Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Peter Handke's "The Great Fall": Part 14

I'm going to title this post

"Angus Deli."

Chapter 6 of the novel has the actor walking into the city. Again he observes people and birds.

AND THEN TROUBLE! (page 161)

Ahead of him is a group of young people he judges to be a gang. They have sticks with them and they're up to no good, he's sure. As they pass he notices their sticks are really bats and that they have gloves and balls. He has misjudged them with his first impulse, as so often. A second look is always critical, he thinks.

But that wasn't the trouble I meant. Here's the problem: Die Stöcke, welche die Jugenlichen durch die Stille pfeifen ließen, waren Basketballschläger, nachrichtenweise bekannt als Totschlagsinstrumente, aber sie hatten, das zeigte sich erst auf den zweiten Blick, auch die zugehörigen Fanghandschuhe und Bälle dabei.

Basketball bats! Where the hell was the copyeditor on this one?

Now to the Angus Deli.

In his collection of reviews of "Der Grosse Fall," Michael Roloff includes one printed just 4 days ago. Here a couple of paragraphs:

In Peter Handkes Erzählung "Der große Fall" blieb ein Aspekt von der Literaturkritik unbeachtet: Es ist das "Anklingen des Religiösen", das in dem heuer erschienenen jüngsten Werk des großen österreichischen Schriftstellers "immer wieder wahrhaftig zum Vorschein kommt". Aufmerksam macht darauf die in Wien und Salzburg lebende Autorin Christine Wiesmüller, die die Sendereihe "Erfüllte Zeit" am Sonntag in Ö1 gestaltet. "Interessant an diesem Werk ist nicht nur die große sprachliche Gestaltungskraft, sondern auch die feine religiöse Spur, die den Roman sehr ernsthaft durchzieht", erklärte sie gegenüber "Kathpress".

In dem von der Kritik vielgelobten Prosatext "Der große Fall" begleitet Peter Handke in einem sprachgewaltigen "stream-of-consciousness"-Stil einen namenlos bleibenden Schauspieler auf seinen Weg durch den Tag. In der Früh verlässt er nach einem Gewitter ein Haus im Wald und tritt eine Tageswanderung an, "eine Lebensreise" in vielen einzelnen Etappen, wie es Wiesmüller nennt. Während dieses langen Tages mache sich auch der Hunger bemerkbar - mit den Worten Handkes "ein Hunger nach Speisen, und ein Hunger nach mehr, viel mehr". Der Autor vermittelt dies durch eine Szene in einer Kirche, wo Brot in den Leib und Wein in das Blut verwandelt wird. Der Schauspieler, der es "bisher nicht einmal in den Filmen über sich gebracht" habe, auf die Knie zu fallen, habe plötzlich "ein Bedürfnis, eine Sehnsucht - oder war das Teil seines Hungers? -, nicht allein auf die Knie zu fallen, sondern der Länge nach hinzustürzen und mit dem Gesicht nach unten liegenzubleiben". Handke schreibt von einer "Heiterkeit, welche von der Eucharistiefeier ausgegangen war und anhielt - verwandelte alles in das, was es war".

The Austrian writer Christine Wiesmueller, who hosts a Sunday show called "Fulfilled Time" on Austrian Radio 1, claims that reviewers of this new novel have missed the fine religious sensibility that pervades the novel. She says that at one point in the novel the actor feels a great hunger for food and for more, much more. In response, she says, the actor enters a church and experiences the transubstantiation enacted during a mass. She says he then feels the desire not to kneel but to fall prostrate to the floor. And finally the novel speaks of a "lightness that had emanated from the celebration of the Eucharist, one that lasted, one that transformed everything into what it really was."

Although this prayerful reading isn't entirely wrong in its description of the main section of this chapter, it leaves out a couple of crucial things:

1. The actor's hunger is for three things: 1) for food, 2) for the woman down there in the city with whom he want to immediately join, "now, and now, not the animal but the god with two backs," and 3) for Geist or spirit (which Geist? Goethe's "Oberen Leitenden", welches den Geist meinte -- note the distance from the HOLY SPIRIT of the Church, the distance that increases through the placing of the spirit in Goethe's literary form and then heightened with the phrase "which meant the spirit).

2. The cross on the church might also have been a TV antenna (p. 176).

3. While the priest reads the mass silently, to himself despite the one visitor (the actor), the actor has his own holy text: "Yes, the impotence or powerlessness of God! But his omnipresence is his power, his only power. That is, it would be if. . . . But: Where should I turn? And how? And, yes!: The body of the woman is the descent of the omnipotence of the spirit in the night. With the woman together the other language begins. . . . Praise the bodies. The woman, the other letter. I don't come over the woman, the woman comes over me and my flesh becomes spirit. . . . There is nothing higher than desire, than our combined hunger and thirst. Praise our two hearts. Amen. Thus it is. Thus may it be."

4. The actor has never knelt in a church, not even when acting in a film. At most he moves his body slightly so that the priest thinks he might have knelt. But beyond the religious ritual genuflection that he won't perform, he does feel the desire to prostrate himself on the floor and to lie there with face down. But  he's also pleased to realize that that kind of falling between the benches is impossible.

So, there are religious signs and gestures in the text. But their contexts surely can't be broadcast on Austrian Public Radio 1 on a show for Catholic listeners.

This brings me to the "Angus Deli." We see what we want to see. We know what corresponds to what we know. The actor sees gang weapons that are really "basketball" bats. Ms. Wiesmueller sees Catholic religion in Peter's text just as I saw Catholic religion in a fast-food sign the other day. The sign said "ANGUS DELI SANDWICHES." In my mind the "l" in deli fell away and the "n" and "g" in angus transposed and I thought that Burger King was offering holy sandwiches: Lamb of God sandwiches.

That really happened to me; but it doesn't make it right.



ANGUS DELI INDEED! I will have an "Angus Burger" when next at McDonalds! The magic word to make beef taste better! Poor Angus cattle! Perhaps that is what made for the cleaning out of your intestines! Think of everything in religious terms and you will feel better at least about some things!

I called Handke's editor at Suhrkamp, Raimund Fellinger's attention to the hilarious "basket ball" bat that our world traveler creates in DER GROSSE FALL [mit grossem Schaeger!] and Raimund answered, he actually answered, quite defensively, passive aggressively:

"Ist in der zweiten Auflage korrigiert – für alle nachträglichen Besserwisser: Wie wäre es mit „Lesefehler“ – und der vollidiotische copyeditor, den es in Deutschland ja gar nicht gibt, war ich noch dazu"
["To be corrected in the 2nd edition - for all smarty pants:
how about calling it a 'reading mistake' - and the superidiotic copy editor that does not exist in Germany was I."

No proofreaders either it appears!

No reading time at the end of the day for me, your laggard in Seattle.


i dont recall if i made a subsequent comment on that religious business but but i must say i love my lay-abroad claiming that he is or used to be so girl crazy because they were "thirsting " for him... not that there is not considerable truth in that; but also the need to as it were etherealize love making in this fashion! yes that catholic reviewer missed a chance go get out of the stall of platitudes and do the church some good.