Friday, July 8, 2011

Peter Handke's "The Great Fall": Part 10

The fifth chapter begins with a nice play on the book's title, the double meaning Michael Roloff and I have discussed as he translates the title as "The Major Case" and I as "The Great Fall."

The actor is, for a second, "the other," the man he has just left still screaming "shut up!" Like him (and he has, the narrator writes, become the other, is not just acting like the other), the actor feels his ordered life disintegrating, starting with his shoelaces that come undone and trip him so he falls to the ground "to never stand up again." Then comes the urge to to throw off his clothing and to throw away his keys and to sit on a hydrant stinking while passersby give him a wide berth.

Luckily for him ("luckily for him -- 'why luckily for me?'") the moment of being the other passes, "is past, 'in this case at least.'"

Along with the play on falling and case, again the presence, the strong presence of both narrator and actor. In his comment on part 9, Michael Roloff adds an interesting twist to that notion:

no end of detail that make me believe that handke is having his fun with a lot of personal routines: the mere dab of shoe polish, putting the shoes in the fridge so that they will be fresh...  the way these details are described, too, have that quality of discociation, self-conciousness about them. however, by transferring to a/ the woman's place some contradictions and odd emphases slip in: a few times too often for my taste he mentions that he found an object as though sleepwalking - if he has been with the woman umpteenth # of times? he ought to know where, say the vaccum cleaner is in the meanwhile. etc.

If this is a realistic novel, then there are many details that make a reader think "this is not believable." We're left to think a) this is sloppy writing or b) something else is going on.

Playfulness, as Michael points out, is one of the things that is going on. Narrative playfulness in which the author and the narrator and the actor and the man in the woods the actor sees and the character in the book the actor is reading and the character in the film the actor is to play in all blend together as the same character and then are ripped apart by breaks or discontinuities in the text, only to blend together again (as when, on page 124, the actor, who has reached into his pocket for his keys, remembers the character in the book he was reading earlier who "while reaching into his pocket, for nothing really, his hand remained in his pocket and when the reader closed the book a few pages later the hand in question was still in the pocket in question."

Michael used the word "unterschwellig" earlier in response to some of these breaks. The book is constantly subverting itself as real or natural, asserting itself as book. Ceci n'est pas une pipe!

And now the actor leaves the woods and stands in a place where he overlooks the city of cities, a city that is, the narrator writes, "ein Daliegen," a lying there. From the actor's "Standort," standing place, the city pulses and he finds a hearty pleasure in the sight in this standing moment/nunc stans: "und was gab es Herzhafteres als das Jetzt."

The sight heartens him so thoroughly that he works against the ravages of entropy that have come during his walk through the woods: he ties his shoe, tightens his tie, cleans his shoes, and tucks in his shirt. The act of tucking in his shirt reminds him of a film scene in which a man about to be executed stops to tuck in his shirt and then is killed. After wondering why that image came to him right then, he pulls his shirt back out: it would have come untucked anyway while he walked.

Order/disorder. Standing/falling. The created Now as the threshold between?



i imagine you might want to compare the moment that "the actor" gazes at "the city" with the opening of LEFT HANDED WOMAN - which describes what paris and its rolling hills looks like from Clamart/Meudon where Handke wrote and filmed that book. i visited him there once, it was a hideous gruenderzeit castle [v. extr. subjective here!] fieldstone wall the first floor, stucco above. post 1870, characteristic of the mosel valley region, half modern half ancient but veddy upwardly mobile [i have needed to be downwardly since early on and at least in that respect have succeeded]. highly polished floor, i was appalled. rue Montmorency had been so mysterious as a basement apartment with a mere glance at the sidewalk through the top of the windows. no matter that it stank of sex. handke took me outside quickly, mentioning that everyone on the film set had smoked, and so then had he - i reeked of camels or perhaps gaulloise that day. mas anon. xx michael r.

michael morrow said...

now this gets my attention.."Order/disorder. Standing/falling. The created Now as the threshold between?" and brings me access to the novel...

and my experience seems to beg the question...what is education,,,what is rhetorical analysis...whats it for if I dont have access...If nothing else I love the exercise....I love not knowing..not knowing enhances knowing...especially when I contain both simultaneously...


As mentioned above, i will do my third reading in about a month. Straight through not incrementally, but with special attention being paid to Scott's hobby horse "standing/falling"/; subversion of narrative; i fell i have a good grasp of all of Handke's novels but this one continues to puzzle and tantalize the hell out of me. i feel a bit as i did after being able to analyze just about any dream to its source, the navel for about a year on end, that was in the late eighties in the st. monicas, at which point a perverse imp in me seemed to decide to increase the difficulty of interpretation... until i conceded defeat to the unconscious imp!