Michael Roloff sent an email today with a link to this blog posting about the marks inside an English translation of an early novel by Peter Handke, Short Letter, Long Farewell. "I bought this book for 50p," the blog author writes, and goes on to follow the information written inside the book. He speculates on the name Charles Unwin and travels through London to photograph the building at the address given.
I admired the idea, the quiet nature of the thought, the bookishness of the whole thing.
And I turned to a book of my own, bought for $7.50 in Powell's Bookstore in Portland over a decade ago. It's the first edition of a book Michael eventually translated whose English title became the title of this blog.
Inside the stylish mattblack cover is a single letter followed by a period: P.
I have always supposed this is Peter's elegant and minimal signature.
I had met and translated and travelled with Peter before acquiring this book. I never asked him for his signature in any of the books of his I own. I have them because of what they say, because of the sentences and characters and ideas they make manifest, and not because he inscribed them. Having said that, this little book still feels special to me, takes me back to a moment, perhaps, when someone handed a young author a copy of the book and he made his mark.