Sunday, July 3, 2011

Handke's "The Great Fall": Part 4

As a student contemplating graduate school in German literature, I was put off by what felt like an endless set of dry articles about literature, articles written, it felt, by unfeeling and unimaginative pseudo-scholars. Then I happen to read Oskar Seidlin's magical take on a single sentence in Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice." It was thoughtful, a little sly, and brilliant in a way I hadn't seen before.

I went to graduate school.

Last night, I was tempted to write a whole article on the first paragraph of this book. To do that, however, I'll need to finish the rest of the book. It's the hermeneutic circle: I'll need the whole to understand the parts and the parts to understand the whole.

In the last post, I wrote about the loss of images, the absence of revelation that has made the actor quit acting and the writer quit writing. That makes this novel, like earlier ones, a novel about images and revelations, not a novel of such images.

Does that mean that Handke's work is bereft of exactly what has drawn readers to fiction for hundreds of years? Has he written himself into a dead end?

I read on.

The actor has come to this city to make a film. He hopes, "with his acting, with his being, standing, looking around himself, to assist in making the story open eyes."

With his standing?

This could get interesting for someone who has written about "standing" in Handke's work before.

Don't laugh.

A quick look at the end of the novels reveals that this may indeed be an ongoing motif: "Er stood, and stood, and stood. Third hunger, the great one. Time for the second gentle course. Instead of that the Great Fall."

What is he up to? Where will this go?

The actor walks out of the house, naked, into the rain. He washes himself in the rain. He returns to the house and finds that he has lost his ability, his vaunted ability to relate physically with the world around him. He can't even pick up the loaf/body (Laib) of bread. The coffee cup falls from his hand and shatters.

Isn't this the fallen teaspoon that means a fall of another kind?

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