Sunday, July 10, 2011

Peter Handke's "The Great Fall": Part 12

Food poisoning, a harsh case, kept me close to the toilet all night and morning. Still feeling shaky from the loss of so much water; but I'm anxious to get back to Peter's book, especially since there have been good comments and help from two of you on the sentence that had me stumped.

Here's the sentence again:

So ließen die Zuggleise und -weichen, beim Passieren der Züge im Wald fast ein Lärm, sich jetzt überhören -- war denn von einem Moment zum anderen der Zuverkehr eingestellt worden?, wie auch die Lautsprecherstimme vom nahen Bahnhof, vom Endbahnhof, in den Wald geschallt als Gebrüll -- darauf das Gegengebrülls des Waldmanns --, beim Ausschreiten im Freien ein Hintergrundgeräusch abgab im Rauschen der Stille!

With help from Michael Roloff and a fine blogger who has been writing about Hans Henny Jahn (check out both their blogs through the links on my main page), I think I'm ready to try to translate the sentence. Then I'd like to think some about it.

The previous sentence is about changes in sounds as a human being enters a new space, about the crickets that change their chirping to another frequency hardly audible to a human ear. 

"Similarly, the train tracks and switches whose noise almost rises to the level of din as trains pass in the woods, can no longer be heard -- had there been a sudden stoppage of train traffic?, and also the loudspeaker voice from the nearby train station, resounding from the terminal station as a roar -- and then the answering roar of the man in the woods --, while pacing out into the open it provided a background noise to the noise of silence!"

As Michael Roloff writes, Peter has shown in earlier texts just how sensitive he is to noise. And as several of us have written, he is devoted to phenomenology, to the study of the structures of consciousness and how they arise in relation to the world we experience through sight and hearing and taste and so on. There's a philosophical movement that includes Heidegger and Husserl and others, and Peter is acutely aware of their work; but in sentences like the one we just translated, he's not doing philosophy (he never does philosophy, he's a novelist and poet), he's simply paying rapt attention to what a walker experiences when leaving the woods.

And perhaps here is a first answer to the question about why a complicated and difficult sentence like this one. Since our consciousness is shaped as much by its structures as by the world that comes to us through our senses, and since those structures of consciousness are strongly influenced by our languages, what kind of sentence would serve such an experience most supply, most accurately, most interestingly?

Putting a reader into the grammar of this sentence, perhaps, puts a reader into the position of the walker in and out of the woods, allows a reader to experience one thing, then something related, if somewhat awkwardly, then to ask a question about it, and finally to bring it all back into the whole that is the sentence.

That's the best I can do in my weakened condition. Thanks to those of you who helped.


michael morrow said...

now i'm beginning to feel a little comfort with Handke's possible intentions...consciousness...I feel I fall into Handke's conscious motivation for doing what he expose levels of unconscious living...naked survival.. I see that life's noise, smells, language, feelings...inner personal space-consciousness-the very fabric of life are too often lost...left behind as physical form moves heartless-headless through space

michael morrow said...

conscious thought realized..I love the photos you posted with part 9.....but I see through this exercise with Handke that, while I love the expansive and colorful skyscrape, I am at home residing on the chaotic, curved, with limited foresight rutted, muddy road into the forest of green and brown and unknown....

michael morrow said...

conscious revision...conscious thought realized..I love the photos you posted with part 9.....but I see through this exercise with Handke that, while I love the expansive and colorful skyscrape, I am at home residing on the chaotic, curved, with limited foresight rutted, muddy road into the forest of green and brown unknown....becoming writing takes me into handke, abbot, roloff

michael morrow said...

and most importantly...into morrow


a couple of asides first:
1] what caused your intestinal event?
2] as to Heidegger, Handke has noted that he finds his language like "Beton"; and since Peter is not a builder of submarine bunkers that is not a compliment.
3] phenomenology is part of his problem - what is a phenomenon? the smallest would be a 'photon' - what can we say about a photon?[a] it exists ][2] it appears to be irreducible [3] it registers in eyes of all kinds as what we call light [4] it appears to be weightless!! Thus it is not a very weighty item when it comes to what we call understanding, aside the sheer incomprehensible mystery of its very existence, as compared to weightier phenomena, such as an actor who appears to have the world by the scruff of its neck, he is well laid, behaves like a king in his long term mistresses home, indulges in all kinds of weird behavior, including the kinds of fits over very minor matters that might be termed "running amok", then goes for a jolly walk into the woods and is engaged in the constant interior dialogue of a human being, talks to himself, forbids himself certain thoughts, such as: maybe this was the last time...anyhow, he's definitely having a good time, and at least so am i as a reader, slow as i am for once for reason having to do with a very serious book of mine. i will do a second post here about getting that damned sentence right. xx m.r


i have now completed chapter 2, which is set entirely in the woods, a kind of woods of woods it has turned into, and it is one of those chapter in which Handke the didacticist comes to the fore, the way he creates an "irrweg" instead of the paths with all their placards of what is no longer obvious to the denatured. he's hated these placards ever since WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES and ACROSS. And the chapter ends with that apparation of a Serbian ancient who stands there like a tree and "ist am vermodern." It's quite an image. This is a highly reflective and noticing chapter - it does not require an "actor"! On my walk to my nest under the Hawthorne tree and with the moon now at half mast, I recalled something I said about 30 years when someone complained that Handke made it so difficult for his readers by not writing stories: "every sentence is an event."

* said...

get better soon.

yes husserl, isn't it husserl's lebenswelt/lifeword concept that handke exerts almost all the time? lebenswelt understood as in michael morrows comment: see that life's noise, smells, language, feelings...inner personal space-consciousness...

i remember handke using this lifeworld concept in order to defend his yugoslawian books...

and because it is such a nice contrast, but about silence and noise again and fits in addition the trainsentencedisussion, 3 other trainsentences....

unterhalb des hohlen grossglasäugigen Stellwerkturms kam eine Gestalt quer über das trübe dunstige Gleisfeld gegangen, stieg sicher und achtlos über die Schienen eine Schiene nach der anderen, stand still unter einem grün leuchtendem Signalmast, wurde verdeckt von der Donnerwand eines ausfahrenden Schnellzuges, bewegte sich wieder. An der langame stetigen Aufrechtheit des Ganges war vielleicht Jakob zu erkennen, er hatte die Hände in den Manteltaschen und schien geraden Nackens die Fahrten auf den Gleisen zu beachten. Je mehr er unter seinen Turm kam verdunsteten seine Umrisse zwischen den finster massigen Ungeheuern von Güterzugwagen und kurzatmigen Lokomotiven, die träge ruckweise kriechend den dünnen schrillen Pfiffen der Rangierer gehorchten im Nebel des frühen Morgens auf den nass verschmierten Gleisen

the from mister summo politico earlier mentioned johnsonian jacob


WHOEVER * is, mentioning Husserl: a novelist does not need Husserl! my "summa politico" signature happens to the one i started off with my first blog, which is a strictly political one, i rarely post there now.


Scott Abbott said...

My thought on Husserl: if Peter doesn't know about Husserl's Lebenswelt I'll eat my hat, just as he knows Heidegger and Nietzsche.

Does he need them? Michael writes that a novelist doesn't need Husserl. And I might add that Husserl could ruin a novelist.

That doesn't mean, however, that a novelist like Peter can't work artistically with some of a philosopher's ideas, that the novel isn't richer because, for instance, Peter knows about the Scholastics' thoughts about the "nunc stans" and then brings it into Die Lehre der Sainte Victoire" (more about that later in terms of the standing theme I'm following).


Here is an interesting quote from the philosopher A.C. Graylings blog:
that is pertinent to the idea of "Lebenswelt."

In a recent interview, Supreme Court Justice Breyer lists the five books that have influenced his thinking the most. Among them: J.L. Austin's How to Do Things with Words. Breyer says:

JL Austin was an ordinary language philosopher. When I studied in Oxford, I went to one of his classes and I read his books. How to Do Things with Words teaches us a lot about how ordinary language works. It is useful to me as a judge, because it helps me avoid the traps that linguistic imprecision can set. If I had to pick a single thing that I draw from Austin's work it would be that context matters. It enables us to understand, when someone makes a statement, what that statement refers to and what that person meant.

When I see the word "any" in a statute, I immediately know it's unlikely to mean "anything" in the universe. "Any" will have a limitation on it, depending on the context. When my wife says, "there isn't any butter," I understand that she's talking about what is in our refrigerator, not worldwide. We look at context over and over, in life and in law.

Austin suggests that there is good reason to look beyond text to context. Context is very important when you examine a statement or law. A statement made by Congress, under certain formal conditions, becomes a law. Context helps us interpret language, including the language of a statute. Purpose is often an important part of context. So Austin probably encourages me to put more weight on purpose.

It is very interesting that Breyer should choose the word "any" as an example of why context matters. A few years back, there was in fact a Supreme Court decision (Small v. United States) that hinged on the meaning of "any" (pdf of the decision here]). And as it turns out, Justice Breyer wrote the decision for the majority (made up of Breyer, Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, and Ginsburg; ah the good old days).

Scott Abbott said...

Michael, I like this idea of context very much. Just good plain sense, what any careful reader knows in her bones. Nice to have justices who are good readers.

michael morrow said...

1] what caused your intestinal event?...

intestinal events pop off consistently in my life....especially in this setting where I have people I respect and feel comments are trustworthy and worth paying attention..

This latest intestinal event came about as we are now deep in the novel and metaphors are jumping out of the woodwork. As I read Scott's comments and allowed the photos of open sky and forested beauty space in the discussion, my time-to-time propensity to play behind the couch rather outside surfaced in my mind. I was raised in Illinois corn country...with freedom to run sunup to sundown in a square mile playground of creeks, open fields, cows, and warm thunder showers, and 30 degree below winters. Behind the couch I always felt save and in control, whether escaping hot sunny days or freezing temperatures.

In the forest vs open blue sky, I feel this same sense of security. I love tangled chaos, always loaded with interesting and shifting shapes. I love the dog legged curve in the road, keeping perspective on a short leash and focused....allowing freedom to find expanse in color, shapes, and variety..or challenge of making sense of restricted spaces.


i notice that again i failed to respond here, maybe i did later! to a # of points.
first of all: FLOWERYVILLE - thank you for quoting from Uwe's great MUTMASSUNGEN UEBER JAKOB, I did a long interview with him in 1961 I think it was, just after the Wall went up, in New York and Boston that was published in a magazine called Metamorphosis, hard to obtain, and then translated into German where it can be found in a book of interviews with Johnson that Suhrkamp published.

That sentence the way Scott did it, I think I did some amending later on.

Did Scott tell us later what poisoned his food? Will go on and reread the next sequence now.