Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Peter Handke's "The Great Fall": Part 7

Chapter 3 this morning, up early again. As it did yesterday, Leselust drew me out of bed.

I opened doors and windows to air out the house. "Air out." True. But also "air in."

The actor arrives in a clearing (Lichtung). The German word is fraught with light, actual Licht, not just the potential light of a clearing. And of course I see Heidegger's Lichtungen and Holzwege in the actor's walking. Walking = Thinking. Walking in certain ways is a fine metaphor for thinking in certain ways.

The actor thinks of the woman, reminds himself that although it is true that he doesn't love her, he nonetheless, when he's with her, feels "geschmückt."

The word stops me short. The woman is his jewelry? He feels ornamented, decorated, adorned, embellished when he is with her?

The more I turn the odd idea over in my mind the more sense it makes. Being with the woman could be "thrilling," "exciting," "comforting," etc. But this is a quiet sense for the goodness of being with her. And the surprising word, the risked idea, feels just right.

"Was that nothing? He had time. He still had time, nothing more human than that."

The gentle thoughts remind me of a mood I often fell into during the year after my divorce:

26 December 2003, Provo
            Christmas packages from Tom and Nate. From Brooklyn, Tom’s gift is a CD of the Henry Jones Swing Trio. I’ve been listening to his long, sweet clarinet improvisations for hours. Nate sent me a deft sketch of a Hong Kong bridge, and a lively description of an old man he was trying to proselytize. I had sent him Ed Abbey’s response to a missionary: “So you’re going to Christianize the savages. Aren’t they savage enough already?”
Nate replied: Dad, I love you.
Ben and Sam and Tim joined Lyn and me for Christmas dinner. She prepared a vegetarian feast that made us forget the taste of ham. The boys seem to be adjusting well enough to the divorce (who knows what lurks beneath?) and have responded generously to the idea of their father with a new partner.
Maren and Brandon brought Kylie and Kadon to see their grandfather, and later Joe and Tracy stopped by with little Jake, adopted in November. We sat around a crackling fire, enjoying the warmth and light, wary only when the children got too close.
            Nothing stands still. Feels good, mostly.
"He had time, nothing more human than that."

The clearing fills with ugly people, not people with physical attribute the actor could name. They are just not beautiful. And why not? He tries to think this through. They are ugly because they are not aware. They don't stop, they don't even think of stopping at the threshold between woods and clearing. The German word is "innehalten" and carries the delicate sense of consciousness, of inner awareness. 

The people are also ugly because of their consciousness-stealing cell phones and cameras. Those are my words: consciousness-stealing. They're abstract in a way this book never is. The narrator describes what the actor is seeing and thinking with words that are not ugly, not ugly because they're not typical, not like "consciousness-stealing."

They are ugly, these people who now fill the clearing, because they have taken on the identities of types: walkers, runners, bike riders, senior hiking groups, etc.

Reading this section I know what will come, inevitably, as it did in Peter's play "Voyage by Dugout." The worst of these ugly people (in the play it was the clueless and aggressive "Internationals") will be riding mountain bikes: "On their specialized bikes, plowing through the wildly disturbed grass, were the four traders of the City and Rural Bank."

Here is my own mountain bike, yesterday morning after the rain and after reading and writing about Chapter 2, here is my "Specialized Stump Jumper" leaning against a bush of mountain mahogany, here is proof of my own typecasting almost 2000 feet above my house with a slope of aspen and douglas fir rising higher to the south, here, in short, is why I leaned over to Zarko in Vienna's Burgtheater at the premiere of "Voyage by Dugout" and whispered: "Don't ever tell Peter I ride a mountain bike!"

Does it make a difference that I rode alone? That I stopped to admire the blue larkspur, the white woodland star, the wild rose? That as I rode I thought about the book I had been reading, grateful for the tempos and rhythms its sentences had drawn my own thinking into?



AS to "geschmueckt" let us never forget that Handke has only been with beautiful actresses all his life! There are reasons for it aside his extreme sense of beauty and nausea at the sight of the ugly. I am not up to chapter III. I may forge ahead to page 40 tonite. Handke and two melatonin pills and I sleep well, under my favorite Hawthorne tree in our prairie, as long as the weather will permit this luxury. Yes, of course walking: clears your head and you notice far more and precisely. another word for "Lichtung" is "Schneise" which played a huge role in my first nightmare [age 4] and in our woods, a fir forest. x mr


Let me add to the above. The son's of beautiful mothers are fated to be beauty addicts, Handke is, so am I. However, GROSSER FALL appears to have two instances where he tells the woman that he does not love her - this is a woman who is described quite marvelously in its simplicity as being "gut zu ihm" - also in departing before he really waked, only leaving the draft of her going to her job behind! A pasha's wish fulfilled I recall from my own pasha days! On the other hand there is Henry Greene's wish: "To eat hot buttered toast with cunty fingers..." something that requires the presence of two, pasha and [?] pasheene??? This telling such a woman that he does not love her is also typically Handkean gratuitous cruelty. It eliminates her fantasy of a repeat peformace or of more. xx m.r


Once again I must say that the various reviewers
fail to mention the rather important sequence when
the "woman's" husband appears to appear and berate
our "actor" in no uncertain terms and length
yet the scene ends with the actor calling him a
mere "silhouette" - a wish? a denial? some compromise
formation, combination of the two?

And there really is a most important moment
as the "Actor" cuts himself a slice of bread:
"Der Schau Spieler" gab sich den Anschein [top.29]
He is playing all this? It is all make believe inside
his head? He reminds me of the Bloch of GOALIE fame!
If we emphasize into this, where are we as
real experiencing readers then?
And end of paragraph 1 p.31 "...sind geworden und
gewesen was der Fall ist." Everything is THE CASE
- the beginning of philosophy according to an Austrian
emigre who is rather important to Handke, an yet another
dimension to FALL, n'est pas? Anyhow, a quite mysterious
journey our actor is on, also internally. bears several
readings right from the git-go.
fine cool clear dewy morning here in Seattle under my
Hawthorn tree. Robins abating since most of us are now
in a "family" way.