Thursday, November 1, 2012


Tough Love for Peter Handke

“nuggets upon nuggets
a few poison mushrooms”
 that is being translated by
  Krishna Winston...
most quotes, thus, are in German

Nearly 20 year ago at the completion of his masterly portrayal of his six major sides [and quirks] My Year in No-Man’s-Bay [Niemandsbuch/t], Peter Handke already thought of himself as on the level of Goethe. Even at that point, looking back, such self-estimate, typical and apparently necessary grandiosity, seemed close to the mark, especially if you consider works such Walk About the Villages [1982],  Absence [1987], the plays The Art of Asking 1990, The Hour that we Knew Nothing of Each Other   [the summa of all his early plays] 1992, not to speak of earlier manifestations of extra-ordinary formal genius and strength of mental grasp and inherent artistic logic such as Public Insult [1965], Self-Accusation [1966], Short Letter Long Farewell [1971], Kaspar [1968] and Ride Across Lake Constance [1969]. I ought to add the 1967 Der Hausierer. Even longer ago than the early 90s, Handke mused about being able to find a way to do something analogous to Goethe’s Elective Affinities. With his 2008 Moravian Night it appears, initially, it’s opening, and the overall narrative mode, that he achieved something along that  ironic knowing, calm, Olympian irony.
Herewith some instant quotes to give an idea of the otherwise convincingly not describable, at least not by me:

p. 37
Auch wenn der ehemahlige Autor es nicht
 deutlich zu verstehen gab: die Reise hatte
 als Flucht begonnen; zuallererst, und auch
danach noch, da zwar weniger eindeutig,
 war sie eine Fluchtbewegung.
Wie erwartete er doch von ihnen, dass auch sie trauerten. Dass auch sie sich untröstlich gebärdeten, heillos durcheinander. Warum warfen sie sich nicht zu Boden....

Geraume Zeit musste vergehen auf seiner
 Rundreise, bis es ihn nicht mehr heimzog
zu dem Boot an der Morawa.

Und auch sein Mitgeher in der Steppe hätte
 diese Fragen – auf die Juan Laguna ohnedies
keine Antwort erwarte – nicht beantworten können.


In der Erzählung von der Zeit miteinander – wo?
wo auch immer – kamen die beiden and das,wa sie
gesagt, getan oder gelassen hatten, überhaupt nicht mehr vor, ein weiterer Gegensatz zu der Kreisblende im Film, in welcher nur noch ein Paar auftritt...

Hier wendete sich der Zwischenerzähler ab von dem Gastgeber der Morawischen Nacht, welcher an dem ericht über sich offenbar nicht satt hoeren konnte, zurück zu den anderen auf dem Boot und erzählte den Schluss der Maultrommelepisode an uns gerichtet weiter:..

Und wo begann sie endlich, die Geschichte mit der Frau? Genug hinausgezögert! Und der hätte sie womöglich noch weiter hinausgezögert und wieder mal den Moment verpasst, wäre in jener Nacht auf der Morawa nicht unversehehens die Fremde aus der Schwingtür zur Bootsküche getreten und für ihn eingesprungen...

Let me merely comment that what ought to be instantly noticeable is the degree to what for short I call „naturalistic“ reality is held at abeyance, at arm’s length, allowing the reader to create his own semblance thereof, not only is the author in what he calls “epic mode”, so is the reader’s imagination.

However, I would venture that aside the overall narrative mode it is on the level of different kinds of sheer writing that Moravian calls itself to our attention, for as a unified work of art it falls far short of many things along that line that Handke is capable of. Moravian exists chiefly, I would say, to complete Handke’s huge self-portrait, it fills a number of important gaps in that Chuck Close-like, jigsaw puzzle of his innerworld outerworld enterprise, and the invariably – no matter whether we start with sheer interiority such of the 1967 Der Hausierer or begin here, towards the end of the extraordinary career, with Moravian - brings us back to the center of that self-portraiture enterprise, No-Man’s-Bay.

As the once distraught cultural attaché Keuschnig of A Moment of True Feeling [1974] becomes the ex-cultural attaché of the 1992 No-Man’s-Bay’s  chief protagonist by way of the 1976 Left-Handed Woman, Handke’s brief chaste phase of “having no more woman adventures” [frequenting porno houses instead], and as his Yugoslav adventures, his love of that land are foretellable from the Yugoslav sections in No-Man’s-Bay, other features of Handke as they manifest themselves in A Slow Homecoming [1978], the Salzburg novels Across and The Afternoon of a Writer, Absence and The Repetition all connect to No-Man’s-Bay more or less directly - Left-Handed Woman very directly [as mentioned in No-Man’s Bay] in the sense that Handke while he lived in Meudon, Paris, where the novella as well as the film of the novella is set in the  little Gründerzeit castle he lived in, espied the rabbit hole that showed the path to the discovery of the Chaville Forest where he would move after his daughter had completed high school in Salzburg. The 1994 One Dark Night I left my Silent House, set in part in the Salzburg suburb Taxham, is announced in the 1992 No-Man’s-Bay.

If No-Man’s-Bay is the center of Handke’s novelistic self-portrayal, the 1981-2 dramatic poem Walk About the Villages is a condensation of his every aspect in poetic form. Handke’s extreme autistic self-referentiality serves him well in his phenomenological virtuoso enterprise, especially when he formulates in such a way as to be the surrogate for each reader experiencer, individually, so that we can find ourselves in the projection screens that he creates. Thus Handke does not really need to write an auto-biography, the obsessively competitive exhibitionist that he is has exhibited himself and his psyche thoroughly from the very beginning with his largely autobiographical use of self as material for his novelistic purposes and has found wonderful masks and personae, lenses for them. The only period of his that is not well covered is Berlin 1965-1970, the fertile period of the wonderful early work. We have a few comments about it in A Child’s Story [1981] - the noise of the clashes between the 60s demonstrators and the Berlin police got on the writer and “nothing but a writer’s” nerves, and via the suburban Kronenburg, then a side street in the Marais in Paris and then Meudon, as we ascended to an overview of Paris, he proceeded to live higher and higher up and live and walk and explore out of the way preferably not overly peopled places, such as his No-Man’s Bay, “as a writer and nothing but a writer”.

In Berlin he composed nearly all the early wonderful plays and novels, he was living on the Uhland Strasse, I believe it was, in the apartment of the kind of German prince who likes to connect with the artistically talented, an apartment filled with stacks of newspapers, rather dank. I was perfectly happy to leave it at once and go to an outdoor restaurant on the Ku-Damm, thought nothing about such an immediate departure and – loving babies - having baby Amina shown to me. Based on that experience you wouldn’t conclude that here is a man who needs to show off and can’t bear being alone in a room with anyone but a beautiful woman, and even such a prize, for very long! And not even that for more than one night most of the time. That Handke was autistic I only found out when I read his telling Herbert Gamper in their book length conversation Ich Lebe doch nur von den Zwischenräumen [But I live nearly exclusively of the Inbetween Spaces], the degree to which the love child Peter Handke was subjected to violent primal scenes for about a decade as from age two and the intra-psychic consequences I failed to appreciate until I myself did a complete analysis and re-read his Sorrow Beyond Dreams, sentence by carefully weighed sentence.

Moravian presents itself as the account of a retired author’s last round-about in Europe, the half dozen places he visits. It is told in the first person plural, a none too royal “we”, mostly by a friend [now and then for variety’s sake one of the other guests does the reporting, and occasionally a guest chimes in with a comment or a Socratic question, and some of the time this friend in his narration let’s the ex-author do the talking narrating], a friend who thus voices what the ex-author’s half dozen guests hear from him at the one night of the ex-authors telling of his adventures during his last round-about in Europe, at the ex-authors boat, the “Moravian Night” that is tied up at the shore of the Morava River, a tributary of the Danube, it runs in a north-easterly direction, in south-eastern Serbia, near the town of Porodin [the same locale Handke visited in his debacular A Journey to the Rivers Morawa, Justice for Serbia], near the border with Macedonia.
The narrator friend [who might just be someone like Handke’s Serbian translator friend Zlatko, Zarko, Vladko or is it Darko who hails from nearby Porodin, where the sheep graze on the hills like little clouds and the little clouds that cry are sheep and the noodles are as yellow as egg yolk and the wine pours right out of the grape, and who transports the ex-author from and to Porodin by tractor] occasionally also speaks in the first person, as “I”, as he reports what the ex-author reports. That is, we have a filter and, dramatically, the classical unities of time and place and space are intact at the place of narration; which place, for my taste, is not quite enough present or explored as it easily might have been and no doubt would have been if Handke had gone whole hog with this book. Handke also employs some of his capabilities as a dramatist in arranging these speeches, although these speeches do not have a distinct ductus of their own as he is quite capable of providing, vide the different speech rhythms of the long speeches, the alternating discourse, in which the character in Walk About the Villages are cast and communicate, exert themselves in the alternating discourse there. Otherwise, Moravian is a series of fragments tied together by the Ceram wrap of Handke the ultra pro writing great nuggetty nuggetty nuggetty transitions with no end of treasures of observations and formulations, it is worth reading just for the nuggets themselves.

The description of one of the small Kosovo Albanian children, who clobber the Serbian ex-pats’ bus with rocks, is observed as it responds to a wink from inside the bus:

“Ein Zittern ist eines, das auf sein Inneres beschränkt bleibt und da aber um so gewaltiger umgeht, ein Tiefenbeben, bei dem eine Eruption unvermeidlich sein wird. Gleich wird sie geschehen. Und jetzt geschieht sie auch. Und diese Eruption, sie ist ein Zurückwinken, an dem so gar nichts Gewaltiges sichtbar wird. Fast unsichtbar winkt das fremde Kind, auch ganz und ganz unscheinbar, nein, das ist nicht das Wort, vielmehr? zage, ja, das ist das Wort. Es hebt an zum Winken, anders als die Frau im Bus, nicht den Arm. Es lässt diesen hängen, unten am Leib. Bis an die Knie hängt ihm der Arm, wie üblich bei einem Kind. Und das endliche Antwortwinken hat den Anschein eines blossen Fingerzuckens, eines kurzen, einmaligen, eines blossen Reflexes wie bei dem Test Hammer-aufs-Knie, Knie, das dann leicht wegschnellt.“

We expect a kind of summing up, a self-account in a final roundup, the last dogies are brought home in the autumn of one’s career; and since this is Handke and since Handke invariably used himself as the subject for his writing, his states of mind, his immense ability to experience as he reports it so phenomenologically, which is also always about writing, little but a variety of versions of autobiography [his own elaborated forever autistic position enforces this recourse to self] has been shown to us over and over the years, with the proviso that Handke’s great self also contains us via the allegorical procedure of his being our surrogate: for example, KASPAR, as which I noticed to some surprise my autistic author behave like in his early days. Todos idiotes, veridad. Or the terrified consciousness that yet conquers fear of our “I am the new Kafka” author [as he announced his identity to German media on top of the Empire State Building in Spring 1966] of Der Hausierer, the virtuoso conqueror of fear who eventually becomes the “anti-Kafka.”

In Moravian he, or rather, a  personae, a mask is once again his own subject, the person in the Handke skin, the one that he knows best, but not much of a surrogate this time around, the one who also likes to use his imagination to feel less trapped in this skin, who finds it extremely difficult to write Thucydidean historical accounts, chronicles even though he does a good job of that, too, in the likes of Sorrow Beyond Dreams [1971, A Child’s Story [1981], The Lesson of Saint Victoire [1980] as well as  in his latest prose effort, the account of his time spent with the cuckoos – dying out due to Global Warming being unable to find nests to be like Peter Handke they flock to the pleasantly cold heights in the Kosovo Serbian enclave Velica Hoca [2009], and in his own takes on his many other various trips through Yugoslavia. Handke breathes in his own epic way, can be exceedingly playful and as novelist of course has the license to fictionalize if that proves better at conveying the truths he wants us to see and feel, and to play, and to create a verbal world, re-magick the world as counterpart to our experiences of the everyday; but, here in Moravian, when matters on occasion becomes strictly and direly autobiographical, when some smudges on the self-image need to be rubbed out, lies to ill effect and unconvincingly, the Handke, who prides himself on being such an alacritous liar! “Haustock”, “debil,” mama’s boy,” “cold as a cadaver,” “hanging judge” and what not as he also calls himself or has other’s calling him, here! – Although all this name calling, cussing, at formalizing of which Handke has been expert as of the salvoes at the end of Public Insult, is really extrinsic to the book Moravian, since nowhere in it does the protagonist ex-author behave in any fashion to deserve the names he calls himself or has other call him: this name calling is a product of Handke’s self-consciousness about his personal reputation in the German language media [who are delighted that the controversial chap is now saying things about himself that they “Tollpatchig” [Reichs-Ranicki] have been saying for nearly fifty years, not that they remember that he’s done the same thing and far better in his 1981/2 Walk About the Village. But anyhow, it looks like the chap is getting off his high horse and joining the foot soldiers. - The various collections about Handke’s work published by his chief publisher, Suhrkamp, don’t contain a single critical piece about Handke – because he himself vets them. What’s weird is that the four volumes of diary entries that he has published, although, progressively more carefully selected, contain no end of matters that show our man in a most unattractive light; unawareness I suppose; or in the instance of Weight of the World subsequent to its first publication, then has matters redacted that reflect badly on the author. In the kind of self-portrait that his work in its entirety represents, too, the transfigurer prefers to transfigure himself a bit, the ordinary person who “scratches himself at all the same places” and be cleaned up. Moravian is another move in that direction, it fills out half a dozen or so empty spots in that kind of canvas. 

Moravian Nights has a great concept, one of the most wonderful “fictions” - the kind that made some people fear [and some wish] that our man would never write another epic: during his final roundabout the ex-author [no mention incidentally what he might do now that he’s broken his pencils in half and tossed them overboard, is he just going to watch the pony tailed otters swim up and down the Morava?], 90 % of the time Peter Handke of the there and then, wanders through Europe, visiting places as far flung as the island of Cordula [where he wrote his first book, The Hornets, 1964], the Kosovo [a trip with Serbian expatriates who have come to pay their respects at a cemetery site where their brethren were killed, although it could be a trip with mourners anywhere], to Handke’s actual father’s region in Germany, the Hartz Mountain, central Germany, Thuringia, to several places in Spain, Numancia and Galicia [Handke’s surrogate Yugoslavia where has spent much time and located three previous books and part of a fourth], and then to Austria: the Danube plain near Vienna, much beloved of him, and the region and places of his origins in Carinthia, a lot of it by bus but most of it wandering on foot. 
had to wait about 100 years for its finest recipient in Walter Benjamin

it may take just as long for the proper response [there is a Handke industry well underway and some fine responders among them] – especially to what Handke has accomplished over-all in the many matters of sheer writing - preferably by a Benjamin channeled through Adorno as Benjamin then was [not that hagiographers have caught on], and a Benjamin intertwined with a second coming of Wittgenstein who understood music the way Adorno did. I give it my best and fairest half-learned try and a final of these comments awaits the time that I read the translation that I expect will be as first rate as Krishna Winston’s Handke translations have been all along [one lucky s.o.b. in that respect he is], although this text will challenge her to the utmost, yet Handke makes it easier, his texts indeed “lift his translators by their elbow.”

Handke and I are kindred in a number of ways, his playfulness, his musicality, in taking “nature as our measure,” though he so far lacks a kind of ultimate sense of humor, and his ultra-sensitivity, his narcissism, his threshold is a bit too thin, he also lacks, severely, any self-understanding, the author or The Art of Asking does, who refuses rational answers, and perhaps I thrive too much on them. However, as compared to me, he had a truly productive childhood trauma, my wounded love-child did, he had the right kinds of trauma, and his autism serves him well too, as does his exhibitionism, and his orientation towards film to make him the right great author for our time; whereas my trauma are of a debilitating nature but have been brought under control through answers, forgiveness and understanding, and my grandfather’s ability to laugh even after four concentrations camps. As to difference in talent, I mention it only to note that translating Handke and a few other German authors has elicited what few sparks of genius can be found pro domo. Trauma theory is in pretty good shape but that it fails to distinguish in this distinction between productive and debilitating, which accounts for what Freud called furor sanandi, the compulsive need to heal, which healing - in Handke’s case - has been performed since adolescence by writing [there’s a great section towards the end of Moravian that recounts the holy terror that young Handke was already then who drove his family batty terrorizing it with his writing, the theme also appears telegraphically in Walk about the Villages;  Weight of the World [1975] contains the notation of his 6 year old daughter Amina saying “Daddy you’re already writing again!”], heal by means of the word, not just any word but with the romantic’s attempt to turn the word to music, and the word world into an alternative space, and that the only way he stays calm, not be terrified is to write. It's a question of finding the proper algorithm[s] to unlock the equation, of being a better astrologer. [I am going to give that aspect – in a focused as compared to generalizing manner, a try too, in about a year]

I have a handful, exactly a handful, of serious grievances with  Handke, one is that he’s let is vanity get the better of him, another way of putting that would be to say that he is too power-hungry, yet another that he lacks the capacity for infinite jest that his so serious endeavor requires, that he is not infinitely playful, and, thirdly – I leave out two personal matters also because I have already addressed them – that he writes so well that in the past twenty years his standard has sort of disabled me from all sorts of things I would have read less critically without being, I don’t know how to put it, Handkefied! Handke has accomplished  some amazing things, a couple of his plays, experiencing performances of Ride Across Lake Constance and Hour that We Knew of Each Other cleans, as we say in Amurrican, cleans out our clocks, utterly refresh us, make us see the world anew. Edmond Caldwell, pointing to the prose, called it the Handke effect with an illustration of a passage from One Dark  Nite I Left My Silent House.

The single half-sensate review that Del Gredos received in the U.S. of A., from a Canadian novelist, in the Washington Post, also noted that Handke makes us see the word anew. Easier said than done indeed!

To put this into more accustomed literary terms: Handke accomplishes, completes the task Brecht set himself, to produce anti-Aristotelian drama, strange and new, and in those instances he is utterly playful. “Play on” as it says at the end of Walk About the Villages, his richest work; that is, we have Mr. Handke’s permission!

Handke creates EXPERIENCES – on the stage in that hiss plays  bear affinity to happenings, sleight of hand juggling acts, of necessity also of our culture so dominated by visual media, his earlier play more obviously than the later ones that accommodate themselves somewhat to usual but also employ more ancient stage practices, and so do his books whose initial reception ought to be a phenomenological description of the reader’s experience. E.g. doesn’t the very syntax of The Repetition slow down your breathing, make you a “king of slowness”? Isn’t reading Absence also like experiencing a film? And therefore disconcerting? In the instance of Moravian I can only report a series of different experiences, some marvelous, some not, but not an overall. I am swept away, differently in several instances by what, for short hand’s sake, I call “sheer writing,” or “splicing” as it might be called that you can see occur within, from one sentence to the next sentence in paragraph after paragraph. Here a quote that also shows Handke to be a great realist as he could be without trying for fable like telling, the death of the bumble bees.

Dann freilich, wenn die Spätwinterkälte gegend Abend zurückkehrt, verstummt das Gedröhn und die Sonorietät, oder es wird statt dessen da und dort, noch tiefer im Gras, ein jähes, auch jäh wider abbrechendes Sirren hörbar, ein Winseln, wie von, 1, Gefangenen, und einem Blick hinab liegen da auf Schritt und Tritt, wie, siehst du, seht ihr, jetzt auf dem Treidelpfad oben auf dem Stromdeich, Hummeln auf dem Rücken, die Beinchen noch zittern und strampelnd, oder schon verschränkt und reglos, und die zwei Flügelpaare an den Leib gezogen, gerade, dass vielleicht noch eins der durchsichtigen Flügelchen ein wenig absteht, wie verschrumpelt die vor einer Stunde so lebensvoll geplusterten Tiere, ein paar, so auf dem Rücken oder, häufiger, auf der Seite, gekantet, ein letztes Notsignal aussstossend, die meisten aber schon tot, hummeltot, was womöglich noch sinnfälliger „tot“ ist als mausetot, anschaulicher, and den geknickten Beinen, den starr ins Leere gestrecktem Fühlern, dem mitten im Saugen abgebrochenen Rüssel und vor allem dem wie Pelzbesetzten Hummerlhinterteil, der wie was wärmen sollte?

Handke is a big weaver in No-Man’s-Bay, in Del Gredos he writes, twists a rope so long he nearly falls off, on a minute level he splices the way the your nerve ends, or certain telephone wires are tiny, fibrous, have a variety of connections, fuzzy too, and what he does in this respect in Moravian goes well beyond some things he has already done in Del Gredos; and then tops it off with a handful of absolutely extraordinary passages where he yet extends his refound classical mode beyond anything I dreamed of, and I am familiar with quite a few amazing things that Austrian litterateurs are capable of; but as to the various matters that Handke takes up, it’s a grab bag of all kinds of things; some matters elicit excursi on my part.   

Moravian at the very least is Peter Handke's 65th book, and 20th “fiction” and was written during his 65th year extra-uterine [and who know what he might have to report from his mother’s bobirygima – bowel grumblings - intra-uterine, he most certainly was turned, anaclytically into a depressive as his mother’s depression suffused him] and, as compared to other recent and even more ambitious work such as the 2002 Del Gredos [or the somewhat minor 2007 Kali], received a by and large favorable reception in the German speaking Feuilleton much of which I perused during my now second, and sometimes third, perusal of certain passages, reading of the Handke text, and which reviews I have put on the page devoted to Moravian at:

The German press first of all welcomed what they read as Handke’s abandoning his dream of a federate Yugoslavia – indeed, the ex-author, at times expresses utter disgust with anything “Balkan” and longs for the noise and light and life of West European cities. The great majority welcome the strayed “central European” author home, they all do but a certain Rutchky, one of whose nostrils smells that maybe this change of heart may be a put on, and I award Rutchky the equivalent of a bull’s tail for having such a finely honed schnoz, a handful of rats tails. For if you read the tour de force of some Serbian ex-pats bus trip to their former village’s cemetery [by which point we abandon the great “Elective Affinity” B-minor mode of the opening, and with a vengeance, and the Serbian bus driver’s “Apache Apache Apache” cursing of their fate and the hatred that now rules Kosovo, a tour de force that follows the symphonically developed tour de force opening, if you consider Handke’s continued trips to the Kosovo and his more recent 2009 book on the subject, The Cuckoos of Velica Hoca, and that he recently received the Cross of the Order of St. Lazarus that commemorates the lost 14th century  battle on the “Field of Blackbirds” [but hadn’t the time to receive it in person! Really?] or Handke and Peymann’s competitive media event trip to the same enclave to give the money from the Berlin Heine Preis [that replaced the Düsseldorf debacle that itself was elicited by Handke’s visit to the Milosevic funeral and his self-exhibition there in front of the blow up of Milosevic photo], near concurrent with the writing of the book in 2007, and Handke’s endorsement of the Serbian nationalist candidate during the 2008 election, and of his telling a Croatian TV news magazine that Dubrovnik could not possibly have been shelled, and his spending, in Moravian, imaginary time in one of his beloved Dolinen, limestone sinkholes, in the company of two other holdouts against history, one of them Ramsey Clark [whom he must have met or observed  while hanging around – but not though legally trained - actually watching the De Hague Tribunal/ Rund ums Tribunal, 2000], and in fact 3/4ters of Moravian set in the Balkans or Handke’s surrogate Yugoslavia, Spain, you might indeed give the Rutchky at least one rat tail for having at least half of a functioning nostril. And Handke certainly has a case when he kept pointing out that the Serbians, starting with the half million displaced out of Croatia, got a shaft, and have been victims as much as all the other tribes as of day one of the economic warfare and its consequences that destabilized the entire region, and what with everyone being allowed to be a hideous pathetic nationalist beast, why not they too?!

Most reviewer’s note the book’s irony, they are disconcerted I suspect by the book’s shift in tone and approach, from passion, to ironic presentations, simple doodles that the ultra successful writer puts in at times. Most note the extraordinary writing, some object to it, others try to puzzle it out.

Handke himself has been making nice for the past several years, no doubt under advice from his interested publishers, he departed his individual way of seeing the disintegration in his own poetic, metaphoric way of putting matters [e.g. “I don’t want to be a Serbian” he has a surrogate exclaim over and over again in “Summer Sequel” Sommerlicher Nachtrag, and I invariably add: but who asked you to be, fella!] and acknowledged, seemingly a good little medianized Kaspar now, “Yes, Srebrenica is the worst crime committed on European soil since WW II.” Everyone was satisfied with that except one French journalist who said that Handke was still equivocating when he pointed out some Bosnian atrocities whereas the Serbians crimes had been that much greater. Body count, body count! Among the humanity hysterics! And no pleasing the frogs I guess… who have criminalized the denial… of the Turkish genocide committed on the Armenians! Oh please, let’s go even further afield – how about prohibiting some French mass denials? That of course was one of the chief matters that were held against Handke: that he denied Serbian atrocities! All of which prohibition of denial – oh if only prohibitions of that kind, blanking out were truly exercised whole-sale and in the United States – plays on the background of the denial of the Shoah, in Germany more so than elsewhere. Not that Handke lacks the tendency to deny, even his second wife noticed and he reports her noticing in Justice for Serbia, who after all thinks of his mother as a whore even if she is unless it’s a turn on! He is even more than usually human in that respect, the transfigurer is, who started putting covers over his eyes during early childhood horrors, and is more capable than most in the ability to dissociate. No, Handke put matters his own individual way, and expressed his distraught in his own manner. He threw a very major tantrum, wounded as he was, needing understanding instead of cudgels, and of course it would have been preferable if he had also been a political economist philosopher sociologist and had demonstrated his truths in that fashion, that might have quieted some of the humanity hyenas, who knows. For a long time he refused to play Kaspar to the chorus of Kaspars who had decided to make the Big Bad Wolf from Progarevic the devil, the voodoo doll of the day, and thus obviate the effort that might be entailed in getting a more complex picture of how and why the federated Yugoslavia disintegrated the way it did, why so many nasty ghosts came out of every closet. Modern as we may think of ourselves, the archaic is only always just one step away. Only humans are beastly, no beast ever is unless it has the rabies. The dialectic of enlightenment has come true with a vengeance… But why is it that Frog hypocrisy gets to me in a special way I ask meself. Nearly as much as when the papers and New York and Washington at that time kept writing about “corruption in Belgrade.”

Read the stuff published on Yugoslavia especially in the New York Times Magazine during those days! Roger Cohen! Susan Sontag!

The reviewers also welcomed how tough Handke was on himself, oh how we love a self-flagellating author, his own Dostoyevsky, reviewers always like that especially in the case of famous and famously refractory authors. Hey, he’s admitting that he’s been a bastard to women! Hey look at the names the great cusser is using to cuss himself. Don’t believe it, he has done the name calling, the self-evisceration, if only they would read or remember what they read they would see that he’s done the same thing and better and more thoroughly and complexly in Walk about the Villages. Also told his family story both in its venal and transfigured version. When Handke admits that he beat one woman, he fails to mention the others he has beaten, and tries to weasel out of the one instance he admits to with the excuse that the woman in question was not leaving him alone any moment of the day; self-understanding certainly and ever so unfortunately and sometimes infuriatingly is not one of the features of this or any of his largely autobiographical books, which however can function as mediums for the involved reader. The bastard child that the bastard child Handke apparently fathered if I can believe what I read in his account in Moravian of what transpired while he wrote his first book on the island of Krk/ Cordula back in 1964, and now the mother, a crone beggar, accosts him, a fury; and there is no inquiry even what happened to the child that she “carried under her heart”??? Handke appears to have inherited, acquired, in his relationship to women the worst features both of his real and his fairly monstrous stepfather. In Moravian Handke claims not to have known his real father… whereas in Sorrow Beyond Dreams we read him taking his graduation trip with Herr Schoenherr who worried that innkeepers might think of them as a gay couple, of course there is knowing and then there is knowing, Handke most certainly knew his stepfather who entered the love-child’s life as of age two in Berlin, in 1944; and who is not mentioned towards the end of Moravian when Handke meets up with his transfigured half-brother back in Griffen. Matters of that kind remind me that even though Handke made it a big point to show up at Milosevic’s funeral and visited him in jail, he refused to be a witness for the defense, that at that point he took a powder, that the “sly and cunning” as he thinks of himself blinked, copped out, even though evidently he had known the family quite well in olden days, for why otherwise the funeral invitation [and I happen to agree with Handke that Milosevic, certainly no angel, but not the devil of the day that he became, got the shaft at the trial in De Hague and as one could read of his dying in prison I made a side bet with myself that the great compleat exhibitionist would show at the funeral], but taking the witness stand I think would have been a little too much of the good of self-exposure and life-long exhibitionism that Handke otherwise delights in… and that is one of the great forces that drive his work. Gotta take the good with the bad! However, the self-portrait has to be that of a Count. A kind of self-enoblement has been going on since nearly the beginning of the enterprise, and we have one great section to that effect here where the nobleman meets his co-equal noble woman, and it is done in exemplary fashion, I don’t see Goethe doing a better job of it, and it is not too Hoelderlineque either. Handke is the ultimate upwardly mobile, our paths crossed as I was working my way down to the demos. We are in the realm of Tristan and Iseult, a bit of a heavy potato pancake, but I think we bring it off, the woman turns out to be a Guinevere, fortunately.
263-273 is the entirety of it. Here I quote the opening on P. 264
„Ein anderes Maß trat in Kraft in dem Moment, da sie Augen für einander bekamen, gleichzeitig. Und nit dieser Gleichzeitigkeit wurde ihnen beiden der Auftakt gegeben für die Folgezeit. Es war von diesem Maß kein entkommen, und sie wollten das auch nicht, obwohl er, der Mann, anfangs noch seine eingefleischen Ausweichreflexe zeigte, etwa in dem er, von der Frau erblickt, versucht war, hinter sich zu schauen, als sie jemand anderer gemeint, oder wegzuschauen, als sei nichts, worauf das Maß wieder außer Kraft  getreten wäre.“ Just about everyone is trying to make nice: after all, Handke is one of the few German language claims to Olympian literary culture, and Handke is trying to make nice, even compliments the German reviewers on how they have treated him over the years [give me a break, fella! not that long ago you called them “a rabble” and overall right you were, since fairness is something that he didn’t seem to have imbibed with his mother’s milk, and a few inhibitions or maybe screws are missing] while continuing to curse [and rightly] the vast majority of their US counterparts [see for a piece on the U.S. reception and it will convince you, unless you already are, that we live in very dark ages indeed, and to perhaps always have.]

and the German reviewers are being nice, no one reads too closely, or perhaps people no longer really read at the moment an author comes along who brings literary culture to one final high point, before it entirely collapses, where the experience of reading and what happens during it is made part of the instrumentorium, the introduction of a filmic element for example, induction of states of mind, not even fans like the estimable Lothar Struck [or especially the fans because they want to continue to cherish the beast, whose only worth really lies in his works, so what if he is the frog king!]; besides, he’s a truly great writer, also and particularly on the level of sheer writing, and is yet in an even higher premiere league with the sheer versatility of an re-invented classical syntax; and he might yet win the Nobel prize, and certainly should, if only for that prize’s sake, despite the ruckus a few years back, and we don’t have anything like him, and we try to give him every prize we have to ennoble our shitty prizes by giving them to him.

One reviewer states that he could easily read a 1000 pages of this prose, and there I entirely agree, and we might have if Handke had in fact gone whole hog as he has in two prior real monstrums [of the kind he once said he would never write!], the 1993 No-Man’s-Bay and the 2002 Del Gredos, and not copped out on truthfulness, when it really counts, and had covered each and every of the main sites of the “ex-authors” life as a writer, and addressed how and why his writing changed and grew [sparing me an essay on that subject - not that the well read Handke reader cannot reconstruct some of that for her or himself by perusing L’histoire de Crayon as Geschichte des Bleistift is called in French, and the other notebook volumes] the now supposed “ex-author” not just visit a select few of the places that he had not yet covered elsewhere; perhaps done a kind of Truth and Poetry of the stages of his development; that is, not leave out major way stations Berlin and Salzburg and his two long stays in and outside Paris during this supposedly his last roundabout. Berlin is the only real lacuna, after all it was the period during which he produced work that connected directly with his generation and that still connects better than anything he has done since.

Handke can be cute and he has mentioned that he is the kind of writer who always keeps something in reserve, that he does not shoot his whole wad, though he seemed to have with Villages and No-Man’s-Bay and Del Gredos, thus seems to regenerate, each book usually contains an announcement of what’s next; besides: a formal problem, a musical idea – e.g. his Don Juan [the next book to come out in English] - can make him hot all by itself, our lay-abroad – who has the mad notion in Moravian that all this womanizing come from the urge to save them! -  hopping about from woman to woman, one reason aside the formal problem it posed, and to show how many women he had laid, was in competition with Erich Wolfgang Skwara, the author of the wonderful Don Juan novel, The Plague of Siena who appears in No-Man’s-Bay as “Don Juan came by and with the same woman” – another misogynist whose approach is “Oh if only someone will love me once in my life” [so you see, I can be just as ‘in’ and self-referential, however my escutcheon reads that one of my tasks is to protect the hussies, who it the turns out are not made of porcelain and don’t want paternalistic protecting by a cavalier!] so until Handke runs out of ideas of that kind…  A Truth and Poetry… at least we are dreaming of it and he is making notes…

Here, within Moravian’s by no means overly complex narrative to and fro between the various sections and the night on the house boat, Handke yet finds time and space for some of his now customary recits, the one on “noise” being especially spectacular and spectacularly virtuoso-like – if Handke were merely a juggler of Oranges you would be dizzied at the sleight of hands the cunning one commands with words.

p.167 “Nicht bloss zeitweise lärmkrank waren sie, die von der Tafelrunde, sondern beständig; endgültig. Und wie äusserte sich des weiteren ihre Krankheit? Einer zum Beispiel empfand schon die zarteste Musik als boeswillen Lärm und hielt sich bei den ersten Mozart und Schubert Takten die Ohren zu, was er damit erklärte, dass gerade diese Toene vor noch nicht gar langem Teil einer Angriffsstategie gegen sein Stammland gewesen seien: alle die innigen Sonaten und Lieder seien eingesetz worden nicht etwa für den Nachklang der Stille – wa mehr vermoege Musik zu bewirken? – sondern um...“

I put parentheses around fiction a while back because, after all, Handke solely projects his huge self – in a variety of changing “personae,” aspects of himself – Josef Bloch, German Writer, Keuschnig, Left-Handed Woman, Sorger, Loser, Writer’s Afternoon, Keuschnig [now “ex-cultural attaché”] again, Pharmacist of Taxham, ex-Bankieress in Del Gredos - when he doesn’t write directly as an “I” as he does in the Three Essays on Tiredness, The Jukebox, and the Day that Went Well, Don Juan, and now “ex-author - so that we can find ourselves there, his states of mind, or rather 9/10th of it - its protean anxiety, conquest of fear, ultra-hyper-sensitivity, acute observations [microscopically enlarged as by falcon eyes –“the day of the falcon” indeed, every day] of all his senses to the world and the world of language in the near unending and ever more supernal procedure of his ever-growing ability to demonstrate the world of the innerwor[l]d of the outerwor[l]d of the innerworld procedures, equivalences… and how all this is to be linguistically never entirely communicated in his life-long letter in the bottle, an endeavor that now seeks to turn, to narrate the world into artful fairy tales, projection screens in which we can find ourselves, he the surrogate in creating it, the hero artist! And now as someone who has re-acquired the art of narrative and invented a stride piano style of writing in the classical manner, whole new sets of them, yes how easy but not too easy, how natural his narrative becomes towards the end in Moravian, loose but not too loose,  it might set a kind of standard that is not too high, too formal or too noble that would do the language some real good if it tried to match it, for this is within a lot of writers and reporters reach. How to hoe the line of that narrative, that fable telling!

Weiter zu Fuss ging er, flussab und stromab, suedostwärts querfeldein, querwaldein, über Stock und Stein, durch die pannonische Tiefebene, über den einen in ihr augebuckelten, zweitagesweg-langen Hügelrücken namens Fruska Gora und von dort hinab im Zickzack zwischen Klöstern des Südhangs und auf die Weisse Stadt zu, oder eher af den zentralbalkanischen Busbahnhof im Zwickel der Savemündung in die Donau, von wo die Busse in jede gewünschte Richung fuhren, immer noch, und so auch heim in die Enklave von Porodin, an die Morawa.

In a book length conversation with Herbert Gamper in the late 80s “Ich lebe doch nur von den Zwischenräumen” {I live exclusively from the Thresholds}, Handke mentioned that his work could be understood in auto-biographical terms [aufrollen], and there, that is where the difficulty sets in: in some instances, such as the murderous impulses towards women, as expressed, acted out in writing, in GOALIE [1969] this turns out to be more than just a pure act of the imagination – if there is even such a thing, every impulse is realizable, is you in potenzia at the very least - as we find out later when Handke has nearly killed a girl friend and beaten many other women [authentic as hell in other words], or if we read the 1967 HAUSIERER and participate in a consciousness witnessing, a formalized, horrified, bloody terrifying events, we delve into the traumas of his childhood during which he suffered a decade long exposure to violent primal scenes. Blood and savagery indeed. But here distanced! Wrapped up in a literary shawl. In the case, say, of the 1968 play Quodlibet [As You Like It], it demonstrates Handke’s highly developed conscience and the wish that, as of old, the audience now king, find itself, its image of itself, in the verbal Rorschach test that the auditory hallucinatory text – the great people of this world’s mouthings - presents to it; and himself, meanwhile, walking about on the world stage, uttering the occasional oracular pronouncement… The effect on the audience as it undergoes his Public Insult [as I now call Publikums-Beschimpfung/ Offending the Audience] is to make it as self-conscious as Handke himself can be about language, that weird material that the babbling stream that comes out of a babies mouth is then turned into, that then shapes the interiority, the soul, is self-conscious in so very many ways entirely about his traumatized self –  induced a state of mind via a regulated onslaught of syntactified language of a particular kind, it turns the tables, and has a joke of insults tacked on at the end… So if you want to find a connection to that imaginary, the autobiographical - that you presume will yield something more than prurient and trivial insight into the work that you have read - you need to find a fitting, fairly precise algorithm, equations and do so over and over in each instance… not that such micro-measurement is not made much much easier because Handke is such a self-referential [as this book, too, is in so many ways and minute “in” instances] exhibitionist… yet becomes progressively more difficult in the plays. A fair purchase on what is known as “projective identification”, however, will get you pretty far, see
for relevant material along these lines. And then take a look at my Pscho-Analytic Monograph    

It is a long story, a long long story of seven seven year phases… and the reason that Handke writes near constantly - be it novels, and unfictionalized, by and large truthful accounts that nonetheless scotomize, [Sorrow Beyond Dreams, A Child’s Story, Justice for Serbia are in English, so are the Three Essays and The Lesson of St. Victoire], plays [another 20], translates [yes, another twenty just about, from the ancient Greek, Euripides, Aeschylus, Elizabethan, Shakespeare, French, Genet, Modiani, American, Walker Percy, Slovenian, Lipus - surprisingly nothing so far from Latin or Spanish] if not writing his own one or two thousand words a day [I recently read that he writes at nite, a wife’s delight I recall, perhaps because as he notes in Tiredness that he suffers from insomnia, one of the sequaelae of his childhood trauma, and there I had thought of him as a Goethe and a morning mouth marbling golden words], he is taking notes as he walks the earth – this need to clutch or flash his pencil has for a reason not only the wish and vigor and talent to be one of the greatest writers who ever lived, hey he just might be on the level of pure writing, he certainly is in the historical premier league, but is the case, is simply so, because he is, as it were condemned and obsessed to write, and the only time he is really well, as different as night and day, the writer with his pencil, also as a letter writer, and the writer without it, ready to run amok, and not just to scribble or type [his plays, with dialogue of his non-naturalistic kind, are apparently typed]: this is the chief way, as he has said, he can stay calm – a case of libidinaly productive anxiety if ever there was, an inversion of Freud’s formula for hysteria, the nausea-prone, “nausea of the eyeballs”, hyper-sensitive author ordering, verbalizing, projecting the world in his fantasy into something aesthetically more pleasing, always writing along, writing along as you can note in the above quotes, that kind of naturalism is what occurs here,  with his sense experiences, always apparently seeing himself on camera, addressing the world, the world being turned into words; as he said in a recent interview: “I am a different person when I write epically as compared to when I am not writing.” Very true, then his heart, his imagination is not as constricted. Yet even he is unable to modulate, transfigure the world’s current ruinous, excruciating noise: Moravian contains a tour de force on these unsublimatable, never to be made sublime, unmodulatible screeches, that can drive you mad and make you run amok: the torture weapons of the CIA. All over the industrialized world. Thus Handke always carries a pencil [the ex-author has of course broken them in half and tossed them in the Morava and the mere rustling of paper makes him ill [as the smell of a cigarette makes the converted ex-smoker], to pin his fluttering moth thoughts in his notebooks, then making selections therefrom, wonderful documentations of the apercu’s of his mind, four fat volumes, progressively more selectively edited, have been published so far; only one, the first, in English, The Weight of the World [there is far more Handke in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian and I expect in Serbo-Croat.] A few years back Handke sold several valises filled with notebooks for hundred of thousands of Euros to two major collectors of great writers' leavings and so can continue to stay at the world’s best hotels [e.g. the Drake in Chicago] as he dreamed he would become a 19th century author with a large body of work when he was raised in a hovel in the hamlet of Griffen, Carinthia: it really is a kind of log cabin story that would give Freud pause in thinking that Shakespeare could not possibly be the child of commoners; well, give the commoner an extra loving mother, a priest, a few good schools and the ambition and the talent, and voila!; which pride in living according to his own high estimate was threatened when booksellers [not only they of course, the murderous covey includes the likes of Michael Naumann future minister of culture to be in the early 90s, Susan Sontag of the pathos-drenched performance of Endgame in Sarajevo, whose utter ignorance then wrote, at the Kosovo War, “now the Serbs are the victims!” and later played being under fire for her friends back in the USSR] took idiot offense [instead of listening with understanding] at Handke’s childishly wounded, obstreperous behavior, his tantrum [that’s what it was] in justly defending the voodoo doll of the day, the exclusively condemned – from right to left everyone was watching T.V. - Serbians: yes, isn’t it all like one of those Breughel paintings where the village folk all beat each other up with scythes and sticks; or Hieronymus Bosch visions of hell; a defense of Serbia that stubbornly persists, which just goes to show that a German/ Slovenian hybrid, who assumed his authoritarian Slovenian grandfather’s identity in the late 80s [who already voted for the first Yugoslav federation in 1921], can be as stubborn as the proverbially stubborn Serbians… - to the point of being a crank, and not avail himself of his unique position to be conciliator, a peace seeker deeply as he longs for peace, too, often producing its opposite. UNFOR sure is not doing the trick. Kosovo, nothing but hate on both sides. They know not what they do, as they are but puppets. The Western Press’s near uniform – from left to right - anti-Serbian propaganda, traveling under the cover of “humanitarianism,” only points to the extraordinary perversion of humanitarian impulses - oh don’t we all want to show what good sheeples we are in condemning crimes in distant lands - guess where you might look for that perversion in fairly recent history: the inception of the cold war. Prior to WW II, those impulses look comparatively unsullied, not that WW I hadn’t done a lot of damage. I was actually in Berlin in 1949 and saw it happen, children make the best pure witnesses, they, the greatest pure phenomenologists especially of intimate transactions of that kind; and though I can live with danger and fall into adventures, one good reason not to become join the “company.” As publisher of Urizen Books I fell into doing The USSR versus Dr. Mickael Stern, done in France by no less than Gallimard. This account of the travails of a Jewish Ukranian physician who specialized in gonadal deficiencies looked too suspiciously clean to me, took just one goose and two ducks in recompense [?} but the co-publisher and our funky sales manager Howard Linzer wanted it. Then the author wanted the book even cleaner of any whiff of corruption on his part for the American edition and one of his sons came by and asked for a second payment directly from us, and fortunately I knew my way around peasants, if not city slickers, and soon enough Dr. Stern and sons were marching in the Ukrainian day parade – Ukrainian blood has been flowing in his veins for centuries [yup, for sure] and his second book, on sex in the Soviet Union, turned out had been handed to him by the CIA as he crossed the border from Hungary to Austria, clever man then started a sex help institute in Israel. And in New York he of course, at least initially, he had all the “human rights hyenas” working in his behalf, genuinely as it were. -  One thing that is surprising, considering Handke’s huge output is how little crap there is amongst it.

Handke is, also, one of the last great walkers on an earth on which indeed it has become “hard to walk,” walking being yet another way of quelling his so productive anxiety, another quelling with benefits, and to observe, and sort thoughts… or by bus [the greatest observer of what happens on buses, Handke’s hysterically sensitive – occasionally color-blind - eyes have not allowed him a driver’s license], by rail and by plane[s]. But as a final roundup of Handke’s places in Europe, Moravian leaves out Berlin where he lived for nearly five years in the 60s and produced most of his early great stuff, and from 1944 as a two year old, experiencing some serious bombing and a major siege, to 1948; Salzburg where he lived from 1979 to 1987, as well as his “No-Man’s-Bay” outside Paris [there is also Handke’s first Paris Period 1973-79, Rue Montmorency and Meudon] where he has resided ever since but for a trip around the world and for frequent expeditions to Yugoslavia and Spain a kind of surrogate Yugoslavia, where he seems to have picked up a serious interest in Arab literature and language. Since the places where his books are set are the main characters of his books, he does not really need to go back to Salzburg, since he described its surround in such a magnificent – Ruysdaelesque – manner in the novel [1984] Across [Chinese des Schmerzens, called Across by his American publisher because an old Nazi gets tossed, and because that might give the publisher a handle in selling the book in the U.S. of A.! Alas!], but there are other reasons to avoid Salzburg, though an invariably productive but not a happy period otherwise, for in Salzburg resides the Erinye who still haunts and haunt him in No-Man’s-Bay and even in Moravian, about 25 years later, because she has meanwhile gone public with her tale of woe and sullied that great self-image that we have tried to cultivate wherever and however we could! [see anon] And he might have to account for her who knew his daily itinerary, haunting him so that he had to go out of town pubs to have a drink. The Berlin of post 1989 affords better walking spaces for sure than it did in the mid-to-late 60s. Handke, I believe, was writing The Essay on the Jukebox in Numancia at the time of re-unification in 1989 and the end of the wall whereupon the East German sure got their banana both up front and from behind. I was living in idyllic circumstances in the chaparral of the St. Monica Mts., the County Line area, at 1500 feet, overlooking the Pacific, a Juniper tree drippings its sap and a Pepper tree shedding its corns and starting, among other things, to be seriously studiously puzzled by Peter Handke as I was walking slowly in the dusty paths there, and I recall someone offering me a piece of Berlin Wall cement at “Neptune’s Nest”, a surfer’s outdoor restaurant at P.C.H. and Yerba Buena. I am not sure what if anything Handke might add to what he has already set down in No-Man’s-Bay and its additional chapter Lucie in dem Wald mit den Dingsbums [Lucie in the Woods with the Thingamajigs] and in Del Gredos about the Chaville Forest region outside Paris where he lives… except perhaps an imagined leave-taking from it??? The ex-author is left on his house-boat [it exists, it is called “Luna” and Handke once thought of buying it!] at the end of the imaginary night of the telling of stories, and then some, of his roundabout, to do what precisely, “gone fishing?”

Talking about moving around: The eponymous hotel ship “Moravian Night,” where tales of these wanderings are told, moves only once, is moved at an apparent moment of danger, briefly, within its tie-up in the rustling reeds on the river Morava near Porodin, at the very asshole of deepest darkest Serbia where even B-52s dread to fly for fear of spear-throwing and head-hunting natives; that is, awfully close to the poisonous blackbirds of the Kosovo. It is there, on the hotel houseboat that the accounts of the ex-author’s excursions are told… but not, I regret to have to find, woven together into something that approximates a unit, nor really in a, in Handke’s so varied uniform style, at least the first six of the approximately 12 sections [each nearly a tour de force worth reading all by itself] is in a different mode, making for a quilt of very different patches – a matter that came as a real surprise after the book’s great hands-on opening that situates the reader in the ship and the company the ex-author has invited and seated, and where the narrator, that nameless “we”, then proceeds to recount the ex-author’s last roundabout adventures as the guest have heard them. Nor does the book put me into what I can only call “Handke mode,” especially the first half of it, then only periodically, too many different things are going on, it jumps around, no matter that Handke writes first rate transitions. That, Handke mode, is one of my few long term addictions, aside little cigars, and good coffee in the morning. Beautiful and intelligent women and the madness of needing to be in love with them lies in the past, or at least under control, the amour fous far briefer.

To give an indication of what I mean by “Handke Mode”: in 2008 I spent three months reading his 350 K epic Del Gredos at the pace at which it was written, one or two pages a day, and this third reading, now in a truly great translation, disposed me better than any drug might [only a delicious lover could have diverted me], so if the world is too much with you, there at least are Handke texts working their magic, and you forgive him for having an off day and being, then, only a pro. So were Bach and Mozart.See an extensive discussion of Del Gredos.

When I first heard of the coming of this Moravianepic and it being a kind of weaving together I, a close reader of my man's work, who has appreciated the genius [speed at absorption of experience] of his immense formal abilities for half a life-time, since translating the early texts and conducting some performances, yes I had imagined something along the line of the great carpet that he wove of his many sides, personae, lenses that he assumes and uses for his focus and delimitations – ex-cultural attaché Keuschnig [our already familiar from A Moment of True Feeling as of 1974] and again in No-Man’s-Bay; a writer; a reader [an engrossed reader here, a young woman on a train, marvelously described during his round-a-about, the most immediately human contact in the entire book]; being trained for the priesthood a country priest that Handke might as easily have become, which priestlyness here leaves its mark as transforming the world of words into something less profane, and occasionally, for stretches, performing feats of verbal magic, as he already does in Del Gredos;

“While the child was speaking, sentence after sentence, a strip of light traveled beneath the plane which was flying at a perceptively lower altitude now, moved across the plateau, and caused a band of asphalt to shimmer, a reservoir to glitter, an irrigation canal to flash. A topsy-turvy new world on the first day of the journey [but hadn’t several days passed already?]: the sky above the glass roof nearly as black as night, with a hint of the first stars, and down below the sunlit earth. In similar fashion, on the way to the airport, an ancient crone, without her dentures, had come towards her [the Bankiéress], driving a factory-new race car, as if trying to set a new record, the car’s number emblazoned from stem to stern. And similarly, the outskirt’s troupe of drunks had been hauling cases of beverage from the super market to their lairs in the wood – without exception bottles of mineral water. And was that possible? a flock of wild geese, flying past the plane window in a long, jagged V formation from right to left: “Arabic writing,” the boy commented. And could there be such a thing: in the same fashion a swarm of leaves swept past the window, holm oak leaves typical of the plateau? And where and since when did this exist?: and next a pale-pink of snowflake like blossoms, as if the almonds were abloom and had almost finished blooming, now in February early March.” [page: 77-79]

as he might as well have become a cultural attaché, although what a joke that would have been on the Austrian cultural service what with Handke’s social ineptitude and bouts of mis-anthropism – little if any evidence of that in Moravian except that as the “ex-author” nears his home village of Griffen he comes on “Keuschnig”, picking mushrooms, of course!; a film-maker painter as he is too, in the great 1993 novel My Year in the No-Man's Bay – film is mentioned frequently, more subtly than in Del Gredos, to indicate that on this wandering too, the exhibitionist’s longing to be noticed in the darkness of the night sees himself being filmed at all moments of his life [the eyes of God, the camera is upon him!]; or the long long and strongly stranded rope on which he nearly hangs himself in his 2002 Del Gredos epic. Gredos has as big a payoff if not bigger than Ulysses: instead of neglected Molly poly-morphously longing of all people for Stephen Deadalus, Gredos has for its ending a manifestation of Handke's love to write: his heroine the retired bankiéress [a predecessor to the “ex-author”] arrives at Cervantes' out of the way – Handke’s places are all out-of the-ways - La Mancha abode where her biographer resides who has – amazingly! – monitored each of her, his subject’s, feelings and thoughts during her trek from northern Europe to the south of Spain, as consciously or as self-consciously if you like, as only a film maker documentarian or someone analyzed and trained to be self-monitoring might, who, in Handke’s and his heroine’s case, always see themselves being filmed!… and then, at the arrival, after mountains climbed, no end of adventures several enclaves survived, and a most extraordinary descent, the subject of the biography and her biographer embrace… and never has self-love meshed as powerfully, been manifested as openly as I have found only once before, at the end, the last 50 pages or so of Frank Conroy’s otherwise and so unexpectedly [by compare with his other work] and in and of itself dreadful Body and Soul [Conroy, a wonderful musician, and fear-ridden love child, was also autistically hyper-sensitive] - and then Cervantes wept for joy in his grave that anyone could love to write so much and so supremely well!

However, with respect to weaving that the powerful, hands-on, orchestrated opening of Moravian makes you anticipate, the way the first movement of the unfinished symphony fills you with anticipation - on the order of what Handke himself is capable of – think of his shorter brilliant books such as Left-Handed Woman, Absence, Short Letter Long Farewell, Der Hausierer, Goalie, The Essays on the Jukebox and The Day that Went Well and of his Don Juan [and the cited major epics], or capable of instilling an overall uniform atmosphere, feel, and state of mind – if anyone can induce states of mind, of joy, or relief through reading [not speed-reading, riffling the way that abomination Neil Gordon did in his attempt to ruin Handke, on whose orders?, in the New York Times Book Review] there have never been texts like Handke’s - in that respect, too, but only in those respects, is Moravian something of a come-down subsequent to what is one of the greatest opening by someone who knows more and does better at opening salvoes than anyone since Beethoven. Just look at the opening of the play Zurüstungen für die Unsterblichkeit [Preparations for Immortality, Handke’s contemporary answer to Grillparzer’s Der Bruderzwist in Habsburg] or Kaspar for that matter, or Ride Across Lake Constance, Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick.

Someone like the impossibly perfectionist restaurateur of No-Man’s-Bay [the side of perfectionist dictator Handke that is the biggest pain, the restaurateur who keeps going broke cooking the best meals but only seats guests that are as good as the pearls he serves, there are just too many swine*. The reader here, like the guests at the night of tales, are taken by the scruff of their syntax and have their seats assigned, but more graciously here, as Handke has done only once before, in the great text that is The Hour We Knew Nothing of each Other… and then is let off the hook! [Performance of which wordless text achieves, through subliminal means, the kind of non-Aristotelian catharsis that Brecht had sought, not that a single US reviewer, although some feel freshened, but not as though by me Billy goat, have at least noted that they come out seeing more clearly, seeing the word anew… so much for literary art accomplishing something, Mr. Auden. Moreover, so far I have only run into one other person who realized that Hour comprises all the early plays from Public Insult, Prophecy, Self-Accusation, Quodlibet, My Foot My Tutor to Ride Across Lake Constance, the way a composer than grasps his earlier themes and raises them to a higher level… talking about genius!]

That tour de force opening of Moravian… that symphonic move… is followed by yet another tour de force, one that brings to mind Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, an extraordinarily well observed, unrelenting, unrelenting detailed description of bus tour, it happens to be but is not so named by ex-Kosovo Serbians to, and back, from a burial site of their murdered brethren at their once enclave, with a bus driver intoning “Apache” over and over, and a night spent as the solitary hotel guest at a border crossing town… a subject which, then, surpris surpris, does not crop up again, at least not directly, but is a subject very much of Handke’s concern and corresponds to Handke’s frequent visits to that unhappy part of the world – none to the U.S. Camp Bondsteel, a U.S. dark site, a black hole for disparu the reward for doing some humanitarian “shock and awe” bombing and supporting the independence of a rump state - to one of which Serbian enclaves he not only bestowed the 50,000 Euro Berlin Heine Preis - the publicity garnering replacement for the Düsseldorf Heine Preis fiasco on the occasion of Handke’s exhibition of his great self at the Big Bad Wolf of Pogarevic’s funeral - and which Kosovo enclaves he has re-visited at least once subsequent to the writing of Moravian and  memorialized in his The Cuckoos Velica Hoca
[2009] as quite a dispassionate observer, I am reading that book just now, and it’s quite different in tone and style from Moravian, at one  moment it reminds me of the kind of dry dispassionateness that an Uwe Johnson manifested at border crossings, and so Handke could become a first rate journalist and reporter, of course not of the kind that he dismisses in a surprisingly – for such a fine differentiator - somewhat too wholesale a fashion. He has not only written that book, but several plays since completing Moravian, thus fear not, “ex-author” is only yet one other mask, and exceedingly similar to that of the “retired bankiéress” of Del Gredos and lots of other previous “ex”s. The real living and breathing Peter Handke has at least another fifteen years in him and will expire pencil in hand; the other reaching under the skirt of a kitchen maid, and uttering a curse that will  be heard around the world, just as his “Ote”, his grandfather did!

Indeed, after or within each of its dozen sections, the narrator of the night in which the ex-writer's tales are told, a “we” {!}[not identical with the ex-author but resembling in its monitoring of the ex-author’s actions and thoughts that of the La Mancha scribe, indicating Handke’s powerful ability to dissociate, unusually strongly if not dangerously over-developed during nightmarish times], we are taken shipboard again, a weaving which however amounts to very little in most but not all instances, and nothing cumulatively; taken back to the shipboard ground… which does not become, does not constitute the kind of carpet backing, the kind of location of a No-Man’s Bay where each of that book’s six sides are stitched into, integrated, explored, and which itself in Moravian -  surprise considering the assembled guests there - remains static… after all: during the course of an Arabian night as you dine and recline, and hear lots of stories and… well, yes, occasionally a question is posed and resolved, or not, and since a surrogate “we” reports he might also tell us who these so assembled are: no “we” the kibitzer listener readers voyeurs do not find out, only that there is a mystery woman aboard who does the cooking and who serves the guest and who makes the occasional comment and who seems to be THE ONE, the one he encountered in Galicia, and appears to signify that our man and his second actual wife, Sophie Semin, who  found him cold as a cadaver [something I well believe!] as he recently stated, may have found a modus vivendi after some years of being apart and everybody having yet another set of affairs, where I thought no one but a French saint could bear to live with the guy, perhaps she has become French saint and cook, we will know someday, in Moravian it is said that when he encounters her in Galicia, northwest Spain, that they are each other’s  “equal.” In Moravian “the one” also seems to have “the touch” of putting the “ex-author” in his place, and he seems to be able to take a bit of derision and laughter! That is a nice feeling indeed, to come upon one’s “co-equal”! Although I have been with quite a few highly intelligent and invariably beautiful women, most of them far more accomplished than I, all of them artists, I know what Handke means by “ebenbürtig” [co-equal] and if it didn’t happen to be a woman with whom my lay-abroad had an affair while just married in Berlin but couldn’t handle her having more than one lover: a “mama’s boy” indeed as he has his inamorata call him in Moravian! [Not that we as reader’s have the faintest why this ex-author might want to call himself all those names, his behavior during the roundabout is perfectly civilized, i.e. this name calling is entirely an “in joke” and spurious at the same time, self-conscious about his reputation in Austria and Krautland] A pasha! ”There comes the Walrus.” And I regret that the aftermath, the entrails of the publishing business then made me have to wait too long… to find out what might have happened.  We, the “Handke Watch”
shall see what develops on that score… Without seeking them out, it happens that I’ve run into at least half a dozen hussies who have been with my man, none of them reluctant, nay some pride themselves of having been groupies, to fill you in on our mountain goat’s behavior in the bed room or wherever… At the book fair, “oh didn’t you translate/ publish some Handke? Well let me tell you…” Or a German editor appears at your office and tattle tales. Handke of course was still distraught at being left by his wife, and that’s what you do, as man or woman, when you are left, as I observed in my downtown bohemian zoo in Tribeca, it’s called ricochet romance, often of a serial kind, and thus visited his own childhood trauma of witnessing the primal scene repeatedly on his daughter; that is, until during the period of The Left Handed Woman we foreswear sexus for a while and only visit the porno houses, which eventually provides a fine line in Walk About the Villages. And now we are haunted, feel paranoid, women are a danger… Really now!… The assembled are reported to be a bit puzzled, too, by the woman on the boat.

The ex-author is represented, represents himself, as not especially well disposed to the distaff side, and if you read his comments in letters and diaries and interviews, if you go back as far as Long Letter Short Farewell [1971] indeed he has not been, and Moravian is drenched in misogyny and paranoia; on the subject of women Handke seems to take leave of his intelligence: Women “talk too much,” [he must have been spending time with American teen age girls]; the published correspondence with his life-long friend and literary responder Fredi Kolleritch contains the sentence “Die Frauen die Frauen, die Frauen” [uppity, aren’t they these days! ah what the pasha missed!], in the diary novel Weight of the World we find him bothered by his wife Libgart Schwartz’s little lyricisms, in the fantasy section in Moravian where ex-author Handke converses in the imaginary with is equal and predecessor Raimund they agree that women present a danger, women are trouble, and of course men can be a danger to women artists, sometimes it works, frequently it doesn’t, and all societies have devised complicated regulations to insure the generational regeneration, sex and love are invariably fraught with all the dangers of oedipal and property relations, are archaic,  each man or woman taken constitutes an act of theft… When “love” comes into play that much more dangerous. In Handke’s case, if you don’t talk like a first rate novel… you are in trouble as a woman. Thus unlike Goethe, whose life-stages can be sorted by his muses, Handke’s life stages can probably by counted by the women he has abused. Domage.

The output makes you wonder how my man had time to be such a Don Juan [2004], well he works muy rapido once he has done his research and has the book in his noggin, and in-between, he has said, he loiters about [“lungere ich herum”], besides you don’t or didn’t for a long time in certain parts of the world need to expend much effort as a man to find a woman, they started grabbing you by the crotch around the late sixties, crawled into your bed, climbed up the fire escape, popped out of manholes [I kid you not! a really great story of a JAP who had been on the Columbia University barricades] followed you home, I found it a lot easier to let myself to be seduced in the great sexual zoo that was downtown Manhattan as of 1975 until the AIDS epidemic set in, Handke mentions drily in one of his published note book collections that as of a certain time in the 60 everyone started to fuck like bunny rabbits, especially since I was no good at picking anyone up. And I wasn’t any kind of star and usually worked until midnight before I went out and played, hard at times, Handke had the benefits of stardom from early on, and being married certainly never stopped him, nor even in front of the wife. Excess of libido for sure, and his so libidinously based writing. What will come as a surprise in reading Moravian, therefore, is that women are portrayed as such a threat to him as a writer! Well, they are once you substitute your pencil for your cock and they have been primed! For sure, they can be a lead ball, you can’t get them out of your loft because they are poor little rich girls, who have wanted to sleep with daddy since early on, etc.

Handke has said the reason why he keeps affiancing himself to actresses is because they are “light,” or “lighter.” Thinking on what that might mean in the case of someone who is both so beauty-oriented and of a depressive nature and  so media-oriented, I connect it with the title of his first published diary, Weight of the World: indeed a beautiful woman helps defray depression I suppose; makes you feel better about yourself not only that, a man himself will look better in the company of a pretty woman, she reflects on to him; it makes him look better, lighter; and actresses can be considered to be play-acting, i.e. not completely real, perhaps “as if”… are also in that respect less “weighty”… and of course more graceful than… one quality that no Amurrican reviewer appears to have noticed how graceful a writer Handke is, how graceful the forms of his works… Spain has helped him there as it did Grillparzer… and thought of their womanly neediness and materialism might just disappear! However, actresses will invariably prove competitors for the limelight. Then I think of the moment when Handke wouldn’t SHOW me the re-imported first wife, Libgart Schwartz, as punishment for having beaten him at Tarot on the Mönchsberg, I realize how profoundly “for show” the wives were/ are [and how awful that must be at least for those who want to be more than showroom models to make the unfortunately compulsively badly self-imaged look better], but also realize that all of Handke’s beautiful things are acts of generosity that are offered, shown to us as gifts… performances… but also to be admired, ask for a requisite response; and since he so closely identifies with them… within those transactions between author and audience, where the author might withdraw and sulk if he is not sufficiently appreciated…- However, an actress, unless doubling as a French saint while with Peter Handke, will be more demanding and needy than an “as if,” and so the reasons why he as a writer who works at such a high level of concentration is not to be recommended as a mate… are, let me put it matter-of-factly… over-determined. Handke’s second wife, Sophie Semin, was a model when he met her in Paris, who instantly wanted to become an actress and left him when he had foisted this French actress onto Peymann for his production of The Play about the Film about the War, shades of Citizen Kane I suppose, or maybe she begged him, and maybe she’s even talented; and Peymann is not someone who can say no to Handke. Handke did not go into a major fugueing cataclysm as he had when his first wife split, as usual he was already having an affair, while the wife, Sophie – the so talkative Don Juan told me around 1993 that he was emotionally withdrawing – thought him cadaverously cold, “quelle horreur!” Indeed!

Handke’s last publically known major relationship was with the highly intelligent German T.V. and film star Katja Flint. Handke said at the time – it was a commuting relationship – that maybe not living together it might work. It did for a few years, and Ms. Flint, not having had to suffer living with our man, continues to express fondness for him. So presumably she was not beaten up and did not suffer the misery of having to live as a cave dweller for any length in the aboriginal Forêt de Chaville outside Paris where even the closest friends, currently, are taken for instant walks, and only the media are permitted access to the author pro domo and he will cook up a feast for a TV crew. Note our author  displaying himself in the two photos of him in his door way.

As he has written many a time: “Stay in the picture.” The only bad news for a model is no photo-op. Handke invariably asked for trouble and got it, and the question is why someone who knows that women prove a danger, if only to his all important work, has then tangled with such a profusion of them? And lost male friends over tangling with their girlfriends. Gratuitously as it were. And be totally unaware. And then thought they were still his friend. Daft. What if he had lived in Italy? But at least the author can make fun of himself now that the libido is waning… it seems we need someone to help with the cooking, besides, they have a child to whom is made up what the first child had to suffer at the father caretaker’s hand, the training child as it were, pauvre Amina.

The individual stories, sections - as they are collected in Moravian - no matter how great - and some I would say are the greatest prose writing ever done in Western lit, fit, if at all, rather creakily together, are stylistically and in tone quite different as well, and in one instance - an expedition to a “Congress on Noise” in the ancient city of Numancia, there the Celts made their last stand against the Romans [two different tours de force, one about “Noise”, the other a walk over the plains with a local poet] our pipe fitter carpenter, writer of “recits”, could as easily have fit into either No-Man's Bay or Del Gredos. And if anyone knows what I am talking about it will be the author, his own best critic, who might just have dreamed of his book as being as well interlaced and homogeneous as a beehive! And then stopped short? Moravian lacks an inherent artistic logic of its own, it’s a kind of bastard hybrid of a book. Well, at least the transitions within the individual sections come Ceram-wrapped in great prose. Or he will re-use the brilliant opening for some really integrated weaving in the future. Handke is also your ultimate pro and carpenter, say, the way Bach was, a “Melchior” if need be! [see anon and towards the end of the book for this.] Nor do these individually great sections, nor even the second half, which sort of can stand by itself, if stacked up, as a whole amount to more than the individual parts.

First comes the wonderful intro, then the Kosovo trip and back; then we are in Cordula/ Krk the old girlfriend has turned vengeful crone; then on to Numancia to its “conference on noise” and write a great set piece on that subject and wander around the plain with real outcast poet Juan; then in Galicia and the Diotima figure and that is the only one of these section which, via the woman, actually relates back to what is transpiring on the boat at the night of the telling and that itself, if developed might turn into an exemplary novella on co-equal lovers, where Mr. Handke, presumably, had learned to be attentive to a wife???; then the great section, the adventure in the tunnel as we leave Galicia; then we are in the Hartz, the real father’s region; then we wander around the Danube plains outside Vienna, come on a Jews harp competition, have an imaginary commune with our ancestor equal Raimund; then we proceed by rail to Graz where we studied law and hooked up with the Stadtpark Forum literary group, but we make it a point to avoid all old acquaintances; we take a commuter plane to Klagenfurt where we attended the last four years of Gymnasium [we do not visit the Tanzenberg seminary for priest training that we attended the first four year of high school or its great German language teacher who foretold the coming of the great author, nor the one real friend from No-Man’s-Bay, the country priest that is more than just a side of Peter Handke]; and start to wander homeward towards Griffen, first on the Old Road, which is peopled with fantasy figures – Handke the successful author with time on his hands indulges in a bit of major fantasy doodling; a marvelous estrangement is produced when he comes on what he thinks what is his old village, but are just its outskirts, now settled by Arab immigrants [as usual Handke sets his novels in a future, allegedly that is the only way he can then also write realism and breathe]; in Griffen there are splendid pieces at his visit to the cemetery and his mother’s grave, to his grandfather’s house now occupied by a somewhat fabulated brother; a petty criminal, as who wouldn’t be with Bruno Handke for a father, he is made not just into an all around man construction worker but one that has worked all over the world; in Del Gredos he is turned into a major terrorist, as the dark counterpart to the Bankiéress, a theme that remains unresolved there, left dangling. Then there is a section in the Karst/ Carso that Handke readers will recall from his great The Repetition, but this is an imaginary super Doline [sink-hole] in the lime stone formation in Carinthia/ Slovenia and Handke-ex-author finds himself with two other holdouts against history, Ramsey Clark [!] and a Japanese doll of an ex-motorcycle race driver [boy am I ever speculating about her!]; then comes the trundling by foot and  bus back to Borodin and the Moravian Night. And a little bow-tie that makes it all a fable! What would you make of these various different stories if they had been told to you during the course of one night? It’s a kind of grab bag with some incredible treasures, a bouquet, most of it is magnificently written, and not in the same manner either, thus is something you might want to assign to a highly advanced writing class to study; and each of these sections contains no end of nuggets nuggets nuggets of Handke’s observational powers and his way to formulate these discoveries… and then there is some, a fair amount of minor doodling going on. As an old Joycean I am less than impressed by Handke’s punning on names, a whole series of enemies of his Serbian shtick: “Ganzhell” for Madeleine Albright should perhaps produce something along the lines of that lady “forgetting” her Czech-Jewish ancestry so she could put her money on the Kosovo fascists who, as compared to Serbs and Bulgarians, had been Jew killers during WW II, as had the Catholic Fascist Croatians. [Orthodox Christians seem not to be anti-Semitic, I don’t know about the Russians of course, the cursed Russians and their pogroms. And the dear old U.S. of A. has had one love affair with one authoritarian fascist government after the other since WW II, our S.O.B.s, excepting Tito.] “Korb” I think used to be the lady’s unmarried name, the woman who gave a “Korb” to her own name, her heritage then!  What is Moravian but: “Peter Handke sends you a dozen marvelous picture postcards from his life” – narrated in the most magnificent mode - and they fit nicely into rounding out the overall autobiographical more and more self-celebratory undertaking; and a couple of them all by themselves are worth the price of admission. A “grosser Wurf” as the estimable Lothar Struck calls Moravian

it certainly is not by any stretch of the imagination except for a series of demonstrations of what prose is capable of [see anon]. It’s parts could have been sold separately, the “Congress on Noise”, the Kosovo part might have been combined with this year’s The Cuckoos of Velica Horca as “Two Views of Kosovo”, the Cordula/Krk part into something what would need expansion into: “Revisiting the Locale of my First Book”, the second half, the second six of the twelve chapters, beginning with the Harz chapter where he visits the region of his real father, can stand on its own as “Wandering from my Father’s Region to the Place of my Birth.” The love story set in Galicia, the meeting the getting together of noble man and noble woman – told with marvelous restraint in a fine fashioning of noble tone, we really are proximate Goethe and his period here – might make for a salutary novella on how “co-equal” is the solution to the divorce rate, the real getting back together of Peter Handke and Sophie Semin, if for real, is probably a lot more ordinary, since they have a child in common who lives mostly with her mom in Paris, and he lives just outside. But perhaps the cadaver has warmed up and has become rudimentarily attentive, I recall that toward his first wife his behavior can only be called flagrantly inattentive and utterly insulting, and very much so in public, too!

But how do you fit this mélange, this potpourri into one bin? Handke is supposed to have liked Mussorgsky as a young man, thus from a writerly point of view one might to want to pay attention how he manages the transitions from picture to picture. Who knows, the pathetic “post-menstrualists” as I call them, perhaps this kind of grab bag of this and that is just what the doctor ordered so that they can exercise the dried up tampaxes, their kind of memes that jangle around their minds. Do these formalist quarrels and lit-crit objections amount to anything: yes a certain regret, for I can envision a Handkean fleshing out of the night and the ship and its surround, etc. and weaving a real “Poetry and Truth” of his changing development as a writer around that.

In the instance of Numancia - Moravian has a section of the ex-author wandering around the nearby plains with town poet, Juan - Handke fails to even place us, to really explore the ancient town, the kind of exploration that he does elsewhere in each other instance here and that has been Handke’s forte ever since his 1979 A Slow Homecoming [the title novel in the American edition which also contains The Lesson of St. Victoire and A Child’s Story] to whose first, the Alaska chapter, I responded as powerfully as I who once spent nine months all over Alaska as a firefighter and geological surveyor, did – feeling that Handke was a communer, a medium – for me of the entirety of my then about 20 year old experience - responded only to his 1982 dramatic poem Walk About the Villages]; and in the 1984 Across, Salzburg, especially its surround; the Dolinen [limestone caves] region of Carinthia/ Slovenia in the Handke’s most deeply felt book, the 1986 The Repetition with its Holden Caulfield-like Filip Kobal; Lineares, Spain in the Essay on Tiredness [1987] and Numancia itself which he has already put on my mind’s map in his Essay on the Jukebox in 1989, with more explorations to come – under the aegis of Handke’s saying “places are the locales of our last dramas.” 

The lack of physically evocative placing in the instance of the town Numancia will not be troublesome to his followers who long ago caught on that Handke is also writing a very special kind of huge book of his own life and that each book is another brick, or half brick, a half dozen here, of whatever kind, and a lesson in writing and on language. This band of Handke watchers don’t need to be filled in on Numancia since they will recall it or re-read its exploration in Jukebox. Those who expect a book to stand on its own, without outside or internal references to an author’s other work - read as a literary work of art - and who have come to expect as much from our man, and been delighted by his ability to achieve – with few exceptions - this kind of thoroughly composed wholeness in matters small and large, and with that extra twist of the wrist and of the roof line, that surfeit, will be disconcerted. Either he’s getting sloppy, or he’s just too much of an arrivista capitalist bankiéress to bother!

But don’t get me wrong: both the section on noise, a subject that we can see preoccupying Handke when the leaf blowers in No-Man’s-Bay start getting on his raw, hyper-sensitive nerves at the edge of his abode in the Forêt de Chaville outside Paris [where he has lived since 1989 and I doubt can imagine my rage at the dust these machines throw into my airways, machinery usually operated by a compadre – and I really mean compadre - from south of the border], and the ramble with odd poet Juan – one of several odd poets and painters and artists to blow through the book – are wonderful, delightfully written, entirely up to snuff: it’s just that they don’t really fit into the or any whole, unless this whole hole be a bin into which Handke can stuff what’s not been stuffed elsewhere, or taken out of and: I am only doing what Handke asks of his critics: that they judge his books within his own terms. Keeping the liar honest as it were! It is somewhat difficult to find Moravian’s terms. An exhibition of different ways of writing?

When Handke visits the Croatian island of Cordula/ Krk, where he wrote his first novel, Die Hornissen, in 1964, an editor  might have said, what with so much being made in that chapter of what effort he put into writing this first book – as he indeed did, three drafts - and, here, nicely locating the reader in the details of that interesting island on the Adriatic, to give a hint what Die Hornissen was about or what it is, or maybe how it relates to his later work, since few people have read Hornissen, and even I, a kind of expert on the guy's work, still have some real problems with the demands the book makes even after all these years. One thing that Hornets [Handke means the bombers of our both childhoods] has in common with his subsequent work is a kind of neo-Platonic quality, the "as if"- the great dissociater alleviator in impossible circumstances, one of the founts of literature as defense, and that then enables you to write on that dream screen - that raises the world out of a naturalistic realm into that of literary art, via a variety of indirections in the instance of Hornets, into that context. Otherwise, the two books share little in common, no matter that all important commonness, the “as told by” develops out of the subjunctive mode of Hornets I suppose, you would not think them written by the same author if the name Handke did not appear on their title pages, even then, after all it’s not that uncommon a name… but that both books consist of words, have sections set in Carinthia, and that Hornets provides glimpses of the lyrical epic writer to come, but certainly not of a virtuoso lyrical epic writer on the order of Goethe or Stifter or Flaubert. Of course if would be nice if Handke said more than “my writing has changed a lot over the years.”

Cordula of old and of the here and then of its revisit 40 some years later is wonderfully evoked, but the ex-author also is visited, and I mean visited as in visitation, by an old hag, the first flower he plucked, now turned vicious crone, the first woman, the first book - "no more women, no more books," the ex-author is to exclaim shortly thereafter – so how many has it been if each book was just one woman, one woman per short book, was No-Man’s-Bay a brothel’s worth or a harem’s?, a threesome with two whores? what about the Walrus libido that requires release and demands conquest upon a translation? - on the occasion of claiming he nearly killed a girlfriend companion of some years because they – there are numerous instances of Handke the author beating women - she interfered: a tactical confession, the excuses he makes for his actions are a lying, a dreadful weaseling to defend his ever-important self-image, a matter that meanwhile with what his Yugoslav adventures have done to the image is so far beyond repair he might as well not bother, but this confession/ defense to a very public story that several German reviewers mention in this context without delving as deeply as I do here, is an instance of an exhibitionist’s tactical admission in the court of conscience and public opinion, a matter he had to face but tries to elude at the same time, bothered our author to the point of driving him bonkers every moment of the day in keeping him from his writing every moment of the day. At this point my man and I part company, and he might try the road of understanding, there are fine analysts who might open him up wider than even he can imagine. I even know of one fellow Suhrkamp author who has been wanting to help the alleged helper of women, him out of this quandary for about thirty years.

As this battered girl is described – one of many whom Handke battled mano a mano, only Jeanne Moureau seems to have battled him to a draw if not actually beaten him up! – described as invading every moment of his conscious day, the paranoid quality in Handke – enemies pursue him in his books, Erinye, furies of course, nearly as paranoid as another great contemporary German writer, Uwe Johnson, who however feared various state security services, to some extent for reason. Handke, too, has good reason by now to evade the furies who start to appear in his books as of Across, hints galore prior to that.

And if we are to believe what I read in Moravian, the ex-author’s motive for tangling with the distaff side is to “save them” – whereas he is the one who appears to need saving and they from him! Really now!

Think of his wife Libgart Schwartz pursuing him in Short Letter Long Farewell and with a gun! Whereas this must have been emotional longing to make contact with the cadaver [John Rockwell noted how utterly cold the book was] as Handke recently described his second wife calling him; and probably had moments when he wanted to kill her. The gun was probably a transposition from Handke’s own hatred into that wonderful fantasy wish fulfillment Godard film novel the opposite of which would shortly come true in real life. And when Handke's first wife Libgart Schwartz, a marvelous actress, utterly neglected and ignored and insulted by Handke when they all showed up in N.Y. in 1971, after Handke had insulted everyone at his visit of 28 cities in 21 days  - Ah the days of wine and roses, and riding across the thin utterly refreshing ice of Lake Constance.[I didn’t get an understanding of his socially inept Tourettish side until I ran into his comment to Gamper that he still suffered from autistic episodes and so entirely forgive his boorishness, there ought to have been a sign to that effect on his forehead: “Idiot Savant!”]

And when Libgart Schwartz predictably split, guess what: "It’s the worst thing that happened to me in my life," and the young lay-abroad nearly commits suicide, poor baby you feel like saying while forgetting that the psyche does not work that way, but then wrote some of his greatest things during the period, and started to show some feeling, became a bit warmer, he was so distraught. So go figure, can't keep a genius down no matter the monster he is. I nearly said  “of course” -- the long poems in Als das Wünschen noch Geholfen hat [Nonsense and Happiness, in the American edition] and the novel A Moment of true Feeling - don’t mention the cause for the upset: all Handke conveys is his state of mind, beautifully; that is, successfully as far as I am concerned. If you introduce cause and effect you get quite another story, perhaps a Bergman film, as he knows only too well himself by the time of Moravian, and if you look at the man/ woman “fight scenes” in Dying Out [1973] already quite intimately then, except of course the standard assumption is that these fights are verbal, perhaps a few broken dishes, a ring tossed, Albee’s Virginia Woolf, not something along the lines of Kroetz’s Men’s Business.

Ditto for Across [Chinese des Schmerzens]. Ditto also for Left-Handed Woman written during a period that Handke sought to avoid the adventuresses but had to go to porno houses instead, Left-Handed being a kind of inversion of what really happened to him, and the one book of his that women readers like, a story of withdrawal from the married life into more monkish existence, during which he discovered translating, since that is the Left-Handed Woman’s profession and he wanted to see what that was like. Handke is a first rate researcher and preparer, after all, to write The Repetition, he fashioned his very own Slovenian-German dictionary, as he firmed up his Slovenian identity, too.

Beating up women because he feels or they actually keep him from his work unfortunately is not Handke's Sorrow Beyond Dreams, the sorrow is that he witnessed for a decade, as of age two, the love child that he knows himself to be, also very much in Moravian Night, as you find out reading Sorrow, his mother and his drunken and violent stepfather Bruno Handke beating each other up prior to copulating ["Beat me again you bastard."] and that Handke, a beaten child [?], and a bastard child, became a beater of women himself, the last thing you would expect of the person who wrote Sorrow Beyond Dreams, that his own furies would identify with those of his hated German stepfather and in bastardizing also follows that of his real father; and also be enraged as of an early age at the abandoning mother, our “Mama’s boy” tantrum thrower is. What makes Handke even more violence prone is his low threshold, that of his ultra-sensitivity, his irritability: in just such a fit when the basement of the rented house in Kronenberg, near Frankfurt is flooded in 1971 and he is writing Sorrow Beyond Dreams he then smacks his screaming 2 year old daughter as he confesses in A Child’s Story [1981]. However, lacking this ultra-sensitivity we would not have his falcon eyed observation; what is lacking, evidently, is a modulator, a processor to modulate the amount of information that is conveyed [that is, one of the chief features of autism]. When women friends comment on his child raising methods, also in A Child’s Story, Handke then complains about the “dog language” of the therapeutic. That is on the same level as his wife’s “little lyricisms” bothering him. Well, a “little dog language” I guess is endurable and not have such a dumbfounded girl, as I, who had been camp counselor for some years with young children, could not but help notice. And then of course, as usual, the regrets set in: “the child” becomes a major theme! 12 years into having a child, Peter Handke discovers the theme of children! Vide Walk About the Villages – talking about being daft! All that is quite wonderful primary material, which adds up to “The Weight of the World.”

Thus: Sing sorrow, indeed I do, who has read the laconic writer’s carefully weighed sentences carefully, the obsessive fiendishly ambitious writer who has portrayed his every dark wart, every but every side of himself in Walk about the Villages, which it appears not a single of the singularly ignorant, lazy and sloppy American reviewers or many Germans either has troubled to read;*  the Handke, who provides his light-filled bankiéress with the dark side of a criminal terrorist brother, Handke’s life-long amok-running theme, the irruptions of violence in his texts and life being remanded to that brother figure in the Del Gredos instance; the dark, the Dostoijevskian side of the great lyric epic writers Stifter and Handke! The man who invariably - and gratuitously - hurts those closest to him, as his collaborator Wim Wenders once told me, and as Wenders and I, who both worked with him early on, know only too well to be the case and as the careful reader can see for himself in the diary Weight of the World when Handke thinks to himself, when his five year old daughter comes up and wants to go potty, “let’s see what will happen now.” And don’t just put all this dark matter off to “every genius also has a demonic side” – we are a bit beyond “two souls reside in me chest cavity” and other Jekyll and Hyde simple-mindednesses.    
Handke, the writer, may be “the one,” but he himself makes it very clear in No-Man’s-Bay that as a person he is anything but – not that that stops the confusions of idol worship based on artistry.

As Handke calls Grass belated public admission [also to get in on that publicity storm!] to having let himself be drafted into the Waffen-SS at age 17 [a matter actually quite well known already during the 60s at least in Berlin] a vergüenza [Handke’s righteous explosion – he also calls them his “sacred rage” - his ugliest side - first appeared in Spanish], - in Moravian he has his woman call him a “hanging judge” [Dorf Richter] - calls it a profound shame, that everyone knew at age 17 what the SS did [if Americans could only become as ashamed of their Special Forces and CIA crimes and their major war criminals, who all ought to undergo a Nuremberg tribunal and then be hanged, if need be posthumously and be similarly iconized; which no doubt would require a conquest by the Martians!] it certainly is a far greater vergüenza for someone aged 30 to nearly kill his own two year old baby girl in a fit of irritation and to keep beating up wives and girlfriends just because you saw your hated stepfather do so, for an entire decade, with no end of hideous sequaelae [just read, read dammit, his Essay on Tiredness and look at all the things that infuriated and tired Handke as an adolescent, he enumerates and describes them wonderfully, understanding = zero] which unfortunately is why you do it. And a lot of other matters along those dreadful lines with the ability of instant forgetfulness, dissociation, Handke’s forte, until dissociation crumbles about twenty years later and regrets start setting in. Great writer, fucked up guy! But it is useless to play the blame game, especially from an analytic perspective, where understanding can be acquired and resolve these debilitating so-called eternal returns.

Handke, as he mentions in his great play The Art of Asking, “writes out of his wound” –  it is a love-child’s wound, the wound made him an exhibitionist, competitively so, to which drive we also owe the work, the unceasing work, but also instances such as his fessing up to ugly things he has done. The most unfortunate aspect of traumas, after all, is that you become the wound that wounds over and over again and knows not what it is doing while trying to heal [it was nice to notice a few instances of the concept “the unconscious” cropping up in Del Gredos] ä – until the compulsion ceases, the eternal return that needs to be acted out over and over again, as it were, the compulsion to heal! What a dreadful conundrum! Handke might have the courage to face his wound, he would no longer be at its mercy, but that would require the kind of self-understanding that he so lacks, beyond phenomenology!
See my Psycho-Analytic Monograph if you wish more detailed elaboration:
Handke introduces his admission to having beaten a woman, tactical concession defense, as a belated response to former lover and Lebensgefährte, collaborator on a film now Erinye Marie Colbin’s going public, during the Handke/ Yugoslavia publicity wars in the 90s, first in Der Falter, which was picked up
with a description of how Handke had nearly killed her. ["Ich höre noch meinen Kopf auf den Steinboden knallen. Ich spüre noch den Bergschuh im Unterleib und auch die Faust im Gesicht...   Solange es Männer gibt auf dieser Welt - Männer wie Dich - einäugig, unnachgiebig, machthungrig und Ego-breit - wird es auch Waffen geben und somit Kriege... Wer bist Du denn, daß Du Dich so wichtig nimmst? Bist weder groß, noch edel oder gar bescheiden und aufrichtig. Ein eitler Schreiber bist Du, der sich sonnt in der Rolle des 'einsamen Rufers.'... Irgendwie wirst Du diesem Krieg dankbar sein, denn er befriedigt auf perverse Weise Dein unstillbares Verlangen nach öffentlicher Anerkennung." A translation of her statement reads: „I can still feel my head bang on the stone floor. I can still feel the mountain hiker boots hit my stomach and your fist in my face… As long as there are men in the world – men like you – one-eyed, unyielding, power-hungry and egomaniacal – there will be weapons and therefore war… Who are you, to think of yourself as so important. You are neither great, nor noble nor modest nor honest. A vain writer is what you are, who suns himself in the role of the solitary prophet… In some way you will be thankful for this war [The Yugoslav wars of 1994] because it will satisfy your insatiable longing for public acclaim.” - I myself would have to say that while I have found Handke at other moments to be the most empathic, generous and sensitive friend… albeit at a remove, unless it become a matter of his precious self-image even if you were supporting his work, that ever so unfortunately I have to agree with each and every item that Ms. Colbin lists and was only surprised that it took so long for one of these women to speak up, in this instance an exquisite actress whom my man exploited in the film they made of a Margaret Duras book who, however, as the now Erinye who haunts Handke’s books as of the 1984 Across, and, after the beating, haunted him all over Salzburg so that he had to go to a pub at its edges with his friends, and who still haunts him Moravian Night, a Fury who evidently has little appreciation at the moment [the usual forgetfulness at moments of such irruptions] she made her statement, initially to the Austrian Magazin Der Falter, that a certain kind of extreme narcissism - is required to do work at Handke’s genius – after all, he lacks the modesty of a Bruckner - level, and that his [in this instance insatiable compensatory need to exhibit his wound – and have a response, to make contact] is one of the major drives that produces the books. He describes his egomaniacal behavior toward the end of  Moravian where we find the “ex-author” with his half-brother in Griffen, and the brother describes what a holy terror Handke had been already as an adolescent when he wrote, terrorizing the entire family. I once outplayed Handke at Tarok, a full account of that can be found at
I was being entirely playful, supremely so, the only time I win is when winning is not at stake, Handke absolutely could not handle it, and I realized how pathetic he was in many ways that evening, I imagine I was also testing him, and no longer trusted him because of something he had done, and was right not to trust him afterwards, no matter that translating his Walk About the Villages then became a very important event in my life. Handke is no primus inter pares, he wants to be the ONE, you can see this, e.g. at his envious dislike of all contemporary greats, Thomas Mann, Brecht, and envy even of lesser stars in the contemporary German literary firmament, Grass, Enzensberger, his giving prizes to lots of nice non-competitive, non-threatening lessers! Even his recent
Until Day Do You Part or A Question of Light, his a reply to Beckett’s Krapp’s LastTape:
is an act of competition, like his walking in front at the beginning of showing of an Anselm Kiefer film, so that the first thing you see is Peter Handke against the white screen, his hatred of anyone who might displace him - which produces the wonderful notion of the hated “space displacers” in The Art of Asking! However, Handke as compared to other exhibitionist, though his cock, too, is reported to be merely “medium sized,” [I have Mailer’s “Prisoner of Sex” in mind] has really a lot to show, which is why we put up with him and don’t just ignore him as Norman Mailer ought to have been far more than he was. But if you are the producer, publisher, or head coach, there is nothing more you want than someone who wants to be a super novae like Peter Handke and has the talent to be one! I can live easily without Beckett, I had my Beckett period when I was about nineteen, and I think he ought to be banned for the baneful influence of his Christian metaphysics and all this “L'innommable ” that provides the masochists with cover, I’d have a hard time doing without Handke.

Handke left the socialist brotherhood of the Verlag der Autoren after a few years flirt during the Left years of the late sixties and early 70s, calling VDA, self-righteously, defensively, a bunch of fascists, for the man who could make you the primus. After all, it takes a major publisher to make you made man of that kind at that level of power and fame… and that leaves some broken eggshells along the way. I was in the belly of the beast and am tattling after school! Call me Jonah! In some respect we are back at the status quo ante of what Lukacs called “machtgeschützte Innerlichkeit,” inwardness protected by the power of the state, for Stendhal’s “the few” of whom there are fewer by the year it seems.

Later in Moravian, as Handke has his “ex-author” approach his home village Griffen, at the approach to the “crossroads” or intersection between the “old” and the “new road,” another threshold, he appears to take away the weasely confession of a few hundred pages prior and, in an imaginary, a film imaginary, righteously kills the Erinye, seems to take off her head, who in that scene approaches him as an innocent ready for a reconciliation! The old self-righteousness springs forth like a rapist Alpine mountain goat, psychotically, and not elicited by hot water bubbles scurrying like ants on a hot plate, with vengeful malice aforethought for the Erinye as we can see it happening in no end of instances in Handke’s public and written statements over the years! As of a certain point in the mid-70s I realized his dark side, as I had realized it correctly only a few times before, and made sure to be in company when I was with him. Handke spooked me, and even more now.

For example, young Tourettish Handke makes gratuitous, easy, delightful fun of the German reviewer Reichs-Ranicki, turns out that this schoolmasterly pope of reviewers, this poor man’s Georgy Lukacs, whose collections however proved useful when I tried to find my way in postwar German literature [and who is sufficiently knowledgeable and clever not to be dismissed out of hand], is as Germanically humorless as Handke can be and is just as pettily vengeful, too, and thus rather pathetically tries to destroy all of Handke’s books after initially having been quite impressed by Public Insult, with the nastiest most moronic reviews imaginable, which elicits Handke’s attack [in The Lesson of St. Victoire – 1980] on the Reichs-Kanickel as I call him [just what the Germans deserve for loosing their Walter Benjamins] as a bulldog who smears his shit all over an airstrip; in No-Man’s-Bay we see how infuriated Handke is with his publisher, the Grossgauner for Kultchur as I think of him and know him to have been, the now deceased Dr. Siegfried Unseld for having truck with Reich-Ranicki, who thinks that Unseld is the greatest postwar publisher [true enough], and puts out some anthologies by the best selling Reichs-Rabbit. And Reichs-Ranicki then apparently sought to make up, but Handke returned the letters – but the ex-secret agent discovered that the letters had been opened and resealed! No reconciliation for Mr. Handke! – So, alas, exactly what village are we in at that point? Not the world of world literature I don’t think. Goethe, after all, is famous for the subtlety of his work! The Handke whose every narcissistically cathected hair, if one of them is or might put out of place becomes enragé? Take a look at how my man’s dress code changes from early Beatle
to the official photo of the Count von und zu Griffen at the Suhrkamp Site!

And yet he himself can go merrily on his way throwing horse apples where he feels like – and quite oblivious that someone might throw some of their own.

Once back in his home village in part II, chapter 9, Handke, the ex-author, has a dream [or maybe he wishes he had a dream] in which his mother absolves him for the guilt he feels for her suicide. Taking this literally, under the aegis of wish fulfillment, the dream might mean that he wishes that he felt no guilt. Less literal-minded it might still mean that he felt no guilt. However, if you read Sorrow Beyond Dreams, it is not at all clear why Handke ought to feel guilty. Perhaps he’s a masochist after all. Certainly, Sorrow is an incomplete mourning, not a total incorporation of his mother into his self [later Handke would say something along the lines of “Ma mêre c’est moi.”]; that mourning proceeds much further in Sorrow’s second coming, The Repetition, about fifteen years later. The quickly super-successful Handke who lived in Berlin appears to have lost some touch with his mother [perhaps the same way he lost touch with his first wife] whose life had actually picked up at that point, her successful son, her love child, was showering her with gifts, the dreadful husband, despised by the mother’s Sivec clan, was away at a TB sanatorium, she baby-sat Amina during Handke’s trip to the USA in Spring 1971, she appears to have been in stupendous pain which the doctors were unable to diagnose, perhaps elicited by her seeming life-long depression as of the time that Handke’s father would/ could not marry her, meno-pause [?], she was only 54 years old. I imagine Handke could have taken her to better doctors. Perhaps her suicide was felt as an attack on him for his emotional remove from her? On the subject of “guilt” Handke once noted in one of his notebooks [In Am Felsfenster Morgens] that he could just switch it off, I expect someone with his facility for dissociation can do that, which does not mean that the sense of guilt is not ready to spring forth from the underground. The word “the unconscious” starts cropping up, tentatively, in Del Gredos. At another entry, he mentions “that there is enough guilt to go around.” Quite true, one can also become guilty by not killing someone. But it is at those moments of injured narcissism that Handke, as he says, can be as “humorless a death.” - The hag, the first girlfriend at age 24, the first Erinye to be, the oldest of Handke’s furies… appears in Cordula… it turns out that she may have born a child of his, she is represented as saying that she carried his “child under her heart” … we do not find out what happened to the child, it appears he didn’t even ask. Now there is something to feel guilty about! After all, Handke’s real father, Herr Schoenherr, stayed in touch with his mother, and took Handke on the customary graduation trip, during which, according to Sorrow, Herr Schoenherr was worried that the innkeepers might think of them as a gay couple! [1963 about that must have been]. Here, in the Harz section, it is said that he didn’t know his father, well of course how well do you get to know your father during one long trip? He did know that he had been the love child of his mother’s love of her life. And do not make light of that!

The “dark sister” alluded to as haunting poet “Gregor” in Walk About the Villages! The Erinye that is encountered on the mythified bridge across the Rio Grande in a “Touch of Evil” [No-Man’s-Bay] however was initially encountered quite specifically and much more plainly and prosaically on a bridge across the River Salzach in Salzburg – which points to the ambiguous danger, the difficult line, of ambiguity, in creating projection screens for his audience, the poetic liar has to hoe, of the mytho-poeics of Handke’s literary procedures which we can see taking shape as far back as in the love of John Ford in Short Letter Long Farewell and really taking over poetically with The Left-Handed Woman. The threshold between truth and the honesty that only poetic fiction can convey, transfiguration, or not?

Subsequent to the Numancia episode we find the ex-author in the ancient Roman province of Galicia, Spain and at meeting 'the one', the woman of his dreams, his co-equal, who - imported - stands behind him in the ship The Moravian Night, as a source, cook, occasional fellow narrator of his stories, and at least in the book has a laugh that can put my man into his place, has a touch that no one else has found so far: we enter a nearly accustomed high romantic German mode, but Handke handles this high wire act, which it certainly is at this point, with just the right touch, and bring it off, that entry into the other mode. Perhaps there is even a Handkean “Liebestod” in our future, the name Wagner fortunately I never heard on his lips or see in his writing. {I have a quote from this section at about page 25}

In this and the subsequent “tunnel” section [251 through 280]  Handke does things with language that indeed come close to fitting the infamous “indescribable.” but which, nonetheless, I will it a try to. I would say the source for eventually being able to write in this temblor like manner, that questions every syntactical connect, that makes language wobble, dancingly, so that it shakes our language base and being as perhaps only those who have spent childhood years in bunkers being bombed and in earthquake zones, lies in the first of his Versuche [the one on Tiredness which also happens to enumerate the near innumerable matters that enraged and tired our author as a young man, including cat on a hot tin roof noises]. There, Handke made the attempt to get fruitfully lost and began to question language as no one has since Wittgenstein, or St. Augustine, in a Socratic manner, as a questioner of his own texts as he writes them, one indication of which is a proliferation of question marks {?}[¿], the “hm”s that interrupt, query the narration, time and time again an interrogator of his language, and of its grammar, which is going one order, at least one, higher than matters that concerned him already as early a novel as The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. There Handke puts us – after reading the “dog language” of a tract on schizophrenia and language - by sheer grammatical sleight of hand in the state of mind of the murderous [of a woman] paranoid-schizophrenic Josef Bloch. Goalie is an acting out in literature, in the form of fulfilled fantasy of an impulse that otherwise will land you in prison – as Handke knows only too well when he has ex-Goalie ex-construction worker Bloch re-appear in Villages, as an ex-inmate, as a still-sadistic clown construction worker. However, it appears that the literary acting out of these impulses does not suffice to rid the author of them, as I, the once ever-over-optimistic, assumed might be the case when translating and then seeing performances of Handke’s first play without words [but not without ever more ominous sounds] the 1969 My Foot My Tutor which is the ultimate repetitive enactment of the master slave sado-masochistic relationship: “Ah, someone who writes that must have rid himself of the sadism,” which was the first thing my elephant trunk smelled on him, flitted through my mind, but, as Handke writes: “Hope is the wrong wing-beat.” Masochism, which fails to eventuate absent sadism, I don’t see in Handke. So I really don’t know what kind of Christian he is either, he left the Catholic Church for the Orthodox faith when the pope did not condemn the bombing in Yugoslavia strenuously enough, and has mentioned that he attends a chapel on a daily basis.

Handling the materiel of language in the fashion as he does in the Galicia section cited above – which goes beyond the amazing matters that his narrative accomplishes at the beginning and toward the end of the book - also means to have the capability for negative thinking as Freud called it. Your concentration needs to keep a host of matters in focused mind, and then invert it, so that the language does not so much tremble as wobble, boogie on the left and right foot… and Handke being the virtuoso show-off that he is, demonstrates this to a fare thee well. We may be locked in the prison house of language but we can have walls of rubber marble as we tell each other mysteries… occasionally warble, and bounce around.

Handke's real father is a German, a Herr Schoenherr who fathered our author in 1942 when stationed in the Austrian province of Carinthia with his German army company. We meet him in Sorrow Beyond Dreams taking Handke on the customary graduation trip, he found himself unable to marry Handke’s mother Maria Sivec because he was married and had other children – which might mean that Handke has another set of half brothers or sisters in Thuringia, no mention of them or what might have become of them, anyhow not so far. “Schoenherr”, a derisive name given to upwardly mobile gentlemen in the 18th century, however, is quite common. Lots of them emigrated also to the U.S.A., presumably from all corners of Germany.

Handke later confessed his chagrin at how arrogantly he had described this real father in Sorrow, the Handke of the many regrets, of the great “if only” section of Kaspar. In Moravian, Handke – the book’s second half is a fairly consecutive wandering in Germany and Austria to the village of his birth, and only rarely weaves back to the ship board night - which itself shows no development, none of the expected to and fro between participants and narrator [s] - and so this second half could as easily have been published under a title such as: “Wandering around Familial Places in Germany and Austria, with some fairy tale Phantasies” – in this Hartz section Handke rummages around his father’s province Thuringia, central Germany, quite wonderfully, all kinds of marvelously observed matters, but the father is deceased, ex-author looks up his grave that is already being readied for re-use [upkeep fees have not been paid] and really is more interested in the region, in what it might tell him about a father that now “ex-author” Handke claims never to have had, there are a couple of unconvincing transpositions from the actual biography, and then there is a long self-berating section that corresponds to Handke’s long ago diary notation that, like Kafka [the Kafka of Letter to my Father], he feels as an “eternal son,” an apprentice - we, who have followed the rake’s progress over the years, can see the juncture, that 10% gap, between Peter Handke [whom we can see making, labora verimus, as his personae Filip Kobal, his Slovenian grandfather Sivec in the 1986 The Repetition completely into an internalized and guiding father figure who also cursed royally and was the first male to appear in “bebé” Peter’s life, while also seeking to extirpate the first internalized father figure, as of age two, the monstrous name-giving Bruno Handke stepfather]: here, in this instance, we can see the 10% difference between the Handke of the writing of Moravian and the now supposed “ex-author” personae which here is the Handke of long-ago. The real author Peter Handke has his “ex-author” express wishes of twenty some years before, proving the “ex-author” of the here and now, fortunately in this case, yet another of Peter Handke’s “ficciones,” personae, lenses, an invention like its immediate predecessor, the retired bankieress of Del Gredos… It is within that narrow gap between the now and then that the fairly strictly auto-biographical, as much of Moravian is, can spin its tales and fantasize and place recits. There will be more, it will be possible to make further micro-measurements later when, on the “old road” near his hometown Griffen, the “ex-author” encounters Filip Kobal of [1986] Repetition fame and Gregor Keuschnig [initially suicidal of the 1974  A Moment of True Feeling who reappears in the 1992 No-Man’s-Bay as an ex-cultural attaché, “Gregor” itself being the name of his uncle and favorite first name appellation throughout his literary name giving from the onset]… and we are in the realm of Nabokov’s Pnin or Updike’s Bech series, arriviste writers having easy fun while their motor is idling, but certainly not hoeing the line of the once self-prescription: ”Write only out of passion.” [We can see this sort of thing already happening in No-Man’s-Bay where Keuschnig makes easy – and I found unpleasant - fun of the “Sorger” of A Slow Homecoming, of his writing this book in the Hotel Adams in New York, the second time Handke nearly came a cropper, the planned book not coming and his having to take recourse, to resort to a becalming drug, utterly distraught, fleeing hideous New York into the presence of the exemplary father figure Siegfried Lenz, admiration of whom can be also found in Thomas Mann whose endorsement called my attention to Lenz way back in 1957]. Handke had sufficiently powerful influence in the 70s that an essay of his enabled the rediscovery of the still living Lenz for the forgetful German reading public.

Passionately Handke writes here, in Moravian, occasionally: the opening demonstration of how to write an opening, the intense bus ride to and back from Kosovo, the tour de force “On Noise,” and the section in Galicia, Spain; the imaginary once again beating of the Erinye; and in chapter nine a stretch of writing where his classical mode suddenly takes off in a free form writing style that is veritably improv, stride piano, in jazz you would call it that, and which, as I read it, made me want to do nothing but write and assured me that my man, with regards to certain literal-minded fears, was perhaps only now hitting his stride…  yes, stride piano is the word…


The  second half of the book, beginning with the visit to his father’s region in Thuringia, is by and large a pleasant ramble but for a typically Handkean self-imploding straw man, Melchior, the rekilling of the Erinye and, toward the end, its attempt to raise the entire book into the realm of a fairy tale. It’s wandering part is easy, it’s friendly, the kind of chap I don’t mind wandering around with, or my mule Durango and I and, as mentioned, Moravian’s second half can stand on its own, has some, but only some of the stylistic unity absent in the first.

From the Hartz mountains we are taken to a wandering around the Danube plain near to but skirting Vienna, marvelous marvelous writing, an angel of a writer… and I realize again that Handke stands as one of the very greatest writers in the realistic tradition, as I did when I came on the five thousand word section in Del Gredos where he describes the destruction wrought by the tormento tropical that hit northern France around 2000, [I have a long piece on Del Gredos at
on its Del Gredos page, and at:
which I felt was probably the greatest five thousand words I had ever read in nearly 70s years worth of reading since age 4 [I started early with a magic writing tablet] – it is so great because Handke is so attached to his forest and sees microscopically, and a moron like Neil Gordon who allegedly teaches “realism” and of the Boston Review then is blind when he reviews the book in Mr. Tanenbaum’s NY Times Book Review…* I have quoted a brief section of his description of the death of the bumble bees earlier on  that is just as great and better than many things along that line that Handke has done ever since Once Again for Thucydides. Yup, I can see that while you write something like that you probably don’t want any living being near you except a cat, sleeping! - Rummaging around the Danube area the ex-author comes on a huge shed in which a kind of world congress of Jew harp players is in progress [the obverse of the “congress on noise” in Numancia?] and where Handke forces forces a kind of world wide togetherness idea… Ubi et Orbi… that occurred with far greater ease in the play without words Hour… where, he said, he had the hardest time writing himself out of such togetherness until it occurred to him that all it took was one person to sadistically kick one person in the back of the knee, as it sometimes took just one shot, from wherever, to set a village of ethnically and religiously diverse Yugoslavs to start killing each other, for the psychotic core at the heart of the world to erupt, that reservoir. Here, the fairy tale of togetherness is forced - perhaps Handke thought that going entirely over-the-top would solve the problem: it does not, at least not for me, as I don’t think Handke’s attempt to cast all of Moravian as a fairy tale comes off. He does his best at the very end, but fairy tales do not derive from the ego, as we know from Walter Benjamin’s great essay on the occasion of his writing on Leskov: “Patience is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience”, and Benjamin even thought that the work of weavers at their spindles might suffice… We already notice the artificiality of these attempts at art fairy tales as far back as Handke’s realistically quite wonderful extra chapter for No-Man’s-Bay, “Lucie in dem Wald mit den Dingsbums” [Lucie in the Woods with the Thingamajigs] a mushroom expedition in the Chaville Forest written for his second daughter, Laocadie Handke-Semin [mushrooms signify for Handke’s the harmless being that he would like to be, and I gather he indeed makes the world’s best mushroom stew!]
The world probably cannot even be dreamt as one except as nightmare, certainly not back together as Handke would like, though his belief in the sacred and access to it seem to convince him to abandon all hope. Several of the enclave sections in Del Gredos, too, make some fine ambiguous propositions about living together in other ways than the atomizing dog eat dog ways of capitalism. It is an idea, of some kind of less horrendous communalism that haunts Handke and I would locate this utopianism, literarily, in his affinity for some expressionist attempts in that direction in not only the German 20s. The combination of being a very great realist who then tries to cast the over-all in a forced fairy tale, it makes for an uneasy bed. Though I adore the pure verbal magicking he does! Now and then it breaks forth, like the cherubs’ trumpet calls. That certainly works: the mule that makes the sound of an owl and the owl… that hoots like a mule.  - Let’s go Durango, gittee up!

 Subsequently to the “Jews Harp Congress” [an instrument much beloved of our author, he must play it well] we come on a wonderful section where the “ex-author” communes most playfully with the ghost of his 19th century Austrian equal as playwright, Ferdinand Raimund
who famously committed suicide after being bitten by a rabid dog, fearing that he might become as rabid as one of his Austrian successors is on occasion; and who also seems to have found women to be a danger to his craft. I sort of agree, as the blues has it “The young women they make me weary…” But if I’d known in 1971 when Handke visited New York I could have traded him my ex who often used to work until 4 or 6 in the morning for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar with the photographers Hiro and Richard Avedon, guaranteeing some great photo ops for him, was a Meisterschülerin in art, dressed like the former model and designer she had been, taught daytimes, was as pretty as a combination of Audrey Hepburn and Anna Magnani, was sexually undemanding, a really good cook, for the utterly insulted and neglected rasante Libgart Schwarz, who certainly would not have minded, as my then socially so inept and vulnerable delicate wife did, heading out to spend some time with the indelicate guys, say, at Elaine’s, at midnight, my quitting time, to get a feel for the demi-monde of New York.

A trip now by train to his home village a beautifully … filmed I am tempted to say as about so many other moments in the book – section where Handke observes a young girl reader who is utterly engrossed, it is not his book, but she recognizes him; to Graz where the ex-author makes it a point to avoid old acquaintances [I’ve already mentioned other significances he avoids], he takes a plane from Graz to Klagenfurt, just a hop skip away and then walks the “Old Road” toward his home village Griffen… Filip Kobal, of The Repetition fame, appears as another ex-author who now makes films on a path that, though initially described as nearly empty of walkers it is so impassible, suddenly becomes filled with more and more people, even at night, as the opportunity to fill it occurs to the real author’s imagination who has never minded contradicting himself… The Erinye has her head taken off.

The kind of self-imploding reporter figure that we might be familiar with from a late section in Del Gredos [or even earlier, from the 1973 They Are Dying Out] here named Melchior appears, and claims that it is his time now, the arranger’s, the universally syndicated asshole, think e.g. Tom Friedman of the NY Times! Talking about “arranging”, Melchior is a straw man who easily demolishes himself, not the real author whom he is attacking.  “Melchior” is the counterpart to a real poet Juan from Numancia, and is a kind of super successful impostor; perhaps Handke also has Peter Schneider in mind, his antagonist from the Justice for Serbia fracas, the sort of fellow who can deliver an instant “state of Germany” for the op-ed pages, I would nominate Joffe of die Zeit whom I heard here once in Seattle, a disgusting smoothie. It struck me as weird that Handke would hold his being an “arranger” against “Melchior” [who has his own stage part here] the ultimate “arranger” of pre-digested phrases and formulas, and Handke re-using the same attack aria once again, for the third time now, first in Dying, then in The Play about the Film about the War, and now here; perhaps Handke has only one attack area in him! The figure of Melchior makes me uneasy in that Handke’s sense of the ridiculous has not sharpened since he wrote Dying Out in 1973.

When the “ex-author” finally manages to actually return to his home village of Griffen, Handke does the most amazing thing: a complete estrangement sets in, we are made to feel it, the home village is transformed into something exotic prior to being recognized! It is a wonderful moment that does not last very long, because it turns out that we are dealing with a time discrepancy between the past that exists in the ex-author’s mind and fairy tale future time, when the outskirts of Griffen might indeed be settled by authentic Samarkanders, and I am reminded again of Handke’s saying that he makes believe in most of his books that they are set in a future,  so as to achieve the kind of feeling of epic openness in which he writes best. After we have done a formally perfect exploration of the possibly future Muslim outskirts of Griffen the author sees the grassy triangle whence he finally enters a modified Griffen, now with a paved street and he begin to feel at home a bit… a wonderful visit to the cemetery where his mother is buried, it appears his half brother is living in their grandfather’s house, another marvelous section, then a recounting of the kind of holy terror Handke was as an adolescent and the family had to stay completely silent while he was writing in his room above… first rate, very interesting, an elaboration of what we know already from Walk About the Villages, close to the truth mixed in with some fine inventions.

The Dolinen  [sink-hole] section in Chapter 10, a reprieve of the Dolinen section of the 1987 The Repetition features an odd threesome of outcasts that continue to believe in a federated Yugoslavia [hey, Rutchky, more fodder for your nose!], our ex-author, an odd tiny Japanese ex-motorcycle driver who had been married to a Yugoslav basketball player and an American I identify as Ramsey Clark [!] whom and his lonely pursuit of justice I suppose Handke must have encountered while hanging out at the De Hague wartime tribunal [Rund um das Tribunal, 2000] and I once met at a PEN function in New York, and a lonely business it must be to be witness to the on-going injustices where the really big criminals never will be put in the docket until the Martians conquer the world.

Chapter 11 narrates a return bus trip cum wandering slithering through the “Balkans” back to Borodin, adjudicating his calendar by “day of the June bugs,” day of the Lemon Butterflies,” and like darling insects, where the ambiguous line of fairy tale and realism strikes me as most successful, utterly delightful except possibly our author ought not have let himself off the hook so easily when he composes what Melchior as a reviewer might say about his work – “removed from the world… inattentive to the pressing issues of the day” - I could add a few critiques that cut closer to the bone! Again: the way the ex-author sees the review, kibitzing it over the shoulder of a fellow passenger in a bus, one eye also on a fellow traveler who sits near the bus driver: pure film. That young bus companion is the “author’s” successor and it’s a beautiful passage as the task is handed on… how the task comes to the younger man. Handke writes great endings, as he writes great openings


It is interesting to note that in Moravian for the first time Handke really avails himself in a novel, though of course in modified manner, of his great talent as a writer of dramatic monologues, in evidence as far back as They Are Dying Out and developed grandly in the chief source for so much of his later work, Walk about the Villages, and spectacularly in many subsequent plays, most famously I suppose in the 1994 The Play About the Film About the War. This form of telling, narrating is very apt here since the assembled on shipboard are an audience as are we readers who are being treated also to a voice, that of a “we” through whom the “ex-author” speaks.  

Does it matter whether the narrator is an “I” as just once toward the very end, it might as well be the “author” off in the La Mancha of Del Gredos, it certainly is a fairy tale teller - the book initially was meant to be called “Samara” – but there are times that it appears the “we” is also the group assembled on the hotel boat “The Moravian Night”. That disparate group is your typical Handke troupe – amongst them the young future writer - as it has been appearing in Handke’s work ever since the in every respect fabulous 1987 film/ novel/ fable Absence – and then in the plays Hour and  Art of Asking – a small or large grouping of disparates that huddles and moves together on desolation row – pops up in a camp in No-Man’s Bay and in other instances, and thus stands for all such small or large collectives, from kids on hold-me-ropes to ancients gathering at tables. But it is most unlikely that this “group” would find a uniform voice, a consensus on what the “ex-author” felt and saw during his wanderings… It is not an important point, they after all talk in Handke’s voice here! I say so, because while translating  Villages I had the extraordinary experience, made the extraordinary discovery that each of the major characters – Gregor, Hans, the Site Mother, the Old Woman, Nova – instead of, say, being outfitted with idiosyncratic speech mannerism, each has its very own deep syntax that exerts itself on the translator. Pretty amazing stuff. Not that anyone else has noticed except I expect the directors and fellow translators. Something along those lines does not happen here, the book is meant to be a reading experience.

A lot of literature is pure defense, and irony is one of its chief means, and few writers have as refined as cool a sense of irony as Handke pencil in hand… With The Left-Handed Woman I began to realize how ultra dry his irony can be. L.H., as a reversal of what happened to Handke when his first wife left him shortly after his mother committed suicide [who did so abruptly, thus wreaking what Handke called “the worst thing that happened to me in my life” and a severe crisis lasting several years], when Handke wanted a poem in L.H. set to music by Randy Newman.
I knew exactly what he had in mind…. By the time of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, the “irony” becomes “heartfelt” … the happier Handke initially on coming home to Austria… but quickly unhappy in Salzburg as he appears to have been during that entire 7 year period… Claiming later that he could have written something along the lines of von Doderer’s Trudelhofstiege, a multi character realistic and satirical novel of manners about the experience. [Fat chance on that score, I would hold]. Eventually, the irony turns profound, as in THE ART OF ASKING!!! Which someone such as myself who thrives on answers loves so much because Handke evidently doesn’t want to ask for any of them in the usual way or have any as the horizon keep moving farther and farther away during pilgrim’s progress! I have indicated the irony that fashioned the great opening in Moravian.

Handke is not an esthete, but has an aesthetic… the so easily nauseated does… and next I will devote a piece to that subject, and what is involved, including on the neurological level, for someone who needs to write to heal and be well in an instance such as his. - German esthetes are Botho Straus, Ernst Juenger, Heinrich George… I can’t off-hand think of equivalent Americans though there must be oodles...

The German Book Trade nominated Moravian as the best book of  2008, but Handke withdrew, for once, from the competition, saying that someone younger ought to receive the prize – years ago   now he said he wanted no more prizes, but then accepted a slew of them, and gave the money back or to more needy writers. Uwe Tellkamp won the prize in 2008 for his “Der Turm” which I would say is a better book in the sense of being a whole book. Although Handke, as a writer, does better than Goethe, Stifter and Flaubert rolled into one, the bastard!

Perhaps Handke also did not want to be in competition with a title where far greater books of his – not necessarily greater writing – were not even nominated. I am reminded of his withdrawing his comparatively weak effort – where formalizing his misanthropism does not work for rage, his “running amok” – UNTERTAGS BLUES – where truly great plays of his were not even nominated. Meanwhile, German prizes seek to give them to Handke to decorate themselves with his name, and if Handke were an Austrian Field Marshall of old, and not one of the few major emblems of the now merely small “Kultchural” empire that probably has more first rate writers per capita than any other, he’d be on the verge of being weighed down by all that metal on his chest! I am I think the only person who in English wrote at some length on UNTERTAGS BLUES [SUBDAY BLUES]

If anyone deserves the Nobel Prize it is Handke, though not for any single book, certainly not this one, but for the entire amazing oeuvre, his work does, to call world wide attention to how the logos has been renovated and enlarged, not he himself. But both he and his work are unlikely to receive the ultimate laurel because of the stand and how he took his stand in matters Serbian, where he led me, who found his self-exposure most suspect by then, to come to agreement with him, and then some, in matters of Western destabilization. 

I would put in special mention of the following works in the citation: The plays Public Insult, Kaspar, Ride Across Lake Constance, The Hour, The Art of Asking; The Play about the Film about the War; the prose works, Der Hausierer; Short Letter Long Farewell, Left-Handed Woman, No-Man’s-Bay, Essay on the Jukebox, Absence, Del Gredos, Don Juan… and would cite Moravian for containing patches of some of his greatest writing from which no end of future writer can learn, take off… then I would let the Erinyes out of their cages! Just think of the media hullaballoo! “Nobel Prize winner fed to tigresses!”

*For my piece on the U.S. Handke reception go to the Handke-trivia BlogSpot  

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