Saturday, July 2, 2011

Handke's "The Great Fall": Part 2

I ended the previous post with the claim that this novel will be about narration. That was on the basis of the first few sentences, each of which alerted a reader to the the textuality of this story, to the fact that this is language about language.

This morning I remembered Peter's preface to the American edition of his "A Journey to the Rivers": "I wrote about my journey through the country of Serbia exactly as I have always written my books, my literature: a slow, inquiring narration; every paragraph dealing with and narrating a problem, of representation, of form, of grammar -- of aesthetic veracity."

So I read the second paragraph.

Quickly the narrator revisits something he wrote in the first paragraph: "Frightened out of sleep: that wasn't exactly the case for the man lying there either." Rather, it was a mundane event, that storm with lightning and thunder, an everyday happening that woke him suddenly and naturally into a complete presence of mind, into a readiness.

The restatement reveals the narrator as a meticulous searcher for aesthetic veracity.

Why is that important?

So that we, at least to some extent, speak language rather than surrendering to language that speaks us.

The consciousness that is related to that kind of inquiring narration comes to the man who continues his enjoyment of the storm by reaching out to find that he is not in his own bed, not even in his own country. It's like Gregor Samsa waking up to find he has become a bug -- the disconcerting consciousness will change how the events and things of the day are experienced. And on this day, the day of his Great Fall, he feels at home in the strange place (although, the narrator assures us, the bed is not strange).

And, he hasn't yet opened his eyes. A pleasing rain follows the lightning and thunder he has enjoyed and then a third good sensation courses through him: he has awakened in the bed of a woman who is good to him. Who loves him? the narrator asks. Even though she may have indicated something like that during the night, the narrator writes, the man "would not have agreed to have that written so literally here. She was good to me: that was it, that was what he could say."

Who writes this carefully, so attentive to each sentence, to each assertion?

Peter Handke.

And that's why I read him.

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