Friday, June 22, 2012


The Discussion of Peter Handke's
important epic novel
has commenced note the 

will commence in NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016
there will be opening statements by Discussants Scott Abbott & myself, Michael Roloff
and we will announce the opening




but contains the following background links:



one of these days FARRARM STRAUS will publish it!!!

 and do what its title says 
on publication of Krishna Winston's English
 language of Peter Handke's 2000 novel by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

it takes Farrar, Straus appr. 7 years to publish a new book of Handke's! The side issues raised in "themes"

on the upper right
-1 THROUGH 7 at the moment-
 are more or less provisional until the end of 2013 [ it i no 2015!!!] at which point Scott and I will resume our focus.
here are the links to other related material

The blog is created and monitored by Scott Abbott + Michael Roloff who, first will post a description of the novel; and then point out features that we regard as especially worthy of discussion - LINKS on the right side. Then the discussion will be opened up to the rest of the universe, first to those who are particularly knowledgeable about Handke's work, then to aficionados and critics of all stripes. At that point a discussion of the translation of MORAVIAN NIGHTS will ensue at 
because MORAVIAN NIGHTS provides the translator with a host, well not a host, but at least a dozen different extraordinary challenges. And I will put up a collection of German and other reviews of MORAVIAN NIGHT at the handke-revista-of-reviews blog before we get started.


The main discussion, initially between Scott Abbott and Michael Roloff, will focus on writerly and formal and thematic matters in the novel — all in the context of Handke’s other texts.

Side discussions growing out of the main part will address “themes” that are especially prominent and that deserve such segregation. Each theme, too, has its “past” in previous work.

[1] The ex-author, his Erinyes and his companion

During his year’s long roundtrip, the ex-author is haunted by a variety of women whom he appears to have wronged. The counter theme: to his friends surprise, the ex-author is living on a house boat on the Morawa with a woman, and the relationship appears quite wondrous, as such relationships can be.

[2] Serbia

The affairs of a geographical entity that once comprised the “former second Yugoslav federation,” crops up in Moravian variously.

[3] The Wanderer

"It is becoming hard to walk the earth” [Walk About the Villages]. Nonetheless, the ex-author does so for long stretches. Many of the finest sections of the book reprise the sense of walking as “the king of slowness,” as in Repetition (1987), mention of which nearly makes us want to make “sense of place” yet another theme, since the many locations in Moravian are so distinctly and memorably rendered.

[4] “The eternal son” is a Kafka quote that Handke made his own. Max Frisch called Handke’s play Kaspar the play of the fatherless generation – yet Handke had a hated stepfather, a real father with whom he had an equivocal relationship once he came to know him, and an equivocal relationship to literary fathers – not so to his grandfather or the great literary grandfathers. This theme, in Moravian, is broached during one of the wanderings, in Thuringia.  

[5] Autobiography and Fiction

Morawian raises, once again, and perhaps uniquely, the questions: What is fiction? What is invention? What is autobiography? And what is the character of their interplay.

What does Handke mean when he says that “everything I wrote can be unrolled from the autobiographical” [Gantscher/ Handke “Ich lebe doch nur von den Zwischen Raeumen”] or “I write out of the fullness of myself”? Is his biography especially interesting und unusual to readers of this novel? If you delve into the nitty-gritty of his childhood, in some respects yes, in most ways absolutely every day, a writer’s dramas, but for family affairs, is confined to internal psychic activity. What is most interesting about Handke is what his genius produces for us to peruse on paper, that other world of words in which some of us can live more happily for the way words render it.

Thus it would not seem to be the biographical itself that elicits the readers’ interest, but what Handke makes of it, how he addresses and uses it, compacts and re-con-figures it in his imagination, how he transcribes it, how it affects our sense of being, how it alters our consciousness, sharpens our perceptions, and we will address some very specific instances because only in extreme specificity can one approach a measure of certainty in this matter.

 It appears Handke, very much a non-ex-author as of this writing, quite a few years subsequent to the composition of Moravian, continues to love to and absolutely needs to write, and we find that his joy in writing transmits itself to us.

Meanwhile, I have already written at some length on MORAVIAN NIGHTS @
and the reader may want to explore the disussions between myself and Soott Abbott about Handke's 2011 novel DER GROSSE FALL at Scott's

...and the variety of Handke blogs accessible via:


Collection of photos of all Handke productions

Scott completed our straightforward design today with a photo and an expression on our man's face that I had not seen before - and that is saying something, since I have been collecting our happily photographed Handke at some length for nigh on 15 years. This link
will get you to appr. 500 different expressions among the there 800 + photos.

The expression on the photo that Scott supplied is of happiness, of joy, a tad inhibited, and is a quality that, inexplicably, his work begins to exude as of the 1993 ONE YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S BAY, which I imagine is why I read it about five times straight, thrice in German, twice in English, in Krishna Winston's first major Handke translationl; and noting that the quality came through the translation unalloyed. Talking about healthy addictions!
A few years later I was happy to come on Peter Strasser's title DER FREUDENSTOFF [The Stuff of Happiness], [one new at $ 100; 3 used at $ 50.00!] referring and seeking to explain this quality of Handkes work, once he was no longer in Austria but installed in his place in the Chaville Woods. Not that his personal life has been altogether rosy since, yet the quality of being joy-exuding and making ctd. in works such as CROSSING THE SIERRE DEL GREDOS, and powerfully in the book that Scott and I puzzled over at great length, the 2011 DER GROSSE FALL.
There I could identify what made Handke so happy that the writing made me the reader happy, it was the joy he takes in writing well. It rings through the prose, and there are patches of direct joy, let me compare them not just to be the best flake in the world but the world's prettiest girl smiling at you at being alive, and I recall from years past that the prettiest girl in the world will respond to such an expression of joy with open arms, here's hoping of course that I won't be accused by some Nazi hunter of channelling "Kraft durch Freude."



You find these seven numbered sub rubrics, themes and links to them on the right side.


     Descriptions of MORAVIAN NIGHT

Michael Roloff’s

Description of



In Moravian Night a nameless ex-author invites close friends to hear him recount his past year’s travels, which may have been his last and which have taken him all over Europe, also to two of his oldest haunts, all are significant in his life. The ex-author does so at a special place for this special occasion, a houseboat hotel that is tied up by the Morawa River, in “deepest darkest” [see Handke’s play Voyage by Dugout, tr. By Scott Abbott, and published in PAJ Magazine in Spring 2012] southern Serbia; should the boat be untied it might float off into the Danube and hence into the Black Sea. - The idea for the houseboat setting came to Handke, so he has said several times, during his travels and his noting a Hotel Boat named “Luna” tied up on the Morava – this detail can be said to be the “day residue” around which the dream, in this instance a novel, formed, was dreamed, was romanced, since we find that the appellation “romancier” has become most fitting for Handke’s longer narrative endeavors. Handke writes great openings [see # 7 sidebar , “Openings,” for a discussion] has since the very first, and has become nearly enchantingly good at it, in Moravian Night and in the subsequent shorter novel The Big Fall [Der Grosse Fall, see Scott Abbott’s and my discussion of it at

This enchanting opening – it took the sleight of hand artist Handke a long time to become or decide to become an enchanter - is the present of the dinner at which the recounting is done. The ex-author’s guests, once they’ve made their way to the place through the reeds, sense that the author has a special relationship to a woman who is doing the serving who also appears in the section set in Northwest Spain. – There is more to the story of these two, they appear to have a past, but this “story” of resumed romance with finely drawn hints and suggestions is left to the readers imagination. Simultaneously the ex-author feels threatened by one or more Erinyes that seem to populate the reedy environs. [See # 1, on Erinyes on this theme.]

    The recounting of places that the ex-author visits all over Europe – a bus trip to Kosovo with displaced Serbs who go to pay homage to graves of murdered compatriots, to the Sorbian minority in Saxony, to northwest Spain, a wandering around the Danube Plain near Vienna, and to the now Croatian formerly Yugoslav Adriatic Island Krk, the Cordula of Roman times, where the real author Peter Handke, 22 years young, wrote Die Hornissen/ The Hornets, his first full-length narrative, in 1964, and had his first girl friend or fiend, now a haunting crone for having been abandoned with child; to Thuringia, Handke actual father’s region, and then back to the ex-author and Peter Handke’s origins as a writer and boy, the Dolminen, limestone concavities, of the Karst or Carso  of Slovenian Carinthia and Slovenia where the real writer Peter Handke set a section of his 1987 novel The Repetition, and then Handke’s hometown village of Griffen, Carinthia, now with minarets! – these places, their sequence, is more layered than woven together, certainly nothing as closely as in the two other Handke epics, the 1993 My Year in the Noman’s Bay and 2003 Crossing the Sierra del Gredos. The layers of this cake add up, stack up if you will but there is no necessitas connecting them to each other or to the house boat center. You could add another layer or layers, or eliminate one or the other, it would make no difference. The only connection they have with each other is that the real breathings and anything but ex-author Peter Handke undertook trips and wanderings in these regions and has not memorialized them in any other book, but for mention in his diaries.

Moravian Night started out as a book called Sammarra, it even had its cover ready – literary historians may tell us one day how the two manuscripts compare. Handke mentioned that the story interested him and that therefore he enlarged upon it – a few years later, he  became interested in another work of his and returned to it and that is the novel & drama Forever Storm which did not change titles during its enlargement. Scott Abbott and I discussed that work at great length on-line a few years back [2]


As these two discussants, who also took a crack at Handke’s latest novel
, read Moravian Night the fist time, at its German publication in 2007, a sweet Handke fan we both know kept moaning “Oh me God, it’s his last book. There will not be any more!” which indicates the naiveté of the true fan who fails to understand the game that is being played – yet Moravian does not  give any sense of that kind of finality! It is and can be utterly playful yet serious with its diversion AWAY from the autobiographical despite all those references to books written by Peter Handke: A Short Letter Long Farewell, the account of a frantic 1971 28 day trip with 21 stops all of Los Unidos Americano Norte [1972] where a wife’s longing for her husband is translated into her deadly pursuit of him  while he longs for the freedom to breathe in a llano non-estacado - Handke comes with Godard but finds John Ford; The Repetition [1987], the account of a once post Highschool Graduation wandering midwat aborted – on an Abort of a small town railway station, wrapped around the bowl! as we find out in the 2012 Essay about a Quiet Place, chaste youthful walking trip now intensely re-imagined at the adult pace of a slowly walking God through  Carinthia into Slovenia,in 198/ as Handke fashions a Slovenian identity for himself and a Slovenian father in the form of his Slovenian grandfather [Repetition is also the rewriting and promised follow up to Sorrow Beyond Dreams], with some stop-overs in the lime stone concavities – those Dolminen -  all the way  to Ljubljana where the protagonist’s uncle is studying horticulture as the one of Handke’s peace-instilling model uncles actually did and this uncle’s study book seems to be the most treasured featured possession of the real author Peter Handke.
The above-mentioned fan, my here necessary punching bag,  also felt that in no other book had Handke written so much as a child – and I scratched my head how one might reach that conclusion with a book that is so knowing in so many ways, that is so self-referential, so much for Handke readers, so in, and that throttles an erinye as only the most accomplished literary murderer can with vengeance-endowed malice aforethought. Handke, like Hesse before him, attracts the soft headed, no matter that Handke as Hesse did in a book’s worth of letters states that he is “not the one” , as he most certainly is not.
The formal problematics of Moravian arise with the opening section on the boat  being entirely imagined, whereas the subsequent sections, all detailing travels of Peter Handke - no matter that he has made wonderful independent sections that can exist quite separately from the house boat center - are of a directly autobiographical origin, but the locales these are set in exist also to fill out, complete a far larger endeavor and bigger canvas than Moravian by itself attains. What the selection of the half dozen or so places that have never been featured before points to is a matter Michael Roloff began to realize at his several readings of No-Man’s-Bay about 20 years ago:
that Handke, that driven and so utterly capable exhibitionist, the greates virtuoso of the classical style ever I would say, was creating a huge portrait of his
 size self, including the sites with which and how it had interacted. That country of his personality not only contains the six sides – writer, painter, filmmaker, reader, country priest, ex-cultural attaché - that are manifested, say in No-Man-Bay, including that of that “part object” as  a Kleinien  might call him, the restaurateur in the forest who creates the best word salad in the world as he fusses over the guests he will admit as he keeps going broke, but also ALL the places Peter Handke the Magnificent, the most self-involved and exhibitionist yet also  observant and writerly and playful writer ever has ever been! Thus Moravian serves to fill out that history further in preparation of his immortality. In that sense, you are not buying a whole loaf of Handke here, but half a dozen great slices and a bowtie to hold them together.

If anyone knows about “unity of place” it is the Peter Handke of Noman’s-Bay of The Essay about the Jukebox, the 2006 Kali or the 2012 The Essay about the Quiet Place. If anyone knows about and has asked his work to be judged within its own terms it is Handke – in the instance of Moravian Night I cannot discover any such term. Moravian is a grab bag, a collector and not a container with rules of its own. The number of tales that can be told is arbitrary except that they recount trips that the real writer Peter Handke has undertaken. Handke has mentioned that his work develops out of the auto-biographical – and the trick might be to see how it so develops in every different instance, and that the work is an expression of his self – his exceedingly grandiose self.
The knowledgeable Handke reader will note that the real unretired joyfully writing 70+ writer Peter Handke, who was born in 1942 in Griffen and just celebrated his 70th as a real media event, has mixed up the ex-author with himself, locations, experiences, books written and referred to. What game is being played here by the once melancholy player? Have we become the entertainer we never wanted to become, that side that we hated in  Graham Greene already as a youngster? What is all that coyness about? The peekaboo of now it’s me  perhaps it is not? Handke’s amazing gift as a writer being to realize the as if. In what sense then is Moravian Night such a realization?

The book’s conceit – an ex-author recounts the last roundtrip of his life; as narrative we are a long way it seems, now in the hands of a true romancier, or are we, have we traveled since the original conceit that The Hornets is a book or one version of it that the writer had once read and tries to decipher in his memory?... as he tries to decipher his surround. And it is a question that German and many foreign readers are in a position to speculate on/, but not his American readers, since both Die Hornissen and Handke’s second novel, Der Hausierer have not been translated. [1]
   However, we have other means of comparing way stations that are implied and accessible via translation.
  Moravian, as noted above, formally, is not and cannot be as closely woven or tightly wound as Handke’s two other long narratives, My Year in the Nomans-Bay [1993] or Crossing the Sierra del Gredos [2003] – one of which has only one locale, the other a continuous linear trip with what someone with the memory of Mexican roads calls “topes”, speedbumps - and thus Moravian might strike the generous reader like the kind of deeply suggestive half-finished painting, of which Larry Rivers was our contemporaneous master. But here in the form of shafts running of in various directions all tied to the houseboat center through narration.
    Think of what other writers might do with this great conceit, Aldous Huxley of Point Counterpoint, the Nigel Dennis of Cards of Identity, Lawrence Durrell of The Alexandria Quartet, or the Thomas Mann of Felix Krull or Nabokov of several major novels. – And though Handke’s writing is at their level or exceeds it, Moravian’s intent as a kind of half of a “pictures at an exhibition” formally leaves this reader hungry for more, for completion, no matter the demonstration of half a dozen different brilliant ways of writing.
Morawian’s individual sections – Kosovo, Spain, the Vienna Danube plains, Thuringia, etc - are set pieces of sorts and as locations have never before appeared in any Handke text [diaries are another matter.]
   Individual works of Handke’s that can stand entirely on their own feet, as the ideology of the New Criticism teaches us ought to be the case, we have an amplitude of, no matter that if you bring to bear all that Michael Roloff knows about Handke and his state of mind during the composition of, say,  The Moment of True Feeling you will have a book length case history – but not one that has the power of “the death mask” [Benjamin] of the experience as that book affects the reader. Moravian is not a death mask of that kind – no matter that it contains half a dozen fragments for a much larger tomb.
Another way of putting this is to note that a conception such as Moravian Night may be inherently open-ended and inherently incapable of approximating anything along the lines of the kind of formal perfection that Handke achieved in so many works, especially in shorter gems such as Don Juan or Lefthanded Woman or the Assayings of the Jukebox  or The Day that Went Well or the 2012 Quiet Spot, which are far more susceptible to such approximations than plum cakes of the kind that Handke once promised never to commit…  and also in Kali, the immediately preceding novel – and this really reads like a novel, Kali a wonderfully or as some people find not so wonderfully, that is unpleasantly mysterious tale set in and around what would be its English title, The Salt Works, an underground salt mine, a book that uniquely falls out of the sequence of Handke’s revelatory, self-referential narratives; a real novel with two main characters, a woman and a man, neither of whom seem to be surrogates for Peter Handke! Pure invention! Pure projection surfaces and some very concrete observation of a salt mine and its village surround.
   If Moravian Nights wanted to be more than a kind of fragment, if it were really to be completed, it would be a compleat biography of the writer Peter Handke, and not only is that not feasible, it is also not necessary since Handke himself has written so much of it already, especially in the 1993 My Year in the No-Man’s Bay, the novel of the six artistic sides of his self. Moravian Night, thus, strikes me in some ways as a kind of inversion of No-Man’s Bay – where the former 125,000 word epic provides a sense of completion, Moravian Night, formally asks the reader to complete it with his knowledge of Handke and his works – a very pleasurable and interesting activity for the likes of me who has been working off and on a Handke project for twenty five + years and even wrote a biography of sorts in German we do some completing of course with the out- runners on Erinyes, Locations, Fathers & Sons, openings, father & sons, etc.
    For others, who are not Handke fans, the books brilliant writing might induce them to check out the earlier and subsequent books and dramas. Moravian provides a veritable sample of styles and it is these, Handke’s writing, that we will chiefly discuss and in some detail so as to avoid impressionistic bullshitting as much as possible, we will also discuss the variety of translation challenges these varieties posed at  
– if you want a good dose of all the different ways in which the virtuoso of the classical style Peter Handke can write, there is no better book than Moravian Night


By the time of the composition of Moravian Night – 2006- Handke had been living in the forest of Chaville outside Paris for nigh on twenty years, and Chaville would and will and might be where his friends would come to bid the real “nothing but a writer” Peter Handke a fond or not so fond adieu. However, the surround of Chaville has been extraordinarily well documented in various Handke books, chiefly in My Year in the No-Man’s-Bay, its left over chapter, the fairy tale about picking mushrooms for his second daughter, Luci - Laocadie - and the Thingamajigs, also Handke’s Don Juan [as told by himself] plays in a  nearby ancient abbey, even Handke’s third assaying, that about The Day that Went Well circles that venue. So we sure do not need or want to set Moravian Night there as well. We might say an imaginary goodbye to it, the “ex-author” could take one last look at what will be a museum to his fame

but he doesn’t, it might be one too many temptings of the fates of vanity? Odd though considering the other characters and places of Handke’s novels that the ex-author visits.
One other of Moravian’s noticeable features, if a cognoscenti of Handke’s work, is that nearly all the places where Moravian is stylistically set are unique to this book. E.G.: Although Handke has spent a lot of time in the geographical entity that used to be known as Yugoslavia and has memorialized quite a few, he has not memorialized being in a boat on a river, despite crossing quite a few of these Danubeward flowing streams, nor a bus trip to Kosovo as the great describer and noticer on bus trips has here with an enraged bus driver who keeps shouting “Apache”, his anger we assume elicited by what his fellow Serbian have suffered. It is a most amazing section –  Again: if you know your Handke you will be reminded of the play Subday Blues
where a character plays rage, but in the most finely calibrated - <y Foot My Tutor - manner. Here, it is the monotony of the anger, like the repeated cry of a wounded elephant, that becomes so emphatically true. And if you know your Handke, you may speculate that this bus trip might have been observed, or the germ for it laid, as good as any of many occasions, on Handke’s way to write The Cuckoos of Velica Hoca [2005] –  which detailed account of a Serbian enclave in the Kosovo unfortunately so far does not exist in English to instruct American journalists how to really do an intimate finely shaded portrait of a politically challenged location.
Aside that Handke does not repeat himself except to explore certain formal problems to their limit, he is widely traveled and his books invariably are set in, anchored to, and feature and memorialize a place  – “Places, the last settings of our tragedies.” [Walk About the Villages]. The writer Peter Handke, anything but an ex-author about seven years subsequent to writing a book with an ex-author for its conceit, meanwhile the author of yet several further major plays and novels and yet another assaying, wanted to make sure to memorialize, also, these particular Moravian Night places, as he has so many others in books both small and extensive. The Spanish towns of Lineares and Soria in The Assaying of Tiredness and the Jukebox, the abbey near his domicile in the Chaville forest for his Don Juan, etc, etc. Kali may have been written entirely for the sake of memorializing this extraordinary place and salt mine.
The so playful if not coy Moravian Night can be regarded as a sequence of that kind, yet it contains these droll inserts, a half dozen formalist series of which Handke has become an even greater master than he was when he wrote his first plays, which in Moravian’s overall imperfect half form - to ctd. the analogy in graphic terms - act like Saul Steinberg curlicues, no matter that they address very serious matters, for they  are also recits of Handke’s kind.  Several of these formalist curlicues are anchored to a place, but altogether they of course are like pockmarks on the moon of this formalist enterprise,  that Handke has been doing for decades. Willful, and quite beyond using recognizable stand-ins from his personal life,  say Siegfried Unseld as the publisher who visits the Left-Handed Woman as in real life he was always ready to hit on his authors’ abandoned wives, and allegedly proud of this portrait. But a reader of LHW does not need to know this private aspect to respond to LHW, in Morawian the reader needs to be familiar with Handke books.
The what I call Steinbergian curlicues  feature [a] a conference on noise, [b] a competition of Jew’s harp players, [c] the reasons why the ex-author beat up and even felt like killing a girl fiend with whom he had one final altercation. Of the three, only [c], the Erinye recit is not also tied to a particular location – except that the sense of being haunted by Erinye’s pervades the surround of the houseboat.
Appropriately for a fiction that suggests that endings return to beginnings, we find the protagonist ensconced in a Dolmine in Slovenia, one of those lime stone concavities, shelter for every size being from rabbit to elephant, but now, in a tying together of the Yugoslav theme, in company with a former U.S. minister of justice [Ramsey Clark] whom Peter Handke met during his watch of the Slobodan trial in Scheveningen, perkily humorous, defiantly pro-Serbian if not nationalistic – “if you call me a Serbian nationalist!” by God I will become one - for “justice for Serbia”, and we were happy to note Handke’s sense of humor about himself in that respect and endeavor. Finally some other characters from Handke novels appear on the scene, one of them is Filip Kobal – the 19th century Slovenian freedom fighter with touches of Parsifal - from  The Repetition - as we approach Handke’s once hometown Griffen.

The book is set in a future as the minarets are marching in, and as are so many of Handke’s tales are set decades in advance of their actual composition, a now patented attempt to lift the books out of the naturalistic present; as though calling them fairy tales will make them so  one aspect of maintaining its status as an independent work of literary art that emanates its truth in that fashion, and the least successful and superfluous or badly played one of them throughout the works since the late 90s. –
Michael Roloff Dec 2012



[2] Serbia/ Yugoslavia
I must have devoted at least a total of one of the past twenty years, since 1993, to seeking to puzzle out, first, Handke’s unexpected coming to the rescue of the Serbs; and, then, the multifarious reasons for the disintegration of the 2nd Federation. Trying to understand Handke I ventured to do so by writing very slowly at first, speculatively, and the main handke-yugo blog site, which is rich in related material, and my summary, in German, pretty much state my conclusions

These findings and the knowledge I acquired make me none the happier, also for their entire lack of utility but for myself or interest but by one or two other aficionados of this grim matter.             One matter that continues to upset and puzzle me is why each of the tribes in that region is allowed to be nationalistic but not the Serbians. Nationalism appears akin to murderousness, thus most responsible really are those who let out the hounds of nationalism, or made those dogs, for lack of better housing, find shelter in those containers. Those would be those who waged political-economic warfare, at least according to my lights, and surprise surprise but Uncle Sam ends up with three fascist S.O.B.s – the Croatians, the Bosniaks and Kosovo Albanians - for allies, and one torture camp. Peter Handke alludes to these events only barely in Moravian Night, one, by calling Madelaine “Koerbel” Allbright Mrs. “Ganzhell” – not his best pun – and wrong of course since Madelaine knew very well who seasoned her soup, wove her wedding basket and, thus, calling her stupid - get better kicks on Route 66. The only other real allusion to the, in 2006, then past events, is Handke having his character stand-in Filip Kobal or is it ex-author camp out with the ex-U.S. Secretary of Justice, easily identified as the unique Ramsey Clark, in a Dolminen in Slovenia toward the end of the book - whom Handke encountered attending the Milosevic trial in Scheveningen. - Moravian Night allegedly plays around the year 2026, but Ramsey and the ex-author are still fighting for “Justice for Serbia.” I will be forgiven if I mistakenly give Handke credit in this instance for having a sense of humor about the Michael Kolhaas side of his being. Of the other  several independent and unrelated sections from Moravian Night that are set in parts of what is now the former 2nd Yugoslav Federation only one relates the now past wars – the trip of some Serbians to the grave sites of compatriots in the Kosovo. However, the way Handke writes this magnificent section, that features our furiously “Apache” trumpeting bus driver, is to deprive it of its original political and ethnic context. They are just mourners, not Serbians going wherever, and the bus driver – well, one gets the idea that he’s so furious for all the deaths. Anyhow, at something serious!  
Much as I admire Handke for taking his most unusual way to defend his now beloved Serbs and have the world focus on his display, to love and defend the Serbs does not seem to necessitate going to bed with Milosevic or the current nationalist candidate Nikolaiic – but I think, or at least I allow Handke the contrariness that if he is called a Serbian nationalist of going the extra mile to prove his accusers defiantly right. At any event, Moravian Night does not rise of fall on the ebb tide of Handke’s opinions in this matter, or it ought not to; and Handke, the once absolute despiser of politicians now having so  much truck with powerful politicians I think is a story that has little to do with his involvement in Slavic affairs, but that Handke is a near congenital autocrat who thinks it is his due to talk to fellow autocrats like Milosevic, Siegfried Unsled, Karadcics, and various Austrian and French ministers as his equals. Moreover, Central European politicians favor the company of talented intellectuals and the favorable aura of lending them a serious mien it provides. However, let us not forget Handke berating Günter Grass for spending  too much time campaigning for the the SPD and Willi Brandt and advising him that he ought to spend the time writing. Handke is always good for advice on sundry subjects, especially to those whose life in the limelight he envies.  If, say, I were the governor of the smallest of these states into which Yugoslavia has disintegrated – Montenegro - I would certainly listen to Handke on matters of writing and theater, on walking boots, on mushrooming and picking of fruit and nuts and horticulture in general and  how to pace yourself on long walking expeditions – on other matters, say child rearing, women’s studies, not so much.
MORAVIAN NIGHT being set in a houseboat on the Morava River in deepest darkest South-East Serbia signifies that if you wanted to set a novel in a houseboat or river barge, the world is rich in wondrous rivers to do so, the Yangtse, the Mississsippi, the Frazier, the Columbia, Union Bay here in Seattle. However, this houseboat does not float off along the Morava into the Danube with their once NATO-bombed bridges long rebuilt, ditto for the bridges on the Danube. You could of course confine a novel where a variety of people told stories entirely within the houseboat’s confines, as it floated or not. Formally, that would demand great concentration on the author’s part… the atmosphere for the like Handke certainly has created along the lines of a Henry Green novel, and that makes for a great first chapter… and we are back on the boat only a few more times to remind the reader that all these unrelated stories need to be somehow stitched in there… and most novelists would have told us who these various alleged visitors are, introduced them and made it a more social, not that exclusively autistic Handke novel.
   There is the great bus ride with the drive who keeps shouting “Apache” and a visit to Sorbia. The ex-bankieress of Crossing the Sierra del Gredos was provided with Sorbiam roots, which neither added nor distracted or detracted anything from Handke’s characterization of her, perhaps mystifying those who had never heard of the Sorbians until now.  She is just one of a dozen or so interchangeable lenses [# 10] that Handke uses for the semblance of a story so as to write marvelous prose. Think of him as a piano virtuoso who then has to call his pieces capricious of one or the other kind. Handke is the happy writing machine and his real readers need a few pages of Handke to provide themselves with a least a soupcon of the happiness that his sheer writing conveys… the way a cocaine aficionado might long for for flake, or a pothead for a certain whatever leaf. So let Handke indulge himself with Sherberts as long as he write beautifully about them, I say.

The most extraordinary of the Yugoslav sections is set in the island of Krk/ Cordula where the real writer Peter Handke wrote his first full length text, Die Hornissen, in 1964, and had his first girl friend, whom he also managed to get pregnant but appears to have abandoned as his real father, who was already married, abandoned, refused to marry his mother Maria Sivec. This former girl friend now haunts her first boy fiend as an old crone. Once again using my pictorial shorthand, prior to a more detailed discussion of this [# 11 Krk] section, Handke’s now entirely matured visual style paints the island with its smells and sights something along the lines as a Dostoijevski El Greco might, barely constrained drama and darkness; thus the poor girl can always claim that she was abandoned by someone who at the very least was a great writer, and that she was not a groupie when she gave herself to him. No mention of what happened to the child.
   This section, like the other Yugoslave sections, is not related and stands in no relationship to the others, and the only commonality, as between all these pictures at an exhibition, is that the ex-author saw and experienced them. Nor is there ever in the book any kind of assessment or even a chronology of the various book this ex-author has written, or why he had so many friends who might want to celebrate with him on his houseboat on the Morava, and Peter Handke certainly had close to 70 books out of his pencil by that time, and has a sense of his own development. What I followed was how his writing style became more anchored subsequent to the 1980 The Lesson of St. Victoire in Der Chinese des Schmerzens [Across/ a.k.a Le Chinois de Douleur]. And now, in 2006, that section in Krk/ Cordula.
Michael Roloff, Dec 2012