Saturday, December 3, 2016




and here my response to his review


Let me start with minor and end with my major quibbles to my good friend Scott Abbott's piece on Peter Handke's MORAVIAN NIGHT. 

1-I did did not just translate Handke’s early plays -   the Sprechstuecke of the 60s - but two volumes: KASPAR & OTHER PLAYS + RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE & OTHER PLAYS + the 1981 WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, 10 plays over the course of 15 years;  in addition, two volumes of poetry, INNERWORLD OF THE OUTERWORLD OF THE INNERWORLD + NONSENSE & HAPPINESS. 

2- The 8 year delay in the publication of MORAVIAN has to do, in large part, with Krishna Winston, FSG's translator of choice, being backed up with work as I might have mentioned in my 

which Scott has had for some time and where he might have discovered that the reasons for Handke's waning sales are at least threefold: an EIGHT YEAR and not a four year break between the extremely successful publication of LEFT HANDED WOMAN & the collection of three different books of Handke's under the title of the novel contained therein A SLOW HOMECOMING, a lapse that sapped the great interest also manifested in mass paperback sales of the early books as TWO BY HANDKE, THREE BY HANDKE. I was no longer Handke's editor at FSG [of which Handke must have had at least ten during the nearly 50 years of his publication history with the firm] - but, working as an editor in New York, stayed well informed & advised against that delay.     


And now to serious disagreement on a few points of Scott’s reading of MORAWIAN NIGHT, a book we like equally well, it has become my second most favorite Handke:

“Peter Handke’s The Moravian Night is a novel about storytelling,” Scott writes & mistakes, speciously, effort - a craftsman’s lifelong consideration - for the result  which in the instance produced some of the finest realistic , graphically, painterly  and playfully inventive work that Handke has done. If Handke, a considerable essayist  - note  his THREE ESSAYS - had wanted to write on “story telling” he would have done so in that form and not at epic 150,000 word length and forced Scott’s tiresome iteration of Handke’s thoughtfulness on the matter each time that Handke is thoughtful prior to the demonstration of the result of thoughtfulness, which after all is what manifests itself to readers and provides their experience of the text.

Handke is a slight of hand artist - an artificer par excellence in Joyce’s sense - who can make a text read as though you are experiencing a film, he does here briefly once at the opening of a long marvelous wandering section along the Danube flood plains. 

“Perception,” of  which Scott makes serious fuss, is influenced - also deceived - by any number of matters, including the unconscious, as we have know with some finality; particularly in an instance of a writer like Handke who is hyper-super sensitive to the inside and the outside of the inside - to put it this way and not address the matter in a psycho-neuro-physicist fashion. Just one example: The section set in Corduba/ Krk, which Scott cites, strikes me, the reader as though narrated against a backdrop of a dramatic El Greco painting - Glackens also comes to mind -  corposcular crepuscular - that is the created suggested mood, and appropriate to the grim subject at hand that Handke’s painterly craft achieves. Handke does not “modulate” experience verbally, that would be naturalism, he creates experiences, he is an inventor so as to communicate, to dominate, to play, to make aware & has developed the means to do so. If the book is ABOUT narration it is so only as yet one other virtuoso performance of all or many of the ways that Handke can do so.

MORAVIAN NIGHT is not any kind of ordinary novel or saga but a collage whose slithers are stitched via a narrator who reports an ex-author’s experiences - the slithers if they fit anywhere overall do so in what I call Handke's grand display of his Yoknapawtaka self, in analogy to Faulkner's county where all of that great writer’s books are set. Perhaps Scott can show how these and the other slivers are to be read a part of a novel or saga or whatever you want to call MORAWIAN NIGHT, which is so different from Handke's other books, where Scott's imprecation would make sense. My experience of these great books is of their being unitary experiences that alter my state of mind, kinethetially, analogous to what some of his plays do in inducing catharses, I feel healthy as a consequence, healthier. Here in MORAWIAN NIGHT, I have this sensation only on a few occasions where there is a continuous narrative, the Galicia tunnel section, the wandering around the Danube flood plain - I certainly do not have this sense  during the narrative stitching of these episodes to the evening on board the ship. I maintain that MORAWIAN NIGHT is a collage, a portmanteau for all kinds of things that Handke had not accommodated anywhere else, and for subjects he chose not address in one of what I call his Assayings, those probing essays. If the subject interests your readers they may want to join me and Scott in our ongoing discussion of any number of aspects of this book at:

Sincerely Michael Roloff

A couple of responses to Michael’s comments:
I wrote at length about the novel as an exploration of storytelling, making the case for that with lots of examples. You ignore the argument and the examples and avoid the question by calling my reading mistaken and specious.
Then you ask me to show how the sections I have so carefully cited and shown to be the formal backbone of the novel “are to be read a part of a novel or saga.” That is exactly what I have done with the essay.
The problem may lie in your very limited sense for what a novel can be (“unitary experiences that alter my state of mind, kinesthetically, analogous to what some of his plays do in inducing catharsis”). Perhaps this is a novel of a different sort. 
Finally, you write that you very much like the translation. I have shown multiple examples of problems with the translation, only one of which could be construed as “quibbling.” I could show you many more — the book is full of problems. Perhaps you could offer some examples of how the translation serves the original well.

    • MORAWIAN NIGHT just is not a novel, or of a kind that Handke has written peviously. It is a grab bag of experiences of his own kind, some of which are altered some of which are not altered. It is a collage. You don’t really give examples except to quote Handke saying he thinks about these matters, I happened to find that the result of the dwelling & the manner in whch this disparate material is sewn narrated together fascinating and impressive but not the subject. The book has a variety of subjects, one major one I think is Handke’s feeling about Yugoslavia/ the Balkans, you notice this toward the end especially after the ex-author after his roundabout ends where he started off & he is rather sad about a lot of the changes that the disintegration has brought, although he does not name these events in those words but refers to the last war.Perhaps his feelings about nationality is even a subject since he fee4ls far more positively about the younger generation than he use to. germany is given that very short negative shrift. handke is a true “central european’ a term he evidently hates and derides, in thinking in terms of nationalities, plus ca change la meme chose in that respect. perhaps paranoia when it comes to women is a subject, it certainly is a poweful theme that keep cropping up in a variety of ways. i don’t think that asking for forgivenes is as tht cornila cheuse woman suggests whose paper i uploaded.
      as to the transaltion, to cite a few major mistakes in a work of 150,000 words is quibbling, and i define where i agree with you: when truly challenged Ms. Winston is not up to th the task. But overall she has given me real pleasure over the years, more so than Handke’s previous chief prose translator did. To be fair would mean to cite the overwhelming number of sucessful paragraphs.
  • A few further thoughts on our disagreement, which I think comes down to those famous words: “the” & “about”.
    I might just agree with you if we substituted “a” for the “the” & “theme” for “subject.” (i will create a page to list the various themes that are touched on an explored)
    If you look at the book, as I suggest, as a collage – how do folks go about “reading collages”? Not like ordinary paintings, although the overall of course leaves an initial usual puzzling, as here, impression – ‘how does all this fit together’ ? and then you notice the threads, the heavy Balkan thread that starts with the location of the narrative, that takes over with the bus ride, moves on to Krk…. keeps being tied, all those disparate stories, observations, this and that, Handke knick-knacks, to the boat where this is being narrated, and ends with very heavy emphasis back in the Balkans… If you look at this picture from the writer’s view who had this wonderful conception of creating a collage and unloading a lot of stuff you can see why it got him hot…though what it amounts to in the altogether?? Perhaps if Handke had not just invented but written straight autobiography? But that would have bored him I think, even though he seems to be exquisitely aware of his life’s progress; there is the love story buried in the book, which may be Peter’s way of indicating how happy is to have regained the second run-away bride, and so he is quite willing to have her [and how many others?] call him as cold as a cadaver as a cold-blooded salamander. There is a lot of mystery in the book, especially of course regarding the situation aboard & that is just as well. Is there the “story” , the one story it appears you find, in the book? In the development and denouement of the Balkan theme perhaps, in Handke’s humorous letting go of it, his making fun of himself as having been one of the last fanatical defenders? Overall it’s a pot pouri & I wonder what if any serious critics tangle with it here will do with the beast.

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