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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 http://www.worldcat.org/title/freudenstoff-zu-handke-eine-philosophie/oclc/22723646
   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!

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MICHAEL ROLOFF http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html