this translator who was well aware that Handke initially presented himself as “the new Kafka” – justly so it would seem if you take a look at the first novels and plays which on first glance seem rife with Kafkaesque anxiety – yet there he was, a kid with a Beatles haircut, cheerful and irreverent, and if you take a look at novels and plays like My Foot My Tutor, Radio Play One, Goalies Anxiety and Die Hornissen & Der Hausierer, rather amazingly - though they play with anxiety they end up dispelling and overcoming it, in the most literary ways! An odd use to which to put literature until you find out that writing from his earliest beginning was a way for him to still his anxiety – and ample reason for profound intra-psychic anxiety existed – an instance that once again proves Freud’s conversion theory! - not just because of the bombing attacks to which he was subjected in Berlin as of 1943 [I in  Bremen had my initial bombing trauma in Spring 1940], but because he – love child of love children if ever there was - was exposed, as of age two, to a decade of brutal primal scenes – his mother married a comrade of the married German soldier love of her life and Handke became the surrogate love object – and I think mother love in this instance then overcame and continuous to instill joy into his prose – the Austrian literateur Peter Strasser even wrote a book to the effect of Handke’s work instilling joy Der Freudenstoff: Zu Handke eine Philosophie
   Not that an excess of mother love cannot get a young layabroad into a heap of trouble. Subsequent the shock of his mother’s suicide in 1971 [see Sorrow Beyond Dreams] his first wife left the layabroad who if not neglecting her was writing or tarrying with broads who all wanted to get laid! The twin abandonment nearly drove him to suicide: see the three long poems of Nonsense & Happiness ­­– where he loved the word “humbug” I found for what was bugging him.
There is an early play, Quodlibet, that points to what  Handke is about,  Quodlibet – “the play that catches the conscience of the king” [the audience now is king!] works on the principle of auditory hallucination – that is, it wishes to make the audience aware of its own projections; activist as the plays are Handke’s novels are projection screens – making you aware of aspects of yourself, while Handke becomes a master narrator, perhaps that is all, but what an all it is, that literature can achieve as well as to teach us to read by testing the limits of  syntax and of the duree of reading. Goalie, as of page one, syntactically involves the reader in the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic! Later, in the 90s One Dark Night I Left my Silent House he writes in dream syntax, the novel Absence in being read is experienced as a film! Del Gredos, whose protagonist is a bankieress who used to be an actress, has sudden passages which are experienced as film – and I recall shaking my head at the wizard’s sleight of hand. All this magic of course is not only done to show “Look Ma, no hands” but has a kinesthetic effect that induces renovating catharses. - Handke wrote me, around the time he completed the mid-70s rather suicidal A Moment of True Feeling -  redeemed by the sight of a reminder that he had a child to take care of - that he now was capable of doing everything he wanted with words, and I imagine that these technical feats – the sort of thing that has always interested this aging Joycean – proves that he was not boasting. His prose, initially influenced by the nouveauists, even then warmer, has become the supplest of instruments that shows how he has incorporated the great European and American prose stylists, perhaps Arab too since he reads Arabic.

I should not fail to mention two further dimensions: his assaying work as I call his novel way of exploring certain subjects – the Jukebox, fatigue, being a fool for mushrooms, what it meant as boarding school kid to seek refuge in the shithouse – by simultaneously anchoring these explorations in examinations of place. Three Essays was published a few years ago, and the remainder are in the works. To these assaying I would add Don Juan, as told by himself, a gem that the Nabokovians ought to compare with that master’s work. – In other words, Handke creates unique works of art.

The other important dimension is that Handke has published half a dozen excerpts from his note books that show the writer constantly “cooking” a jazz writer might say, of which unfortunately only the first, The Weight of the World exists in English – as to exhibiting your self how much else is there one might do? All translated into the Romance languages which have been kinder to Handke.

Frank Kermode initially introduced Handke to the U.S and English-speaking world as a model modernist

without deep knowledge of its Austrian variant. - I must say I, too, was unreflectively so at one time, a Poundian ABC of Reading aficionado who thought a “magazine” was the thing but who  eventually gave thought to what the modernism wanted after all its brush clearing; that is, to return to, in Pound’s case, a large variety of beautiful past matters; that is, modernism contained the germ not just of renovation but of deeply reactionary matters.-  Handke’s chief director, the great Klaus Peymann, teased him a few years ago by observing that Handke had become touchingly conservative! It appears that his obsession with newspapers has ceased but for the reading of Parisien & a soccer paper, his TV broke down five years ago & has not been repaired, occasionally he has friends over and they listen to a match! And in the matter of being at the forefront of psychology, he continues to be a laggard, no matter how progressive his prose innovations.

Handke uses his own life as the sources for his prose texts and drama in the instance of the Slovenian resistance family play Storm Still, and in that fashion exhibits what I call the Yoknapatawpha of his self.

Handke takes pride in not repeating himself, but only explores, I would say, certain formal possibilities to their limits, the way a musician might, and thus manifests his formalist origins, he regards himself as a realist, and as a prose writer certainly stands in the great tradition, but he is never a naturalist of any kind – which is part of the problem here in the USA, which does not grow but merely keeps duplicating itself.
The play Walk About the Villages its rhythms reverberate through his texts for many years; it became a touchstone of his; unfortunately Farrar Straus did not see fit to publish his great diary excerpt The History of the Pencil, which shows what thought he gave to Villages as it developed and his recourse to Greek drama of which he, a great translator from half a dozen languages, has translated several, as he has Shakespeare. FSG - where he has had at least ten different mostly assigned editors in the 50 years that he has been their author - failed to do Pencil despite the success of the first of these kinds of compilations, of Weight of the World, a depressive’s Nietzsche title! Aside being a love child intra-uterine Handke absorbed, anaclytically, his mother’s depression upon his actual father not marrying her – so one might suppose if one considers mother and son’s similar dispositions. – I think Handke knew fairly early on, upon deciding to live at the outskirts of a big city in the early 70s, that he would be a classic; he has done all the things that the great German classical and romantic poets have done, in original ways.

Handke is not a psychological writer – vide Left-Handed Woman – and there are folks whom this bothers, but not psychoanalytically trained me, who appreciates Handke’s kind of existentialism.

It is not that he does manifest moments, such as in the most recent marvel that I call ALEXIA, FRUIT THIEF where this alleged world traveling mid-twenties French sometimes runaway covets but one song and it is rap by Eminem, a moment of daftness also characteristic of his gauche behavior during his younger days which I put off to the left-overs not of his provincial piss-pot poor origins but his highest order autism, to which I also attribute the affinity he mentions throughout years of his texts, with such autistic idiots – and to his autism I ascribe his ultra sensitivity, eyes of a hawks, a bloodhounds nose, ears of a bat – I don’t know which animal had most sensitive skin, a porpoise?
  I love the guy most next to my heroic mother, yet some of his action have made me ambivalent, which elicits the thought that maybe that is why I haven’t become too parti pris. There are instances of physical violence, he can lie, hates being caught with his hands in the cookie jar [who does? After all!], and despite being one of the most generous can be real-low-life mean; can lash out unthinkingly even against those closest to him; suffers from certain features endemic to this enterprise - A mama’s boy has in that respect got a bit too much of a good thing – and still lacks a father figure but for his Slovenian grandfather, who voted for the first Yugoslav federation in 1919. – Oh yes, by the mid-90s, as of the writing of the magnificent portrait of six sides of an artist – My Year in the No-Man’s Bay ­– the once “new Kafka” began to muse that he was the new Goethe – in a number of respect that is indeed the case.

Enough already!

Sunday, August 19, 2018


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Eine Sammlung unwillkürlicher Selbstgespräche.„Empfänglich sein ist alles“ und andere Weisheiten. Notizbuch vom Ende Juli 2010.Foto: Chris Korner/DLA Marbacg
Im Halbrund aufgestellt, aneinandergelehnt und übereinandergestapelt, wie das Deutsche Literaturarchiv Marbach die 221 Notizbücher im vergangenen Oktober präsentierte, handelt es sich um ein Ehrfurcht gebietendes Textgebirge. Seine 33 000 Seiten, die Peter Handke von 1975 bis 2015 an insgesamt 14 600 Tagen anfertigte, ragen auch vor treuen Lesern als weitgehend unerschlossenes Massiv auf. Die Journale, die ihren Weg sorgsam ausgewählt aus der Kladde ins Buch fanden, „Das Gewicht der Welt“ oder zuletzt „An der Baumschattenwand nachts“, geben zwar einen Eindruck von Ton und Gehalt dieser Aufzeichnungen. Doch ihren besonderen Charakter gewinnen sie daraus, dass sie in ihrer Unkonzentriertheit eben nicht das Werk wollen, sondern das ewige Wuchern und die ewige Vorläufigkeit.
Ihr Ideal ist die permanente Weltmitschrift aus den Augenwinkeln heraus, leicht errungen und gedanklich noch nicht ausgehärtet. Gerade in dieser nach einer unmöglichen Totalität strebenden Summe verlieren die Notizbücher ihren Schrecken. Man könnte auch sagen: Sie mussten in dieser Vollständigkeit geschrieben werden – sie müssen nur nicht in dieser Vollständigkeit gelesen werden. Mit ihren das Ungestalte in eine unreine Form rettenden Wahrnehmungsexerzitien machen sie sich selbst überflüssig.
Die schönste Abkürzung durch ihre vielstimmigen Unendlichkeiten bietet jetzt ein von Ulrich von Bülow herausgegebenes Marbacher Magazin. Mit Faksimiles reich illustriert, macht es ein Projekt so sinnlich wie intellektuell begreiflich, das den Schriftbesessenen und Zeichner in seinen wichtigsten Facetten zeigt: den Naturbeobachter, der das Nebensächliche zu den Hauptsachen erklärt. Den im Halbdämmer Traumspuren festhaltenden Diaristen. Und den zwischen dem Streuobst seines Bewusstseins gezielt Lesefrüchte auflesenden Protokollanten

Natürlich sind die Notizbücher auch das Labor der Romane, aber eher im Sinne einer Einübung in ein Erzählklima als in einer Skizze des noch Auszuführenden. Ulrich von Bülows einführender Essay in Handkes Selbstkultivierungstechniken ist in seiner Kürze und Dichte ein Glanzstück des Bandes. Erhellend auch die Abschrift eines öffentlichen Gesprächs, das Handke und von Bülow zur Erwerbung der Notizbücher am 18. Oktober 2017 in Marbach führten. Der Autor gibt darin selten aufgeräumt Auskunft über seine Entwicklung.
Unter anderem klärt er die Bedeutung des Kürzels „U. S.“, das für „unwillkürliches Selbstgespräch“ steht. „Ich denke manchmal irgendetwas, und das ist in dem Moment derartig blöd, manchmal wie von Karl Valentin“, erklärt Handke. „Zum Beispiel: ,Ich wundere mich über gar nichts mehr.‘ Und dann sage ich mir: ,Dann lass dich doch gleich begraben.‘ Das ist überhaupt kein Gedanke, das ist ein unwillkürliches Selbstgespräch.“
In weiteren Essays widmet sich Ulrich von Bülow Handkes „Heidegger-Lektüren“ und den „Spinoza-Lektüren“. Vor allem der letztgenannte Aufsatz leistet Pionierarbeit. Er weist nach, wie Spinozas „Ethik“, ein umfassender, vom Ontologischen bis zum Erkenntnistheoretischen reichender philosophischer Entwurf, der Gott und Natur in eins setzt, Handkes 1979 mit „Langsame Heimkehr“ einsetzende Tetralogie zu prägen begann. Auch „Das stehende Jetzt“, der Titel des Marbacher Bandes, geht auf jene Zeit zurück. In seiner lateinischen Variante „Nunc stans“, die das Zusammenfallen von Moment und Ewigkeit meint, erprobte er den von ihm eigenwillig interpretierten Begriff in seinen Notizbüchern, ehe er 1980 in die ersten Sätze der „Lehre der Sainte-Victoire“ Eingang fand. „Einmal bin ich in den Farben zu Hause gewesen“, heißt es da. „Naturwelt und Menschenwerk, eins durch das andere, bereiteten mir einen Beseligungsmoment, den ich aus den Halbschlafbildern kenne, und der Nunc stans genannt worden ist.“
Das Nunc stans ist bis heute das beste Mittel, den Grundwiderspruch von Handkes Projekt, vielleicht sogar aller Kunst, aufzulösen: nämlich ein Sehen, das sich erst im Schreiben verwirklicht – und dadurch der Welt bereits als etwas Anderes, für immer Fixiertes gegenübertritt. So, wie die angehaltene Zeit in den Strom der Dinge zurückfließt, um von Neuem angehalten zu werden, geschieht es auch mit dem objektivierten Satz und dem lebendigen Bewusstsein.
Das stehende Jetzt. Die Notizbücher von Peter Handke. Gespräch mit dem Autor und Essays von Ulrich von Bülow. 152 S., 18 €. Bestellung:

Monday, August 6, 2018


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By Peter Handke
Translated by Krishna Winston
Seagull Books, distr. U. Of Chicago Press

Has there ever been a writer like Austro-German-Slovenian author Peter Handke? Or one approximating him? Since 1964 Handke has published  three dozen  works of prose, two dozen on the shorter side compared to half a dozen of epic-length; as well as two dozen plays, and a few films, most of which work is available in translation - yet Handke does not repeat himself.  He has won just about every prize for prose expect the Nobel and for the theater the Ibsen Prize, the prize for drama. During the course of these fifty plus years the great walker that Handke has become has explored landscapes as varied as the French Picardie, the Spanish Del Gredos, the Slovenian Carso and the region near Paris where he has lived the past twenty five years and that he calls „No-Man’s-Bay”; and a burgeoning self. The act of reading his oeuvre provides a unique experience, that differs from work to work; reviewing Handke thus is demanding, an effort that repays itself, most times, in the form of great pleasure.
However, if you did not know identity or nationality of the author of the just published The Great Fall, chances are, reading its first chapter, you would say that it was of French origin; if truly well-read you might even consider that its hyper-observant, finely detailing author might be Peter Handke, and not a French wench. For, The Great Fall has a most  misleading first chapter: a man wakes up in a bed not his own,

"That day, the one that ended with the Great Fall, began with a morning storm. The man, the one who is to be the subject of this narration, was awakened by a powerful thunderclap. The house, along with the bed, will have trembled and for a long moment will have continued to shake. Moment: that had no connection to the man lying there. Frightened out of his sleep, he kept his eyes closed and waited -- how would the event continue."  {scott abbott’s tranlsation]

it is that of a long-time - it turns out - sleeping buddy whom he claims not to love, and which seems fine with her; she is already off to work; but, though the house still holds a few mysteries for its long-time visitor – he busies himself putting it in order as though he was the woman’s man-servant-house-husband.
  It’s a wonderful chapter with a Handkean thunderstorm and rain, and fantasy can imagine all kinds of erotic complications, especially if you know of the then aging layabroad’s perhaps still complicated erotic life. – Great Fall’s completion date is 2011, Handke was a nearly 70 year young daily walker who is having fun claiming that the book was written in the redneck town of Great Falls, Montana, a town that the world traveler visited once when his friend Wim Wenders was filming there.
    His chores completed, the protagonist – an actor,  a star actor, is Handke’s personae this time around – not an archaelogist or geolgist - a fact that ought to alert the reader that more than the usual sleight of hand business might be afoot - sets out on a big walk from its outskirts to Paris, and he has the characterist shoelace problems of Handke’s protagonists-personae; and, those familiar with Handke’s immense and varied walking oeuvre, will not be surprised to have the surrogate Handke walk backwards a few times, even up an incline this once. Moreover, the symbol hunters among the readers will notice any number of minor mishaps, a lemon seed becomes frustratingly lost under a bed, a coffee mug falls and shatters – ah premonitions of a „big fall” – well let me clue you in right now, there is no „great fall” as little as the books was written in „Great Falls” Montana.
 However, for the next seven of its nine chapters – that is not until near the end - there is really no mention of the house or the woman, although she enchants him at an eatery in Paris without his recognizing her at first – one of the actor’s numerous foibles being the inability recognize those closest to him in an unfamiliar setting. By the end of the book - that cuts short the imminent consummation - great love it seems has set in for that woman. „The face of a beautiful woman is a gate to paradize” the hater of veils states at one point.
The Great Fall is one of Handke’s many walking books, but a walking book of slow progress with many halts for fine and thorough and succinct exploration of a dozen or so extraordinary incidents, and near endless self-interrogating dialogue with himself, as he wends walks hops gropes slithers his way in truly adventurous and at times near animalistic fashion from the Paris outskits to the center of town – the book could lop off the first chapter and substitute the wonderful opening of Alexia, the Fruitthief

 - with the protagonist’s bare foot receiving the first bee-sting of the year - written six years later, also a summer book, that has for its narrator Peter Handke as dweller of the Noman’s-Bay of My Year in the Noman’s Bay and which refers to The Great Fall at a significant moment. Would anyone object to Handke titeling Great Fall „A Peter Handke Walk to the Center of Paris”? This strikes me as a summa of Handke Paris Walker’s best! The strongest experiences not necessarily the most pleasant of course. And if you want to interpret that walk – overll - as one to hell, or yet another of his trek’s to Golgotha, don’t let me stop you.
  Readers of Afternoon of a Writer,
 Handke’s short projection-drenched projection-screen walking novel of 1988, will be intrigued yet disappointed in the matter of Handke projecting in Great Fall, but for a few moments; doing so especially with the theme of helping and saving; that is, obviously, the actor being in need to be saved himself, as has been the case for decades, or at least since Tilman Moser noted as much in his piece on the 1974 A Moment of True Feeling.

Not that Handke had more but the briefest truck with the Tilman Moser’s of this world as you can note in his Weight of the World.  
Nor does the incremental walk that is The Great Fall, - unlike e.g. The Repetition
 - induce any kind of walking pace in me, but is an instance of Handke stringing together fascinating - initially unrelated - incidents and observations accumulated during those many walks, and whose cumulation as he penetrates further into Paris become darkly visionary. There is a streak of violence and sense of a deeply frayed society running through the incidents that culminates in a presidential address and mass demonstration in the center city, but for an extraordinary lunch that the actor – accidently, courtesy of a chapel’s oddly attractive one-note tolling - shares with a working class mechanic priest. That scene itself is worth the price of admission as is each of these self-contained and sufficiently dramatic portraits. However, as one of Handke’s walking books – 60 k words long or short - it therefore makes slow progress, and the progress - when described - can be astonishingly grueling - unimaginable so to railway, plane or bus visitor.
As the actor leaves the house he first has to work his way through a forest that has a „forest madman” who will remind the Handke reader of a similar creature in Handke’s great play Voyage by Dugout – The Play abobt the Film about the War [fn] who stinks like a cadaver and emits vile curses for everyone to shut up – I recognized him as one of these dispersed by the Yugoslav wars living in a reconstituting prairie here in Seattle, a big Slavic guy, scared like the proverbial little girl. „Where are you from?” – I wanted to know his tribe - „Here, Seattle.” He and his single blanket wouldn’t even let me buy him a cup of coffee. What those people did to each other! Civil wars seem indeed to be the worst.
He comes on the once refugium of a once carpenter apprentice, aged 16 like his own son. He notes the changing sky. It is a transitional chapter and nature appears to be in transition too. He also engages in some truly odd asides or mental speculations, perhaps just to keep himself from being bored: various items are transformed into what one would generically call "fools gold" of every kind, meant to trick potential fellow walker into being educated and accurately informed. Our actor has a fine way of working his way directly over just about any kind of obstacle. The immigrant he calls the last man on earth, but then forbids himself such grim thoughts. This chapter, that contains no end of beautiful observations of nature, ends on this fairly somber note.
Once out of the forest the actor encounters, in one outlieing region numerous of the aging demented being taken for their daily shuffle. He comes upon an old acquaintance, once neighbor friend in a different country, who too has lost his marbles, on the Gobi desert – but The Great Fall, for those in a comparing frame of mind, is nothing like that projection screen for readers Afternoon of the Writer where ample room is left for the reader-writer to imagine himself on such an walk and where Handke projects so much of his innerworld – his fears, his wishes, murderous impulses, inverted grandiosity, very much in the subtly ironic manner of his favorite Goethe’s Elective Affinit;, justfied satisfaction, as well of course as the finest lyrical description of a walk down the Salzburg’s Moenchsberg and through town and time spent in a grim dive and back up-hill – an account of just a few hours.
There are the juvenile gangs in districts closer to town. At a huge deserted railway yard the actor is waylaid by two cops who pounce on him as only cops with too liitle work can and who suspect and treat him, a foreigner, as a terrorist and to the third degree – I have had similar encounters in the most deserted strethes in an over-policed world – but the mere show of my out of date and possibly fake – how could they tell?  NY City Press I.D and they are gone like the wind that brought them, no apologies.
The star actor is on his way to Paris to receive an award from the nation’s president [during the course of his ruminations he decides to skip the ceremony] and to play, in a film, an amok-running madman - a beserker character out of Handke’s psyche from as far back as the three long fuguing poems in Nonsense & Happiness [fn]
 and recurring ever since, if you are familiar with his texts and their marvelous surfeits, of the affinity Handke feels with the idiots he runs into – a high end autist’s affinity it is. - At a significant moment, the actor – described as being on the order of a DeNiro who „becomes the raging bull” – sees an amok-runner staring at him from the Metro window and then realizes that that amok-runner is a reflection of himself! It is one of those great instances of Handke’s projecting, and realizing it, and perhaps merely playing - though in a superbly convincing manner - will then extirpate that impulse once and for all? - and Handke leaves it at that and does not, as he has not in the past fifty plus years that I have been translating and reading amok-running texts of his, seek to fathom the origin of or persistence of that impulse. At another point,  Handke’s supremely sensitive antennae project world-wide imminent road-rage breaking out as even the closest of neighbors turn on each other and Handke makes it a point to discount what he terms the suggestion of „psycho-physicists” that the explosion of aggression is due to a lack of inter-European wars during the past 75 years. Well no, „pscho-physicists” in the form of those educated by Kohut in Self Psychology - which meanwhile has indeed defined the quarks of the self to the same degree that modern physics has sub-atomic particles - has far more refined notions why generation upon generation of psychic deprivation in a world of capitalist competition and the culture industry and political falsehood and the false promises of advertising  and their consequences have a dire effect on the emotional household of the individual, creating powder kegs – across all class lines! Handke, great activist writer, and descriptor, continuous developer of the capacity of prose narration, one of the best antennae, once again shows his backwardness in matters state of the art of psychology; it persists since it manifested itself in some incredibly backward comments on narcissism in the otherwise great One Dark Night I Left My Silent House. Adorno, in other words, too would disapprove!
The actor is a moody fellow. At one point a starvation artist’s hunger seizes him – ‘Hadn’t he had breakfast among all the stuff he was doing at that house?’ occurred to me – as well hunger to consume his woman whom he must have consumed to previous night to wake up so well-disposed. All around horny fellow you conclude. But soon enough there will be a down moment.
Great Fall being the account of a single day’s walk one is tempted to compare it to The Afternoon of the Writer. Moments of misanthropism
to be sure as the sight of mindless groupings; wonderful long descriptions of the light and dark of the sky as the day progresses and the actor enters an equally light entrancing Paris and the heat-lightning provides premonitions of a second thunderstorm. The actor’s maddening walkabout there - after a frightful mass assembly that viewed the president’s declaration of war has broken up - will remind all those who have wandered about at night in a heavily peopled megalopolis and without a clear goal and too much time on their hands - a sequence rendered in an astonishingly film-like intense manner - I can’t summarize in any other way but to say that it becomes an extraordinary experience for the reader; Handke at his best.
The novel’s last sentence „and then there was the Great Fall” – as the actor is about to I suppose marry this woman – the same woman as the previous night!- seven years later in the Fruitthief Handke is – hear hear! – starts to fancy the „marriage sacrement”! – is  a true puzzle; until you realize that  Handke likes to sign off with „infinitely mysterious,” as he does his Fruitthief and some other titles, and I think this final sentence is just another most intriguing way of doing so – no need for a fall of any kind.
Seagull, now Handke’s second English language publisher have done a bang-up job with a book on the same high order as all of Handke’s shorter novels.
 Krishna Winston’s translation is a true delight; and I only wish that Seagull issue some of the other importat titles that Farrar, Straus has neglected. Handke’s second novel Der Hausierer, the nearly socialist realist portrait of a saltworks Kali; and a number of all important notebook condensations Geschichte des Bleistift’s, Gestern Unterwegs [avaiblable in translation into Romance languages], along the line of its sole exmaple that exists in English, the so revelatory Weight of thre World.



Fn] That forest madman is also a real person and has become a Serbian facebook friend of mine and is an instance where Handke’s impulse to „save” was successful. Novo was arrested in Germany for having failed to prevent a human rights violation during the Yugoslav wars  - imagine that, the successors of the Nazi Reich will arrest a foreign national for not stopping a war crime! Handke, hearing of the case, managed to get Novo released and then was best man at his wedding.

Thursday, July 5, 2018


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and now the equally - but differently - inverted and playful and differently semi-autobiographical projection screen

all part of re-reading the sleight-of-hand artist’s shorter, semi-autobiographical fictions  -

Let me approach the deeply puzzling and intriguing AFERNOON OF A WRITER - that I have not reread these past 30 some years and am doing for the first time in its brittle Ralph Mannheim translation [1] - by focussing on an example of one of its most prominent features: projection

As the Great Oracle of Vienna had it: „By your projections thou shalt know thyself!”

On page 55 of the U.S. edition we come on what is likely one of Handke biggest but certainly one of his nastiest, grossest and most revealing lies, and an extrairdinary loss of cool, a lie that - it turns out because it is so forcefully put and in full awareness of its mendacity - then becomes for the reader an opening to that so compact novel’s and Handke’s work numerous other projections – of the writer’s woundedness – by gossip - in the form of a woman hit-and-run victim tossed into the bushes, the writer addressing the world Walter Mitty fashion via a projected announcer who then breaks down on the air... via the alleged feeling to be „nothing” – an evaluation buttressed by no less than a Goethe quote – pointing to the fact that, as is so frequently the case, the claimed nothings really think they are the hottest of hot shits – as of course befits the  prodigal player Peter Handke and is a justfied self-evaluation in a number of writerly but no other respects [which then needs to be tucked away] – the kind of player who by the time he wrote AFTERNOON had devised sleight-of-hand plays on the order of the xxx Ionescoish ‘The Ride Across Lake Constance”,
the grand WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES and the astounding prose works DER HAUSIERER, GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK – marked by a paranoid schizophrenic’s projections and his killing of a woman he has picked up as he becomes enraged – the memorable metaphor for rage the boiling bubbles on the hotplate turning into a ants; the paranoid SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL; THE LEFT-HANDED WOMAN [THE IDEAL LIFE]  an inversion of the then state of affairs into wished for normalcy... until Handke looses his cool, during a critical period in Salzburg, as he does at the end of page 55; and it is worth quoting the page in its entirety and then explicating and puzzling why Mr. Handke breaks the cool in Salzburg mid-1980s...  after having written that marvel THE REPETITION and about to flee back to Paris. How much of the notoriety ascribed to „The Writer” – of a kind befitting the later Handke of the Yugoslav Troubles but in AFTERNOON rather the alluded to Thomas Bernhard – was the case, had the Marie Colbin troubles reached the stage of notoriety? According to Scott Abbott she was persuing him from bar to bar!  
Best as I know is that Handke’s statements opposing the Waldheim campaign met the usual opposition – imagine that: in Austria in the mid-80s, 40 years after the end of Nazism opposing an old Nazy criminal running for office becomes a big deal! – Handke had called Austria „fat” – In ACROSS [Chinese des Schmerzens} a Swastika-smearer is tossed across a cliff of the Salzurg Moenchsberg. However, Handke was an acknowledged important author of well-known plays; his great WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES had not gone over well at its famous Salzburg premiere in 1982.
He lived among what the doorman at the Hotel Mirabelle called „the big animals atop the hills „ , the Moenchsberg

M:View of Salzburg from Moenchberg lift Stock Photo - 42199026

And I visited him there once in 1980 upon my victorious ruturn from a month as a piece of cultural exchange in Bugaria and beat him at Tarok, a loss that Handke suffered as badly as he writes in VillageS even as a child he could not handle losing.

The writer heads off to a dive, that Mannheim, improbably lodged in the language of Dicken’s London, calls a gin mill, and is accosted by someone who calls him „a weakling and a liar” – the latter of which is the case, „weak” and „strong” are adjectives that lose all significance once you have done an analysis. The writer seems to be working on a story and expresses a certain degree of satisfaction among his general grumpiness; he is rehearsing the next morning’s work – all that fits just about any writer and points to AFTERNOON as a projection screen – something Handke achieves in just about every work of his and which accounts for his readers’ entanglement in his work. Handke also projects his INNERWORLD, invariably, obviously most manifestly in the series of texts by that name

The INNERWORLD projected here is a grumpy but secrectly superior self, obviously the descriptions of the winterscape are first rate, nothing else is to be expected from a first-rate writer of that kind, the quality of his observations speaks for him. The book suffers perhaps from a certain monotony because the writer seems to have no family, no mention of Handke’s daughter Amina she being one of the reasons he had returned to Austria to make sure she had an Austrian education [at one time I looked at various French lycees in New York for Amina when Handke contemplated relocating to a New York suburb in the 70s – a fantasy that his unhappy time writing LANGSAME HEIMKEHR in the Hotel Adams in 1978/9 extirpated once and for all!]; no family means no complications that would complicate the afteroon that therefore seems more like that of an old man. Only a cat, no wife, no girlfriend, no friends of any kind that he runs into, a few folks ask for autographs – actually the title ought to be AFTERNOON OF A KNOWN WRITER – he is self-conscious about his fame. He longs for the re-appearance of a beautiful woman who once showed her face in the dive – a dive that seems not to have any great sluts, at least none that he notes.
There is that wonderful section where Handke puts his valedictory to translating into Ralph Mannheim’s mouth.


The passage from AFTERNOON I have in mind that is a true entry wound to the book and to Handke
incepts at the top of page 55 – a few pages later in the German - with the words „Suddenly he felt the need to read something” and -  after a description of a variety of „wish you were here” postcards of Southwest landscapes, animal & incident that I sent Handke and others while I and a new love had cut out to the Southwest in 1985 away from the world of the Con, and sucessfully translating his marvelous Walk About the Villages - entirely forgetting in that process the division Handke had placed, half a decade prior, to a possible friendship with the translator and editor of all his early work in English - and continues: „... the last recognizable letters vanished from the text. Only recently, paralell series of dots, semi-circles, and wavy lines had suggested arabesques; now the lines had lost all shape and were so far apart that it was hard to conceive of any connection between them. Only the address and the „As ever” and signature at end were still written as plainly as before. What the obscure scribble communicated to the addressee was a furious effort, manifested by the pressure of the pen, the split lines, and the blots – as though the writer had repeatedly and vainly assaulted the paper. But this mutilated cuneiform, in which all traces of the human hand had been extinguished also expressed something else: a threat, an omen of death aimed at the addressee.” 


For efficiency and clarity’s sake, let me provide the background that led to what is a deep and total lie if only for Handke’s willful displacement of the timing – who of course fails to provide the background or the story, and lives safely but falsely in the mystery.
 The only one who is assaulting anyone here is Mr. Handke and it is me because I showed him after he had threatened me – I guess it must have been a shock to have been confronted after all that time! - that he had been [1] caught red-handed in the cookie jar & [2] is unable stomach defiance of one of his patented threats
And is thus manifesting [3] a truly Germanic lack of a sense of humor to a letter that allowed as humorous a response as the terms in which it was put;  vengefully issueing [4] a monstrous lying distortion.   

Lets start at the start of the start of the episode that leads to Handke’s perversion:
  1981 this translator of all of Handke’s early plays received the text of the great UEBER DIE DOERFER

 – a godsend at the time - which - after several onslaughts, of arduous but amazing labor – see the postscript – and an extensive correspondence between author and translator - became WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES

    Handke wrote that it was the best translation he had ever seen, and that it was „cutting,” in the good sense – he was right on the first part: having shouted out the text to give the verbal finish to this translation for voice for actors to speak I realized myself that it was one of the two translations – the other were 65 Nelly Sachs poems in OH THE CHIMNEYS - that had engaged every aspect of me - head and heart and guts. That Handke’s ear picked up the cuttingness of the text – it was a time downtown you did not want to encounter the living edge of my rage - confirmed once again my sense of his ultra perceptiveness.
Moreover, the work on the translation of this great and demanding text had made me so happy that I entirely forgot a dastardly act of Handke’s of about half a decade prior where he had taken forceful possession of my main squeeze, the „great fondness,” who on her way back from Africa it had been suggested might visit someone whose work I was translating and publishing. It wasn’t even the taking possession that was so troubling – though Handke might have first called me in New York and asked - as he did his editor Elisabeth Borcher’s husband - whether he could sleep with someone I call the Great Fondness to distinguis her from a number of carnitas passions; and after the initial surprise at the request I would have done as Borcher’s husband did and left it up to Fondness what she would do. – It was not an instance - as there were a few in my lifetime - where physical infidelity made for instant cleavage.  
Under the then there circumstances, had I been a Renaissance warrior or just an ordianry walrus had Handke not been an admired genius author or it had been the „great passion” who had been taken posession of, I might also have killed the bastard the next time he appeared at my door in New York... or he and the great fondness could have fallen in love and the Great Fondness would not have lost any of the Fondness I foisted on to her.
   I myself went back to passion [for my greatest love, MUSIC-A] and initially became no less fond of the Great Fondness, or that semi-Platonic notion – and that good sense and duration of that kind might easily and fruitfully prevail in a couple where both parties are of a literary persuasion. - It was an instance where we might have had yet another entry to a 20th century Laclos revival as they were being lived out during those now long-ago days that Laclos’s work most appropriately was beginning to be read and filmed.  No Laclos relationships, however, for Mr. Handke who can’t or I should say couldn’t handle it if one of his affairs while he was married had another lover. A Pasha of a Walrus he! Under different circumstances we would have employed enuchs in our seraglios!  
– But no, one of the two or three decisive cleavage moments – cleavage of possible friends – manifested itself yawningly like a quaking gulf when the threesome met at the  Algonquin, Handke’s usual New York residence, upon Handke not even seeming to recognize, barely acknowledge a woman to whom he had confessed, among many matters, that his wife Libgart Schwartz leaving him in the early 70s was the worst thing that had ever happened to him – as I – had I been as well-schooled as I am now - might have realized on the basis of translating his fuguing   NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS
 ... not that I think that that is actually the worst....
   The „great fondness” reporting on the goings on at the Lion’s den, Handke’s basement apartment at Rue Montmorency [which I knew quite well], was most enlighting. Like Handke himself, his young daughter was treated to exhibits of the primal scene and expressed typical jealousy. By age 30, in 1972 Peter Handke had committed the delikte of both his real father, a Herr Schoenherr, and his stepfather Bruno Handke – he had, if we are to believe Morawian Night, fathered an illegitimate child in Krk/Cordula [but in compare to his father appears to have made no move to remain in touch with mother or child], had beaten women and his child, to whom he also behaved sadistically in many other ways [vide Weight of the World & for me his weakes because unaware book A Child Story -2] ; he had been a true layabroad in a world of broads waiting to get laid; and, he couln’t handle it if these women – Libgart, Marie Colbin, Sophie Semin - split for pretty much the same set of reasons; neglect, fanatical cold salamander at his desk; liberally unfaithful and insulting in his behavior as I noticed during the Handke, Kolleritchs, Schwartz visit to NY in 1971.


That afternoon of non-acknowledgment and recognition at the Algonquin spooked spookable me, was the fellow schizophrenic? Had there been some motive in taking possession of the great fondness? – he had just left the 25th floor apartment I had lent him, for it being suicidal! and moved back into the Algonquin. –  That afternoon followed a by-then ten-year’s acquaintance that you can read up on at:

and als read footnote # 13.

And ever after I kept my distance from the person or sought if possible to interpose a third, usually Michael Brodksy. Which was followed by my 1980 conquering visit to Handke in Salzburg! that showed me, retrospectively, that I was on a trip to show Handke that I too could dominate. A unique event.

Handke, it turned out, had no interest in the Great Fondness who is memorialized in Weight of the World as someone who learns a number of foreign languages to be able to write a biography. –


In the late 90s in Seattle I happened to meet Wim Wenders who inquired whether Handke and I were still friends. Without explaining that maybe we had never even been, or indicating that I continued to cherish his work - but after mentioning the then long-ago incident Wenders then cited that Handke intentionally hurt all those closest to him.
    Not knowing Wenders, but aware of others Handke had injured both psychically and physically, I failed to ask what Handke had done to injure Wim – who nonetheless has continued to work with Handke over these many years.  
  I have no idea whether the injury Handke caused me and that I entirely forgot during the translation of the great play and subsequent cutting out west and writing of „wish you were here” postcards, so that in fact we could have become or perhaps were friends - was incidental or intentional –  or whether the Handke of the panic states and loss of mother and feminine love and fighting Jeanne Moreau acted out of his usual pashadom that all the women in the world were his - even when married his affairs could have no other lovers aside the Walrus from Griffen! The pasha whose wives kept then kept running away from him because he became a cold-blooded salamander writer, Libgart, Marie Colbin, Sophie Semin who then rejoined him after both had had another series of affairs and Handke finally figured out that separate residences was the solution if he wanted to keep at least one wife.  
   The writing of this page 55 in other words was thoroughly delusionary - the postcards were sent quite a while prior to the decisive blowup, were happy „wish you were here” cards. Handke distorts them after I  replied enlightengly to a Handke threat that he would abbrogate our friendship if I persisted writing tough letter of the kind as I had to PEA as I had subequent to returning form the West and found out that they abrobated an agreed upon contract. „It was something one could not do to him.” Nothing, of course, was being done to him; his statement manifests the man’s extraordinary self-referentiality which you can also find in his correspondence with Unseld and others.
    My handwriting has a curious history. My mother introduced me to reading and writing Christmass 1939 by giving me one of these famous wax tablets that had letters rising out of it if you rubbed it in the right way - magic to a curious four year old as the computer screen became once again. I then had primary school in Vornbach am Inn far in the Southeast, a very rural Bavarian village school in Stifter country far from the bombs, and the Volkschule in the village of Schoenebeck, Bremen. I recall the script of that time, a kind of Gothic; in the U.S. as of 1950 I then changed to writing individual letters – that is, printing more than writing, which however if you speed it up and if the pen and paper are not conducive to each other can come out looking angular – perhaps that is what Handke’s „cuneiform” refers to. However, he had been receiving letters - not just postcards - with that kind of writing for more than a decade and I don’t recall his complaining; rather the opposite, there was a time during this Paris period that he was apparently so lonely that he asked me to write him – which I did in my degenerating German, and he asked me to switch back to English. It took a while to figure out why such a successful writer was so lonely – once you contemplate his behavior at the time his loneliness become less mysterious. Why his behavior is/ was so odd – tollpatchig was what his antagonist Reich-Ranicki called it – becomes less mysterious once Handke makes you aware, as he did Gamper, of autistic episodes – that is even differently mysterious until you examine the vagaries of autism!


My own bad luck initially in New York persisted  [AT- Urizen is attributable to my failure to go see a lawyer to take care of a partner whom Handke it happened to be described as „very dark”] and at Farrar Straus in the sense that the fellow at that august firm [where I had brought Handke in the 60s, and where I had published two volume of his early plays and several of his novels], a creep who had opposed  Handke and all my  work from the very start – a children’s book editor who had killed my Adorno Reader with a Susan Sontag introduction! after I left to become the Suhrkamp agent – had become - incroyable! - editor in chief – and Handke, well apprised with ccs of my correspondence, observed very accurately that this Iago type was treating me as only such a little shit could... and was astonished at my persistence, about which I did not enlighten him: it had to do with Roger Straus’s promise to do the play once I was done - a matter on which as on so many other that crook then welched. You, too, in you early years may be dazzled by the kind of list that this firm had in the mid 1960s – Lowell, Wilson, Barthelme, Susan Sontag, etc. into thinking that matters must be all above board! Not that they cannot be, but often as I then found out they were anything but.

Though warned about Straus prior to being asked if I wanted to work there, he nonetheless managed to fleece me of ¾ quarters of my royalties – e.g on 15 of the 20 Hesse tiltles – a matter of many thousand dollars during the life of those contracts which would have made a huge difference, for one in my and Urizen Book’s life; the firm made millions from the titles I brought them. I persisted in that instance to have it on the record that Straus lied. Straus successors have been equally remiss. This was also about the time that Roger Straus wrote Unseld at Suhrkamp that he had a Handke problem – a problem of his own making because he did a lousy job publishing him as the firm then did forever after.
  Subsequentl to the FSG blowup I found Performaing Arts Journal -PEA- folk whom I had given work prior to their starting their own firm, who would do the play; managed to win the first of two big belated lawsuits against the criminal partner

 and managed to get out of the Big Bright City via a new passion that took me to the Southwest and back into healthy nature. There we did a lot of traveling  - Southwest Texas and New Mexico - and then settled in Billy the Kid country and I sent Handke and others postcards by the bunches. The ones from White Sands and Big Bend I think were the most spectacular. Only two Sierras – the Carmen Range near Big Bend vice versa the Ria Grande which is quite grande again resupplied by Mexican waters, and the Sacramentoes in N.M. where M. and I had our fix-me-up hunting lodge. 
I returned to New York about a year later to close down my loft and what if Performing Arts haven’t welched on our contract; and with all the ills I had suffered then sent them a sledge hammer on your toes kind of letter, with cc to Handke in Salzburg, whereupon I received a letter back that started with the words „nice to hear from  you again” - no mention of all those lovely picturesque cards! – and whose two significant sentences were: „this was something one could not do to him” - that of course really rang the bell! - and if I persisted in writing these kinds of letters it was bye bye friendship.
 I was working to get our work published – nothing was being done TO Mr. Handke; but it is a sentence proving Handke’s astounding self-referentiality that characterize AFTERNOON OF A WRITER, too, and the characterization of my handwriting is a projection of Handke’s own death wishes for me; the clearest instance of Handke’s psychosis, the kind of psychotic act that Bloch performs in Goalie.
It was never a good thing to threaten me, but especially not in the years 1982-86. Meanwhile, courtesy of Malte Herwig’s biography we know that Handke is a threatener who threatened friend Kolleritch that Manuskripte would never receive another manuscript of his if they ever ran a negative review of one of his works again.
  I wrote back „re: friendship - Aren’t we lucky” and cited the incident with the Great Fondness „ and for good and nasty measure on my end hadn’t I desisted running away with the insulted and neglected Libgart when the Handke, Kolleritch, Libgart package had been in New York in 1971! Wasn’t she the right rasante for me!... Who ran away to seek refuge with Peymann within the year of our not running away in New York [3], from the cold infidel insulting layabroad salamander ! where-upon Handke had famously spat out the sleepingtablet!   ...   
Mention of Libgart was nasty of me, I had a sense that Libgart splitting had been a major blow, though I had not examined the matter as closely as I have now. No, I knew. The Great Fondness had been told and she told me.
  Handke might as easily have responded with the gallows humor of my reply and we could have laughed the matter off and really have become friends. But no.
The upshot of this exchange was that Handke turned at once to Ralph Mannheim to do another DOERFER translation, which Farrar, Straus however, also, did not publish – that brilliant firm gave up on Handke’s plays at the moment that he became a mature author, all the great later plays, if translated, are all over the place. Subsequently, that genius Steve Wasserman who was running Hill&Wang at that time, the FSG division that did plays at that point, turned down ART OF ASKING & HOUR – imagine that! And in a later exchange with me defended this on the grouds of profitability – KASPAR at that point was probably in its 10th printing and LAKE CONSTANCE at least in its second.
Aside the possibility that Handke was eager to see what the play would do on the stage in English, I expoect my answer - judging by the viciousness of Handke’s memorialization of the episoe in AFTRNOON - was regarded as an act of lese majeste. I had noticed Handke’s vulnerabilities in that respect when I beat him at Taroq at my Moenchberg visit – and he is someone who writes about himself as a child unable to suffer the sliightely defeat of any kind; but, nonetheless, self or occasioal self-awareness does not seem to lead to a change in modus. Still, the viciousness of the p.55 AFTERNOON projection ctd. my breath away after all these years. Here is the man who keeps dreaming of running amok, the potential killer who got ever so lucky by being a writer, and smart by living at the edge of town!
It took a while to find a publisher for VILLAGES, but Ariadne permitted an extensive postscript; yet failed to send review copies even to Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal – thus their books don’t sell and no one but their 500 Austrian subscribers ever hear of them. For six months work I got a total of 650 dollar,  500 Austrian via Ariadne, $ 150 from Partisan review who pre-published a chunk; and a fine bottle of California Red wine from the St. Monica Review who also pre-published a chunk.
But VILLAGES also became my „heart test” – which few passed,and the GREAT FONDNESS of whom I was growing less fond for a variety of reasons only responded to a the single sentence that cites „the hefty taxes” – success had changed her, and not for the better.
  So much for WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES being a PEACE TEXT, a Godsend that turned into an ALBATROSS.

I only translated two more Handke text. One was a brief idyllic text that I found too beautiful to withstand and that can be found in the St. Monica Review & a few years back, for my Serbian director friend Zejlko Dukic in Chicago, THE BEAUTFUL DAYS OF ARANJUEZ
Handke and I it turns out both know of the pornographic heart of the world its great pleasures and its potential for pain.
During the time of the Yugoslav troubles I wanted to translate Handke’s DUG-OUT CANOE

because I had one Ret White here at Cornish who seemed interested in mounting it. Handke nixed it with the curious message via the Suhrkamp Agent „that I should accept” – I didnt accept any foolishness, but it was just as well that I did not go to the trouble.  As usual, Ret White at Cornish did not follow up, typical of the in that respect utterly provincial and disappointing Seattle:
 Meanwhile Scott Abbbott has produced a fine translation of this great piece of work that had been published by PEA
not that anyone has had the guts to mount the play and adjust it in its Brechtian way to different wartime circumstances.


Re-reading Handke’s short novels preparatory to reviewing the comparatively short – to the epics – 2010 THE GREAT FALL reminds me how a long-ago read book can take on a life of its own in the memory bank. What I recalled chiefly about AFTERNOON prior to rereading it just now -  originallyy read 30 years ago in German about the time it was published, was [1] that I know the mountain – the Moenchsberg - that Handke describes decending & Salzburg where I once spent a week in the 60s at a Hegel conference, which I believe also took place on the Moenchsberg, and  which mountain I once ascended and partially decended with Handke once on a night in October 1980 after I had beaten him at Tarok and he was furious and told me he was not going to show me the re-imported runaway wife Libgart Schwartz who I had no idea was the woman on the phone when i had called – „did you get yourself a secretary” being the words that slipped across my lips, to my own surprise – I sensed Handke becoming the kind of „big animal” that the portier at the hotel I was staying at described living on the Moenchsberg.  
 I was always glad that the person [who in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, which I translated, admits to being the worst of losers] didn’t toss me across the cliff at the spot where in ACROSS [Chinese des Schmerzens] he tosses the old swastika smearing Nazi!
On first reading AFTERNOON [1] I  made up my mind that, on one level, it was a marvelous example of Handke writing a projection screen for other writers to find and differentiate similarities while [2] simultaneously exhibiting some of his own problematics. Just about every writer can identify with the here critter’s interest in finding the right word – for whatever. Not every or even most are pervaded with „unhappy consciousness” as is Handke throughout this aftrernoon and evening.

[2] and that it was Handke’s projection of his wounded self that is the wounded woman, the hit and run victim, about midway into the book – which, now that I have just reread the passage, is certainly a daring interpretation – in my mind I completed Handke’s syntax the way he then wrote in ONE DARK NIGHT in dream syntax! There are quite a few other mentions of thorny matters - being Handke ’s kind of writer it appears can be painful, is torturturous. Scott Abbott found the road to Golgotha in Left-Handed woman, I only its recollection.
The life the book was living inside me transformed the radio announcer at the midntight end into a walter mitty-like figure – and i had forgotten that he suffers despair on the air -  [4] but certainly he is yet another projection and on the same order as the wounded woman.    
 In the bar or pub  - what the translator calls a „gin mill” – i had tranposed what follows, the conversation with the translator and at that time turned him into Handke’s Serbian translator!
``Matters that I did not recall, that did not make such a lasting impression on me, was how grumpy the writer is during part of his roundabout Salzburg, how self-conscious he is about being well known – the title pertains to a „well known” writer, if not notorious from the way he described being regarded  - as Handke may very well have been subsequent to his interventions in what I call the „Yugoslav trouble” and his appearance a the funeral of the big bad bete noir Milosevic. I have addressed what reasons Handke might hae had rto be geneally disliked in Austria at that time – compared to Thomas Berhard, to whom the book alludes at one point, I would say none.     
And I forgot the fine dissertation on why translating can be a good surrogate for writing.

Shortly after finishing AFTERNOON Handke fled Salburg leaving some manuscripts behind and then took up residence in Chaville a suburb he had dissovered   while he resided in Clamart/ Meudon in the early 70s.
  It is an odd experience to accompany the unhappy consciousness of this writer during his afternoon an evening walk. After all, he had written a number of very fine things by then.   There are suicidal notes here later on – the one I like best is that of letting go of his bedpost and plunging down the sheer cliff and landing on a pile of his writer’s pencil shavings!

1] I am no fan of Mannheim’s – he lived for too long away from the living language and his translations of The Repetition  & A Slow Homecoming need to be redone because his language fails to accmodate Handke’s rhythms. Though she can fuck up big time at difficult moments, I far prefer Krishna Winston’s far more musical work. A better ear!

2] A Child Story I find so poor because I saw a lot of Handke and Amina in that time in Paris and New York and never in my life have I seen such a cowed quiet girl – no dancing steps left at an early age; and so I was not surprised to hear from Eric Wolfgang Skwara around 1994 that Handke deeply regretted his educational ways.

3] The New York Times Reviewer Herbert Mitgang may have a point that the writer must not be a pleasant fellow

4] Aside the aforgoing, there is no one next to my mother that I love more than the bastard from Griffen, for the love that starts to speak out of his work with VILLAGES and that becomes in Peter Strasser’s words EIN FREUDENSTOFF

The stuff of Joy.
he can be the sweetest most generous of men – domage for a woman coming between us.


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seattle, Washington, United States
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