OCCASIONAL COMMENTS ON PSCHO-ANALYTIC MATTERS + CONTIBUTIONS fromMICHAEL ROLOFF Member 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]

Monday, November 7, 2011

A READING OF HANDKE'S "Singular & Plural"




The reading of one poem from THE INNERWORLD OF THE OUTWORLD OF THE INNERWORLD: Singular and Plural [a.k.a. "The Turk"] then, later this week, my take on Ms. Weller and the discipline's dealings with Handke's poetic texts.

On a bench in the park sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: I am sitting on a bench in the park next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: We are sitting on a bench in the park, I and a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: A Turk with a thickly bandaged finger is sitting with me on a bench in a park.

We are sitting on a bench in the park gazing out on the pond, and I see something swimming in the pond, and the Turk is gazing out on the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see an object swimming in the pond, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass, propelled by swimming ducks, making its way to the shore, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass swimming shoreward, propelled by swimming ducks, and then I see the tuft of grass floating away from the shore, propelled by ducks swimming in the opposite direction, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass that, propelled by swimming ducks, was about to be washed ashore and then, propelled by ducks swimming in the opposite direction, was about to be washed back into the middle of the pond and now, propelled by ducks intersecting the two groups of ducks that are swimming in the opposite direction, float suspended in place, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see an object I took to be a tuft of grass or something I took to be an object that I believed was a tuft of grass suddenly disappear after it had moved in place, and I stop moving my head in time with the object on one and the same spot: that is to say, I am startled or, I am startled, that is to say, I stop moving my head in time with the object on one and the same spot, and no longer move at all, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a duck surfacing with a tuft of grass in its bill, and I am tired of gazing and am satisfied, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond and, without seeing anything, I remember the sports writer who talked about death, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

A Turk and I, we are sitting in the park on a bench and are gazing at the pond: I am sitting in the park on a bench next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: I am sitting on a bench in the park next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: next to me on the bench in the park there suddenly sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger which he is extending away from his other fingers: in the park on a bench sits a Turk with nine unimpaired fingers which he presses to the palpeter-hhandke-wounded-love-childms of his hands: on a bench in the park sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger and gazes out at the pond.

   

This is what ought to be called a "self-state" text. The title of the collection THE INNERWORLD OF THE OUTERWORLD points in that direction. Elliot famously termed the phrase "objective correlative," correlative will do, objective? who is to judge? Seeming adequate, "good enough," getting close to, approximate to what?

The self and its many elves. Which and to what degree might have possessed the 26 year old Piotr Sivec-Schoenherr-Handke to put him in the state of mind to find and judge these several superficially same-seeming stanzas an adequate expression of his own self-state and sufficiently emblematic to serve as a projection screen for a potential reader? With a variety of dramas going on barely beneath, occasionally breaking through the attempt to maintain as near perfect virtuoso grammatical surface as that of the nearly unbroken surface of a pond... a state of revery.

To becalm himself in gazing, in reverying? To encorcel himself with grammatical variations. Language and body and eyes and what is beheld rocking moving in synchronicity, which breaks down on a few times...

This is a communicable state.

Self-states are grasped, conceptually, there are other graspings, most successfully by the rubric of psychoanalsis called "self-psychology."

What are the most noticeable immediate features of this text?

Well, let's start with this "Turk". He is clearly identified, the author tells us not whether he is wearing a turban as which a European or American reading this text 100 years ago might have outfitted him in their then cliche imaginations, his only real identifying feature is that he has a thickly bandaged finger [why not just a bandaged finger?], and that, as is often the case under such wounded circumstances, he is holding it away from the other fingers on that hand. He has nine unwounded fingers, two hands, at one point he is however holding his fingers away from both hands, either the pain is very great or he is as naive as a child, he might be of rural origin. Is he over-compensating? Can he not tell one hand from the other? Is this a species of imaginatively doubled pain?

We are not told which finger it is that is impaired.

Do I have a particular contemporary image of "a Turk" in my mind? Not really, but I do have a now no doubt dated one of Turkish guest workers in German railway stations.

But why not "a man", or "someone"?

Well that's not the drama of it is it? The drama would seem to entail a split, the "I" and "the Turk" who however are doing the same damned gazing, but sat down as we find out in the course of the text after the narrator was seated on the bench, next to him. Do we even need the Turk? Couldn't it just be I and my wounded finger sitting on the bench? Maybe the Turk is like the unwounded fingers that are being held at the greatest possible distance from the source of pain? Something seen, the seeing of a split. But "a Turk" might really have sat down next to Handke and then become a projection screen for his alter ego. However, the narrator is not engaged with him in the endless dialogue going on in fantasy, with one's alter ego [s].


Perhaps there really was a Turk by a pond [the poem was written in 1968 in Berlin, with a quickly increasing but then entirely un-assimilated Turkish guest worker population] whom Handke noticed and identified and empathized with [?]. It makes no difference, the very name, the pointedness of it makes him [Handke's Turk] an outsider, he is identified and identification differentiates him,  he feels outside no matter what, he is different. What if instead of "the Turk" we had "A Lefthanded Woman" sitting next to the narrator, to the grammatical I? After all, linguistically, the poetic text points to the mind's involvement in grammatical formulations, their correctness adequateness, the world is being turned into language, we notice the very activity of this happening,
it fusses to try to get it right, for language not just to mimic what is going on but to be linguistically at one and the same place, language as a kind of snake skin:

and I see an object I took to be a tuft of grass or something I took to be an object that I believed was a tuft of grass suddenly disappear after it had moved in place, and I stop moving my head in time with the object on one and the same spot: that is to say, I am startled or, I am startled, that is to say, I stop moving my head in time with the object on one and the same spot, and no longer move at all,

As a matter of fact, the narrator is staring so fixedly at the tuft of grass being propelled this and that way by our delightful and delightfully distracting feathered friends that he becomes disturbed by disappearance of the tuft of grass that is being shoved around. Absence causes a disturbance. In him and in the grammaticality of the text. It is no longer declarative. Doubt, uncertainty disturb the perfect surface parallel to the disturbance that occurs in the pond with ducks diving and resurfacing. The idyll in the park is marred a little.

 The reappearance of the tuft of grass resolves the disturbance; is followed by relief, the status quo ante has been achieved... A surface drama hinting at what larger dramas underwater?

Handke has said, and I believe him, that he does not revise. He does change the occasional last sentence in his texts, and as he has matured, makes alterations in galleys particularly now that he has written monstrums of the kind that he once said he never would. Whether he wrote pieces like Kaspar and Ride Across Lake Constance in full swoop? For a long time he never spent more than three months on a text, including, it appears, Die Hornissen, Der Hausierer, Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, Short Letter Long Farewell, Sorrow Beyond Dreams. A Moment of True Feeling, The Lefthanded Woman... The fairly complex six-stranded [1994] 250,000 word novel "Nomansbay" was proudly woven together in one year, the sort of book that no end of U.S. authors are proud to complete by hook and by crook in 10 to 20 years, to hosannas, especially that of spouses if they have cheering spouses left, and Handke made some cuts in galleys, he could have made just a few more.

So one could fairly safely assume that "Singular and Plural" was written right there on the spot, its grammaticality points to its incidental nature, since Handke always carried a note book and pencil with him which he would produce from one second to the next. From writing so-called truly incidental poems to writing down involuntary associations in Weight of the World takes barely a half step. Incidental, occasional texts, even then tied to a place, an event.



What would you do if you sat next to someone with an injured finger? I myself, under similar circumstances, would have pointed to the finger and said: "Ola, Compadre [or "Amigo"], que pasa?" since it is far more likely for me to find myself sitting next to a homesick Central American, while I however, have little of Handke's then, homesickness left in me.

For I connect this, as per Handke, with the homesickness he felt when he went to his first boarding school, the Griffen Seminary, at age 12 I believe. Homesick for a gruesome home!? [well, not the mother wasn't, but the situation as a whole? for sure, yet there was the grandfather! The apparently monstrous stepfather]. With what Handke called "that hangnail feeling", the kind of feeling Freud's Little Hans must have endured when he thought he'd been bitten by that horse.

A gazing Turk, he keeps a thickly bandaged wounded finger away from his hand and his gaze peeled on the pond and its compliment of ducks; he is trying to distract himself, by holding the finger away from his hand, a customary act under the circumstances, and his gaze away from the finger. That the finger is wounded is an assumption, a projection. The looking away, the trying to focus on distractions is an act of defense as is the poem, the text in its entirety.

 Who knows how he injured his finger? If Handke were writing a poem about a Turk who had cut his finger on a Berlin Weisswurst-making-machine, he would have told us. So there is just a wounded finger which might or might not be symbolic, but evidently sufficiently painful as to need to be disregarded as much as possible  by extending the other nine unimpaired fingers away from both hands... an odd sight... is the pain that excruciating?

 A wounded finger elicits some sympathy. All by himself it appears at a pond but lots of our feathered friends who during the course of the the stanzas prove more and more amusing and unpredictable, more of a distraction, worth watching. It will not be long they will come up to the two bench warmers and tug at the cuffs of their pants to be fed?

   If it is symbolic and sufficiently painful, the injured finger might point to an injured sense of self. It might point to a state of continuous injury, it might or might not connect with the love child Handke's exposure, as of age two, to a decades' worth of violent drunken violations of his mother, during  which he learned to cover his eyes, to look away, yet to peek, it might be what is called "a residue", a sequelae.

 More specifically the injured finger might point in the direction of the castration anxiety that was induced during that exposure, but which bebe Peter overcame in his rage by masturbating, where the pleasurable and tension releasing elements of this activity would seem to be the least important within the internal psychic economy... mastery of the fright... which became Handke's special forte when he has a pencil in hand. The diary work book "The History of the Pencil" does not address that core component. But the famous sentence: "I feel so anxious but everything I the write is then so calm" ... this certainly is one instance of this action which re-occurrs within the mind of a genuine reader. The artist poet as surrogate on that level. These are possible associations of someone familiar with Handke and aspects of Psychoanalysis... 


There are alternatives to writing, reporting this scene? Par ejamplo:
"You know the other day..."

But it was written, probably in one fell swoop. A further distraction away from the painful state, the act of writing itself an overcoming, a becalming. In the last paragraph a status quo ante has been achieved.

However, Handke ritualizes it through a variety of stanzas; once will not do, we need theme and variation; it ritualizes somewhat like a a rosary; the performance of the ritualization at the moment of competition and completion [for all we know, it was written in one draft] right there and then by whatever nameless pond in whatever nameless region.


Yes, there really would not have been anything wrong with writing "a pond in Berlin" [perhaps it was the Krumme Lanke?] But putting in the city name would have taken away from the singularity of "Turk", the pond, the bench with its two bench warmers and added a superfluous Berlin aura to the poem; delimited the clean focus, adding an unnecessary variable.

"Singular and Plura", the title, too, is a pushing away of fingers. The title could also be "The face of Mastrello Mastriano"... the perfect surface of the text is like a movie actor's mask... one eye brow twitches, a duck dives underwater... a mask... a projection screen for the audience...

It takes a fairly cool character to discociate that successfully. that i think is what people mean when they regard the irascible handke as cold. that too was learned during that terrifying decade.

This short text could also be a 25  minute film.

The intention, after all, is not to write a report for a newspaper, the Krumme Lanke Weekly, it is meant to be a display, to be admired, of a particular performance, of the performance of writing oneself into something approximating an idyllic becalmed state. It is a small victory over fright. "Look, Ma! No hands!" It is also a virtuoso performance, the texts from "Innerworld" were written during Handke's virtuoso period, Kaspar, Ride, etc.
 
And so the pond, too, remains nameless. Ponds reflect of course, the author does not tell us whether this pond is muddy, considering those busy ducks and those tufts of grass one presumes at Duck Soup, not at the clearest of reflections. Still as the pond is... right, what is the need of those ducks, they could easily be edited out? just like the city has been. Then we would have looked, found our reflection in the pond for sure. But would have lacked a distraction. So, conceivably, with that wounded finger and feeling generally lonely and lousy we do not want to look at ourselves in the mirror.

Three stanzas with a good deal of repetition, fairly minimal variation. But if you were the kind of supercilious Philistine jerk that said to me that this is like a cuckoo clock you would incur my eternal wrath.

 Sort of like a dream that is tried out a number of times, until it is acceptably formed to pass the governess well dressed into consciousness.

"The Turk" is nearly entirely becalmed, he has ritualized himself into a state of reverie... the state an analyst finds himself in when listening into his patient on the couch... and the killer sentence surges up out of the unconscious: "And he thought of the sportswriter who wrote about death."
Not just a writer, no end of writers have death on their minds. But a "sportswriter"...sports writers have the nicest of jobs, they have nearly as much fun as the lifelong kids they write about. So a "sportswriter" who writes about death, now it's getting serious; this is far worse than the wounded finger. Perhaps that is that whiff of longing of leaping into the pond.

Once more now..

On a bench in the park sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: I am sitting on a bench in the park next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: We are sitting on a bench in the park, I and a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: A Turk with a thickly bandaged finger is sitting with me on a bench in a park.

We are sitting on a bench in the park gazing out on the pond, and I see something swimming in the pond, and the Turk is gazing out on the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see an object swimming in the pond, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.
 [One eye seems constantly peeled on the Turk, as though we are looking both straight ahead and to the side at one and the same time. A split.]

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass, propelled by swimming ducks, making its way to the shore, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass swimming shoreward, propelled by swimming ducks, and then I see the tuft of grass floating away from the shore, propelled by ducks swimming in the opposite direction, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a tuft of grass that, propelled by swimming ducks, was about to be washed ashore and then, propelled by ducks swimming in the opposite direction, was about to be washed back into the middle of the pond and now, propelled by ducks intersecting the two groups of ducks that are swimming in the opposite direction, floats suspended in place, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see an object I took to be a tuft of grass or something I took to be an object that I believed was a tuft of grass suddenly disappear after it had moved in place, and I stop moving my head in time with the object on one and the same spot: that is to say, I am startled or, I am startled, that is to say, I stop moving my head in time with the object on one and the same spot,
 [the disturbance reflected in the grammar] and no longer move at all, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

We are gazing at the pond, and I see a duck surfacing with a tuft of grass in its bill, and I am tired of gazing
[something happened just now, to make the narrator tired and angry... what is it? is it the sentence in the following paragraph with the thought about the sportswriter?]and am satisfied, and the Turk is gazing at the pond:]

We are gazing at the pond, and, without seeing anything,
 [Handke, suffering from occasional color blindness, has he seen black just now?] I remember the sports writer who talked about death, and the Turk is gazing at the pond.

A Turk and I, we are sitting in the park on a bench and are gazing at the pond: I am sitting in the park on a bench next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: I am sitting on a bench in the park next to a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger: next to me on the bench in the park there suddenly sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger which he is extending away from his other fingers: in the park on a bench sits a Turk with nine unimpaired fingers which he presses to the palms of his hands: on a bench in the park sits a Turk with a thickly bandaged finger and gazes out at the pond.


Of course I did not read the poem this way when I translated it in the early 70s. I found it intriguing, beautifully formed, it is also a finger exercise if you were a pianist, you are showing your mastery,  and wanted merely to be adequate as I could do that. It is a virtuoso performance of trying to keep the world of perceptions, of perceived phenomena and the world of words in synchronous state, it is just that matters keep popping up from below! As in Ride Across Lake Bottom Lake There are these disturbances, wounded fingers, thoughts of death, if only it were just tufts of grass!

Michael Roloff


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MICHAEL ROLOFF http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name Member 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