=Notes towards a Psychoanalysis of Reading=
I was going to open Part II with a list of books that I can read repeatedly, in some instances yearly, and I will do so, but I have been busy, and have been reflecting, have had time to, which means that I don't feel satisfied with Part I, and need to amplify as I do at length in the first and second footnote where put a lot of stuff about books I read that was becoming a big buffer to what I want to focus on in Part II and that really belong at the end of Part I, the personal part.
For one I forgot this romantic’s adolescent love of Saint Exupery’s Wind, Sand & Storm. I re-iterate mention of the various incursions of what is known as the Psychopathology of the Everyday into reading which could fill an encyclopedia of Ripleys’ Believe it or Not: mis-readings, also called misprisions, all kinds of hallucinations that enter readings, especially at times of tiredness, or under the impulses of wishes becoming manifest in the course of reading – the phenomenon known as transference I will address anon, perhaps it is implicit in mention of projection! Mistakes also occur while translating, the funniest of that kind that I am guilty of is translating a Handke sentence in his Self-Accusation that means to say that the character, the man of the two-some, “lay down on the floor during the months that lacked the letter “R”, that is, an utterly inconsequential infraction, as “I lay with R while she had her period” – a simple misreading of what the noun “Monate/ Months” can imply; which means that having sex on my mind as I still do a lot at an age that I had hoped I would not, seized that moment back in the late 1960s - In the Caribbean – I used to repair briefly to Boqueron in Puerto Rico in winter - its inhabitants are so inured to warm water they only go swimming in the months that lack the letter “R” – May through August: at other times the water is too cold for them. The Psychopathology of the Everyday Reading in other words opens up a major can of worms – not where I am going fishing here.
If I reflect on the books that affected me within just a few years of having learned to read, that is to decipher, unconsciously, quickly as though second nature - Deists would use the simile of gears, in a clock, whirring, con-currently, with MIRs being taken of brain activity the pretty analogies, color patches of chemo-electric activities serve the literal-minded phrenologists as crutches of what transpires as mind is generated and expires in brawling hockey players - the numerous signals conveyed by text, I reach the conclusion that these first books – Fridjof Nansen’s The Voyage of the Fram, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and the apparently sexy Kleine Brise and its solitary kiss, reached rather deeply into me, what a surprise at the time, what I need to call “my self,” its shallows and depths. Nansen’s account of his ship, the Fram, locked in ice, slowly crushed, apparently elicited a deep projection on my part, it connected, the story, the images it evoked, about which I as an analyst have a great deal to say, but not here. That is not what I am after. Ditto for Die Kleine Brise, the first instance of reading having a consciously remembered pornographic effect, which in a few more years would be succeeded by leching for the unexpurgated version of Lady Chatterly and of Henry Miller’s Sexus. Meanwhile… but never mind. I did publish George Bataille’s Story of the Eye with unforeseeable consequences, at least for the love life in the once Tribeca of the 70s and 80s. Or I could cite fellow consumer of pornography’s great Don Juan [As told by himself]. Ditto for Crime and Punishment. Numerous books would affect me in the future, lastingly, especially during adolescence and other early years. Books became orientation points for self-discovery - not invariably a pleasant experience. Most of these books belong to the repertoire of a liberal education, and it is within that realm that this standard exerts a kind of general frame of reference, exerts its aura. It would entirely divert from the focus on very special experiences to be had with Handke’s art and possibly prove tiresome if I gave an account of all the reading I did until I got lucky with Handke, but if you are interested, there’s always Part I of this essay and my appendices to it  +  here which I will join soon.
As noted: some books you can read again and again, Under the Volcano, lots of Conrad, Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, Elective Affinities, Nossack’s The Impossible Proof, Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, Madame Bovary, Lampedusa’s The Leopard, the only novel I know that engages your [my] sense of smell: it appears to exude the entirety of the Sicilian bouquet: look how suggestible a reader can be, even one who still smokes half a dozen little cigars a day! Most of Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, Hesse’s Steppenwolf, Ford Maddox Ford’s The Good Soldier, Novalis, Eichendorf, Cervantes, the Greeks, the Romans, the Russkies… lots of poets, etc., etc. Of Handke’s for me the book I reread nearly every few years is the title novel of the trilogy published in the U.S.as A Slow Homecoming. I have my hunches as to why I re-read this particular Handke book more than any of the others, it’s the opening chapter: I think what counts in this instance isn’t so much whatever sensitivity I bring to the text, nor any special reading ability, but a shared experience of having been in Alaska that reaches deep. Handke’s very sparseness in not naming makes it so effective for me: nothing idiosyncratic intervenes, stands between me and the world the words evoke. The seismographer’s lens is set right. The first time I read that chapter was a major event, since, evidently, I with my nine months in Alaska and a few dozen major experiences there had been waiting for a response to its very immensity,
The writing in the aforementioned, or these kinds of titles, appears to remain fresh, it keeps eliciting fresh responses, an entirely subjective experience shared by many readers, sometimes for entirely subjective, at other times for shared reasons. The resources in your brain where reading has become quasi second-nature are doing their deciphering translating work in the background at a perfect clip, the rules are being obeyed but not in a hackneyed fashion, the writer’s melody his whatever sings exerts itself through the text, perhaps you even become engaged in a dialogue with the text, annotate it, the more the more you noice on repeated readings; there are no unaesthetic intrusions, Gerald Manley Hopkins “sprung rhythm does not appear like a Billy goat in these proceedings, these readers are all rapt attention, utterly absorbed, the world outside their reading is entirely forgotten, at most peripherally present. Animals can be like that when they are hunting. Handke himself has a fine description of a reader like that, a young woman on a train, in his 2007 MORAVIAN NIGHTS. A “reader” is one of the six Artists, his own six artistic sides, that become characters in NO-MAN’S-BAY, a Hoelderlin reader unless fantasy betrays me. Photos of the inside of Handke’s house show him living in a chaos of books. Also a great editor since early on.
The critical faculties, the gloomy grammarians’ demands for numerous interlocking rules have all been met; those dogs are sleeping dogs, lie well fed in their cubicles. The state of mind during this kind of reading is a kind of dreaming while awake. It is, I believe, incomparable to any other state of mind, as this kind of reading experience is to any other experience or all the other reading experiences that we have day in day out.
At some point in your life you can trust your ability to judge a text because you have cracked certain other difficult texts, not just Finnegan’s Wake, or Beckett but, say, Uwe Johnson’s Speculations About Jakob, The Third Book About Achim which made great but justifiable and rewarding demands on me. As an editor I once had one truly amazing experience. The writer Michael Brodsky by way of Patricia Highsmith met Handke who then sent him to me. Brodsky arrived late one afternoon with a maroon leather satchel, large enough to hold five manuscripts. After he left I opened the satchel and took a look at the first page of each manuscript: four novels and one collection of novellas, and was astounded: there it was, the real thing, the raison d’etre of the existence of the firm. A unique experience, but one that confirms me in my suspicion that I could trust my judgment in that respect. Subsequently a few “cliff hangers” reached me that we declined.
Had it not been that I had translated a number of Handke works, especially WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, and had some interesting experience with its author, I don’t think I would have been obsessed with Handke and his texts for 20 + years at around the time my own analysis was completed to the extent that it never is and I found a subject aside myself and noticed how some of Handke’s later mid-life texts, starting with THE REPETITION, began to affect me. Not that the earlier one, say Moment of True Feeling or Der Hausierer or Sorrow Beyond Dreams and Weight of the World had not induced states of mind. 
“A quarter of a century or a day has passed since I arrived in Jesenice on the trail of my missing brother.
I was not yet twenty and had taken my final school examination. I ought to have felt free, for afer months of study the summer months lay open before me. But I had set out with mixed feelings what with my old father, my ailing mother and my confused sister at home in Rinkenberg. Besides, after being released from the seminary I had got used, during the past year, to my class in the state school in Klagenfurt where girls were in the majority, and now suddenly found myself I alone. While my classmates piled into the bus and set out for Greece, I played the loner who peferred to go to Greece by himself. The truth was I simply did not have the mone for the grpup trip. Another reason for my unease was that I had never been outside Austria and knew very little Slovene, though it was hardly a foreign language for an inhabitant of a village in southern Austria.
After a glance at my newly issued Austrian passport, the border guard in Jesenice spoke to me in his language. When I failed to understand he told me in German that Kobal was a Slavic name, that the word meant the span between parted leg, a "step", and consequently a person with legs outspread, so that my name would have better suited him the border guard. The elderly official beside him, white haird, in civilian clothes, with the round rimless glasses of a scholar, explained with a smile that the related verb meant to "ride", to "climb"; thus my given name, Filip, "lover of horses", fitted in with Kobal and he felt sure I would some daydo honor to my name.”
Meanwhile, I have realized – that famous bitterness! - that although some friends share the experience I have had with Handke texts, others are entirely obtuse. The most depressing experience along that line was my use of my translation of Handke’s richest work, WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES  – it contains all of him and can draw everything out of a involved translator - as a kind of heart test. This ultimately depressing test confirmed the suspicion that at least in that respect this is to, too large an extent for my liking, the frequently described heartless world, a world without imagination, crow greedy! Gnat spannish! No wonder, really, that you can win an election with a single slogan, repeated over and over. The few did not make up for the great majority. But at least I was not entirely alone in my mad liking! As I proceeded in my testing with various Handke texts I kept losing or being disappointed in more and more friends. Who experiences reading? Speed readers! Thus one of my favorite Adorno’s statements - degustibus disputandum est - holds to a catastrophic degree. Chacun sa gout! However, no one can dispute my experience, only my attempt to account for them, which might be inept, insufficient, biased, incomplete. There were a handful of happy surprises, but too few to build a culture on.
Many of Handke’s works, not all, provide absolutely unique experiences, of and on a different order altogether from my other reading experiences and most theatrical experiences. To explain to myself how Handke’s plays work I found it easier to think of him as a composer than a writer, and of course in that respect I am not the only one. Early on there were those who described the musical compositional forms of these plays. Now some dissertations are beginning to appreciate the sound of his ear,too. 
Reading Handke affords experiences and pleasures that are unavailable in any other way. Anyhow, I at least have not had them, although I have to admit that my way of reading changed, became more complex I think, after, not that there really is an after to an ongoing experience such as a psychoanalysis.
Although I don’t think Handke is ever sublime, no matter how angelic or joyous the sheer writing, once he matured to the height of his self he became a writer in the great tradition, with some major twists and enhancements.
Handke was a virtuoso from early on, occasionally he has been shaken to the core, but he has recovered. Handke can re-magick the world, as in Crossing the Sierra del Gredos, his use of the filmic can have a kinesthetic effect on one’s perceptions, because Handke is so much more precise also in his use of vagueness… and I will provide a series of examples of what I mean in addition to my account of the experiences I have had with some of his plays. However, since I make such heavy use of the concepts experience and state of mind I want, before I continue on to a number of specifics - and an attempt to account for these particular Handke experiences - to provide a riff on each of those concepts, and also on the all-important concept of “The Dream Screen.”
I have had all other kinds of state of mind altering experiences, none but one is comparable to the experiences I have had with Handke texts and plays.
Since I was given a placebo at Menlo Park Veterans Hospital in 1960 my experience of acid comes by way of Tom Wolfe’s mimicry of that experience in his Electric Cool Aid Acid Test, a novel use of language tricks if nothing else; and the unhappy one of having noted what too much acid did to the brains of some friends. Marijuana either puts me to sleep, or turns me into a rapist, even at this late and unexpected age, thus I only partook when ladies who know their pleasures suggested so, and even then I might, subsequently, feel painfully disassociated from myself. However, Mary Jane certainly alters your sense of time, and allows the mind to become very focused, to the point of even greater imbecility. Cocaine energizes and disinhibits and so Eros may easily misuse it. That of course was the great fear in the South during the 19th century. But aside from certain intensifications I cannot say that it has state of mind altering properties, at least for me. Grandiosity? A friend once had me take half a line of heroin, I promptly fell asleep and don’t recall anything else. The experience with Donnotal, a pill that consists of equal parts Bella Donna, which calms your heart, and Phenobarbital, a barbiturate, is not to be recommended when evaluating texts: you [I] respond to cliches as though you had never seen them before, the world is blue and pink, delightful, even more girls look beautiful, at least they did to me while I took Donnatal for some months to assuage a pain in my gut that would have been better relieved by seeing a lawyer. I was drunk maybe once or twice in my life and did not enjoy the experience, and with an alcoholically unhappy stepfather felt nothing but aversion to the likes of him in that state; although prior to having Donnatal prescribed for about a year I drank half a bottle of brandy and then went to dance it off. That way I made acquaintance with no end of great brandies, but only once needed to be walked home, by Gena and Lisa Giobbi, who were laughing their pretty heads of as the supported the weaving ship. Thus the most pleasurable experiences I have had were of various arts, and these were always unexpected, especially music I, too, may have experienced most of the states of mind that flesh is heir to. Great joy, fear, the horrors of abandonment at too early an age, mental torture. 
One marvelous experience that is akin to some experiences with Handke texts was navigating the Straits of Hormuz – the entrance to the Gulf of Persia - on a full moonlit nite, the Persian gulf a silvery mirror of the sea, the metal of the 12 thousand ton freighter barely communicating the tremors from the engine room, trembling as the engine worked at low speed, and half a dozen porpoises riding, gliding, surfing the bow wave, they too like a free ride if they can catch one, and I and the 2nd Lieutenant in the wheelhouse and my then walking down to the deck and out to the bow, the sandy high cliffs on both sides of the strait, moonlit tan, with a long curved island in the middle, the islands make navigating tricky, also lighted by the moon, as the Hellenic Splendor glided on the Mirror of the Sea; that kind of “nunc stans” experience you can also have at moments with Handke texts except that the moment extends – especially in Crossing the Sierra del Gredos so that you can surf for hours at a time and become a Handke porpoise! I could see why Conrad liked the sea so much. This child who absorbed his mother’s optimism intra-uterine probably lacks the courage to despair, but certainly not for disgust. Handke who was born near congenitally depressive and only later repaired to a kind of defiant optimism and joi de vivre, a joyfulness I encountered in his now 2011 latest novel
would seem better suited for realistic assessments than I. But all other above enumerated experiences are entirely different from my experiences with Handke texts and plays.
STATE OF MIND
My frequent use of the word "experience" requires...not a whole book, the re-invention of the wheel... you know what I mean, experience! someone hits you over the head, you have a head ache. One experience leads to another. You are born! What an experience that is, most likely you have forgotten, after all your skin was insensate,
but your body has not, it is an experience that can be retrieved under psychoanalysis. Most likely that will take a while until you get to it! And the process of getting there will be quite an experience, for sure.
Is the German for experience - something that you have lived, that has lived you, that has made a memorable impression, which leads to the expression lived experience, indicating a weakening of the word experience by its lonely elf.
Dreams, too, are
Some are so powerful that
will have fallen ill
from the fright dream:
wolves in a window!
Your [my] first dream is especially memorable.
Sleepwalking will not be.
Here I am discussing very particular experiences,
experiences while reading texts.
Not quite the same as “reading”
or “traces of the lost.”
That is, during a state of concentration, perhaps a very entranced and leisurely one, in a state of pleasure at how series of sentences and words effect, create your state of mind,
with fellow readers, friends,
liking or hating a text can break or make for friendships, differentiate,
the small difference! A small difference that no longer
matters now. Wish it were so with the Sunnis and the Shiites!
The 19th century had the warring camps of Brahms
and Wagner acolytes. We had the warring factions of those who swore by the Beatles or the Stones.
Reading experiences, translating
experiences in the theater are simultaneously
shared experiences, communal,
as well as private.
At the first performance of
Handke's RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE
at the Vivian Beaumont
at Lincoln Center,
the chiefly subscription audience,
beneficiaries of premieres, revolted
at being involved in a piece without a story,
confronted with pure
action, with a verbal game.
"George: And have you ever heard of a "fiery Eskimo"
Jannings: Not that I know
George: If you don't know it, then you haven't heard of it either. But the expression "a flying ship" - that you have heard?
Jannings: At most in a fairy tale.
George: But scurrying snakes exist?
Jannings: Of course not.
George: But fiery Eskimos - they exist?
Jannings: I can't imagine it.
George: But flying ships exist?
Jannings: At most in a dream.
George: Not in reality?
Jannings: Not in reality.
George: But born losers?
Jannings: Consequently they exist.
George: And born trouble makers?
Jannings: They exist.
George: And therefore there are born criminals.
Jannings: It's only logical.
George: As I wanted to say at the time...
Jannings: [interrupts him] "At the time"? Has it been that long already?
George [hesitates, astonished] Yes, that's odd! [Then continues rapidly] Just as there are born losers, born troublemakers, and born criminals, there are [he spreads is fingers.] born owners. Most people as soon as they own something are not themselves any more.[Those who are familiar with the subsequent, what I call "the transitional play", THEY ARE DYING OUT will note the similarity between RIDE and DYING in an instance like this one.] “They lose their balance and become ridiculous. Estranged from themselves they begin to squint. Bed wetters who stand next to their bed in the morning. [The bed signifies possession. Or perhaps their shame?] [brief moment of confusion, then he continues at once]. I, on the other hand, am a born loser: only when I possess something do I become myself...
Jannings: [interrupts him] "Born owner" I've never heard that expression.
George: [suddenly] "Life is a game..." You must have heard people say that?
George: Only one thing I don't understand. Of what significance is the winter evening to the story? There was no need to mention it, was there? [Jannings closes his eyes and thinks] Are you asleep?
Jannings: [opens his eyes] Yes, that was it! You asked me whether I was dreaming and I told you how long I sleep during the winter nights and that I then begin to dream toward morning and as an example I wanted to tell you a dream that might occur during a winter night.
George: Might occur?
Jannings: I invented a dream. As I said, it was only an example. the sort of thing that goes through one's head... As I said - a story?
George: But the kidneys flambe?
Jannings: Have you ever had kidneys flambe?
George: Not that i know.
Jannings: If you don't know, then you haven't had them....
Von Stroheim: Did you dream about it?
Porten: Someone mentioned it in a dream [she hands the pin to Bergner] When I saw the pin just now, I membered it again. And I had thought about it as also just another word.
George: Once someone told me about a corpse with a pinhead-sized wound on his neck [pause] [to Jannings] did you tell me about that?”
The above might also be regarded as a children's language game except that the language routines they employ are Wittgensteinian in nature. Moreover, RIDE plays right on the threshold between dream and waking as is evident from these quotes and is announced at the very beginning of the play, right after the Woman in Blackface has vacuumed up the "old theater"; and this dream quality/ possibility/ switching back and forth further disrupts whatever firm orientation the audience may have about the trip on to which this play takes them.
lacking a strap
to hang their minds on to!
Stories, diverters from writing, from reading closely! Thomas Bernhard, famously, fled a story as soon as he’d got its mere whiff!
to Susan Sontag's famous essay: she did not mean that as you
read you necessarily would turn into a burning bush as you
read Kafka, as I did
during my Sophomore year in college,
I appear to have the capacity to be a sponge, also for other
experiences along the line. Freshman year had been Faulkner. The text captivates you.
I had started to write in the wild and wooly way that Faulkner
did in certain books.
Sontag did not mean "just dig" as that expression
in the Sixties and Seventies may still have it.
is part of understanding,
reading is deciphering, the experience
occurs during the deciphering, which becomes automatic as of a certain point,
What a whirring of brain cells
What chemo-electric action
That the M.I.R. detects!
The critical faculties are awake, or more or less somnolent.
But Susan Sontag did mean a particular eschewal of a kind of interpretation that shortcuts the deep deciphering experience.
Her attack was on the academy,
The taxidermists, the neutralizers of the danger that lurks in texts.
That is, her attack
was at a really long line
of interpreters who had lost all enthusiasm,
against the scholar who has one shoe of Kafka's and
chews on it all his life!
She opposed the kind of devotion that
Hans Georg Gadamer describes in
Truth and Method,
or think of Maimonides,
the interpretation for generations on end
of religious and legal texts,
the mice chewing them apart, infinite disputations.
Councils, schisms, war! The bloody Supremes and their interpetations favored by obvious discernable political interests each and every time.
Of course it will happen to Handke, too.
The philoligisation is well underway.
State of Mind
A state of mind is something that you are always in as long as you are alive
you may be conscious of it
or oblivious say because you are intensely involved
You cannot account for it
unless you ingest certain substances
to which you then attribute
STATE OF MIND changes state of mind as you wake up
especially when you
have been seized by a dream
that has literally possessed you
like another state of mind... you feel one self fading but a more familiar one taking possession of you, your are beginning to be your “old self” again!
You feel that state of mind that possessed you fading,
it loses its hold
that might give you the idea that
now another possesses you, but you are not conscious of being so possessed as you were of the fading dream.
Where has it gone? what rabbit hole is the dream tyrant hiding in?
And then you get used to the state of mind of being awake
perhaps you need coffee or tea
perhaps you will be joyful at the beginning
of another day
but where have you been during your sleep
in what realm of a consciousness
during which so many thoughts were processed
undistracted by the day,
Wishes were fulfilled!
And you long that all language turned into Lewis Carrol’s
' WAS brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought--
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Calloh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
The dream feels like a baby going back into the womb, into what Freud called the navel, whence it arose to possess us. States of mind alter while a jongleur hypnotizes you, subliminal changes of which you are barely conscious subliminal is what you call them and think you have done with them by having named them.
Cathartic changes are emotionally intense, but you feel cleansed.
Less powerful, emotionally neutral events, it appears, based on certain film experiences and those of the Handke plays esthetically pleasing but also demanding concentration it turns out can have a similar cathartic effect, we see more clearly, we feel cleansed as though we had a dream and awoke from it refreshed.
Catharses in the theater are supposed to be a good thing especially if experienced communally.
The Oedipus tragedy constitutes
the first scientific theater as it were.
It is a family tragedy
A tragedy of symbolic body parts
It would become Freud’s chief lens into the psyche. The only other time I had proximate experiences than those with Handke’s Ride and Hour We knew nothing of Each Other was at the Berliner Ensemble in 1957, with several Brecht plays, although everything the Ensemble put on, even horrors such as Becher’s Stalinschlacht [The Battle of Stalingrad] were so well done as to appear magical! From that I conclude that Handke not only fulfills Brecht’s striving for an estranging aware making aesthetic experience, but does so in such a way that it does not require the immense efforts of a Berliner Ensemble, Ride & Hour do not require the world’s greatest actors and directors to have that effect, these two plays are inherently estranging as happenings.
The Amerian writer Edmond Caldwell discovered something similar in several Handke’s prose texts: [FN 8] or you can go to:
Living in the St. Monica Mountains in the late 80s, a Peppertree shedding its corns and a huge Juniper its sap onto the tin roof of my totally bucolic loft at 1500 feet above the Pacific only half a mile away, at the end of a dirt road, with Agave plants, I was walking ever more slowly on the dirt paths of the chaparral, the surf pounding out the name of the place to me in Chumash: Ma-Li-Bu… a south-facing beach on which the swells south-sea storms were breaking, pounding the beach at long intervals. WUM. BOOM. I read where Handke wrote that he had become “the king of slowness” as he was writing THE REPETITION which I was reading at that time, a memorialization with an imagined second go around of his graduation walk through the Slovenian part of Carinthia and the Dolminen in its Carso into Slovenia all the way to Ljubljana, its unobtrusively slow syntax entering, syncing with my becoming a king of slowness too, a slowness amplified [!] by reading this text.[see quote above at page 5]
Not only is Handke a writer whose pace and touch can affect your breathing, unless he wants to be loud, he insures a wonderful quiet in his text. Proof of that pudding can be found in the quietest of all his books, the film/novel ABSENCE: as that troupe wanders through the Spanish steppe, meseta I think it is, suddenly there comes a tank. I who have familiarity with tanks since early in life, have never heard a TANK, the essence of tank, that loud: single perfect proof the parallel worlds of the imagination, of the as if world of the spirit, and the world of real tanks! [Absence quote at about p.50]
Quite aside what Handke wrote in THE REPETITION, his way of writing seemed to affect the pace at which my heart beat, my very being, how I walked. It also was a time of a lot of re-reading it was, and of reading in the field of psychoanalysis. All of Freud, three times, each volume of the annual The Psychoanalytic Studies of the Child, founded in 1947 and unread at the Malibu library all those years! I read my way through a lot of the psychoanalytic literature of the then nearly 100 years, following up the bibliographies as I had once followed up the ABC of Reading’s suggestions. These certainly were becoming unusual reading experiences as I look back at all the reading I had done up until that point, appr. 50 years of fairly variegated reading of some extraordinary authors and encounter with minds. However, I am as aware of the huge gaps as much of what eyes have covered, and editing the translation of Georg Gadamer’s Truth & Method was one of the most useful actions I have committed to introduce puzzlement into acts of interpretation, of reading, because each mental act that we call understanding might not be just insufficient…
Something about Handke, the person caught my attention, and I continued my psychoanalytic education by following up his “caseness” from every angle that opened up to me; and so my reading was amplified without lessening any of the pleasures of making my reading and hearing and listening more precise. Anyhow, so it seemed.
Ought, I perhaps, also have an “excursus” on what is meant by the mental phenomenon that we describe with the words “clear” “precise” when it comes to words?
Eventually I would conclude that his need to write so much of the time – especially during the period during which he presented himself as the 2nd coming of Franz Kafka - was productively related to overcoming fear. See:
In a different context I had noted, much earlier, that Wim Wender’s film of GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK was no equivalent for the way the text of that book involves the reader via the legerdemain of syntax [which I happen to have translated these dog ages ago and which has given my friend and fellow Handke translator Scott Abbott the title for his blog where last
we discussed Handke's latest novel, the 2011 DER GROSSE FALL.] Something similar to the dichotomy between text and film of Goalie can be observed when comparing the text of Die Stunde Als Wir nichts von einander Wussten with a performance. Whereas the text takes the reader by the their syntax, the very scruff of it, and never lets go, especially in German and even in this inadequate Gitta Honegger translation:
The stage is an open square in bright light.
It begins when someone runs across.
Then another, from the other direction, the same way.
Then two pass each other, the same way, each followed by a third and fourth, diagonally.
In the background someone walks across the open square. As he is strolling along, he continuously opens and spreads all his fingers and at the same time slowly stretches and lifts his arms until he has completed a full circle above the crown of his head. Then he lowers them again at the same leisurely pace, as he ambles across the plaza.
Just before he disappears up a street behind the square, he stirs up some wind with his walk, fans it towards him with both hands, tilts back, his head face up, then finally swerves off.
When he reappears, instantly, in exactly the same rhythm, someone else comes toward him in the center of the square, marking, while moving, a silent beat, first with one hand, then in harmony with the other, and by the time he turns from the square into yet another street, his whole body has joined in, his gait, too, has finally picked up the beat.
and let’s go as little of that braid as the sadistic class mate does of the braid of the girl in front, images in succession, fabulous in many cases, remagicking the ordinary, may possibly spell-bind you as you watch them; however, images by themselves, do not, or no longer – do we know whether animals have a grammar for images? – hook us in that fashion. Image, chiffre - Chinese and Japanese writing still contain more than a vestigial hint of the representational aspect of words. Chinese masters called for periodic renewal of the language. There, in ideograms, image is the signifier of what is signified… My Chumash called Ma-li-bu what they heard: Loud pounding surf. Accurate, simple, straight forward. Perhaps “Malibu” even then had a certain enviable caché for more desert tribes, which in this case is one mountain range further east, the desert, the St. Maria valley! Kern County. What might a Japanese representation of that name have been, since I don’t believe the Chumash - although I came on the usual petroglyphs in the caves in the St. Monica preserve - had yet a written language, but they were on their way, they, too, beseeched wales and deer, protein. A wave like a hammer pounding a beach might be an apt representation in a language that used such means for the symbolic. Dreams of course still use images as a representation of what we call thoughts, a series of images tells a story, conveys a state of mind, constitute a pun, usually condensed, telegrams from the otherwise unconscious, the basic language formulator, or at any event unconscious unless you start analyzing your visual fantasies. Handke to my immense surprise wrote in dream syntax in the 1996 novel ONE DARK NIGHT I LEFT MY SILENT HOUSE. Well, he had already written in the form of dream images, in AFTERNOON OF A WRITER in the sequence after “the writer” has passed through the city and its gossip has injured him and he feels like a hit and run victim, a woman wounded in a ditch.
A Necessary [?] Digression
Prior to linking up with my initial entry into the maze of language, that huge river delta of language streams, let me divert briefly into another kind of reading experience, of texts going dead under your/ my eyes, texts that were alive as you were reading them going dead, turning into what I call “dead skin,” as most journalism is and it is taken for granted that it will be, when the music went out of the text, when it stopped breathing, when it lost all rhythm and poetry and turned into journalism, when you disconnected from the author.
The first time this happened to me was around 1960 with James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room. I much liked Baldwin's work, but about a third of the way through, Giovanni expired, that book went dead, and it never came alive again. Textually it went dead. A memorable experience I had not had before. It was a real shock. I double-checked myself. And I probably could find the page now. I can think of only two other instances of that kind. The last was in the bowling alley section, 3/4th of the way through of Jim Krusoe’s Erased, but he recovered after a few pages and the book came alive again in its particular mind-shifting way and its roustabout ending. I asked Jim whether he had had a bad hair day, and he responded that he had scarcely any hair left. So we both at least had a laugh. Something of the kind happens a few times, not as radically, in that long slog with the greatest ending of any book I have ever read, Handke's Crossing the Sierra del Gredos, not as radically as in Baldwin's book, but it happens. Handke has mentioned something to the effect that if he is not breathing right, doesn't wake up with gold on his tongue, he is a sorry critter.  However, Handke - if the magic of making magic is not upon him - is at least always a pro, a carpenter roofer who goes to work each day and lays the timbers. But I at least feel the absence of the old magic. I have no idea whether Handke’s first reader, Peter Hamm, or his nearly life-long editor Raimund Fellinger notice these instances – but what could they or Handke do even if they did? Handke works of more than 100,000 words – The Repetition , Noman’s-Bay , Del Gredos , Morawian Night  - each has a few faults, blemishes – and what counts for me in this instance of pure reading that these represent breaks in the dureé, the continuity, the screen [see anon] on which reading transpires. Also, for Moravian I failed to find the ineluctable formal law that usually governs a Handke text
for a long review which will be revised upon several further readings on publication of the American translation.
However, Moravian is unique in Handke’s prose work for being a kind of calling card, a demonstration of just about everything he can do: [a] great series, Handke has been doing series since the very beginning, and these are their culmination – three of them: for the Noise Congress; for the reasons that he beat up girl-fiend [Marie Colbin]– it is done to the ultimate choking point where the ex-girl-fiend isn’t left the air to voice a single objection; and a Jew’s Harp competition, apparently one of Handke’s favorite instruments;  a demonstration of immense, barely contained rage by a bus driver to the Kosovo who keeps shouting “Apache” – it would be possible to go further here, and make the text rumble, treating words as physical entities, something Josef Winkler or I myself might have done;  marvelous wandering sections as only Handke does them;  nature descriptions, say of the Morava reeds in which the houseboat is anchored;  an extraordinary dramatic section set in the island Krk/ Cordular where Handke wrote his first novel, DIE HORNISSEN in the summer of 1964, that features his first girl fiend haunting him like the smell of rotting fish as an old accusing drone for having abandoned her with child – Dostoyevsky cum el Greco is my formula for the achievement;  a tad of futurism which has a more convincing ring than it does elsewhere in his work – in this instance the “ex-author’s” home village now has minarets sprouting in it; nearly all that was within my range of experience of Handke texts, except that at one quiet entirely unshowoffy stretch – it comes just after the tunnel section in the middle of the book, which itself comes after a long wandering section in northwest Spain that connects the novel’s intimate romantic theme as it is played out on board the houseboat to a preceding series of events, I was just reading quietly along the plain perfect laconic classical formulations…when I quaked, I realized that it was the text mysteriously had elicited that interior quaking – and I am someone who during his first stretch on the West Coast lived right on top of that major fault that runs south of San Francisco, the St. Andreas I think it is, poor Andreas to have his name used like that, and , during his second stretch on the west coast, living in the St. Monicas Mountains stepped outside, instinctively it seemed, whenever the birds fell quiet shortly before a tremor ran through the region, and whom the Northridge quake of 1994 caught entirely unawares during a midnight dream, eliciting the bombing nightmares of my youth, an event that left me listing like a torpedoed ship that is taking on water, for about two weeks. The small sharp entirely interior quake that reading that section of Moravian Night elicited in me, made me look up and check my surround – I was reading outside, in a prairie adjacent to Lake Washington, which if “the big one” hits, as it has every few hundred years, will liquefy. Thus the tension that the quake released inside me was I suspect due to an excess of beauty, but an unobtrusive one subliminally experienced. The analyst and former translator of Adorno Shierry Weber Nicholson has a fine piece in the IJPA, trying to account for the pain that an excess of beauty can produce. 
I am not interested, here, in the overall formal perfections or lack thereof of these Handke’s works, or the satisfaction the like provide the reader, but in the effect of certain kinds of sheer writing, in how his being exerts itself through his syntax on the reader as it does in The Repetition, how his sheer love of writing or joy manifests itself for some stretches in the second half of Der Grosse Fall which Scott Abbott and I discussed in great detail and length at his:
Bemerkenswert wieder, dass der einstige Blickfreund einerseits bei jeder Begegnung ungestalter geworden war, anderseits - anfangs der Schöne, behaust in der tiefsten Tiefe der Wälder - von Mal zu Mal sich deren Rändern und damit den Ausläufersiedlungen der Megepole angenähert hatte. Inzwischen die Ungestalt selbst, war er eine Hörweite (Sicht oder überhaupt Sehen, das schien bei ihm auf immer vorbei) naeher an die Häuser und Straßen gerückt, dass ihm kein Geräusch von denen daher entgehen konnte. Nicht nur die Rasenmäher und Presslufthammer, auch die Staubsauger..."
Just the way the comparisons are made in time and space, the transformations within a few words, the locations, how they become present in a reader's mind, how the senses are employed... all in a single small ball of wax... how the obvious old designations are avoided and new ones created: Ungestalt instead of hässlich, Rasenmäher instead of Mähmaschine... and the way the gramatical constructions move you around - thus I am reminded of the original title for my project: “The dictator of syntax.” If we are its prisoners, let us take charge of the prison, some such thought must have passed through Handke's mind on the way from KASPAR to WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES and the turn to the classics, was implicit of course in that demonstration. And here it is merely a case of the caterpillar of narration moving forward with great efficiency... I can imagine no end of writers taking pages to account just for the information that is conveyed into the readers mind with these few words… and with such alacraty, playfully. So this gives me a certain pleasure. But is not really what I am after either, it does not alter my state of mind very deeply…..
But look at the following, the masterly way he STITCHES past present and everything together! I admired his weaving as the THREE ASSAYINGS culminated in that of NO-MAN'S BAY; now, about 20 years later, the weaving has become a well-tempered stitching on the trembling broken trunk of language! The immensity of achievement! Of course I knew that it would come to something as unimaginable as this when the rotznasige Count von und zu Griffen wrote me around 1975 that he was now capable of everything!
"Er, der Wald Tölpel, war unfähig zu gleichwelcher Gewalttätigkeit, und hatte niemandem ein Haar gekrümmt, und war vielleicht auch so zum Ausgestoßenen geworden. Und sein Erschrecken ueber den da, der die Gewalt in der Menschenwelt darstellte, ging Hand in Hand mit dem Ausdruck eine Beschwichtigenwollens. Das Erschrecken, das hilflose, und das Beschwichtigenwollen, das ebenso hilflose, brachte beide zusammen das Kindergesicht hervor. Da stand er und ließ sich sehen, in seinem Versuch der Beschwichtigung halb die Hände gehoben."
First of all I am reminded of Handke calling himself "schreckhaft" - as he might well, which indeed he is as I once found out when I sent him my friend Boris "Policeband" Pearlman, a six foot four "Latte" dressed in Punk black and dark shades, to look him up in Paris,
for Dike Blair's and my memorialization of this punk violinist who dressed that way and had that NY mouth because he was equally "schreckhaft"!
This scared, somewhat impotent "Halt's Maul/ ta geule/ shut up" forest critter is called a "mama's boy" a page or so ago, as Handke has started to call himself as of MORAWISCHE NACHT. Reading IMMER NOCH STURM I realized that he was also aware that he had been/ was a "love child" to the nth power, in GREDOS, someone like me, a careful, analytically schooled reader could not but help be surprised by two or three mentions of "the unconscious" -- ha ha I laughed! - those AWESOME depths, has my man acquaintance with that realm. Here in just a few formulations I feel that our man is as a great as any living analyst, but does not need to use what he regards as their "dog language." "Halb die Hände hoch." I nearly break out in tears at that
"Ungegrüsst wegschauen und weitergehen, es gab nichts zu sehen. Und zugleich wurde ihm bewusst, dass er den, der auf der Busbank hockte und durch ihn, und nicht bloß durch ihn hier, durchstarrte, kannte. Das wusste er in einem Nu, so klar wie nur bei einer nie und nimmer für möglich gehaltenen Sache. Der Fremde da, im fremden Land, war einmal, in ihrer beider gemeinsamen Land, war einmal, in ihrer beider gemeinsamen Land, sein Nachbar gewesen, ein guter. Fast ein Freund. Ein Freund. Mit einem Ausruf zu dem herumgefahren, mit dem Ausruf seine Vornamens: >>Andreas!<< - der erste Name für eine Person der dem Schauspieler an jenem Tag über die Lippen in den Sinn kam. Die Frau hieß bei ihm, seit Beginn, nur <> - was in seiner Herkunftsgegend bei den Männern ein Ausdruck der Ehrerbietung war, gewesen war, hatte sein können; und sein ferner Sohn war am heutigen Tag sein Sohn gewesen, oder auch nur <>.
Keine Reaktion von dem Angerufenen. Bestätigung dafür auf den in Frageform wiederholten Vornamen mit dem Nachnamenzusatz, von der Mitsitzerin auf der Busbank, in einem Gemisch von mindestens drei Sprachen. Ja, das sei er. Und es sei vorbei mit diesem Andreas. >>Der wird nicht mehr. Sagen Sie ihm, was Sie wollen: es kommt nicht an bei ihm. Es ist aus mit dem. Ende!<< Und im Blick auf den anderen kehrte dem Schauspieler, in wieder so einer Sekunde, die gemeinsame Zeit zurück: durch ihre so verschiedenartigen Berufe - nie hatte er sich als Nachbar oder Freund seinesgleichen vorstellen können - waren sie einander näher gekommmen und gute Nachbarn geworden, was zeitweise genausoviel zählte wie eine Freundschaft. Er hatte sogar eine Verwandtschaft zu dem andern gespürt und die wiederum verstärkt durch die Berufe, die nach außen hin kaum zusammen gingen....
IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH note the directionals they are implicit but evident: in a film or on stage you would see the pointing the closeups, hear the languages which, here, are left to the imagination. And within that one second we are in the past, the past is now the reader's present, closeness of the two men, that has been interrupted by time... what a wealth of information is being conveyed and in alacritous fashion. I am calling this the "Handke Caterpillar" because it slows the reader down, somewhat, to be able to take in the unusual - comparatively - amount of information that is being conveyed, playfully, but also because a Caterpillar machine has tracks has gears, grammatical ones in this case.
Notable also are certain moments such as "über die Lippen in den Sinn kam." The awareness of the fact that "über die Lippen," although it implies consciousness, it is such a usual phrase meanwhile that it needs to be made clear that it also enters his noggin. Have fun Krishna Winston solving what are huge problems in a language that has not as many hooks as German.
"Zeitnot, Notzeit: ohne es eilig zu haben, hatte man es eilig. Oben wurde unten, recht wurde links, vorne wurde hinten, vor schien zurück und umgekehrt, und wieder umgekehrt, und so fort Durcheinander. Die kleinsten der Häuser unten ragten himmelhoch über ihm auf, der Fluss strömte aufwärts, und im nächsten Moment
werweissswohin..." Nüchternwerden war die Zeitnot auch endlich zu bedenken: Sie war zugleich begleitet gewesen von einer monströsen Langeweile, und die Langeweile war in eins gegangen mit Hektik und vor allem Unaufmerksamkeit. In der Zeitnot war die Erde nicht nur ein fremder, sonder darüber hinaus ein feindlicher Stern. Und seltsam wieder, dass diese Not nur auftrat an Tagen des Müessiggangs. Aber war Müssiggehen denn nicht eine Notwendigkeit? Und so auch die Zeitnot
But it is a section such as the following that I am after in this instance of being affected on a pure reading level, the joy of being affected by such playfulness. There are several stretches of page-length of the pure joy that Handke takes in writing, so it strikes me who reads joyfully, further on in the book:
So grüsste meinen Schauspieler, unter anderen: eine Reiterin (jung und blond); ein patrouillierendes Polizistenpaar; ein Läufer mit untertassengrossen Hörern über beiden Ohren; ein Priester, im Ornat, mit Ministrant im Ministrantengewand (unterwegs durch das hohe Gras zu einer letzten Ölung?); ein anderer Schauspieler, der im Kreuz- und Quergehen auf de Lichtung laut seine Texte lernte; a Balkan Prostituierte, die vor der Nacht unten in der Megapole dahier ein wenig Luft zu schöpfen versuchte, oder sich versteckte vor ihrem Zuhälter;...
There are some pages of these kinds of joyous irruptions such as the brief section that I quote, or even more joyous ones that really affect me, and they affect me as music can, this is nearly jazzy writing, or as jazzy as Handke will allow himself to become or can be [FN-10-CONROY], thus I am not surprised that Peter Strasser, already some years ago, wrote a book about Handke’s prose entitled Freudenstoff – The Stuff of Joy: the joy is conveyed in the writing, no matter that, e.g. Der Grosse Fall contains some grim visions and encounters or call them projections, but look at the discussion if you don’t have German. I then wonder whether these outbursts of joy – of joy in writing, yet joy is joy, channel the admitted love child’s love that he inherited, mother-imbued. Neither love nor hate come ex nihilo, and I guess they require a responder, which happens to be me, whose general preference is for shrieking dissonance a la the Herbie Hancock of around 1970 at the Vanguard.
And now the section of recognition:
"Er sah den auch schon, erkannte den, der still und hoch aufgerichtet dastand, an seinen starren Augen und, deutlicher noch, an seinen gespannten Wangen.Und indem er ihn auf sich übergehen ließ, merkte er, dass das da er selbstwar, sein Spiegelbild in den schwarzen Waggonfenstern. Verwunderlich eigentlich, dass so wenige Amok liefen. Und wenn, jäher Gedanke, einer, der Amok lief, sich zugleich opfern, jemandem oder was retten wollte? Wäre so die Geschichte, der Film, doch darstellbar? Und die Untergrundgesichter zeigten sich dann von solcher Phantasie seltsam besänftigt.."
"He already saw him, recognized him, standing there quietly and upright, with that rigid look in his eyes and, more precisely, his tensed up cheeks. And by letting him be absorbed by himself, he noticed, that that that was him himself, his mirror image in the black windows of the metro car. It was odd, actually, that it was so few were running amok. And if, abrupt thought, if someone who ran amok simultaneously sacrificed himself or be acting in order to save? Would that story, that film, still be something that could be represented? And that fantasy then, oddly, seemed to soothe the subterranean faces ..."
I will approach instances where the magic is upon Handke and his translator mediums transmits it, Handke’s prose is such that he takes his prose lends his translators elbow support, if elbows they have. But first, Handke at just his craftsman’s best. After all, Handke was not born a classical narrator. Having learned to weave on a small canvas Handke, subsequently wove six panels into one large fabric: My Year in the Nomans-Bay  and it would seem with DER GROSSE FALL is venturing into new narrative territory once again. Like the subsequent 2002 Crossing the Sierra del Gredos, this large undertaking, too, has a merely craftsman-like, sober beginning. These are not the spectacular openings of some of his other prose texts or plays, the Fifth Symphony opening of the as yet untranslated PREPARATIONS FOR IMMORTALITY, of GOALIE, most recently of DER GROSSE FALL, a lightning strike: e.g. the melodious melancholy opening, with hints of Bob Dylan and Credence Clearwater Revial of the 1981:
“"Man from overseas, spectator mask over your cheeks. You had no ear for the surge of the subterranean homesickness dirge. Blind to the drops of blood in the snow, wanderer without shadow. Hand among hands on bus straps you stand. Northsoutheastwest sire, but now I'm getting mired.”
Here the sober opening of Crossing the Sierra del Gredos, a 350,000 word undertaking that had the greatest ending that I and my friend the Winters-trained poet Marty Abramson and I have ever come upon.
“She wished this were her last journey. The place where she had lived and worked for a long time now always offered more than enough new experiences and adventures. The country and the region were not the ones in which she had been born, and starting in childhood she had lived in several altogether different lands and landscapes.
Raised by grandparents who were avid travelers, or vagabonds, to be more precise, who seemed to change their nationality with every border they crossed, she had pined for a while in her youth for the long-lost land of her birth in eastern Germany, familiar to her not from her own memories but rather from stories, and later from dreams as well. [This quote of several thousand words continues at FN # 11]
Something transpires in the continuous absorption of a text that remagicks the world, or at least the world of words. However, as the concepts of experience and state of mind have come into play, no matter that my reader may think I am being a pain in bothering with matters all that obvious, let me, before proceeding, also add a few other playful definitions.
Varieties of Experiences with Handke Texts & Plays
I started to translate Peter Handke’s early plays in the late 60s, an experience I have memorialized here:
I will define with whatever precision I am capable of the experience of the how these plays affect an audience and me. But before I do that I will indicate on what linguistic musical level Handke operates: A composer starts with a single “note” – its equivalent in writing is a syllable, even if he wakes up with a melody in a lucky morning beak. Handke’s first play, Prophecy, 1965, demonstrates these simple building blocks, and his life-long, ever more varied use of the serial principle.
The stuck pick will bleed like a stuck pig. A: The average person will behave like an average person B:The bastard will behave like a bastard. C: The man of honor will behave like a man of honor. D: The opera hero will behave like an opera hero. A: The heart will be heartsick. D: The skin will be skin-deep. C: The bloodsucker will be bloodthirsty. B: The threads will be threadbare. A: The stone will be stone-hard. ABCD: Every day will be like every other."
The way Handke’s first play without words but with sounds MY FOOT MY TUTOR is written it might as well be scored as
Ditto for HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER. Not plays for the flatfooted in other words.
Handke it turns out is a species of romantic who seeks to turn the world into music, but does so in such a different way from 19th century – say Swinburne’s rich bed of assonances and sibilants - attempts along that line.
I had planned a long essay, perhaps a monograph, on how Handke’s prose procedures have changed, from the initial novel, DIE HORNISSEN, and virtuoso stories, to MORAVIAN NIGHT and DER GROSSE FALL, but it is my hunch that unless someone pays me a few shillings, the various stabs I have taken in that direction - all accessible via:
- in the long essays on NO-MAN’S BAY and CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS and elsewhere along the way of this fascinating project and of this essay, which is really an off-shoot from an entirely personal Part I, this will be the extent of it. See:
For the entire lecture on Handke’s dramas, from which I am quoting here.
PROPHECY, it turns out, does, it is a very active piece, pretty much the same thing, playfully, as Susan Sontag would, in such a different fashion, in her Illness as Metaphor, in exploding the misuse of false analogies, a mental habit that will reassert itself no matter.
After the performance of Handke’s PUBLIC INSULT, as I now call Offending the Audience [Publikumsbeschimpfung] in my translation at the Goethe House, 1969, a psychoanalyst mentioned that the audience had received an hour’s worth of the best group therapy in making it so utterly self-conscious. Right on! The insults at the end are the joke, the Surprise Symphony effect, the bait to get the audience to attend the scandal, but it is the hour of being addressed, being told everything it did, every thing that it feels and thought that produces self-consciousness, about being addressed, about being in the crossfire of words, about being in the world, on the world stage. In other words, P.I. has a profound didactic and psychological impact. That constitutes its experiential component. The experience of SELF-ACCUSATION, aside the enjoyment of how its series work, would be of the sheer excess, to the point of utter ridiculousness that self-berating can be taken. It makes you conscious, consciously, or at least subliminally of that feature of the working of our conscience. The fact that it does so playfully works to its advantage. My Foot My Tutor, Handke’s first play of pure action but no words, demonstrates a sado-masochistic power relationship, master slave, with all kinds of sounds – sawing, water trickling, cutting – acquiring quite sinister associations. QUODLIBET [As You Like It] works on the principle of auditory hallucination – the king’s conscience it wants to catch with its ambiguities is that of the audience’s mishearing. KASPAR works as a word torture that an audience empathizes with - or not I suppose; it also functions as an education in the tragedy of the prison house, the labyrinth of grammar into which Goalie puts you, dangerously, with its first few paragraphs. Overall, these texts show us an astonishing control over language, Handke could be a prison builder for Josef Goebbels and his many kin I realized 25 years ago. Even then, however, he could be entirely playful, a virtuoso, as in WELCOMING THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS and as he has become again, joyfully so, in his 2011 narrative DER GROSSE FALL.
The effect of the 1970 RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE is very different. The play presents itself as that of actors assuming the roles of older actors, a kind of KASPAR en masse on first blush, everyone wants to be “someone who was somebody once upon a time,” and they act as if; they are young and are trying out roles and they are grandiose! But RIDE is chiefly a language game where sentences are handed off and queried, a kind of wild ride of associations, the danger being that you cannot hand off a sentence, will be left without a repartee, drop the baton and that the ice of language on which you ride shatters and you will drown. Your mind will freeze up. As compared to the other early Handke plays I had not the faintest how it would play or what my experience of it would be: Handke's other early texts I knew what they would do to an audience not only because I had translated their serial procedures but because I had directed them and had seen Herbert Berghof direct them. Nor had I participated in rehearsals of Ride at the Vivian Beaumont – I was more interested in a woman and spending time with her in Woodstock. It happens. I took Max and Marianne Frisch to the premiere as well as my woman. Max did not care for the play at all. It seemed to make him angry. Was it the plays implicit promiscuity, the aggressive and sinister undertone? I forgot what Marianne’s and Cathy’s reactions were. Me, however, the performance transported into a state of pure stasis. The 90 minute juggling act, the various, sometimes sinister games that the half dozen actors playing actors had played – “The drawer is stuck”, “Let the drawer be stuck.” – had the effect of cleaning all the crap in my mind out of it. It was not a sublime experience, it was one of pure stasis, of pure being you might say, as some of Handke’s texts, too, have effected, a benign form of dissociation, as compared to several other painful ones I experienced as the after effect of marijuana
That is why I am trying to formulate this particular RIDE experience, which Handke achieves once more in the summa of his early happenings - for that is what THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER is of all the former, what genius it takes to find that solution [!]. There, in Hour, using nothing but images, a succession of them, to discombobulate the inured mind into experiencing it as something fabulous. There is something very positivistic about that kind of experience, and it might be an instance where Adorno and Popper would find rare agreement. Adorno prior to his death in 1969 expressed his admiration of Handke’s work, at least to me.
I saw that Lincoln Center production of RIDE a few more times full length, and then only needed to go for a ten minute "hit" as it were, homeopathic, to feel liberated during its five week run. I couldn't account for the experience, as I might for a drug hit, and did not experience anything like it until what is called "a good hour" in analysis. The experience of stasis was produced by the sheer playfulness of the illogicality, or new, inverted kind of logic, of what transpired on stage, that might also be called an utter anti-boulevard boulevard play. Richard Gilman pointing out that Handke in RIDE used Wittgensteinian querying of language does not really help, and Dick wrote his piece without having seen the performance. Handke might have used inverted legal procedures, the resulting absurdity does the trick of being utterly liberating, of wiping the slate clean. Is it the liberation from the querying that existentially is always with us? Of the inured logic of our daily lives? Perhaps so, if we take Handke’s great The Art of Asking as the answer to that questions as to “when and wherefore and why” not being the questions to posed.
»In uns die Fragezeichen sind heutzutage krank. Können keine richtigen Fragen mehr bilden. Sind deshalb in unseren Köpfen ausgebrochen als die Pein des Geredes. Welches jede Frage erstickt. Welches die Herzen auffrisst. Welches mit uns aufräumen wird, wenn wir, statt von der Wunde abzulenken, ihr nicht auf den Grund zu gehen versuchen.«
Not that I would say that Handke has sought out the ground of his wound, rather he avoids facing it, even avoids it in his 2011 play FOREVER STORM, a ¾ biographically based drama of Austro-Slovenian resistance to Nazism
SAMMLUNG BEIHNAHE ALLER REZENSIONEN/ REVIEWS
for an extensive discussion, background material and reviews]. What he avoids is the fact that his mother was married to a German soldier, thus avoiding the littoral, the frontera, the middle ground! where such mingling is normal, and the very ground on which conflict, the ambivalence becomes fraught with tensions – my guess is that the mere idea of his gruesome stepfather having been married to his mother is too much too bear, too painful; however, the avoidance leaves a gap in the play which turns a bit agitprop towards the end, otherwise Shakepearean. [I myself am someone who once in his life slithered on answers for years on end as though they were nubile breasts and who once worked on sub-atomic particles with a Quark - Nonsense, requeson - specialist!]
Ride’s closest affinity would be Ionesco’s absurdities, but that is a first hand, a superficial affinity only. Ionesco’s Cantrarice Chauve & La Lecon do not perform a catharsis, which is what Ride and Hour do, which are not absurd in the least. The “cleaning of your clock” which these plays achieve is not performed by purely aesthetic means, although you are sensitized to aethetic experience subsequently, but in the instance of Ride by means of a counter-logic to the everyday logic, that is to an inversion, which is you experience it for a certain length of time, that is both duree and some variation are are required within a musically arranged space time; and in the instance of Hour by means of a continuous variation of images on a stage in the same bright light! The audience undergoes a voluntary entrancing, and if you are entranced a number of matters occur intra-psychically of which you are quite unaware. I happen to think that nonetheless Handke’s theater is part of the enlightenment, but it is right at the edge; for unfortunately, the spectacular spectacles that the Disneys and Dreamworks of this world put on the multiplexes also have a kind of clock-cleaning effect, but scarcely an enlightening one.
Pure playfulness is not absurd. The effect of THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT EACH OTHER is the same. Clean, reborn. With the effect of Handke's texts on his readers’ state of mind, these qualities need to be a major aspect of reviewing his ever more artful and emotionally deeper works. Playfulness, musicality – are there reviewers, critics around who can actually do that job?
Handke’s plays – Ride, Hour - do not play on an undifferentiated continuum, they have a movement: see the quote above at about p.30] And note that Handke’s procedure differs rally not one iota from the musical scoring for MY FOOT MY TUTOR [above]: each has that moment - the party moment, when a party has its high-point, nearly every party has it, and it is entirely unpredictable but for the fact that is hasn’t been a party if there has not been a memorable high-point. One reviewer in Chicago got it right, and wrote: "Just describe the experience." Not that easy is it? Much easier to dish out impressionistic mumbling or, by default, Barnes and Nightingale respectively for the NY Times straddle the fence and admit that they don’t get it: they don’t get it because their minds are so primed for their range of what constitutes a theatrical experience: ditto for the great majority of reviewers of Handke’s prose.
It is there that Handke's work intersects with "happenings" and with Susan Sontag's AGAINST INTERPRETATION and with McLuhan’s notion about medium, yet at such a concrete artistic level, but the experience, say of Handke providing what Peter Strasser called "FREUDENSTOFF" [the stuff of joy], can be detailed in this instance, at least I think I can and I hope I have detailed the different magical experiences to be had with some of Handke’s texts, and with a few further instances to come,and mysticism and mystical experiences are my last resort, as it is of the great physicists with one of whom, a Quark specialist, I once worked so intensely that the little beasties, Charmers all, Muons Glouns, Mesons, Bosons, don’t say that physicists don’t have a sense of humor about the requeson the world is made of, entered my dreams, and whether I stand on any kind of solid ground I suppose depends on whether I also imbibed Higgs’ Boson during that intellectual adventure. At any event, though there may have been a limit on what was called “Kraft durch Freude”, there is no disputing that some of Handke’s texts can put his readers into a joyful state, as of about his “Slow Homecoming Period” but especially in instances of the kinds of monstrums he once claimed he would never write, not wanting these albatrosses to weigh him down, I am talking about My Year in the No-Man’s-Bay and Crossing the Sierra del Gredos, Morawian Night and Der Grosse Fall.
There are few people in the world who love an answer to a question more than I do, no matter how difficult the algorithm [s], and in that respect, as a rationalist, I am evidently the very opposite of the aspect of Peter Handke who admits to a tendency to denial, to beautifying the world, manicuring his injured self-image, although I respond very nicely to his remagicking, which seems to require the ability on his part to have learned his craft from the masters, and constitutes a very different form of “magic realism” than what those words usually refer to, although I certainly respond powerfully to the master of that craft as well, Gabriel Marquez.
But I also like the state of mind - not just the state of mind: the innocence of no answer and no querying and of admitting the possibility that each answer might also be the wrong one, misformulated. Or that there are no answers at all! “Let the drawer be stuck.” That is why I like Handke’s The Art of Asking, not just for its poetry and marvelous characters, its metaphoric stage. No whys wheres whens or wherefores, the mind is quieted, no internal dialogue of any kind!
No matter the extraordinary experiences that Handke’s plays can be for an audience, translating them was just a lot of verbal fun that involved little emotional investment. See:
for an account. I was not all that surprised that for the insults at the end of Publikumsbeschimpfung, Handke, too, as I read recently, had made long lists and put them up on a clipboard beside his type-writer. The translations of Innerworld – I am trying to think if emotion came into play. Perhaps at moments, say in Singular & Plural [Die Einzahl und die Mehrzahl] which I analyzed much later and found to be an example of a piece of writing in which I at least can see Handke overcoming anxiety through the act of writing, this is the period that he felt he was the second coming of Kafka, and DER HAUSIERER is the largest scale example of this, but so is the translated RADIO PLAY I: See:
Otherwise, the translation work was a question of finding a way of duplicating these texts in American. I did not feel I succeeded with all of them at the time of publication of the book, so some were only completed afterward and only appeared in various magazines. I still find Innnerworld utterly delightful: but I can’t say I appreciated the depth of Handke’s “innerworld of the outerworld of the innerworld” procedure until much later. Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, too, involves little emotional empathy, but that, since translating is a sentence by sentence problem solving, merely involved linguistic and aesthetic judgments. I did not reflect until much later on what kind of person that might be who conceived of such a story and why. With the three long poems in Nonsense and Happiness emotions, stormy feelings flooded into play, and I welcomed it when they became “musical” as it says at one point in work that becomes deeply personal.
As I read the Handke texts subsequent to Goalie’s Anxiety, the books of his critical first Paris period, A Moment of True Feeling, Weight of the World, Left-Handed Woman I noticed that these texts seemed to induce depression which the end of these books then seemed to lift, I noticed but did not give, probably also lacked time at the time, to delve more deeply aside from noting the why and wherefores of what I had noted. Meanwhile I have given a lot of thought why Handke, at least initially, was of a depressive disposition, and during that panicky Paris time he had ample reason to be depressed, quite aside the fundamental disposition. The “Weight of the World” indeed.
I recall novelist Jim Krusoe telling me of having a similar experience with these texts, that was in the late 80s, on the West Coast. But the first really major experience with a Handke text – right, I had had these amazing experiences with some of the plays - was with the title novel of the triptych that is published in the United States as A Slow Homecomig: and its opening, the Alaska chapter. I try to account for this by telling myself that although I had spent nine months in the interior, as a forest fire fighter and as a geological surveyor’s assistant and have dozens of anecdotes of that experience, the totality of that experience remained inarticulatable. But something in me, evidently pre-conscious, that is dimly, had been seeking such articulation. I recall walking with Handke across the Brooklyn Bridge on a night that a light snow was falling as he was about to write that chapter in the Hotel Adams at 86th Street and Fifth Avenue. Idyllic as hell of course. But the mother hen in me became worried on hearing that after just a few visits of a few weeks each he was going to write about Alaska, the immensity of that. Yes, he had at least read John McPhee’s big book about that region I was relieved to hear. The immensity of it – when I finally read that chapter about two years later, in Vienna, on my way back from a hard-working month in Bulgaria, and on my way to visit Handke in Salzburg, it really hit me, the expression “bowled over” fits for once, that in one chapter he had articulated its immensity, in part by being very sparing in his naming.
A SLOW HOMECOMING
Sorger had outlived several of those who had become close to him; he had ceased to long for anything, but often felt a selfless love of existence and at times a need for salvation so palpable that it weighed on his eyelids. Capable of a tranquil harmony, a serene strength that could transfer itself to others, yet too easily wounded by the power of facts, he knew desolation, wanted responsibility, and was imbued with the search for forms, the way to differentiate and describe them, and not only out of doors [“in the field”], where this sometime tormenting and often gratifying and at its best triumphant activity was his profession.
At the end of the working day, in the light-gray gabled wooden house at the edge of the mainly Indian settlement in the Far North of the other continent, which for some months had been serving him and his colleague Lauffer as both laboratory and dwelling, he slipped the protective on the microscopes and binoculars he had been using alternately and his face still distorted by the frequent changes from short view to long view and back, peered through the episodic space created by the sunset light and the hovering wooly-white seeds of the dwarf poplars, an after-work corridor, as it were to “his” bench.
Thus, reviewers of Handke’s prose texts, too, might want to articulate the experience, preferably without resorting to their pitiably small repertoire of impressionistic adjectives, all those who suffer from adjectivitis; they might describe his growing artfulness, how his texts dance, calm. Of his texts, the sheer writerliness and the machinery of a text as we find it in, say Don Juan [as told by himself] or in his latest novel Der Grosse Fall see:
for a long discussion of that also tantalizing conundrum with many fine insights from Scott Abbott.
Subsequent to the utterly astonishing experience I had with A Slow Homecoming, which I suspect requires acquaintance with Alaska, came the major experience of translating, for voice, of Handke’s WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES during the heights and depths of psychoanalysis, at a moment of complete regression: all defenses were down. I have written up that experience, too, at the above translation site. That work exhausted every aspect. What a totality it was! Which left me as a verbal husk, palpitating for oxygen! Completely re-sensitized, and in the brutality of New York City.
Although there exist no end of books where a recounting of the action, the story does the trick, it does not do for texts that translate the innerworld into the outerworld into the innerworld of the reader, something I realized long before I became acquainted with Handke’s work, in the instance of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves especially not in an instance such as GOALIE, where syntax and grammar involve a reader's consciousness. Phenomenology evokes, but that is all it does, it does not have a hammer-lock on the mind unless it be wielded by a great poet, a great imagistic poet, Pound, Transtroemer, Ponge. Li Po and Handke as he makes his peace with and masters the available tools. “In the gloom gold gathers the light.”
The interaction between reader and text - that is what I propose to do using my reading experience with NO MANS BAY & SIERRA DEL GREDOS, and Bertram Lewin's concept of the dream screen, a procedure that also allows me to examine the filmic element in Handke’s work.
That experience is most strikingly overt in the screenplay novel ABSENCE, a book that I for my part experienced also as a film as I read it, a rather spooky experience it was too, since I had no idea that Handke also meant to make a film of the book and had also written it as a screenplay. The becoming conscious of the subliminal was what spooked me. My experience of ABSENCE was something like an Antonioni film as I read of the wandering of that odd group of people, Handke’s taking up the Parsifal theme. I had read quite a few screenplays by the time I read ABSENCE and written a few myself, but none of the screenplays I read, although they allowed me to imagine a film, also were experienced as a film as I read them, induced that experience. However, since the book ABSENCE is a book and not a film, the spooky experience of it being a film created the freshening synesthetic effect, a sine qua non for works of art to be experienced as authentic and sense-freshening. Synesthesia is a neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway and is a major feature of all of Handke’s work.
“Late one Sunday afternoon the statues on the city squares are casting long shadows and the humped asphalt of the deserted suburban streets is giving off a bronze glow. The only sounds from inside the café are the hum of the ventilator and an intermittent clatter. A glance goes up to the branches of a plane tree, as if someone were standing under it, watching the countless incessantly swinging seedpods, the large-lobed, long-stemmed leaves, which move spasmodically, all together, like a semaphore, and the swaying deep-yellow nests of sunlight in the foliage; where the blotchy trunk forks there is a hollow that might be home of some animal. Another glance goes down to a fast-flowing river, which, as seen from the bank, the sun shines through to the bottom, revealing a long fish, light-gray like the pebbles rolling in the current below it. At the same time, the rays of the sun reach the wall of a basement room, filling the entire pictureless surface and giving he whitewash a grainy look. The room is neither abandoned nor uninhabited; it is populated, always at eye level, by the silhouette of flying birds and, at intervals, of passersby on the road, for the most part bicyclists. Likewise, at eye level, a lone Far Eastern Mountain appears on the horizon, lit by the last rays of the sun. The picture comes closer, bringing into prominence at its rounded upper edge the precipitous summit which, with its crags and chimneys, ledges and glassy walls, suggests an impregnable and inaccessible castle. The sun has set; here and there a light in a house; on the blank wall of the basement room the reflection of the yellow sky is traversed by patterns that have now lost their outlines. The wall is now so totally blank….
ON THE DREAM SCREEN
1] It was Bertram D. Lewin, in his article "Sleep, the Mouth and the Dream Screen," who proposed calling upon "an old familiar conception of Freud's —the oral libido— to elucidate certain manifestations associated with sleep" (1946, p. 419)."The dream screen, as I define it," wrote Lewin, "is the surface on which a dream appears to be projected. It is the blank background, present in the dream though not necessarily seen, and the visually perceived action of ordinary manifest dream contents takes place on it or before it. Theoretically it may be part of the latent or the manifest content, but this distinction is academic. The dream screen is not often noted or mentioned by the analytic patient, and in the practical business of dream interpretation, the analyst is not concerned with it" (p. 420).
In developing his argument Lewin referred to the Isakower phenomenon, recalling that psychoanalyst Otto "Isakower interprets the large masses, that approach beginning sleepers, as breasts" (p. 421). Lewin expanded on this insight as follows: "When one falls asleep, the breast is taken into one's perceptual world: it flattens out or approaches flatness, and when one wakes up it disappears, reversing the events of its entrance. A dream appears to be projected on this flattened breast—the dream screen—provided, that is, that the dream is visual; for if there is no visual content the dream screen would be blank, and the manifest content would consist solely of impressions from other fields of perception" (p. 421). At the end of his article, Lewin offered this summary: "The baby's first sleep is without visual dream content. It follows oral satiety. Later hypnagogic events preceding sleep represent an incorporation of the breast (Isakower), those that follow occasionally may show the breast departing. The breast is represented in sleep by the dream screen. The dream screen also represents the fulfillment of the wish to sleep" (p. 433). Today, over and above the attempt to link sleep and oral libido, the notion of the dream screen should no doubt be viewed in conjunction with the idea of the introjection of "containers," and with Didier Anzieu's discussion of the "skin ego," with his concepts of the skin as a "projective" or "writing surface" (1985, p. 40), and even with his view of the dream's function as a film or pellicle [a thin layer supporting the cell membrane in various protozoa]. At all events, the dream screen is an aspect of the dream-work which operates as a "non-process," and which as such calls for no specific interpretation.
See also: Cinema and psychoanalysis; Dream; Dream work; Isakower phenomenon, Negative hallucination; Skin-ego; Sleep/wakefulness.
Among the many interesting notions here I want to emphasize that the dream screen fuses with the mother’s face as the suckling pig reveries and that the dream-screen is "non-process" - that is, it does not appear to be changed or change as the movie house projection house screen is not by what is projected on to it; except during those extraordinary events that bear the name “the blank dream”, which occur at momentous moments in one’s emotional life: a blank dream ends in a tabular rasa, a new canvas, a new breast! These phenomena are not solely interesting for my suggestion that Handke, when he is writing well, dream breathes his texts, that is, he is in something akin to a paradisiacal state that he was in as a love child, what he calls a “threshold” state [see FN], and I further suggest that being the love child of a beautiful mother whose face you absorb as you project your self onto her breast as a beloved nursing baby focusses and delimits your aesthetic perceptions forever after, and even more so I expect in an instance such as Handke’s who is endowed with not only qualitatively but also quantitatively - the combination of the two is what counts – higher degree of perception in each and every sense – thus his nauseas: nausea is a defense against excess; thus his problematics with loud and unpleasant sounds, which becomes a sujet of his, especially in Moravian Night; written proof of Handke’s simply seeing more – and being able to record it verbally is clearest perhaps in that 5,000 word section at the beginning of Crossing the Sierra del Gredos that describes the aftermath of the hurricane that struck Northern France around the year 2000: think of it this way: would you notice as intritaley as a matter of course as does Handke’s surrogate, the ex-Bankieress?? As affectionately, possibly; as delicately? As precisely yet without becoming pedantic as a botanist might.
We also project our fantasies, which are more susceptible to analysis than dreams, onto the same dream screen from which the dream content has just sunk irretrievably, but for the flotsam of associations, back into the deep. So it seems, we cannot say with absolute certainty that under the influence of something as powerful as a different state of mind-event such as a dream, the dream screen is not changed, altered, influenced, stands in a subtle relationship with the visual part and the impulse of the dream. We also hear voices in dreams - out aural capacity is intact. Other sensations, smells, taste, skin sensations are normal.
What I am going to suggest, first of all, is a very simple equivalent between dream screen + movie screen + computer screen - sheer magic for someone who learned to read on a magic wax writing pad - as we find out that Freud did, too, from his great paper on the Event on the Acropolis
+ the screen of a white page with a particular kind of writing on it + the breast on which we first started to project and fantasize and revery, that can entrance us so that what is written accesses, subliminally, an inbetween state, not as powerful as when we are seized by a dream, nor as powerful when our dream screen and the movie projection screen merge, or merges automatically as soon as we subject ourselves to that medium, but more subtly since the information comes in the form of sentences, of sequences of over-all pleasing, fascinating information, in no end of rapidly discerned information ordered by syntax that obeys certain learned requirements and demands, parameters. For this state – a state of reverie - that corresponds to the “inbetween” state that Handke claims to be the one that nourishes him  - to be achieved in reading we of course require more than just the white page, the subliminal residue of the breast; other restraints, parameters are needed. Handke himself has some wonderful passages on "reading", especially in MORAWISCHE NACHT… For such a state to be evoked while reading requires continuity, dureé, a fairly even subtext, for a certain sleepiness to set in while you are entranced, then the subliminal will take its effect, it is a fairly subtle effect… you can determine it by noting the difference in reading experience: does your daily paper ever put you in such a state? - the sheer writing takes over… the lyrical epic…
If we did not have a screen for our dreams to be projected onto the dreams would need to be expressed entirely aurally, as they do express themselves vocally and with sounds as well. If we did not have a dream screen film images would not be such powerful experience, at least initially – that familiarity breeds boredom and contempt, and that the overly familiar, the ever same, can do so to the point of disgust, that we know about. But has anyone ever tired of a dream, unless it be an obsessive dream that is dreamt every night for years on end? I have read of the rare cases where recurrent dreams are repeated attempts to master trauma. Otherwise, the dream mine provides fresh visual images every time we dream. If we are entranced, if images on a film screen are so powerful because they enter our being on the same dream screen on which we experience our dreams, I imagine, no I actually am quite certain that I at least in my reading of certain Handke texts on a page, a white page, subliminally enter the dream screen mode – but for that to happen, for that experience to occur the above cited parameters are required, also the critical dogs need to be tame! I would guess that Handke even writes on the dream-screen, since that was his own paradisiacal state, and that his writing now that he exults in it as he does in DER GROSSE FALL, he shares this entirely irrational joy with us, which is why this essay is dedicated to Maria Sivec, Handke’s mother, whose ultra-love child the little bastard was exclusively for 9 months intra-uterine and the subsequent next two years; that is, it is dedicated to the extreme of narcissism, “mother love,” an essential for survival.
Subsequent to the now described different experiences that the different Handke plays, especially The Ride Across Lake Constance, had provided and of that of A Slow Homecoming and of The Repetition, the next was that of his 1993 My Year in the No-Man’s Bay.
I read No-Man’s Bay five times, and always at the same place, a donut shop on NE 45th Street here in Seattle that clean and well neon-lighted as it was, was frequented by the down-and-out. That shop, between Roosevelt and 11th Avenue, next to a gas station, opposite a now defunct credit-union drive-by, was run by an expatriate Hmong by the unlikely name of Lola. It was in Hemingway’s famous phrase, a clean well-lighter [neon] 20 by 20 foot joint, that had splendid donuts that Lola’s machinery churned out in the back room, another 20 by 20, and her shop was frequented by as fine a sedentary crew of down and outs as you can have in Seattle: the other patrons of her excellent donuts, bought them and went right back out again. As excellent as the donuts and also the coffee and as clean as the place, its habitués however were anything but. It was the motley. The motley for some reason got together there, perhaps simply because Lola did not kick them out, tolerated them, although I do not recall anything motherly about her, she had the émigré Asian matter of factness of those who speak the language as though it were a set of awkward tools, a set of cudgels.
The toothless cabbie; Ben, a tall dark haired and wooly bearded Persian, who gave every appearance of being Smerdyakov, had suffered a breakdown as an architect and held a bowl of his darling goldfish, and had more bowls of that kind at his nearby home, a frighteningly gentle man; then a sturdy fellow always sun-burnt tanned fellow who obviously lived year round in the great outdoors, with a sound back-pack, the only one who was missing was our local apparition from the Yugoslav wars whom years later I saw trudging past my domicile by the prairie, a big fellow, carrying his bed roll, he evidently slept somewhere nearby, in the favorable bushes, wouldn’t tell you where he was from, “I am from Seattle” in the heaviest possible Slavic accent! Couldn’t buy him a cup of coffee. But there were others like him, to create a panoply, a full complement of the down-and-outs, including me who walked his half mile from 16th Ave and 50th Street just to read No-Man’s Bay over and over, and to be in the state of mind the book put me in, first in German, then in Krishna Winston’s translation, and evidently it seemed the right place to read that book, and the time spent reading No-Man’s Bay at Lola’s was one of the happiest stretches not just of my time in Seattle, but of my entire life. And I didn’t care for the person Handke at all any more, at that time, not one bit, had the most valid reasons to regurgitate him, and have had a few other impulses along that line since. However, be it that I am split: the experience of reading such a great carpet weavers work, it made me deeply happy. And then you come on a review by that nerd Lee Siegel in the New York Times Book Review, or that hired shit J.L. Marcus in the NYRB. At least there was William Gass in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. See:
and other pieces on the handke.discussion and revista=of-reviews. Blogs. You could say that No-Man’s-Bay is a self-obsessed book, as you can say about most of Handke’s fiction, however the artistry with which he weaves the six sides of his being an artist consigns such an objection to irrelevance. Nor had I anticipated that the book might make me feel like that. Each time out, Handke was different. I probably would have objected if he had repeated The Repetition or what he did in one of the other narratives. On the other hand, Handke’s then just preceding two works, the Essay on the Juke Box and On the day that went Well had prepared me that his time as a weaver was upon us. Not that I did not and continue to quibble with certain matters in No-Man’s-Bay such as his making fun of himself, in all his self-referentiality, of the tough time he had had in the Hotel Adams while writing A Slow Homecoming and that business of the Germanies at war with each other – perhaps with the very preposition that the book was set in a future decade. If one knows Handke’s actual life one also could object, say, to the opening that refers to a “metamorphosis” that the lead character, the same Keuschnig of A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING recalls: but if I were to comment on that, the whys and wherefores of that metamorphosis I would be going outside the “reading experience.” [13-a-The Opening of No-Man’s-Bay; 13-b- the opening of Across.]
1] The first title I read entirely in American that left an impression – I was familiar with the kinds of American magazines that G.I.s stationed in Germany read in the late 1940s, Look, Life, Time, was Americanizing myself well before I set out on my journey – was during my trip as a 12 year old on the U.S.S. Maurice Rose, from Bremerhaven to the Brooklyn Port of Em-and-Disembarkation, was Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth’s Cheaper by the Dozen, where the authors’ names are far out-weighed by that of their comedic masterpiece, and if I’d been smart I’d not have gotten off the boat but sailed right back to Bremerhaven, and sought refuge from the murderous country I was leaving, less impulsively, at an elsewhere. Behold the American family in action and avert your gaze, shutter your ears! Then, in quick order, Hersey’s A Bell for Adano [which was perceived as most informative on the war that I seemed to have been part of as a child], The Brave Bulls [that linked the American Southwest with Karl May induced fantasies of it] lots of Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage made a big impressions. My first American flue became memorable for reading and laughing myself well with the entirety, really, I mean all of P.G. Wodehouse, mother-plied from the West Orange public library. How did she or my stepfather know? Ever since I have been unable to read Wodehouse without falling ill; which is sort of like being unable to go to Vienna where I had a cyst, in fact an infected vestigial gill, removed at age 5, a trauma I feared to revisit. A bit hysterical, somewhat homeopathic?
Shakespeare, since for a step-father I had a Shakespeare nut, one nuttiness of his for which I am forever grateful. Careening in his 2nd car, a Crosley, through the small development, with Dick reciting the great monologue at the top of his lungs. My father’s gift of all of Shakespeare in one volume, printed on rice paper, bound in dark blue leather.
West Orange meant fairly voracious reading since in every other respect it proved to be a forever traumatizing disappointment for someone with entirely the wrong ideas of what the United States held in store. Oakwood, the preparatory Quaker School I attended salvagingly during my subsequent two American Junior and Senior High School Years, proved to be a small idyllic reservation that thus gave you the entirely wrong idea, looking down at the I.B.M. plant just south of Poughkeepsie. That plant’s deep red huge I.B.M. in the dark of night burned itself into I am quite positive not only into my forever memory, and suddenly you were blessed: from sheer mediocre 50s West Orange suburbia – not wealthy South Orange mind you nor adjacent Montclair, not Philip Roth’s Jewish and Black East Orange - Oakwood, a darling Quaker School in Poughkeepsie, as I have mentioned, which I attended as of my Junior year, had, first, another nut case, for an English teacher, Terry Matern, who suffered bravely [and reddishly] from Coral fever contracted as a Navy Diver during WW II in the Pacific, but whose love of Whitman introduced me to those long lines and a peculiarly grandiose ego, one of the grandest ego’s ever, it embraced a continent, and hooked into my then pantheism. Really really lucky I got Senior year with Yoshira Sonbanmatsu, a Nisei, who taught the kind of course that the subsequent Haverford introductory humanities 101-102 could barely equal: Samuel Butler, Gide, Camus, Ibsen, the Greek Tragedies, other various Russians, Joyce – by the time I graduated with Eleanore Roosevelt delivering the graduation benediction, I could recite Anna Livia Plurabella, a confirmed Joycean, although the full oomph of Finnegan’s Wake – and what an omphalos oomph it is! - did not hit me until I did an analysis in my 40s. Oh how those puns speak when repression has been lifted! The Indo-European linguistic unconscious how it begins to speak! How repression stupefies! No more need for trots! I had learned to speak in brogue, this adjuster of his accent, could.
Visiting my father, who appeared in Montreal from Ethiopia in 1954, I read all of Shaw, I had already read all of O’Casey and Synge – I was becoming a reader of everything of an author if we were kindred. But the biggest impression left no doubt was by Portrait of an Artist. You knew Joyce’s life and Dublin better than your own surround and yourself, and that seemed perfectly normal! The Pope’s Nose and American Thanksgivings! What was the difference between a turkey’s and a goose’s ass? And Daedalus’s code – the conscience of the race - joined the code that you seemed to have been forged in you or that you discovered in yourself via Marcus Aurelius and Laotse. The militant and the stoic with a tad of a Prussian twist and the rural tao via Loa Tse. The sense of the absurd derived elsewhere.
You noticed classmates being deeply affected by books. Lovely Kay entered the world of Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t go Home Again, your roommate Kurt Anschel - kis parents who had fought on the Republican side in Spain - swore by Farrel’s Studs Lonigan, John Bernstein fell for Camus hook line and sinker. Kahlil Gibran had a big following on the distaff side, and that was worrisome; love, and excess thereof, as so much else, softens the brain!
The segue to Haverford introductory humanity course via much reading as a camp counselor during summer stints in the Poconos at Lake Wallenpaupack was marked not just by my own reading events but by the observation that Son’s and Lovers, which helped make me a Lawrence reader, had the most upsettingly explosive effect on a certain roly-poly fellow class mate: the incest theme, for me a matter of course, turned the little Irishman apoplectic! By sophomore year I and friend Frank Conroy, for our disappointment in a teacher of Greek and its literature, and the sense that the girls at Bryn Mawr were more interested in literature than our pre-med and business compadres, switched to a writing course taught – the year is 1955 mind you – by a woman whose claim to fame was as contributor to Reader’s Digest. There, my championing of Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily drew the obviously memorable response from one chunky girl, D. McNab-Brown, that “you have to be queer to like that story.” Not feeling queer and not wanting to be, I gave the story further thought, and concluded that in some sense I had become necrophiliac early on in life, which is why Walter Benjamin’s formula - what an event Walter Benjamin continues to be - that “a work of art is the death mask of the experience” has always struck me as a true measure of the authenticity, the truth content of works that make such heavy truth claims. But I think if was E.M. Forster’s Passage to India and his story The Celestial Omnibus that left an indelible marker, and I have never been able to finish Howard’s End. No end of American literature was sucked up during those years, eyes as vacuum cleaners. Winesburg Ohio!
As I mentioned in Part I, little of what was being written and published contemporaneously penetrated our school horizons, but for the work of Bill Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, I recall Conroy much disliking one particular British author’s novel, it was the time of the first book clubs and they supplied a wealth of collected poems. The disconnect from what was then contemporary changed radically on the West Coast, and is due initially entirely to Kepler’s Bookshop and my - also in happier hunting grounds - friend Gus Blaisdell. Terry Southern, Richard Yates, Chester Himes. City Lights in San Francisco. I believe I have failed to mention that thinking of what adventures to pursue subsequent to my nine months in Alaska as a firefighter and assistant geological surveyor I seemed to have been seized by Pound’s ABC OF READING, one of my major teachers most of whose nooks and crannies I had explored, to go to New York and start a magazine, as I then actually did with a few people, Michael Lebeck and Fred Jameson, funded by Lebeck’s Hillsboro Press until Michael from one day to the next, so it appeared, joined a Sufi sect, and me unable to find a second source: however, by that time, on the West Coast I had become well apprised of the variety of American poetry that was bubbling forth; and of what is called “modernism.”
As I have mentioned, graduate school in Germanics was entirely de-coupled from then contemporary German literature, but becoming its reader for a variety of American publishers in New York created a bridge to what might have been another life. Within quite short order Peter Weiss’s Leave-Taking, Uwe Johnson’s Speculations about Jakob, The Third Book about Achim, Two Views, Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum, Cat & Mouse became hugely important, as did quite a few European writers, too many to name. But I was beginning to swim in the midst. I had been fortunate to branch out and take a course in the French 18th Century novel, and had read just about everything, during my Junior year in Berlin, that my other great teacher, Georgy Lukacs, via his 20 ? volume blue Aufbau edition, had written about there. Nonetheless, there were huge gaps, many of which have never been filled, in the classics and other European literatures.
On returning from that year - 1964 – I spent in Europe I moved into a shoebox sized room in the Chelsea Hotel and found a huge drawer beneath its window seat filled with a wonderful collection of 18th century British literature… from the New York Public Library, checked out in the name of Lane Dunlap. I read the trove before locating Lane and the books were returned to its provenance.
In 1972-73 I had half a year between jobs and took a six month freighter trip half way around the world and back and read both steamer trunks worth of books, and translated two volumes worth of Enzensberger essays and Handke’s Quodlibet.
Friends such as Robert Phelps and Fred Jordan, an editor at Grove Press during the 60s and on, were flint stones, so was being a reader for George Braziller’s Book Find Club, and for Columbia Pictures and I then kept the faith with oodles of American writers that had made an impression Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, whose My Life as a Man hit the nerve of the male ego as uppity lassies began to injure it, then on learned to take full joy in Women’s Lib… Malamud, Robert Lowell, Mary McCarthy, Walker Percy, Richard Brautigan, Norman Mailer - always interesting, rarely great - James Baldwin, John Barth, Paul Bowles, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kurt Vonnegut, to mention just the best known, and of course those whom I became fortunate to publish, such as Sam Shepard, Marvin Cohen, and Michael Brodsky. Jim Krusoe’s work I came to know in the late 80s. However, I am scarcely as omnivorous as I was in my youth. I have become fussier, one result of these deep draughts of Handke, and of an on-going psychoanalytic education that has made me a very different kind of reader.
I’ve become critical, discretionary, absorbing Handke’s aesthetic makes me avert more and more – my chief bone to pick with that exposure is how it has disenabled me of reading more than a page of a lot of what is published, or to be utterly appalled as I was by the two chapters of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot pre-published in The New Yorker, where only rarely can I finish one of their stories, recently Dandicat, a delightful writer, and Brad Leithauser whose work I have cared for ever since Carey Cameron called my attention to it in the late 70s.
The two Jonathan Franzen chapters from Freedom that I read were contained nothing particularly awful – I noticed the counter-reaction among writers to O Tannenbaum calling Freedom great American literature. Perhaps each decade must anoint one such to make itself feel less worthless. And I never did grow that second set of eyes. Focusing on my analytic education and on Handke, who produces at least one book a year as he seem to molt and take pride in never repeating himself – there is only so much you can read… and… digest… if it has substance that is digestible. Matters would be different if I felt more leisurely and could take my second trip half-way around the world on a Hellenic Splendor with several steamer trunks full of books. Yet certain books continue to make a big impression, e.g. Norman Rush’s Mating, Cormac McCarthy’s Meridian – I liked his work ever since his The Orchard Keeper around 1970 - Jim Krusoe’s Girl Factory; as different as these books are, obviously for differing reasons. But this kind of impression-making, or being made into a better observer, having my mind twisted about is not what I am after, either; anyhoo, not entirely. Nor am I interested in describing why I find myself unable to read certain writers – even from steamer trunks - or the tiresomeness of nearly all pundits, who draw from the same vat of platitudes, and now that they wrote themselves into those jobs perforce must address one daily idiocy after another, or if they are paid hacks for one of the other ideology must churn out their mind numbing, brain-cell-destroying mental contaminants.
2] At the coffee shop where I prefer to work I am surrounded by readers, of different degrees of proficiency and responsiveness to texts, the word worlds that enter their noggins, some of whom don’t even read the daily paper, the Seattle Times mostly, a few WSJ and NY Times, if they do that, before engrossing themselves - in one instance a Corvette owner – in its crossword puzzle. One, an intelligent and pleasant sort, a retired civil servant from the Seattle School system I persuaded to read several books I much like, and even turned him on to Handke and Jim Krusoe, and he actually trekked through all of Crossing the Sierra Del Gredos, and said he liked it, although he appears not to have had the same experience of its ending as I and fellow aficionados had of its amazing Berg und Talfahrt ending. But he was willing to read more Handke, Sorrow Beyond Dreams reminded him I forgot of what other book he had recently read, but elicited no other reaction. Then the Essay on Tiredness in Three Essays caught his fancy – but left him angry because it had not provided the self-help answer he was hoping to get: the fellow has a bad ticker, apparently when his heart is bothering him he does lite reading! Once angry at the author, he did not proceed to the Essay on the Jukebox; he liked Girl Factory, I have not checked whether he proceeded with other Krusoes, such as the delightful Iceland. Thus he proved to be not someone I wanted to talk to about books or reading at greater length. One other man, a lawyer, an early bird like myself, reads one best seller type after the other: he reads for an hour, then he walks home: he lives a few blocks away; he’s back within the hour and reads again; like me, he wears the same uniform, but that his feet are sockless at all times of the year, shod in Birkenstocks, a blue blazer, he’s about 50 years old, has a pate instead of a halo, solidly built guy, big unattractive face, verging on the brutal, and I have no inclination to engage him in conversation. He only talks to what appears to be an acolyte, but quite avidly, in the morning, until the acolyte has to drive off to work. Sometimes when it rains, as it does with such famous frequency in Seattle, the lawyer arrives in one of these Chrysler retro 40s models that remind me of the first American car I bought fresh out of college in 1958, a 1939 DeSoto! This coffee shop, although part of a small chain, is half neighborhood hang-out, and, at a busy intersection, has a lot of regulars just stopping by to get their java as they roll to or back from work, or at lunchtime. It has dreadful music, whiney girl singers, all the baristas agree, where only two songs change from month to month, and so I have started to wear Mack’s pillow-soft fat, white moldable, plastic ear plugs sympathize with Handke’s allergy to loud, dreadful noises of all kinds, and never take them off, except after I shower at my health club to clean my ears: the ambient city noise, even though I live adjacent to a sizeable nature preserve begins to cease only late at night and is full blown again by 7 in the morning. Meanwhile I have moved my work area next door, to a huge Fedex/Office shop, and for the first time in my life delight in pure American office surroundings. If it were open earlier and nearer I would go to “Seattle’s First Coffee house”, the Allegro, in the University district, much like McDougal street coffee houses in the 50s, funky.
3] Wallace Shawn and David Mamet. If the firm had had money to burn I would have made offers for both of them. However, since Urizen lived hand to mouth, taking either or both of them on required my conviction of some kind of ultimate literary worth, and in that respect, although both Shawn and Mamet became established authors, their strictly literary worth I is still iffy for me. Moreover, XXX agent submitted American Buffalo, which looked like good old American realism, matters would have been different if it had been Glengary Glenn Ross, and instance where Amurrican realism then proves its occasional extraordinary value and in marvelously gross humor. But is it literature? Has the shit been turned into gold?
4] DER HAUSIERER, Handke’s second novel, continues to haunt me. It consists of half a dozen section of pure phenomenological registrations of being terrified while something very bloody and awful is going on, and these sections are are ensconced within Handke’s account of the various stages of a detective novel. Strewn within the registered phenomena are any number of quotes from American black mask novels, e.g. “nothing is emptier than an empty swimming pool.” It is Handke’s major attempt at overcoming terror, and it succeeds, as during his childhood not only hiding under a blanket but masturbating succeeded in stemming the fear engendered while being subjected to the noises of violent and brutal drunken primal scene for a decade as of age two.
5] Ariadne Press.
6] The huge Handke bibliography lists these dissertations, but also e.g. http://www.braumueller.at/shop/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=2172&osCsid=3bcb66e97120e4af2c20a3c88ba2f91b&navsection=
Was nun den Zusammenhang dieser Klangphänomene gewährleistet, ist eine für Handke typische Schreibhaltung, die sich durch perspektivisch verschobene Wiederholungen auszeichnet. "Das ist etwas, was ich gelernt hab, das Sich-Wiederholen mit Varianten", meint der Autor mit gutem Grund. Da Handke von dieser Fähigkeit im Bereich der Klänge besonders intensiven Gebrauch macht, werden plötzlich Kontinuitätslinien im Werk sichtbar, die einige Verkrustungen der Forschung lockern und zu schematisch geratene Handke-Bilder revidieren können. Methodisch soll dieser für die Literaturwissenschaft herausfordernden Schreibgeste eine "polyperspektivische Motivforschung" gerecht werden.
7] and of being a kind of addict to being in love with one beautiful wench after the other for something like a twenty years, a state of mind that I miss but for the heartburn and ache as well as interference in work it can leave in its wake.
OCTOBER 11, 2008
“The Viewer is Diverted,” or, The Handke-Effekt
I’ve been spending some time trying to figure out what makes reading Peter Handke’s fiction such an unsettling literary experience, and I think I’ve isolated one of the formal techniques he uses to achieve his peculiar ambience. I haven’t given the secondary literature on Handke more than a passing glance, so forgive me (and maybe even gently inform me) if I’m retailing what turn out to be critical commonplaces about his work.
First, an example, from Handke’s 1997 novel, On A Dark Night I Left My Silent House. I’ve chosen this one because the effect is fairly obvious here. The protagonist, a pharmacist from a Salzburg suburb whose wife has left him, has gone for an evening drive and now sits on a stump in a roadside clearing near his car. The novel is narrated in the third person, and seemingly a very “close” third, sliding at times into second person, as here:
“Crouching down to see what was happening from close up; and besides, crouching you were closest to yourself. Yet the field of vision remained as broad as possible: the parked car, in which, with the increasing dusk all around, a curious brightness seemed to have been trapped, the seats very obviously empty, and as if there were more of them than usual, whole rows of them; beyond it the airfield with the last plane rising into the air, at one window that passenger who thought he could rub off the haze on the outside on the inside; to the right, on the highway, an almost endless convoy of trucks, white on white, United Nations troops deployed against a new war, or rather returning from there (a few trucks were also being towed, half burned out); to the left, the training place for police dogs, at the edge of the forest, where one of the dogs seemed to have just got caught in a culvert and was howling piteously, while another, growling almost as piercingly, kept leaping at a man hidden behind a wall, burying its teeth in the ball of cloth in which the ‘fleeing criminal’ had wrapped his lower arm, then refusing to let go and hanging on stubbornly as the man ran in a circle with him, swinging the animal through the air.”
Even though the passage seems to be focalized through the protagonist’s perspective, it defies basic physics for many or even most of the specific details to be available to his point of view. Most obviously, of course, the pharmacist wouldn’t be able to see the airplane passenger futilely wiping his window (and still less would he see the haze), but there are other distortions as well. The crouching position described in the first line (after which no change in posture is given to us) makes it highly problematic that the protagonist could take in the convoy of UN trucks on the one hand and the policeman training his dog on the other, especially considering that the convoy is described as “almost endless” (i.e., seen disappearing into the horizon) and the dog trainer is at first “hidden” behind a wall. Such a vista might be available to the pharmacist were he crouched on top of a hill, but he’s not.
In the Newtonian physics of conventional realism, what you see from a crouch is your shoelaces, yet we are assured that “the field of vision remained as broad as possible” (but not “his field of vision” or “the field of his vision”). Could it be that when the pharmacist crouches to draw “closest to himself,” some other physics takes over, a kind of Handkean quantum mechanics? It’s a strange new self-communion that has the result of seeming to evaporate its subjectivity into the evening air.
Even the switch to second person contributes to this evaporation, paradoxically suggesting at once a greater intimacy than the third-person – as if the pharmacist were now recounting his own impressions to himself – and a greater distance, in that the invitation to the reader to closer identification with the protagonist simultaneously dissolves his specificity as a particular, situation-bound pharmacist from a Salzburg suburb. This move ‘closer to oneself’ is therefore ambiguous, and could include a swerve away from oneself or the discovery – even the in-habitation, so to speak – of the realization that one might not be one at all.
There are other things of note in the passage – the suggestive locution “on the outside on the inside”; the “white on white” of the trucks; the lurking savagery in the possible faraway war (Serbia?) and the police dogs in the middle distance – but the main effect, and what I’m calling (just for fun) the Handke-Effekt, is this destabilizing of conventional novelistic focalization, at least in its “close” variants (third-person limited, first person, and second person, leaving out for the moment third-person omniscient). Like Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt or ‘alienation effect’, it’s a species of defamiliarization, but what it defamiliarizes most of all is the depiction of consciousness in traditional realism. Conventional focalization overlaps with the sensorium of the character, so that the reader sees what the character can plausibly see, hears what the character plausibly hears, etc.; Handke subtly violates this. Think of a sort of bathyspheric bubble around the character’s head, start moving the bubble to the left or right, or up and down, outside the range of physical plausibility, and there’s your Handke-Effekt.
The Handke-Effekt, as I wrote in the last post, is a type of alienation effect that defamiliarizes conventional novelistic focalization. Here’s another example, this time fromThe Afternoon of a Writer. After a day at his desk the writer leaves his house for a walk “Although his house was on the hilltop, with windows opening out in all directions, he hadn’t really looked into the distance that day. A distant view came to him only as his descent brought him among people. (At home he avoided the roof terrace for which visitors envied him, because the panorama made him feel too remote; he used it only to hang washing.) Now, in the mountains out of which the river burst, he saw a glassy snow field; and on the other side, at the edge of the plain, where the outer suburbs of the city were situated, a curved moraine that might have been sketched in with charcoal. It seemed to him that he might reach out and touch the moss and lichen under the snow, the brook cutting across the moraine, and on its banks outcroppings of ice, which made a clicking sound as the water rushed through. Beyond the housing developments on the periphery, he could see a row of smaller buildings, which, as he continued to look at them, moved through the countryside. He made out the Autobahn, with its inaudible trucks, and for a moment he felt a vibration in his arms, as if he were driving one of them. Near the smokestacks of the industrial zone, in a strip of no-man’s-land overgrown with bushes, a red light flared, and the dark container behind it turned out to be a stopped train, which, when the signals changed, set itself, at first almost imperceptibly, in motion, and grew larger as it approached. It would soon be pulling into the station, and most of the passengers had already put on their coats. A child’s hand looked for a grown-up’s hand. The travelers who were going farther stretched out their legs. The waiter in the almost empty dining car, who had been on duty since early morning, stepped out into the corridor, cranked down the window, and cooled his face in the breeze, while the dishwasher, an elderly meridional, sat in his cubbyhole, smoking and staring impassively into space. Along with these distant sights (“Distance, my thing”) the writer saw, above the roofs of the inner city, above the dome of a church, standing out against the sky, a stone statue holding an iron palm branch, surrounded by secondary figures as though executing a round dance.”
Unlike the crouching pharmacist in the passage from On A Dark Night, this protagonist is in motion, descending from his hilltop house into the valley below and enjoying the panorama along the way, and therefore the sheer variety of the sights he is able to take in does not strain ‘Newtonian’ credibility to the same extent. Nonetheless there still seems to be a remarkable, distance-defying plasticity in the writer’s visual field, as if he had with him a telescope – or even a movie camera and crane – that Handke had somehow failed to mention. The overall effect, however, is less like something seen through a lens than something painted on a large-scale canvas in a flattened style that eschews the foreshortenings and receding perspectives of traditional realist illusionism. Instead, background, middle-ground, and foreground appear almost “stacked up,” one on top of the other. The effect is heightened by the fact that Handke leaves out the narratorial stage directions that typically (and usually boringly) make the transitions from one sight to another legible in conventional Newtonian terms (i.e., “As the writer continued down the path,” or, “Turning to his left, he saw,” etc.). And then we also have, as in the previous example, those details which are simply impossible for the ostensible focalizer to be able to see, in this case the figures aboard the train when it pulls into the station – the child and the other passengers, the waiter opening the window, the dishwasher smoking his cigarette. Indeed, in a sudden refocusing, these are all relegated to the status of “distant sights,” along with the smokestacks and the brook in the moraine.
At this point someone might object that this “Handke-Effekt” business needlessly complicates a more or less straightforward, and even conventional, narrative technique. What do we have here but examples of free indirect discourse, shading, at most, into a kind of stream of consciousness? Thus any details which it might be physically implausible or impossible for the protagonist to see in so-called “Newtonian” terms need nothing more than the “quantum” magic of imagination or association to account for them. In the first passage when the crouching pharmacist “sees” the airplane passenger trying to wipe the mist off the window, he is merely imagining a plausible action that could be occurring aboard the distant plane lifting into the sky. Likewise, the writer in the second passage simply imagines the passengers and employees in the train; the child and the dishwasher are not “really” in the train car but in his mind. The absence of directive language and tags of attribution (“he thought,” “he remembered,” “he imagined”) is precisely what is “free” about free indirect discourse, and the purpose of this approach is to bring readers closer to the experience of unfettered and far-ranging consciousness itself.
What is the real force, though, of such an explanation? Behind a paean to consciousness is the complete banalization of Handke’s prose. If something strange and unsettling and defamiliarizing is indeed going on in these moments, then what this objection does is torefamiliarize them, to naturalize – and neutralize – their effects.
The alternative is to take these moments the way they strike us the first time we encounter them, in all their strangeness – in other words to take them literally. The pharmacist sees the airplane passenger trying to wipe the mist off his window, the writer sees the child and the waiter in the distant dining car – distance, after all, being “his thing.” The old dispensation presents us with an either/or choice between what can “realistically” be seen and what must be explained as the product of imagination or madness – if it’s “out there,” then the character can’t “really” see it, and if the character sees it, then it must be “in here,” in his or her head. In the new dispensation of Handke’s fiction, however, it’s the designations “inner” and “outer” that no longer signify, because consciousness and landscape now share the same terrain, as if they were all on one continuum, or moebius loop. The protagonists "see" their impossible, Handkean landscapes, but it could with equal justice be said that the landscapes conjure their viewers into existence, they constitute their own focalization. The process is less like “seeing” than like the experience of reading.
In the last post I said that the Handke-Effekt applies to the intimate or “close” narrative focalizations – first person, second person, third person limited – while I set to one side the question of third-person omniscient. It’s time, however, to notice the extent to which the Handke-Effekt’s estrangements of conventional novelistic focalization work by poaching on the territory of omniscience. Specifically, focalization operating under the sign of the Handke-Effekt shares with omniscience some of its mobility, the way it doesn’t have to be tethered exclusively to the Newtonian limits of the traditional character’s sensorium. The all-seeing omniscient narrator would have no problem, obviously, seeing the passengers on the plane and in the dining-car of the train. But that doesn’t mean that Handke goes to the other extreme; he selectively stretches the range of his characters’ focalizations but never opts for God-like omniscience, for narrating, say, in the manner of Balzac or Dickens. He eschews both traditional third-person limited and third-person omniscient – but these turn out, I think, to be the two sides of a single refusal.
Note the importance in both passages, whether it is the crouching of the pharmacist in the first passage or the writer’s walk down the hill in the second, of descent itself. In each case the descent is undertaken in the service of a wider perception. “Crouching you were closest to yourself,” Handke writes of his pharmacist, and yet in this position “the field of vision remained as broad as possible”; while the writer-protagonist in the second example avoids his own envied roof-top prospect because the view from there “made him feel too remote.” Instead, “a distant view came to him only as his descent brought him among people.” The gift of a kind of broad or comprehensive sight is given only to the person who moves away from the heights and closer to the earth. This counter-intuitive move challenges a trope deeply ingrained in Western culture in which the summit or peak, in one form or another, is the privileged locus not only of physical sight but of prophetic vision. There are Hebraic versions (Pisgah and Sinai) and Hellenic versions (Olympus, Parnassus), while closer to our own time there is the tradition of the “prospect poem,” from the neoclassical (Denham’s “Cooper’s Hill”) to the Romantic (Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”). For an instance from German Romanticism I imagine Caspar David Friedrich’s iconic painting, “The Wanderer Above the Mists.”
9]Shierry Weber Nicholson
International Journal of Psychoanalysis, December 1, 2006
10] There are I would guess numerous examples of what could be called jazzy writing in American literature. Two come to immediate mind, Cleaver’s SOUL ON ICE, and the last 50 or so pages of Frank Conroy’s otherwise dog of a novel BODY AND SOUL. Suddenly my once oldest friend, a fine jazz pianist, too, also autistically hypersensitive to numerous matters, starts to boogie, and poly- morphously it appers, which does not salvage an incredibly bad book coming from an otherwise first rate writer.
11] ctd Gredos quote: “After several visits to that country, she then spent some years there as a student, in Dresden or Leipzig, let us say, a good hour by bicycle from the village of her birth, and eventually, several countries or two or three continents later, she even settled there, two hours by car from her alleged birth house, by now torn down and replaced by a new building. She lived there and worked, though not yet in banking.
Later still, again after several countries and continents, after alternating between work and the vagabond life, though not the same kind as her grandparents'-almost always alone-she gradually, imperceptibly, lost track of her birthplace, and one day the image of an expansionist, overweening Germany was gone from her consciousness, whereas for a while at least some traces of her own, small-caliber Germany lingered, a stream with the shadows of water-skaters on its pebbly bed, a harvested cornfield from whose furrows bits of chaff swirled into the air, a mulberry sapling that had wandered by mistake into that steppe-cold region.
And then these traces, too, faded away. The images no longer came of their own accord. She had to make an effort to summon them. And as a result they remained devoid of meaning. At most they turned up in an occasional dream. And eventually they, too, vanished from her dreams. That country no longer pursued her. She did not have a country of her own, or another country either, including this one here. And that was fine with her. Perfectly fine! The eternities spent in foreign parts seemed to have shaped her, enhancing her beauty, and not only the beauty of her face!
A clear, frost-cold night in early January on the outskirts of a northwestern riverport city. What was the name of the city? of the country? The author she had hired to write a book about her undertakings and her adventures had been forbidden from the very beginning to use names. In a pinch he could use place names, but it had to be made clear at once that they were usually false-altered or invented. Here and there the author, with whom she had negotiated a standard delivery contract, would also be free to toss in a real name; in any case, future readers were to confine themselves to following the larger story, and the story and the manner of its telling were calculated to make them free to forget, from the moment they turned the first page, any thoughts they might have had of hunting for clues or sniffing around. If possible, the first sentence of her book would banish any such overt or ulterior motives in favor of reading, pure and simple.
According to the contract, the same prohibition applied to names of persons and indications of time. Persons' names were admissible only when they were clearly products of the imagination. "What imagination?" (the author). - "The imagination appropriate to the specific adventure, and to love" (she). - "Whose love?" - "Mine. And indications of time only of this sort: One winter morning. On a summer night. The following fall. At Eastertime, in the middle of the war."
For a long while now she had had hardly any relatives left. And those who were still alive were out of sight and out of mind. Somewhere
-"Where?" - "How should I know?"-she allegedly still had a half brother, who allegedly rented out recreational vehicles, or was a microchip technician? or both
Yet for many years she had made her ancestors, starting with her parents, of whom she had no conscious memories, the objects of a quiet, private, and all the more fervent cult. These ancestors, with the possible exception of her grandparents, who for a long time were entirely too present, constituted-thanks to stories, no matter how fragmentary, indeed, precisely because they were fragmentary, and then also dreams-the love for which she wept anew, often daily, during a good "two dozen summers, and even more winters."
Did she long for her ancestors? Yes, yet not to be with them, but merely to be able to look in on them for a moment, to comfort them, to thank them, and to bow down before them, after taking the appropriate step backward.
And then these shadowy ancestors had lost all their hold over her. And that, too, had happened ever so gradually. Some summer or winter morning she had realized that her venerated dead belonged to the gazillions of those who were no longer present, having seeped into the ground since the dawn of time, crumbled, or blown away to the four corners of the earth, never to be recalled, never to be brought to life by any love whatsoever, irrecoverable for all eternity. They still turned up now and then in dreams, but only as part of a crowd, under the heading of "also present": this "now and then" no longer had the meaning it had once possessed of "at all sacred times."
And this second death of her ancestors was also fine with her, like the small and large birth country that had earlier slipped away from inside her. In the meantime she had come to see as delusory the type of strength she had long derived less from the entire country than from little pockets in that country, less from the wholly successful life of an ancestor (to be sure, there was not even one life that fit that description) than from misfortune and a lonely death (which was the lot of all her forebears). Such strength, she wondered: Did it not make one tyrannical and ruthless? Did it not add to the burdens of those with whom one now passed time, lived, worked, had dealings, in the present? Such strength was accompanied by a kind of arrogance, was it not, which could thwart, even harm, even destroy the days as well as the nights of one's contemporaries, those who somehow or other got close to one? Once free of her ancestor worship, did she become receptive to other kinds of strength? impulses? No, in spite of everything, it was not perfectly fine with her when the ancestors grew meaningless and dim. It was more a question of her letting it happen, with a bitter aftertaste, and not only on her tongue.
Week after week it had been bone-chillingly cold in this region where she had made her home for a long time now. At first she wanted to talk the author out of any reference to this detail, which hardly seemed to fit the "northwestern port city" they had settled on as her place of residence, a place where the Gulf Stream moderated the climate. But then she allowed herself to be persuaded that a "port" could also be a riverport, inland, far from the warming coast, on what was already a cold portion of the continent. Basel. Cologne. Rouen. Newcastle upon Tyne. Passau. What mattered: that her bank's headquarters were located in such a city. But the name of the bank was not to be mentioned in her story either.
On the morning of her departure she rose even earlier than usual. As before every journey, it had been a light, floating night, perhaps, too, because she had again slept in the bed belonging to her child, who had gone away. Her things were already packed-or rather, stashed in a bag purchased at the end of her girlhood and by now half as old as she was. It seemed immeasurably older, however: worn, torn, scuffed; like a relic from the Middle Ages, when travel had been very different from today; an ermine satchel? Time and again, before each of her solitary journeys, and not only into the Sierra, she had wanted to throw it away, or at least stow it in a corner. And every time it had been the one she decided to take with her-"just once more." As a child, her daughter, long since over the hills and far away, had begged her mother, whenever one of their games came to an end, for this kind of "just one more game," and after that "just one more": "Please, just one more, one more!" This was no longer asking; it was pleading. The author: Could he include that in her book? She: If not that, then what? All through the trip her bag remained half open. But nothing ever fell out. And her shoes? They were old and scuffed-good for rock climbing.
It was still completely dark, and outside the frost crackled on the windowpanes. She did not turn on the light; the moon, almost full, though waning, shone through the entire house with its many uncurtained windows. Here on its periphery, the river-port city extended to the foot of a ridge, partly wooded, partly bare cliffs. The hill, black with the moon behind it and very close by, appeared to form part of the spacious house, which at the moment looked empty. In each room-and there were quite a few rooms-the near emptiness projected a different image: here the resident had long since moved out for good; here the room had been cleared out except for two or three objects and pieces of equipment, ready for work to begin; now the deserted vestibule showed signs of a hasty departure; now the table in the parlor gleamed for a meeting about to take place; there, in the kitchen's one pot, the size of a cauldron, food had been prepared for a large gathering, or for a whole week.
A sort of fullness or, rather, stuffed quality, similar to that of her bag, manifested itself only in the first of the suite of rooms intended for a toddler, a schoolchild, and a student: even the corners were filled with games, action figures, toys, standing and lying next to and on top of each other. Except that in her bag each of the items had its place, its purpose, its plan; they all complemented and implied one another. But here in the playroom, the hundreds of toys were scattered every which way and did not reveal any recognizable game. Not even the rudiments of any familiar or reproducible game could be discerned, and not merely because of the moonlight. Yet games had been played in this room, with all the things lying about on the floor, and with all of them together, at the same time, and how! Full of enthusiasm, in the sweat of armpits and the brow, amid shouts of encouragement and the raucous singing of made-up songs, play, play, nothing but play. And the play seemed to have ended not all that long ago. Any minute now it would resume.
Before setting out, a cup of coffee (or tea) at one of the windows on the south side. That was the direction in which she was supposed to go. Yet it was a long time since a southern destination had meant anything to her, as was also true of the ocean and all the other points of the compass-and that was fine-including the Himalayas and a journey to the moon. The latter was suddenly reflected in her cup and promptly disappeared again. She tried to catch it. But it slipped away each time. She sat down on a folding chair, a so-called camp chair, and wished she could sit there forever.
Now a shock: someone was eyeing her, or her silhouette, from outside, from the dark: the author, the deliveryman. A first solitary peal of the bell in the church tower on the outskirts, and almost at the same moment the voice of the muezzin from the nearby minaret, answered by the repeated hooting of an owl in the wooded hills. The first early plane leaving a flashing trail among the sparkling fixed winter stars, and now, as a third element, a match struck across the entire sky and already extinguished: a January falling star.
No, no author. And yet he existed. He was even a reason for, and one of the destinations of, the trip she was about to undertake. And it was only tangentially or incidentally for the purpose of telling him her life story or whatever. The main purpose was money. He and she had first agreed on a contract for the delivery of her book, and now they were to sign a contract in which she and her bank-the bank and she, or at least her name, had long since become synonymous-were to have a free hand in managing and growing the author's fee.
Nowadays she did not normally concern herself with such matters. The bank had its own department for them, and by now she worked outside of and above the departments. But in this case she had to make an exception. She had got herself into this situation when she decided that she wanted a real book written about herself, instead of the endless newspaper articles and magazine features, a book about her bank, too, and its history. Of course the amount of money the author wanted to invest (or could invest) was a drop in the bucket, and not only compared to the sums her bank usually handled. And the author's personality, too, judging by the one meeting the two of them had had thus far, seemed like that of someone who would normally give her a wide berth.
How had she settled on him? Why had she not signed a contract with a journalist, or a historian, or, the most obvious choice, a journalist specializing in history? From the beginning she had insisted on a more or less serious writer, a teller of tales, or for that matter an inventor of tales, which did not have to imply that he bent or falsified the facts-just that he slipped in additional facts here and there, different, unsuspected facts, and, once in the swing of things, suppressed or, why not? simply forgot some that were obvious, not necessary to mention? "The Facts, Not the Myth"-that was what one of the historically oriented journalists had suggested as a subtitle when he offered his services for the book project. And among other mottoes, this one, this very one, had sent her off on the opposite track, or rather sidetrack, that of the author, although there came moments when she felt she had fallen into his trap.
Be that as it might, she was confident that he would smuggle all kinds of other things into the series of facts; and those things would be decisive for the story. Story? This was closer to the true state of affairs: as others might aspire to earn a place in history, she wanted to earn a place in the "story." And it should be a story that could not be filmed, or could be captured only in a film such as no one had ever made before.
At one time she had been a reader. (She still read now, but for her it was not real reading anymore. She did not read properly. Yet she felt orphaned without reading.) And in those days the author, that accursed author-and not only because of this trip he was forcing her to take-had served her less as a hero than as a pilot? No, she did not need a pilot; served? Yes, served. And although his last few books had appeared quite a while ago, and she had not even got around to reading them, the idea had suddenly occurred to her of having him write her book. Him or no one. And he would get down to work for her right away. No one, not even he, could refuse her offer. Even that he might ask for time to think it over would be inconceivable to her. Once, when she had been in another part of the world, as the guest of a president, a man who placed great importance on his own dignity and whose cooperation was almost a matter of life and death to her bank-"let us say, the president of Singapore"-in the middle of the negotiations she had demanded that a certain document she had left in her hotel room be fetched, not by just anyone, but by the president himself. "And he promptly went to get it!"
The author, without a new book now in a decade, was, at the same time, almost to his own regret-"almost"-by no means forgotten. Without being anywhere near wealthy, he did not suffer from a lack of money. He knew nothing at all about her and her worldwide legendary reputation as a banker and financial expert until her proposal reached him, sped to his garden gate by an authorized courier, and his ignorance was not the result of his isolated life in a village in La Mancha (where did such a thing still exist, a voluntarily isolated life?).
12] “Inbetween states” – Loser, protagonist of Handke’s ACROSS/ CHINESE DES SCHMERZENS, claims to be a “thresholdler”, with regard to which Freud [in the Interpreation of Dreams] et al were interested in the states inbetween waking and falling asleep during which dream images appeared un- or far less-hindered than during waking period, but you still had access to them.
NOTE THE LINKS @:
where you can follow up these matters.
although he now has become a writer in a certain great tradition, from the very beginning - I think not just because he has a genius capacity in that respect but because he has been so deeply enmeshed in the world of words, has a purchase on language in his prose and some of his theater text that makes him interestingly unique [who started with this tack “„Literatur mit der Sprache gemacht wird, und nicht mit den Dingen, die mit der Sprache beschrieben werden". ] before he turned to rediscovering narrative; not just another “great writer,” but of import for the logos as a whole - not that there aren’t matters, especially in his longer works, that I and others do not quarrel with. And we are not talking abot the guy as psychological catastrophe or his moral character. Moreover, as extraordinary as his ability to be a virtuoso in the classical mode has become
13-A] THE OPENING OF ‘NO-MAN’S BAY’+ ACROSS/ LE CHINOIS DE DOULEUR
There was one time in my life we I experience metamorphosis. Up to that point it had only been a word to me, and when it began, not gradually, but abruptly, I thought at first it meant the end of me. It seemed to be a death sentence. Suddenly the place where I had been was occupied not by a human being but by some kind of scum, for which unlike in the well-known grotesque tale from old Prague, not even an escape into images, however terrifying, was possible. This metamorphosis came over me without a single image, in the form of sheer gagging. Art of me was numb. The other part carried on with the day as though nothing was amiss. It was like the time I saw a pedestrian, who had been hurled into the air by a car, land on both feet on the other inside of the radiator and continue on his way, as cool as you please, at least for a few steps. It was like the time m son, when his mother collapsed during dinner, stopped eating only for the mount and then, after the body had been taken away, went on chewing, along at the table, until his place was empty. And likewise I, when I fell off a ladder last summer, immediately scrambled up it again, or tried to And likewise I myself again, just the day before yesterday, after the knife blade snapped back and almost severed my index finger, revealing all the…
13-B] The first page of CHINOUS DE LA DOULEUR/ CHINESE DES SCHMERZENS/ called ACROSS in English.
I shut my eyes and out of the black letter the city lights took shape. Not the light of the Old City, but the streetlamps that had just gone on in one of the many housing developments on the southern periphery. The development, consisting of two-story single-family huts, is situated on the big plain at the foot of the Untersberg. Long ago, this plan was a natural reservoir; ten I tsilted up an became swampland – there are still swampy patches and ponds – and today it is known as the Leopoldskroner Moos. At first the street lamps barely glimmer; then they flare up with a pure white light. By contrast, the arc lamps affixed to concrete poles at the eastern endof the development, where a turnaround marks the end of the bus line, glow reddish-yellow. Between the bus terminus and the development lies a canal dating from the middle Ages, fed by the Koenigsee and by one of the Untersberg brooks; this is the Alm canal, the “noble Alm.” The development lies right outside the city limit [just before the entrance, there’s a sign with a diagonal line through the word “Salzburg”): it is called the Oak Tree Colony All the streets take the names form the trees: Alder Street Willow Street Birch Street, Fir Street. Only the road coming from the virtually uninhabited peat bog in the west has kept its old name: Cider Press Road. And within the development there are still a few of the old peat cutters’ huts, some fallen into decy, some used for other purposes/
It it in Freiheit des Schreibens, a wonderful compendium of Handkeana, edited by Klaus Kastberger [2010, Zsonaly Verlag] that we find the interview where Handke mentions what a sorry puppy his when he is not breathing right, another pointer in the direction of his PSYCHOSOMATIC need to write, and a pointer in the direction of why he affects so strongly, and also so differently.
AN OUT-TAKE: However, prior to my advertised focus on very special and unique experiences that I have had with Handke’s work and nowhere else at any other time or with any other writer, I want to add more than just a note on the lengths of time that animals have been making markings - millions of years I suspect, but on the comparatively short period 5000 years + that making marks had turned into something as formalized as writing in code:
From this developed a series of literary cultures with a history not just of writing, but of writing about writing. Although it takes most of us a bit of time to get a hang of reading, it is astonishing how quickly reading also becomes second nature; not just second nature - no end of people, parents, teachers, pundits weigh in on the matter, misunderstand each other, write wonderful tomes on matters such as Misprision; and as you look at the history of the prisions and mis you notice that some religions regard letters of the alphabet as sacred or mystical, that textual disputes have led or been used to go to war. I recall that as the member of the PEN translation committee I had the experience of that group arguing for two sessions of three hours, ultimately, about the placement of the commas for its mission statement, and a more experienced publisher than I would ever be, Helen Wolf and I raising our heads and looking at each other joined at the hip in utter astonishment at the group’s total unawareness of its infinite quibbling and fussing; thus, one circle of hell is reserved for translators of that kind; another for gloomy grammarians.
Nor am I talking about “reading” philosophical or scholarly texts – an entirely different matter to being engaged by lyrical epic writers, self-conscious novelists like Stifter or Handke.
C – OUT TAKE:
Moreover, Handke has become an effective bridge builder between sections. For Morawian to have had the kind of formal overall wholeness of Noman’s-Bay and Del Gredos would have required a huge 1001 Nights Bokara carpet or the kind of discernibly stranded long rope [s] that Del Gredos is.
No end of Handke material can be accessed via:
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