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.
"In the instance of MORAWIAN NIGHT of course we have a concept, a conceit, a fantasy ... that of course relates to Handke, but my feeling is that it is the kind of conceipt any numBEr of halFway well traveled European authors might have. It is a strong concept of a kind that Handke's envied Thomas Mann might have  had.... it is a wIde open concept, that final roundtrip, and then the idea of an evening on a finely appointed boat that might float all the way to the Black Sea... a grea notion! Let's see what the kid our master weaver makes of it!
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. In Handke’s case, there was most notoriously, his interventions during the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Initially he made some “advertisments for myself” at Princeton in 1966. Matters of that kind – only the Yugoslav stand it alluded to at the very end.
 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 and not loose oneself in easy generalizations.

But let us take one example..

 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.
Without being overly specious, Handke is of course right in his comment to Gantscher, and not just for himself. Everything, every obviously, inevitably subjectively formulated self-consciously phrased so-called even “objective observation can be traced back to, is colored by the subject and is invested with the subject’s subjectivtity to one degree of complexity to the other. However, what I don’t think Handke is saying in that very important Gantscher conversation from the mid-80s, is that everthing he writes at any moment, as a diary entry, or as part of a conceived imaginary, be it play or narrative, exists in some one to one identical relationship with himself – he and Gantscher had a fine serious conversation and did not enter into the shoals and eddies and profound epistemological insecurities that attend the reception and conveyance of what travels under the name of “authenticity,” an entry point of the great fear of the unreality of it all, a now long-pervasive moment that I.  a Marxist who is psychonalytically oriented, would tie to the vast realm of irrationality and insecurity that is produced day in day out by the capitalist economy, and that accounts for no end of phenomena, not just an absurdity known as “reality t.v.”, in the arts but in all forms of communication. – The earth’s mantel has started to churn, there is no security, no matter that there are folk still writing novels with the old architecture.  We may have the finest science on the one hand,  on the other we live in the Merowingian Dark Ages, of the wildest fears and prejudices. The attacks on the instrumentariums that creates the truths that fiction can conveigh are multifarious, and I will not enter into them here. However, the ctd. “autistic episodes” to which Handke confesses to Gantscher and, in general, his fifty years amazing work provide an interesting slant on the matter and on the problem of what is “real.”
  Best as I can tell Handke’s high-end autims consists of a hyperization of each of his senses, e.g. the nose of the best hounddog, the hearing of a bat: with the evident proviso that his system is easily over-loaded – vide all those nauseas – nausea is the result of overloads – either the processor is congenitally too weak, or is overwhelmed; attacks going back to this days as an unhappy boarding school student at Tanzenberg who, later ib life, writes about about retreating into the Shithouse because he found his fellows just too nauseating, the future somewhat misanthrope.
I think I witnessed one of these episodes once where Handke retreats into his kind of “jukebox” & will describe it now.

The Austrian cultural package of Handke, Kolleritsch & Libgart Schwartz’s visit to the USA in Spring 1971 happened to coincide with [1] finally an official premiere of several of his early plays & [2] the publication of KASPAR & OTHER PLAYS. As part opf those event I held a small gathering at my apartment at 101 West 54th Street to which I invited two early and immediate Handke backers, Stanley Kaufman, the New Republic’s film reviewer who however had far-ranging interests, as well as Richard Gilmman, the drama critic [His The Making of Modern Drama addressed on chapter to Handke] and teacher at the Yale Drama School, the first critics, as compared to reviewer, to address Handke’s work in the theater. At one party moment you have to imagine Kaufmann, Gilman, Handke & myself in a group of four, and at most another dozen folks hovering about, I forget whether Kolleritsch was part of the group, he may very well have been. Not were Libbart with whom I had been flirting, or my marvelous Renate relationship which fiendish jealousy on this then entirely unfaithful lover’s part ruined. Nor the director of the premiere, Schulz, the sinister, hovering by the window to the shaft. I forget whether it was Gilman or Kaufman that posed the question that made Handke secede a few steps to the back and lower himself down into my juke box, the nook with the record player and of course the Beatles records, and did not emerge until after the guests ahd left. I myself found this disappearance act a bit odd but what’s a smidgen of impolitesse no real harms seemed to be done, after all Handke was the guest of honor.  How he then came out oof his swoon is another matter, and if he had not been the guest of honor might easily have led to his expulsion from the apartment and was typical of his insulting behavior throughout that entire trip but is not pertinent to the moment, I don’t think, to the moment of something in him having too much of, say, the stupidity of being asked what he meant to do with his serial procedures, some such perfectly fine seminar question, except if you have good sense you don’t address it to the author.

More regarding the kind of reality Handke creates as a writer momentarily – summarily.
What struck me at once about Handke’s work was its lack of naturalism, that these were works that stood on their own no matter that they might enjoy a particular relationship to the same reality that contained me. They do and did not create illusions, they are cxperiences and happenings of a kind, and they require a bit of work from their consumers. One would think that someone like David Shields and his justified attack on certain old fashioned instruments of the novelist’s instrumentatium would appreciate this, but apparently he does not. What I am saying here applies generally to Handke’s work nearly without exception from itc inception to the most recent work. 

MORAWIAN NIGHT plays – both seriously and superficially – with the notion of being autobiographical.  Yes, indeed in the course of the European roundabout it appears some quite serious Handke experiences are recounted & we participate in them because of Handke’s verbal gift. The notion that Handke might have stopped writing because the noise made by pencil on paper and paper rustling exceed his ever-greater sensitivities, however, is part of the conceit of living on a houseboat on the Morawa, however attractive such a proposition may actually be to Handke. The notion of no longer be condemned, under a life-long compulsion to write elicits a lot of writing here, and it is especially amusing to those who knew the young Handke who every few minutes flashed his pencil and notebook to make a notation. That these notation would make for readable notebooks and produce wonders like THE HISTORY OF THE PENCIL is not what you necessarily think, as the conversation and train of thought is interrupted once again.
However, when the ex-writer plans to visit Austrian writing friends Gregor Keuschnig & Filip Kobal what is the reader who is unfamiliar with Handke’s major workws to do but think, oh well, one of the things to look forward to in this wonderfully written somewhat mysterious book; while those who know that Filip Kobal   is the protagonist of the great The Repetition & that Keuschnig is the hero [?] of A Moment of True Feeling & My Years in the Noman’s Bay – may be a bit annoyed at this cutesy inside joke, and even more so when the reader eventually finds out that Kobal, named after a 19th century  Slovenian revoluniary who, in The Repetition, is on his way to learn to become a fruit grower, now writes screen plays: this kind of silliness happens to be exactly what Handke dislikes in the envied Thomas Mann! Fortunately there is not much of this kind of ironic inside joking going on.

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