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Tuesday, August 30, 2016



Every decade or so the august firm of Farrar, Straus

publishes a Handke text while during the same time span the author’s  German will have issued more than a score of his works, several of which ought to have been published shortly after in English, as they were expeditiously at one time and still are by his major French, Spanish, Italian Serbian & many another publisher, and in two instances were published by the firm that has taken up FSG’s slack, Blue Booby, no Seagull Press in way-off Kolkata on the Hoogly

by the meadow with the pigs and goats and cows at King George Dock Annex, I am kidding, who have done the novel/drama STILL STORM & Handke’s riff on Beckett’s KRAPP’S LAST TAPE, UNTIL THE DAY US PART

(both distributed by U. of Chicago Press) which were published in German since Farrar’s publication of Handke’s Don Juan (as told by himself) in 2007, the publication date of MORAWISCHE NACHT in German. Moreover, Seagull has two marvelous Handke novels scheduled that FSG has turned dowb DER GROSSE FALL [THE MAJOR CASE ???] + KALI /THE SALTWORKS

an unusually well-formed rather near standard novel that Handke I think wrote more out of fascination with such a mine and how it operates than its two protagonists. Unusual also for being, at least on the surface, unusually non-self-referential for our autistically inclined author. But that it has a fine mysterious air it might have been acceptable to a socialist realist publisher! Hesse would have been proud of it as well & FSG turned it down at the advice of their advisor in these matters, the marvelous Handke translator Krishna Winston, who claimed to me that she felt that the book represented nothing new, that Handke was repeating himself. Handke never repeats himself, as a formalist he will at most explore the limits of certain formal possibilities. E.G. his five ASSAYINGS as I call the essays on THE JUKEBOX, THE FOOL FOR MUSHROOMS, etc. each of which features a different approach no matter how playful yet has a unique  focus and is anchored in a particular place if only to revolve on it as in THE MAKINGS OF A PERFECT DAY. Or the variations of procedures in INNERWORLD OF THE OUTERWORLD, etc etc, just look at what Handke does over the decades with one of his ancient modernist earliest procedures, the serial. Among Handke’s prose work KALI/ THE SALTWORKS is quite unique in every which way and is the kind of book that could gain for him a wider following than texts that are more difficult for the ordinary reader.  

DER GROSSE FALL, fellow Handke translator Scott Abbott and I discussed at length

and it may be regarded a kind of successor, updating of THE AFTERNOON OF THE WRITER, now located near Paris, and it is one hell of a ferocious and adventurous text by an anything but transfigured writer & would fit into FSG’s alleged interest in “the forefront of literature” [something that calls itself that an FSG robot deposits in my e-mail inbox once a week!] if those dear folk actually knew what they were talking about rather than spewing platitudes, damn them and their advisor Krishna Winston, since the amateurish (stil) firm apparently lacks the expertise to reach these decisions on their own they rely on someone who may be a wonderful translator but who is intellectually not equipped to reach decisions on that order, she seems to think because Handke objects to the hideous leaf-blowers in his suburban nature preserve – one of my banes as well in Seattle – Handke has become some kind of suburban writer. As a dean at Wellesley Winston is also far too busy tending, and translating other works, to keep up with the whelming Handke studies and work. “Der neue Kafka” as the Griffen Kid called himself in 1966 is just a sufficiently unusual author to become the second most studied German author after Kafka who ranks first, Goethe a close second at present. Currently our Grandiosity may still be thinking of himself as “the new Goethe” as he did in the 90s. For my money he is “The new Shakespearean!” Farrar Straus, after the first decade of publishing Handke, became a cherry picker and not the kind of backstop that an author of Handke’s range and import ought to have and that in fact in the long run would pay for itself by making him the same kind of household name he has become in the German language world – albeit also among the sharper spices at times.


That said, initially, for about a decade, until the 70s, as of the publication of KASPAR & OTHER PLAYS via that of GOALIE’ ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK an SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWEELL, WEIGHT OF THE WORLD, A SORROW BEYOND DREAMS, A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING to LEFT HANDED WOMAN in the early 70s and as far as late 70s publication of the second play collection,  RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANAE & AND OTHER PLAYS, matters ran smoothly and even generated several mass paper collections 2 & 3 by Handke, WEIGHT OF THE WORLD even was picked up by Collier/MacMillan’s semi-mass line. But FSG’s failure & lack of real interest in Handke as an author is manifested when they turn down THE HISTORY OF THE PENCEIL as Geschichte des Bleistifts would be called, the successor volume to the diary excerpt collection WEIGHT, for PENCIL, published in all other major languages, provides not only a continued record of the author’s state of mind but of the work he is planning, in this instance especially what then is puBlished at the beginning of the 80s as one of his most important works, the dramatic poem WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES. Of course, FSG then does not do the subsequent volumes of that kind, no matter how rich and inmportant, AM FELSFENSTER MORGENS & GESTERN UNTEWEGS, etc.

After leaving FSG in 1969 and via a stint as Suhrkamp rep I published INNERWORLD at Continuum Books and  NONSENSE & HAPPINESS at Urizen Books in 1975 and if it had not been for a partner who -  though he had directed Handke’s first performances in this country, but had come to dislike his person as they had each other - Urizen would also have done Handkes seond novel (1967) DER HAUSIERER/ THE PEDDLER as it might be called,  that had been part of the original Farrar, Straus contract but then replaced by the commercially more promising GOALIE. Even now, after all these years, I have problems with Handke’s first novel DIE HORNISSEN  – see links to all these titles @ this review site:

The translation magazine Dimension did mine of Handke’s Radio Play I, yet a further exploration of matters that might make you anxious but that can be overcome – if you are hip to the fact of what Handke meant when he said in 1966 at Princeton “I am the new Kafka.” - The New Yorker did  LEFT HANDED WOMAN in its entirety in the early 70s, as they would later do  big exerpts from SLOW HOMECOMINNG & THE REPETTION in the 80s, as well as poems from INNERWORLD. Other pre-publications in magazines at that time are too numerous to mention. But at the point that Handke published LANGAME HEIMKEHR/ A SLOW HOMECOIMG IN 1979 in Germany [the title novel of the collection that contains St. Victoire and Child’s Story] there was no earthly reason to publish these three very different titles – one a novelization of Handke’s experience in Alaska, the second a travel journal cum aesthetic ruminant, the third a personal account of life with his daughter… in one volume – because it only made for stupid speculations about postmodernism & really was impossible to review unless you did a major examination of the author and his work. But that is what FSG did - for reasons that are beyond me. Perhaps Handke’s late-70s editor at FSG, Nancy Meiselas, will know why FSG delayed publishing A SLOW HOMEOMING for about ten disastrous years.. It is she to whom Handke said after he stopped working on the book at the Hotel Adams in New York in 1978 that he felt he had fucked it up. The firm waited about ten years before putting out that collection in 1885 instead of continuing to proceed to publish these tight books individually as they had been doing, thus interrupting the building, as it continued in Germany, of the foundation of his oeuvre. After all: successful as Handke was in the U.S.A. he had not yet published a really big book, at which point a big break might be in order for the audience to absorb it. No – speaking as a publisher of both his and his author’s interest - the embers of interest that Handke had stirred needed to be kept alive on a continuous basis, and the more so because the U.S. audience, fickle as it is, does not really cotton to too many foreign authors. Matters, however, are about to get worse. FSG  stopped publishing Handke’s plays, the very greatest ones, as of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES in the mid-80s. Yes, Watson, right on!


Sometime the late Eighties, after FSG had published
Afternoon OF A WRITR
Stopped publishing Handke’s plays
[see anon]
 Roger Straus, the publisher
[See ]
writes Handke’s publisher Siegfried Unseld, at Suhrkrampf Verlag, that he has a “Handke problem.”

– Mind you, after all the prior successes, after the various New Yorker pre-publications, the semi-mass paperback editions, titles such as my Kaspar & Other Plays being reprinted over and over, after publishing successfully the first of Handke’s four “big books”, the “being endowed”-
as I think of it - The Repetition.. Handke is apparently not pulling his commercial weight, a matter where I, once a small publisher himself, who knows the way one can assess the p+l of a book, can only assume that if unprofitability was the problem FSG may at that time have worked on a far higher profit per book and author margin  - e.g. contribution to overhead! – than I was accustomed to, and knew about from other firms. At any event, Handke, who had the letter from Unseld, showed it to fellow translator Scott Abbott which is how I came to know of this infamy. If Straus had been a better hustler at selling and promoting his books he would not need to have been as chintzy while personally living on the hog!
Handke himself had noticed what he regarded as severe lack of interest in his work during those ten years of non-publication of course, and indeed I would say the interest overall has only been sporadic and at times directly oppositional – see anon.
 How many editors has Handke had during his fifty-year association with FSG? Ten at least! The current, Jesse Coleman, will have edited the translation of a single book – MORAVIAN NIGHT - in ten years!
In 1981 my FSG nemesis, Michael diCapua, had become editor in jefe, a childens book editor!
Who had already opposed Handke early on
{without Bob Giroux’s intervention KASPAR & OTHER PLAYS would not have been done! Bob Giroux, editor of Elliot, Lowell, Mary McCarthy etc].
 DiCapua had sabotaged other efforts of mine, including killing a big contracted Adorno Reader that I had spent a year assembling – and which was to have a Susan Sontag foreword (imagine the difference an Adorno reader migt have made in the early 70s) & killed my translation of Handke’s great dramatic poem WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, no matter that I had two collections in print with the firm, RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE & OTHER PLAYS being the second, and that KASPAR was reprinted nearly annually. VILLAGES  (WATV) happens to be my best work along those line and it made no difference to the firm that Handke said it was the best translation he had ever seen, at that point. Subsequently FSG has turned down every other Handke play, no matter how important, Gitta Honegger’s of THE ART OF ASKING & THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER was done by Yale University Press – Steve Wasserman who ran sub-division Hill & Wang turned those plays down he confessed a few years back. Brilliant job, Watson!  
WATV became a saga, and yet another Albatross of this now truly ancient Mariner, who not only had the Urizen Books Albatros, and meanwhile has yet another, the DARLINGS & MONSTERS albatross and so no wonder that Handke once observed I seemed to have little luck, one doesn’t if one deals with too many of
 Beautiful ugly is another matter!
. It may be worth your while to read my long postscript to WATV if you are interested
in what became involved there, also for Handke. Read his subsequent work and note how DOERFER’S rhythms continue to reverberate in his creative life; to talk about a healthy making literary workd!

that became my heart test. Ah, and how many only respoonded to the line that referred to "hefty taxes"!

Subsequently Farrar, Straus published the following Handke titles
No=Man’s Bay
I gather the firm has contracted for the ESSAY ON “THE QUIET PLACE”
And a volume of essays.

Little surprise that someone like Roger Straus who hated nothing as much as egg on his $ 1,200 suits, but I guess perpetruity was not much on his mind, turned down Handke’s first
Yugoslavia title
Scott Abbott’s first published Handke translation which Viking Press did,
And was going to do more but then didn’t and no further of Handke’s writings on that whelming subject have been published except for the great fillm/war play
Also in Scott’s translation

I myself spent about a year of my life during a 20 year stretch on the subject of Handke & that of disintegration & and ended up truly proud of his intervention. And I had no reason to, initially was apprehensive of the degree to which his exhibitionistic impulses played a role, not that Handke might not have gone about the matter differently or doubled down when attacked so as not to incurr the wrath of the propagandized masses, the intellectual pack being the worst of course
(pace dear Teddy!)
I sought at one time to find a publisher for a big collection of these writing and mut have approached 50 of the scholarly ones in that field: Nada – you can calumnize an author in typical Americasn McCarthyite fashion but won’t give him a chance to speak up, which in this instance meant to make available the pertinent writings, well introduced, by someone who knows his way around Handke & Yugoslavia, the recently deceased Fabjian Haffner is whom I had in mind.
My translation of Handke’s
Hot, so very geil exhibitionistic erotic

Done with invaluable editorial help from Scott on short notice for Serbian-American director Zejlko Dukic and Theater Y in Chicago in 2015
has not a publisher so far.
However, Scott’s fine translation of Handke’s long poem
was done by LAST BOOKS this year.
And that would be it for this saga
at this time of day!
You may wish to to look at the
Summary of the U.S. Reception History of Handke’s work as I am putting it up
Up prior to the inception of the
In late Fall of 2016.

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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