1] First, there is the experience  translating the early texts – from PUBLIKUMSBESCHIMPFUNG to RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE, including GOALIE’S ANXIETY and those texts from INNERWORLD that I was able to do. That was a lot of fun, and I have written it up at http://www.handketrans.scriptmania.com/
The experience was near entirely verbal, it had comparatively little emotional involvement, but for the kind that occurs on reflection, say on why Bloch suddenly is overwhelmed with irritation and kills the girl he picked up the night before, but that is not the kind of emotion that drives a translation. SELF-ACCUSATION has one sentence, the possible intimation of pathos to come in future work of Handke’s, it is the sentence that begins with the words “Have I … “ and then it lists a great number of offenses that the “I” has possibly committed; it’s hard to tell whether that reaching back for a summary is yet another derisive attack on a neurotically persnickety super-ego or some emotional yawing is occurring.

2] The first time emotions come into play, a bit, is in the 1973 THEY ARE DYING OUT, in Herr Quitt and his wife’s and Paula Tax’s dialogue. Mrs. Quitt of course was modeled to some extent on Siegfried Unseld’ malingering wife, as which wife might not with such an ebullient husband, as Quitt was based on Unseld and Handke’s sense of his own grandiosity. Handke’s quickly unhappy marriage entered there, evident to me at his and his wife’s and Kolleritsch’s 1971 US trip that produced SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL, another emotionally withholding, if not very cold book that Moravian Night references. Anxiety, fear, paranoia – are these emotions?

There is some real feeling in the long Stifter quote in Dying Out as factotum Hans reads it to his master, Herrman Quitt. I recall leading Handke on a bit about the play, in Paris, saying “Eine Posse?”, and his saying “It’s more than that,” as indeed it is. As a play it is interestingly imperfect, but contains a lot. While translating it in 1973 or four Handke wrote me making one small change and excusing himself for having lost his concentration, saying he had not been well. I guess I wouldn’t have been either if my mother had committed suicide and if I had had Handke’s kind of relationship with her, and Handke’s wife, not a French saint, leaving him, fleeing the salamander, for a host of causes. Trouble is that even if a wife has all the reasons in the world to split, those reasons, if the husband has even the faintest awareness of them, somehow or other do not assuage or eliminate the narcissistic injury, huge in Handke’s case. Thus,

3] matters of course became very emotional – fugueing, stormily so – and musical in the translation of the three long poems from Als das Wuenschen noch geholfen hat in Nonsense and Happiness.

4] It so happened that in 1983 when it came to the final draft of my translation of Ueber die Doerfer [Walk About the Villages – Ariadne Press] I was at a stage of my analysis where everything in me, detail by detail, was projected, drawn out of me onto a text, which I then shouted out… a Chrismas vacation, no girl fiend, no analyst, just me and the text in my loft. Handke’s ear nicely detected the cutting [“in the good sense”] quality of the translation, for voice as it turned out. I address that in the postscript, part of which is also on the translation site. That translation was one of the two or three times – the other were the 65 poems I did in Nelly Sachs’s OH THE CHIMNEY’S 1967 [which laid emotional waste to me for a year] and Rolf Hochhut’s Tell 38 [sheer torture! And not because of Hochhut’s syntax!] also during analysis in the early 80s. Josef Winkler’s Flowers for Jean Genet I must admit affected me a lot too!

Subsequent to those translation experiences, or preceding the last, reading the first, the Alaska chapter of Langsame Heimkehr had an, or released an immense effect in me – and I sought to account for that by guessing that Handke somehow had managed to access, find a way of articulating  the “whole of Alaska” where I had once spent nine months working as a forest fire fighter and geological assistant and still have a book's worth of extraordinary anecdotes, but which – as a whole – in its hugeness - had left an impress that perhaps sought articulation, but then found it, so surprisingly in the book, which I read in Vienna, on my way back from four extraordinary weeks in Buggeria in fall 1980.
   The Repetition had a huge effect on me as I myself was becoming “a king of Slowness” for a good long while living at 1500 feet in utterly idyllic circumstances in the St. Monica Mts. 1986/7. And shuffling on the dirt paths through its peculiar undergrowth, the chapparel, the Malibu part of Ventura county, the surf – Ma-Li-Bu means loud pounding surf in Chumash – pounding very very slowly, as it rolls in from the South Pacific.
   Then the experience of the joy of reading My Year in the No-Man’s Bay about five times in the early to mid-ninetees. Peter Strasser wrote a book about the “Freudenstoff” that Handke’s work is as of a certain point – the joy in writing so well or something along that line is transmitted from the joy he and his mother had in each other for the first year intra and then extra uterine it appears, and that is so prominent in Der Grosse Fall, even though that book scarcely a cheery text, overtly. Or the joy the guy had in writing Immer Noch Sturm. Experiences of that various kind may explain to those who are wondering about my decades long focus on the work – and I don’t happen to care all that much, personally, for the cat when he is not writing! The autocat! The Pasha! The liar! The one who used to be physically violent to women! But I am certainly glad that he has a strong avunculate side! Thus the experience of “reading” the chapter in Morawian Night set in Norwest Spain then prodded me into attempting to write something along the lines of “the psychoanalysis of reading” – on my analytic blog - because evidently, reading texts of a certain kind, a number of unconscious factors come into play. At one point in that Spanish chapter, as the narrator describes coming out of the tunnel – I had the sensation of a small earth quake. And I know quite a bit about earth quakes, having lived in a fold of the a major fault during graduate school at Stanford, and then those years in the St Monica Mts. finding  me at the threshold whenever the birds became still and one of the quakes hit, even the St. Cruz one 400 miles north, I at once called a friend at Stanford! Or being torpedoed by the 1994 Northridge earthquake as I was living by the Venice boardwalk – for about a month I walked about like a listing ship. The injured inner ear. Perhaps it was the accumulated beauty of the writing at that point in the Handke chapter that made something snap.

I nearly forgot the extraordinary experience I had with what I think is the greatest prolonged ending I have ever read, the BERG UND TAL FAHRT, the ASCENT & DESCENT, the last 150 pages of CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS. know of at least one other person who had the same experience, the poet Mart Abramson. But perhaps that just means that there are two madmen?  

One feature that has hooked me on the Handke experience - the on-going Handke happenings, be they prose or plays, is their capacity to alter my state of mind. 
Michael Roloff December 2012

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