Thursday, July 14, 2011

Peter Handke's "The Great Fall": Part 17

The novel's final chapter, Chapter 9, begins with the actor walking through the city in the night, waiting for the appointed time when he will pick up the woman from her night work. He walks constantly, as if he is not allowed to stand still. There is risk here ("Es stand etwas auf dem Spiel. Viel. Alles."), and after the statement of risk that, in German, means literally "There was something standing on the game," or, perhaps a bet had been laid, he lightens the mood by referring to himself as that guy in the film "Mission Impossible."

Over the years, critics, both positive and negative alike, have missed this playful, dialectical aspect of Peter's work. They keep seeing him as earnestly sensitive and metaphysically inclined. This is, as I read him, an anti-metaphysical writer who nevertheless works his ass off to create what meaning there is to be created; and then winks.

Before becoming Peter's traveling companion and translator, Zarko once interviewed him and mentioned what a sensitive writer he was. "Sensitive is a word for condoms," Peter replied.

On this last walk through the city (it's explicitly not "flanieren") the actor comes across a man who is dying on the ground by a subway entrance. The man looks at him and the look means "I recognize or know you (erkennen). You are known!"

Okay, here a break to think about realism.

This is not likely, that the actor is gazed at by a dying man. It's the last chapter and we need a climax or a set of them. So the narrator drags in a dying man. As a reader I think: the narrator just dragged in a dying man. How likely is that?

But then I think, as I have before: this isn't a realistic novel. It's a novel about what makes our lives more or less real, more or less authentic, more or less governed by the idiocies and wisdoms of our cultures. It's not a Dutch realist painting. The point here is simply that the actor needs the eyes of another person looking into his eyes, he needs face-to-face relationships to give him meaning. This is psychologically realistic, not a realist plot.

Finally, we're not alone in wondering. The narrator knows readers may be asking how the actor knew the man was dying: "He knew it, he still knew such things."

Back to the playful dialectic. The actor hears children laughing and thinks he has lost the ability to be drawn into such laughter: "Permeated by seriousness, he longed to laugh."

More children, these two swinging in a lit-up park.

Apples begin to appear, first in a display window, next in a phrase a passing man says to the woman he's holding close: "My apple,"and finally after thinking he will ram his head into a wall, the actor instead becomes a juggler with two apples."

If the Great Fall is coming, there have to be apples.

In the book the actor was reading in the morning, the man who ran amok, the man so troubled by things like the lemon seed, came to an understanding with things as the evening came. The man who runs amok in the film is almost speechless. The actor who keeps threatening to run amok thinks about the two fictional cases as he has his own experiences. And I as a reader ........ yes, I've written this already.

Two distraught people, a young man who drops everything as he leaves his house and stands on the sidewalk without picking up the things, just stands there, and a young woman who is crying because, the actor surmises, she has been jilted, she has lost her job, and she has no savings. The actor picks up the young man's things and gives him a hug. He can't think of how to help the woman and that impotence turns to anger at her.

Headed for the Bar of Destiny (not the Bar of Hope) where the woman will be waiting for him. She is waiting there, and he can tell from the back of her head that she, unlike he, has a mission. He can tell she has thirst and he thinks that she, like the others sitting there, is one of the latter-day saints, a different sort from the normal ones (that must be my ones, the ones I belong to and the ones I left, otherwise known as Mormons). What makes these people saintly is hunger and thirst and thirst and hunger -- for food and drink. Then comes the second hunger, for sex with the woman (remember the desire-filled mass the actor celebrates while the priest celebrates the more normal mass). Finally comes the third hunger, the great hunger, but only after he hears the heavy slow steps of a mother climbing a wooden staircase up to the abandoned room of the lost son and then the murmur of the inconsolable: "Grant that . . ."

"He stood, and stood, and stood. Third hunger, the great one. Time for the second Gentle Course/Path (Lauf). Instead, the Great Fall."

When the three hungers were introduced just before the actor entered the church, the third hunger, for Geist/Spirit/Mind, the actor thought of Goethe, not the Goethe of "Faust," which didn't much concern the actor, but the Goethe of the saying about the "'Oberen Leitenden', welches den Geist meinte," the 'guiding spirits' (or high leading ones?) that meant Geist. 

The phrase is from Goethe's "Westoestlicher Divan: Der höchste Charakter orientalischer Dichtkunst ist, was wir Deutsche Geist nennen, das Vorwaltende des oberen Leitenden. . . .

And it's the actor's third hunger. How to satisfy it? By a second walk, a gentle walk through the day, the next day. For that he needs time.

He has no time.

And that's it.

A few final thoughts.

First the standing image I've been following throughout. Having read the entire novel, I see at least three different kinds of standing, although they are closely connected by the fact that they are the same image. First is the standing that opposes falling, the standing that works against entropy. Second is the standing that is a kind of threatening power, the standing of the policemen or of the actor himself in the subway. The actor's standing, standing, and standing at the end may entail both of those, but it is also the third kind of standing, the one that is stasis. There's life in the gentle moving on. It's a mobile standing, dialectical erection.

Second, the actor leaves the woman's house and travels toward her over the course of the entire day. He finally reaches her (although he remains at a distance). A second gentle walk would repeat that course, from woman to woman. The last image of the novel is the mother lamenting her lost son. Although the actor has set Faust aside, how can we not hear echoes of Faust here? 

 Das Unbeschreibliche,
Hier ist's getan;
Das Ewig-Weibliche
Zieht uns hinan.

The eternal womanly draws us, draws the actor as she draws Faust. And let's make no mistake here, the heaven into which Faust is raised is a heaven carefully composed/constructed out of Renaissance paintings and is thus a re-entry into the very constructed world Faust has longed to transcend (see  
Neil Flax, "The Presence of the Sign in Goethe's 'Faust,'" PMLA 98 (1983): 183-203).

I wanted to end this series with an appropriate image, a visual equivalent of sorts to the thoughts Peter's novel has evoked.

Last night I took a hundred photos of Utah Valley during a sunset. These three may share something with the powerful novel that undermines its own power, with the simple story that is so complex, with the coming darkness of the Great Fall still illuminated by the already absent sun.


michael morrow said...

thank you scott and michael and *...the more I learn the more confirmation about my view I get...this has been a great seminar...


Scott has read the book to the end and already commented interestingly on the last chapters, and can now dwell on it as a whole while on a wagon trek to Oregon! I've read a bit further in Chapter 3 last nite, to a section that reminded me of an aspect of our man that I find neither the most attractive nor all that interesting, but that is of long standing: where the aesthetic and the moralistic coincide in his extreme dislike of the sheeples when they come in herds, worst of all when they are dressed with decal decorated suits. here it happens when he leaves the wood for the clearing, as long as he sticks to his exulting and description of grasses and dewdrops [see anon] he and i are on the same wavelength, even when he insists on the 'transition' 'threshold' between forest and meadow, that it is normal to stop, he drives that point to a nicely ridiculous realm by insisting that probably even the underground mole will notice by the change of light penetrating into its blindness! this probably far more forest person than handke will ever be, agrees entirely, it is an instinctive thing to halt at the threshold, either leaving or entering a forest, if only for the eyes to adjust, that is a littoral too, of which i recall becoming very respectful on reading Steinbeck/ Rickett's no longer did i go tramping straight into the water when i lived for three years at the shores of that [9 month] steam bath, i became very careful where i tread. handke's dislike of the sheeples is of long standing. it appears in the poems of NONSENSE & HAPPINESS [$ 164.00 a first edition hardback, used!] as hatred of "Levi-Jeans people" - it is absent in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, when Handke "opened himself up" ! I myself am bothered by them here in Seattle early in the mornings [I rise between 4 and 5 a.m. with my feathered friends] with the troupes of uniformed bicyclists at the coffee shops - however, each, if you talk to them, has a soul! their uniformity is periodic.


since i am lagging so far behind i thought i'd make it point to enumerate the various personae filters that Handke has adopted in his narratives, for about forty years:
1] German writer = SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL, with his "Austria dramaturg" buddy, Fredi Kolleritch
2] Cultural attache, Keuschnig = A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING
3] LEFT HANDED WOMAN in the book of the same name, a real effort for the imagination, and, biographically, an ingenious form of wish fullfilment!
4] Sorger, the Geologist in A SLOW HOME COMING.
5] The archeologist Loser in ACROSS/ CHINESE OF THE WATER TORTURE as CHINESE DES SCHMERZEN ought to be called.
6] "Writer" of the AFTERNOON OF...
7] ex-Cultural Attache Keuschnig = NO-MAN'S BAY
8] Pharmacist, no name, ONE DARK NITE I LEFT MY SILENT HOUSE
9] Bankieress = DEL GREDOS
10] Don Juan = a major imaginative effort this in getting
the fellow's various sides and sites down in such a condensed space.
11] ex singer actress = KALI, a very different book from the personally focused lenses, it goes underground and opens a salt works and its manager and village...
12] ex-author, MORAVIAN NIGHT
13] and now actor...ex about to be...
i am leaving out THE ABSENCE which is devoid of such a lens, DER HAUSIERER [1969] has a just a pure registering consciousness.

eine sammlung der meisten rezensionen des buches ist auf dieser
blog seite zu finden:

* [re Handke ana his collecting of dew
Samuel Johnson, in his life of Dryden, reports that throughout the spring of 1686 the fifty-six-year-old laureate could often be seen strolling Leicester Field at daybreak, barefoot, in his nightclothes, skimming dew from leaves into a glass beaker. Dryden apparently ignored anyone who addressed him during these excursions. The beaker full, he would disappear into 44 Gerrard Street to work, in the same nightclothes, onThe Hind and the Panther. No one is sure what Dryden did with the dew. Johnson admits uneasily that he is supposed to have drunk it, though Green and Giordani argue that he used it to boil gallnuts for ink. According to neighbors, Dryden sometimes leaned from his study window during work and in an inaudible whisper asked passing children or carriages to be quiet while elaborately pretending to shoot them down with bow and arrow. ]

Scott Abbott said...

michael, i've been wondering about those personal responses to certain kinds of types/people, the ones we know so well from earlier work. are the just quirks? do they just break into the narrative like flies?

still needs some thinking through on my part.

wonder what you'll think about the way this gets turned on its head later in the chapter?

and i wonder if that changes things.


just a response to what i think is your query, scott. handke has admitted that he also puts asides and opinions into his books, and obviously uses them as payback, i.e. the madly shitting bulldog on the tarmac being the german critic reich-ranicki for his idiotic attempt to destroy handke. handke has a mean and petty side, at times, and he does not hesitate to put what upsets him into his books. the reich-ranicki matter also comes up in No-Man's-Bay in reference to his publisher Siegfried Unseld then publishing Reich-Ranicki anthologies. i mean, a smart publishing move! i doubt that unseld regarded reich-ranicki as more than a useful idiot, but a powerful one. also helped neutralize him. as you recall from Malte's book, Handke at one time wrote Unseld an infuriated letter, leaving the firm over this matter. so from the point of view of free-standing literary work of art, these things are kinds of impurities of the LEBENSWELT that then enter... folks like Kunkel who uses terms that do not cross my lips make a big theoretical to do over this.

i wanted to say that once our "actor" is underway into the clearing there is a sequence of the most delightful and playful narrative,and since i dislike this impressionistic, adectivitis way of describing
let me translate a sample to indicate what I mean, this is whereHandke's virtuosity as a writer and playwright stands him in excellent stead, for my next posting, tomorrow morning.
hoping your wagon wheels hold up and your oxen and that your tarp isnt a sieve, cause me thinks Oregon Trail is about to get wet. x michael r.


The below few lines from a section that starts on p.91 give a hint of what our man is up to as he has his "actor" walk through the clearing, which becomes very much populated - that is, the author, the playwright populates it. If you happen to know that there is something I call the "Handke troupe" that has been appearing in in his work in his work ever since the novel/ screenplay ABSENCE [1987] and the late 80s early 90s plays, THE ART OF ASKING, THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER, and that in the 1993 novel MY YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S BAY, which also features a forest, the foret de Chaville, the narrator/writer ex-cultural attache comes on groups living there you will know that you are very much in Handke's, here, very playful world, and that he will also be verbally playful:

p. 91 "So grüsste meinen Schauspieler, unter anderen: eine Reiterin (jung und blond); ein patrouillierendes Polizistenpaar; ein Läufer mit untertassengrossen Hörern über beiden Ohren; ein Priester, im Ornat, mit Ministrant im Ministrantengewand (unterwegs durch das hohe Gras zu einer letzten Ölung?); ein anderer Schauspieler, der im Kreuz- und Quergehen auf de Lichtung laut seine Texte lernte; a Balkan Prostituierte, die vor der Nacht unten in der Megapole dahier ein wenig Luft zu schöpfen versuchte, oder sich versteckte vor ihrem Zuhälter;....

Among those greeting my actor were: a horse woman (young and blonde); a pair of cops; a runner with headphones the size of saucers on both ears; a priest, in full regalia, accompanied by an altar boy in an altar boy's garment (on the way through the high grass a last unction?); another actor who was learning his text while walking every which way crossways through the clearing; a Balkan prostitute who was catching her breath from the night in the Megapolis or hiding out from her pimp..

michael morrow said...

I love your interchanges.....I really appreciate the personal experience and knowledge you both have with Handke...seems that art, to be art, must touch a familiar chord somehow, somewhere..and according to your insights, Handke is an emotional, alive, critical, sensitive, horny son of a bitch just like me...oh wow....imagine that!!!

The story is no longer boring...seems that art is as much an autobiography as anything...of myself!!


I am well into chapter IV now. However, prior to commenting
on it let me add to my comment on that extra-ordinary ch. 3.
of what is becoming a deceptively extraordinary book... just an actor ambling off to town! The hell it is. There is mention of the manner in which dandelion seeds propagate themelves like a division of Canadian
parachutist coming down near Nijmegen/ Arnheim in the fall of 1944 and being mowed down by German machine guns to become great fields with little white crosses... NO! that metaphor is mine! but what transpires once the actor catches sight of the blackberry pickers is that kind of topsy turvy world which in its last sentence "Unter diesen Sammlern war der dort mit dem Kopf jetzt im Ameisenhaufen die Ausnahme gewesen, die Elite." {Of the pickers, he, the one there with his head in the antheap had been the exception, the elite.} But instead of duplicating the grammatical tour de force of DIE STUNDE ALS WIER NICHTS VON EINANDER WUSSTEN [THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER] where Handke, in German takes readers by the pony tail of their syntax and does not let go until the very end [a control feat that the images neither in film nor on stage, can accomplish!] the playful manner of the preceding paragraphs effect a similar whirl. Our genius of sleight of hand trickster! Our jongleur!

Chapter 14 concentrates for the first time, at least that I recall in Handke's work, on the sense of smell and on a person who smells stinks reeks to high heaven, very close focus now, very individualized, no over all whirl. not that i was unaware that Handke's nose is as good as that of your best blood hound! Turns out this fellow is an old acquaintance of our "actor's" walk along the same route, not only is he a frequent visitor of the woman's house, but he takes this route often. And we gather that he'd prefer to have the entire forest for himself, not be disturbed by pickers, but this acquaintance who and he have exchanged marvelously described silent greetings - is he a double it occurs at least to me, which may be an act of interpretation and therefore suspect - appears to have started to decay as of the moment his mother died, his mother who had cared for him as though he were a school kid his entire life, a true MUTTER SOEHNCHEN as Handke has the woman in MORAVIAN NIGHT deride someone very much like Handke... He is also described as the inverse of Wilde's protagonist in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY , that is, he decays visibly whereas his image picture at home remains forever youthful....
so much for now.


My suspicion that the actor's visibly decaying "acquaintance" is
a double or inverted mirror image of the "actor" is reinforced
when we are informed that as of a certain moment he starts to say
"shut the fuck up" and not to his kid but to every damn sound,
even the locust whispers in the grass. If you have read Handke's MY YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S-BAY,
at the latest if you have read his MORAVIAN NIGHT
which has not yet been published in English, you will become
aware of Handke's susceptibility to be infuriated, especially by
industrial noises, lawn mowers and leaf blowers en especial. MORAWIAN
thus has a tour de force CONGRESS OF NOISE as it has a number of others which I cite in my initial take. The "acquaintance" thus becomes yet what I - using a psychoanalytic concept - call a "part object" - the most famous of which are that marvelous restaurateur in NO-MAN'S-BAY who prepares the world's best dishes but only permits guests he likes into his establishment in the, it appears, "foret de Chaville", the world's
best word salad!, and that therefore he keeps going broke and moving deeper into the forest... it is a notion worthy of Musil... and of course the sadistic side of Don Juan, Leoporello, his chauffeur in DON JUAN [AS TOLD BY HIMSELF] ties for first place! "Part object" - remember it, it is a useful notion when approaching the characterology of authors, especially who exploit themselves, whom they know best, for their work.

Some of those on whose nerves the stinking to high heaven
part object got not just with his stench but his shouting
actually miss him once he finally rots entirely away!


Appr. the last half of Chapter 4 then has the "actor" acting out!, mimicking his acquaintance's behavior, being far more literal and serious, sort of running amok one could say! and it even calls him what he is: a MUTTER SOEHNCHEN. Not at all what I at least expected. The point being? I am not at all sure what the point is, perhaps to make the childish acquintance grow up by taking his actions to a kind of extreme?

Although all this is meant to transpire on your ordinary day's walk from your lovers house through a forest and meadow, this is no ordinary day's walk and, therefore, although there is a semblance of a walking progression, we are really in the world of Handke the collage artist, the weaver of carpets, stitcher of quilts as which Handke indicated he would work and did work as of the 1979 THE LESSON
OF ST. VICTOIRE, thus notions of "organic" work of art need to be regarded from St. Cezanne's perspective. MORAVIAN made me puzzle about its form, and GREAT FALL/CASE formally speaking increases the

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Date: Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 8:58 PM
Subject: # 5 > Chapter 5 grows straight out of # 4 and ctd. to engage the notion of "actor" - after all, our "actor" has been acting out, more than just mimicking: and there he said initially that he could not imagine anyone whose face he might assume any more, there were no more, parts, yet he is supposed to play the part of a fellow who runs amok. however, this so far i find the most puzzling section, in one respect - the respect of dramatic pictorial action - the actor impersonating and acting out that decaying sadsack's actions, and so vigorously is a scene that i could see it transposed into THE DAY WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER, the wordless play of successive stage images and sometimes action by its rapidly changing cast; in that sense this close up of Chapter 4 can also be regarded as following with at least artistic logic, Handke's artistic logic, out of the sometime whirl of Chapter 3. But perhaps there is more at stake than the actor proving something and then retaining a bit of the feature of the sadsack the way he claims he has retained traces of all those he has impersonated, played...

> Handke has his way of doing RECIT and has had it for a long time. i want to point in this connection to a wonderful section, in the middle of the 1973 play THEY ARE DYING OUT: there its protagonist Herr Quitt and his factotum Hans discuss, in a quiet interlude, where they also drool over a marvelous Stifter text, a down and out naturalistic play they have seen, it might have been a Kroetz play, anyhow a play that exploits the misery of the characters on stage; victim theater as I call it has since made further headway - what it has to do with theater is obscure, say THE LARAMIE PROJECT which re-enacts a gruesome murder of an American gay may in the state of Wyoming. Indeed, a deplorable crime, but putting a deplorable crime on stage, does not make it anything less than deplorable as theater. Handke's position since his first theater work has been that the only kind of reality that can take place in a theatrical space is play. But it can be very real play indeed, not that American theater with its hopeless naturalism has been able to follow his prose demands real reading, anyhow Handke's texts really engage, each time in a different manner too, gotta stay on your tippi toes with the guy. All I really want to say about that tonite in this connection is that as of Chapter III we are in a theatrical mode, the director pictures the scene and various actors , including our actor start to play...9 pm. Mo. july 18/2011



In one of my previous comments I listed the various
personae Handke has adopted for his books, not just in his stead but to sharpen and delimit his focus, e.g. Sorger in A SLOW HOMECOMING,
who as the reader may recall has a sidekick, Laufer [the runner/ his assistant and a geologist certainly needs such a one, especially
in Alaska], Sorger the first of these protagonists with a sidekick, not that all of them have sidekicks. DON JUAN has his chauffeur. NO-MAN'S BAY is an exhibition of Handke as his own GESAMTKUNSTWERK - all his artistic sides are manifest.

Our "actor" here has not so much a sidekick
but picks up features of "the other" during his walk through
the forest and the clearing. He picks up features of the other which then suddenly pop out of him. So the actor who, after the
woman has gone off to work, begins to behave rather oddly --
is a kind of vessel of the parts he has played, as he himself is aware. In that respect, the "personae" of the actor is far LIGHTER than any of the preceding, but also serves less well for the transmission of his state of mind to the reader, or rather differently. That is one important effect that Handke's text usally exert, at least one me, which is why, etc. etc. Quite a few of these works are examplary demonstrations of different kinds of narrative virtuosity. It goes nearly without saying that they have multiple effects, magicking the world anew verbally in DEL GREDOS, sharpening your senses.
With respect to making me see more sharply, Handke is not the only one. I recall Jim Krusoe's GIRL FACTORY enabling me to regard my nearby shopping but no fucking paradise UNIVERSITY VILLAGE with far beadier eyes than I had.
But GREAT FALL/ MAJOR CASE is lighter, more playful for having an "actor" as it's protagonist. It is a personae with possibilities.

As our actor finally leaves the woods and clearing and all that is going on there behind, and he hears or only hallucinates the other's "shut the fuck up" as a kind of occasional burp, he reaches the height overlooking the metropolis. Handke readers might recall a similar view of Paris from THE LEFT HANDED WOMAN
here the link to a trailer for the film Handke made of it:

The description of Paris here verges for some time, VERGES I say, on the cliches. However, this is not the same Paris as in LEFT HANDED WOMAN. It is a world metropolis, it extends, and verges on the ocean and the montagnes and has nearly metaphysical qualities as our actor experiences it from the heights. It is nearly grand, that is how it strikes me,
and Handke is quite capable of doing grandeur, or doing Shakepearean
metaphorik as in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES


There are some awfully nice perches along the Oregon coast I recall.



Scott writes that he is about to get off his perch on the Oregon coast
that he has shared with a fine assortment of shore birds, no doubt, and walk to the
tide pools, and I want to make a few comment about walking and, specifically, about
our "actor" and Handke walking.

"It has become hard to walk on the earth." True enough. Also for me, who also
spent his early years in a village and "in country.": First of all, walking
long distances, such as "the actor" does through the woods into a clearing
and then into a city... the sort of thing that used to be normal - provokes
the attention of the intelligence services. I had one memorable walk with Handke
across the Brookln Bridge, a light snow was falling, I was taking him to Michael Brodsky's in Brooklyn, Handke was back from his then last trip to Alaska, and a side trip
to San Francisco where he appeared with Wim Wenders at some reading that John McVey
described to me later, and Colorado where it appears a sky instructor friend of
his died, this too memorialized in A SLOW HOME COMING, the novel part for those
of you who have the American tryptich edition that also contains LESSON OF ST. VICTOIRE and A CHILD STORY, and had ensconced himself in the Hotel Adams to write that book.
He did not want to hear my Alaska stories, he said he was full up, and I could
understand that, he also didn't remember that it was I who years before had recommended Alask as having truly different winters. But it was a nicely idyllic walk indeed,
for the lack of car traffic, the quiet and that light snowfall and the light
on that wonder of bridges. I kept my self half way sane during my 25 years in
New York city by taking very long nightly walks there.


PART II [on walking]Handke of course is a famoua walker meanwhile, he walks off his upsets that way too. NO-MAN-BAY has stretches of walking in Yugoslavia, ONE DARK NIGHT of doing so in SPAIN
for really long distances Handke prefers to take the bus. you also see a lot
more driving by bus than as the driver of an automobile. It appears that Handke walked around Scotland at one time, which bring to mind a champion Scottish walker I
met in Mulege, BCS, where I also did a lot of walking, but also had a Mule,
for longer distances in the heat there, the famous Durango. I met this little Scotsman
in the main watering hole, inside a big Spanish style court yard, La
Hacienda and he claimed to be walking the entire circumference of the
1000 mile long peninsula. He was on the Sea of Cortez side part of his
trek, about 2 thirds done, which, since Baja California has lots of bahias
means that the entire trek is at least 3 k miles, not just the 2 k of simply down
and back up on the other side, San Felipe was meant to be his final stop I
think, although he could have gone on to the point where the Colorado
River or what is left of it spills into the Sea.

I don't expect that my
hardy Scotts terrier however, often walked backwards [!] as "the actor" does
chiefly he says to pay his respect, to receive a kind of ablution for having
committed the crime of visiting a spot [!] - it also says "places are the last dramas"
in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES. Handke may be the most site specific, site exploring
and site honoring author since Stifter. Walking and exploring a place - say, Soria
Foret de Chaville must be his most explored haunting ground.

Here, in GROSSER
FALL there is scarcely any mention of mushrooms, the "dingsbums" of LUCIE IN DEM WALT MIT...NO-MAN'S-BAY it appears was written in part in a hollowed out tree trunk
cradle. However, here the woods, the clearing, and the city serve the purpose
more of stage sets, are symbolic settings i suppose one/I could say. And the
entire expedition - i am now at midpoint where the "actor", a representer is an actor - encounters an old ex-neighbor who may be entirely demented, a stage toward which
his loneliness was driving him even years ago when they were neighbors, in another country, another time, and the wench might be dead. The "actor" this time also walks
briefly backward, to his own surprise, as he approaches the city. Sort of dangerous
to do unless you know the area, if you keep it up for any length of time. But
walking backwards, that different fashion which I doubt will ever catch on again things will look different and you will see more and differently. So much for now.... and




I have been mulling over Scott's initial and oft-repeated comment that
DER GROSSE FALL is about "narration," something inside me has been thawing
softening my denseness in that respect.

Let me begin by harking back to Handke's most famous book, the one
that hooked into the world's psyche, SORROW BEYOND DREAMS. The book was written in Kronberg, near Frankfurt, shortly
after Maria Sivec committed suicide in Summer 1971, an event that would have a lasting
effect on Handke's life, and which keeps cropping up in statements, interviews,
THE REPETITION [1986] is the promised re-writing of the Handke/ Sivec family
history; the event is not mentioned in the fairly magnificent 3/4 autobiographically inspired Slovenian resistance drama, FOREVER STORM [2010/11]. In MORAWIAN NIGHT [2007] his
mother appears to the narrator in a dream, telling him not to feel guilty,
"you always did already as a child, you fool" she says: a super-ego wish imprecation.
Even if invented, and not dreamt, the thought counts.

The narrative of SORROW is fairly straightforward and factual, matter-of-factual
yet the manner in which the fairly horrendous facts of a thwarted life are conveyed
avoid the tropes of the usual kind of way in which such tragedies are told.
Moreover, the text criticizes these very very terms. And berates itself for
its inability to articulate them better. Yet the son and mourner
and infuriated story teller's emotionality enters these fairly objectivist
precincts, I would say by means of the concision of the telling, and the reader,
I at at least, sense the fury behind the story of a talented happy girl's life
that came to naught due to context, circumstances that conspired against her,
starting with the lack of educational opportunity. A lot of readers have
seen the story of their own mothers in that book. Stunted lives. Handke also
said about SORROW that after he was done ["i will get back to all that later" is the book's last sentence] he felt like lying again after such much truth-telling. Turned
out that he actually lied about that graduation trip he claimed to have taken
with his actual father, Herr Schoenemann/herr [i keep mixing up the two names].
No such trip, no anxiety on the real father's score that father and son would
be mistaken for a gay couple. Handke's homophobia! He looked a bit like a Mignon
when he was young, so did I. Both of us have aged into fairly hard-bitten Tomcats,
and I never found a condom that was as sensitive as I wanted.

Much time and many great and a few minor books and great and a few minor plays later, the instantly 1966 perfect playwright - whom howver it took one or two long prose texts to find a way to make himself comprehensible to a wider public [HORNISSEN and my beloved DER HAUSIERER did not do the trick] is still playing [or playing with delight now] on the theme, and illustratively so on the matter of narration.



One question that one can ask of DER GROSSE FALL is whether there was some existential
need for it to be written, aside Handke's needing to put four good hours a day
in as a writer, and needing to "stay in the picture" : any huge urgency? Perhaps
for his own sake to find out how he felt about himself and to send out another
letter in a bottle for his audience.

If Handke could not wait to flee Salzburg in 1987, for reasons that become clear
from the novel LE CHINOIS DE DOULEUR [Across in English] 1984, and AFTERNOON OF A WRITER [1987],
and the self-critique with a fortunate peace making with a woman in MORAWIAN NIGHT [a theme, that of the salvaging feminine, that is also addressed in the later plays, DER GROSSE FALL manifests- Handke will always be an exhibitionist, that is one of his major drives - an aging actor who is to some extent at peace with himself and with pleasure while fears, gruesome sides, pathetic sides {"i can also be one of the most pathetic" is an all important exclamation in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES! [1981/2], and I think I know why] appear as projections in the course of his daylong walk to the city. But these upsurges of old angers and self-disgust appear somewhat encapsulated, the existential fury is not
denied or avoided, but it is held in abeyance, the priestliness and the woman hold stronger sway. Oddly, some reviewers felt that DER GROSSE FALL indicated Handke's making his peace or return to the city, which would be a complete misreading. The megalopolis
holds few attractions, but for the woman who happens to have an apartment there
and does not need to spend every night in her house in the woods. Whether this stocktaking this "report of the state of things in 2010" needed to be told in quite this odd fashion, whether this is the most adequate way of representation by way of the innerworld of the
outerworld procedure, its translation into an realized as if proposition? I am still uncertain when I think of earlier less ambivalent solutions, such as THE AFTERNOON OF A WRITER. Perhaps Handke is on the way towards yet a new way of writing novels.

Scott Abbott said...

The thinking about Wunschloses Ungluck, highlighting the narrative aspects, is a good connection, I think. Any text that isn't also about itself, about narration if it's prose, isn't much more than entertainment. At least that's how I see it.