Monday, July 11, 2011

Peter Handke's "The Great Fall": Part 13

lazuli bunting [click on photo for larger image]
Was it food poisoning or gastro-intestinal virus? Guess I'll never know; but this morning I'm feeling much better, thank you. Making coffee, I heard a familiar song and looked out at a lazuli bunting (he's atop the maple in the foreground).

Then there was a motion in the clearing just to the right of the bunting, a little to the right of where the line of light reflected from the window distorts the photo. It was a tiny faun, spotted like a tiny faun (to steal from Peter Handke's early play "Prophecy" Did you translate that Michael?). The faun was frisky! stotting up to its mother, then away from her, then past her again. She wanted to cross the road as she and other resident mule deer do about this time every morning, and she wanted the little fellow right at her heels when she did that; but he (or she) was having none of that -- too much fun to be had, right now, right here!

Michael Morrow, I'm enjoying your thoughts, thoughts from an ex-submariner from the cornfields of Illinois who became a modern dancer at 60. ". . . most importantly . . . into morrow."

And Michael Roloff, your comment about Peter's dislike of Heidegger (sentences like concrete) reminds me of Peter's own sentence (a tangle of neurons?). Your comment about phenomenology being part of his problem is nicely ambiguous. It's part of the problem he is investigating -- that's been my point -- and it's a problem because it's not very weighty when weighed against the phenomena of human interactions.

Okay, back to the book, Chapter 5 again.

The actor comes across a previous neighbor, "a good neighbor, almost a friend, a friend" sitting with a somewhat younger woman on a bench at a bus stop. "Andreas," the actor says, the first name he has used on this day. There is no response; and, the woman says, there will be no response: "It's over with him. The End!" At first there was a respectful (because somewhat distant) relationship. Gradually the neighbor became more intrusive, standing at the garden gate around midnight, calling to the actor until he let him in, then sitting there waiting, it seemed to the actor, for signs from the oracle that would decide existential questions for him. Then the neighbor, a businessman, went to Mongolia and was never heard of again.
Until now.

Although the woman has proclaimed the end for him, the neighbor begins to speak: "What he uttered weren't entire sentences, nothing but separate words, or words that wanted to be sentences. Wanted? . . . snowball fight . . . chalkboard . . . fall from a window . . . water runner . . . early apples . . . temple jumping . . . gasmasks . . . handgrenades . . . Hitler . . . knee raises . . . money changing . . . blueberries . . . ear boxing . . . money or life . . . mountain and valley . . . so green . . . so dear . . . turn around . . . go home . . ."

This feels like a page from Peter's early play "Kaspar" (which I know Michael translated, a wild and wooly and even brilliant translation), which ends, if I remember correctly, with the words "goats and monkeys"! But this time it isn't the speaker (Kaspar) who is the main character, but the audience (the actor). And he knows that in this face-to-face encounter he must respond correctly, accurately, well, adequately: "Wo if he now failed to stand firm in the gaze of the other." "Standhalten" is the verb here, but the idea of withstanding that undergirds most of them, including "stand firm," misses the idea in this sentence that the actor must respond adequately to the gaze, to the words, otherwise he will be a "versager" -- a loser who has said the wrong thing.

But then a bus comes and the moment is past. He continues on his way. When he looks back the woman is standing and the man sitting. He reflects on his impulse, in this case and many others, to help those who have suddenly "lost their footing" ("den Stand verloren").

And now we're back to the theme I've been following. This novel is about the great fall. The opposite of falling is standing. The "standhalten" to which the actor has just felt himself called is in the presence, in the face-to-face with a man who has fallen, and the standing firm is the response that will save him ("retten").

The actor, interrupted by the bus, didn't in fact do that; and the chapter ends with his thoughts about helping, about saving, about his "Alaska woman" who said derisively that he thought he was an angel, about his inability to help anyone except the people who saw his plays and films and small things like a bee and a hedgehog.

There is a lot of Peter Handke woven into this narrator's account of the actor's thoughts, including notes from people who have responded positively to his work. Again I feel that odd tension between what might be pure autobiography (pure?) and pure fiction, that tangle of author/narrator/hero/people and things experienced by the actor.

I like that tension.


michael morrow said...

digging deep and deep and deep into human idiosyncrasies, quirks, beliefs holding life hostage brings me to a place Gurdjieff calls "self-remembering"...a place where mintelletual, emotional, and physical bodies come together to objectively survey personal landscape.... "a good neighbor (physical), almost a friend (emotional), a friend (intellectual)".......inner relationships, me, myself, and I choosing an ice cream flavor....I should have had this seminar before I saw Kaspar...I'm now ready to make some sense of that great piece of film.

michael morrow said...

I'm having a Handke moment...lets see...last two posts from scott...yada yada..gastro-imtest..yeh, lets see...harsh interrupted by bus..yes, ok...interesting,,oh cool,.. he mentioned me by name..ok..comment to r. yada,,,So ließen die Zuggleise ...opps wont even try...lets see,,,ok..hey wait a minute....rolof (misspelling intentional) and * mentioned something about scott feeling better...huh?? what?? oh wow,,,scott had food poisoning...

wishing you well scott...I am really getting off with this exercise...feel better....cant stop now!!!


To reply to your post # 13, Scott.
My magnifying mechanism [?] synaptic pointing device then showed me the Bunting,
must be the same family as the various blue jays?

right, you will never know
what bugged you unless you saved a speciman, always a good thing. did the entire
family come down? however, i am not going to treat you of the multiple events
in my intestines in the third world, and once in seattle where an amoeba tracked
me down via a salad at qfc, no doubt prepared by one my friends from down south,
or imported thence. however, i point you to my "mulege amoeba dream" which was so amusing that the dream nearly cured me; it has become half-way famous in analytic circles.

Yes, I translated PROPHECY, it not only says BUT DOES the same thing as Susan Sontag's essay on ILLNESS AS METAPHOR.

why "undergird" ? isnt' "gird" enough, this came into use at some point of insecurity with the language. as did others which i can name if asked. ah the girdles mormon girls wore to gird themselves against passion overcoming mental girdles.

i know that word salad is reminiscent of KASPAR, but it might also be the first words spoken as you come out of a dream, after all Handke last year published something along those line: a collection of the words or sentences, half sentences that popped into his mind's mouth on wakng from a dream at any event the salad is mutiply suggestive... of someone breaking down, the rules of grammar no longer doing their work. i don't know if i ever told you that at one time i called my now 20+ year old Handke project THE DICTATOR OF SYNTAX... Master would be kinder since he certainly is to a supreme degree, the text of THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER being ultimate proof thereof... however, i am not up to chapter V, so may have more to say later.
Handke can indeed be the helper and knows that he needs to be, it certainly redeems or what-ever those times that he does a lot of damage, of course he has needed help too, occasionally he has found it, as with Siegfied Lenz.
WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGE contains the imprecation: "You must be a helper or you are nothing."
Peter gave the money from the Buechner prize to the Austrian writer Weinzierl, who now edits
the Feuillton of DIE WELT, and, for my money,is repaying the kindness somewhat with too little critical dif-ferentiation, which, udderwise, Weinzierl as a reviewer is quite capable of. Peter himself early on in his career was luckyin the kind of helpers he had. But there is also a note in one of his notebooks that he really despises "the losers." That is Handke the Yuppie speaking! Whom to let oneself help one is always a problem. I recall a pretty girl once
wrote me whether I needed a pair of socks duringmy Junior year abroad. That's all it took for it to be all over, then.

Handke mixes himself into all these personae lenses, of course "the self" will seep into a writer's work no matter what. However, Peter's prose works, even when they have an objective work of art quality also have this letter in a bottle quality for a long time now, since A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING 1974, although SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL'S theme of being pursued by a wife was most certainly a translation of an emotional situation into a detective story kind.



A note on your note about my KASPAR translation.
I did indeed become wild in that work in stretches,
especially the one where versification is made fun off.
Peter wrote me that it struck him as a bit wild too
"but you must know what you are doing." well, i was having an extra bit of fun, taking his take one rung further. it wasn't until peter brook who optioned the play for a year
in exchange for forever being able to see his amazing
production of MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM [i took full advantage and was madly in love too] told me that i needed to reign my take in, and then i did, but that only appears in the u.k. methuen edition, now volume I of Handke's collected plays.