Friday, July 1, 2011

Peter Handke's Latest Novel

This book has been lying on my shelf for a couple of months now. Because I like Peter's work so much and because his prose requires extended concentration on my part and because I now have a week or two without pressing concerns and because my friend Michael Roloff has begun reading the book and because this morning while riding my bike up the mountain I kept thinking about how the title might translate into English and because I always write better after reading a couple of pages of anything Peter has written, I decided to begin reading the novel this morning and to post my notes as I go.

Beginning at the end: "Great Falls, Montana, Juli-September 2011."

The book was written in the future, then, in a place with a name that echoes the title.

How to translate the title?

The German word "Fall" has a lot of meanings, including "case" (both as in grammatical case and as in "if that's the case"), "fall" (as in all the meanings that have to do with falling, including Adam's fall and falling water and so on), etc.

I think, given the "Great Falls, Montana" ending, and given that the idea of "case" isn't connected to the word "fall" in English, that I'd stick with "The Great Fall" for an English title.

Now to the first sentences, which might be translated as follows: "That day, the one that ended with the Great Fall, began with a morning storm. The man, the one who is to be the subject of this narration, was awakened by a powerful thunderclap. The house, along with the bed, will have trembled and for a long moment will have continued to shake. Moment: that had no connection to the man lying there. Frightened out of his sleep, he kept his eyes closed and waited -- how would the event continue."

The repetitive rhythm of the first three sentences, each with a phrase between commas after the stated subject, begs to finds its way into a translation. In German, the third sentence's verb begins with "wird erzittert" which could mean that the house is shaken. The final part of the verb (haben) doesn't come until the end of the sentence, so not till that point does a reader realize that the tense is future perfect instead of present. That tension, which I can't reproduce in English, draws attention to the fact of narration.

In any case, the future ending and the first three sentences swaying between past, present, and future firmly establish this story as a problem in narration.

More as the reading progresses.


michael morrow said...

Oh thank you Scott, based on you stated respect for Peter's writing, I am looking forward to following along as you translate and discuss this work...


I posted a link to your initial take also on my facebook page which is riddled with links to reviews of DER GROSSE FALL. Let me make a couple of observations: 1] Handke ctd. to write the most amazing openings - one paragraph and he has you in his grasp! [2] It might have been a bomb that struck nearby, not just a thunderbolt! The narrator waits out the aftermath! Rather the opposite of our famous Goalie who instantly mis-interprets and make "the wrong move." Handke always signs off his book, with the time-line of its composition and its place: in this time as a joke! And since the narrator is about to "play" someone who runs "amok" but then does not even do that, that is "play amok", we who have read our Handke can't but help think of the many times he has said that he feels like that three times a day.


As promised, I have begun a 2nd reading of DER GROSSE FALL,
the opening is as terriffic as I found it a first time around,
and also fresh, especially so perhaps after spending so much
time with such a different work as STURM is. Just this note
for the time being, and also that the opening, the very first paragraph
still elicits a sense of deja vue of the opening of Golding's PINCHER MARTIN, if you happen to know it: It is a novel that occurrs within
one moment, the narrator is someone whose ship has been torpedoed
and he hangs onto consciousness, his tongue pressing on a shattered
tooth, thinking that he was clinging to a rock in the North
Atlantic. It is quite a tour de force. And with that first paragraph which I imagine should quote, I got that feeling: hey, this, all of this is going on in the narrtor's head, he is having an extra lucid dream.


For the sake of completeness, here is a link to the collection of German reviews I have put on the revista-of-reviews blog, and of those, once you are past the first thousand words or so, Lothar Struck's is worth reading:


PART I of two September 7 comments:

Going into a bit more detail now on the second calmer reading, I noticed that Handke does what is called exposition of who the nameless ex-actor is: p.14-18. Sketching in a bit of background Handke only started to do so as of the 1993 NO MAN'S BAY, and too cursorily there for my taste, I always thoughtit would have done the novel better if there had been
a description of what kind of metamorphosis Keuschnig
had gone through.

As to the name of you blog, Scott, GOALIE Josef Bloch, all
we find out about him is that he is an ex who now works in construction and that he doesn't seem to be able to differentiate between one and two and makes some grievous mistakes with assumption based on his miscounts, and, giving
the chap some thought, why he kills the cashier-pick up a few hours later why he is so irritable that he chokes her to death, and then is on the run.

Here in GREAT FALL we find out that "the actor" once had profession as a tile setter, which is meant to explain why he keeps his eyes fixed on the ground [which reminded me, on some rumination, thatthe only thing I really recall from working as a tile setter
at a Middlebury College dorm with a heavy-boned Polish American crew in the Summer of 1958 is the ghastly stickiness of the rubbery goo we used to set the tiles in. Handke worked as box cutter during his late highschool and lawschool days];
that the actor is a star who although he is the first
one you notice even in a crowd scene on screen, udderwise
his is a kind of invisible obscurity. The question is, is that exposition, superbly done of course, actually necessary? In CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS, too, we have the bankieresse's background
filled in initially. Fairly standard if not old-fashioned way of proceding. Ditto, the Pharmacist of Taxham in ONE DARK NIGHT.


PART II of September 7 comment.

However, as the novels then proceed they do in anything but an old fashioned manner. The Pharmacist seems to be knocked on the head and parts of the book are told in dream syntax! The sort of thing I can do, but fear: who but an analyst and it has to be an analyst who know me, will understand. But certainly a great technical innovation, dream images are used to tell part of AFTEROON OF A WRITER, when he is injured by the gossip and feels like a hit and run victim tossed
into a ditch.

What the Bankieress experiences on her trip is far from ordinary, especially in the
various "topes" as I call these speed bump enclaves that she visits. Her amazing decent into the La Mancha... perhaps the greatest ending of any novel, so Marty Abrams feels too. Here, in THE GREAT FALL our
actor's walk to town, is of course anything but the usual amble. What an amazingly adventurous walk it is, part of it taking place in films in his head, nightmarish, idyllic, part road to Golgotha, part Parcifal coming home to Krimhild or Iseult or someone very much like it! The incredible series of epiphanies stuffed into just 60 k words. Handke might be comparable, musically, to the Prokofiev of the Classical Symphony.

My thinking about the reading experiences I have had with certain Handke novels and focusing the past few days on the devotee Lothar Struck's reviews of Handke books

has made me take the leap to write the long rumored piece on what can occur during reading what Peter Strasser call's HANDKE'S FREUDENSTOFF. About a week for a good first draft, and the experience with certain of his plays.


Subsequent to the exposition that i mention in my last comment, which follows the awakening and the shower in the rain outside, our protagonist, who is involved in all kinds of interior monologue -- which, I don't think, I have ever noticed that well handled, as though this were a demonstration to future novelists - has what seems to be a minor aneurysm, he doesn't seem to be able to use his right hand, can't grasp properly, his favorite cup, his traveling cup shatters,
not only that he has the first of quite a few instances
throughout the book where he "forgets" and then tells
himself: "Doesn't matter." As I am rereading the book, with
immense pleasure, after devoting so much thought, as we have both, to an entirely different work like STORM FOREVER

I will keep that debility, which then ceases after the brief attack, in mind and see to what purpose it is put, to keep us on the alert?, to excuse other miscues and mistakes by our so multi-valenced protagonist. However, one matter is utterly clear already towards the end of Chapter I: our man has become a
major "romancier", not just [not just!] a great lyrical
epic writer weaver.


I have read Chapter I of DER GROSSE FALL a second time
and a few sections of it more than twice. I would say I am
intrigued by this nameless chap, this aging Mastroiani
type. We know or think we know quite a bit about him by
now. He likes to wake up in bed by himself. He claims
not to love the woman, yet he has been visiting her house
for quite a few years. He has even told her that he does
not love her; normally a very cruel thing to do. She of
course may know better, which is why she allows him to keep
"coming to her house." He claim that his misses love in his life. He talks to his father in his head.He is inquisitive, if not outrightshameless in asking her if she has ever woken up from a drunken night and the man was still inside her, and what that felt like.
She seems to have lived the bohemian Tribeca life in the 70s, where you might forget the name if you even knew it of
your carnal partner, or forget that you had been partners
when you next met. However, she is a woman with her own
enterprise. Is he fearful? Is the "rain man" who appears and
then disappears from the front steps and berates him that the
woman belongs to him, and not to the actor: Was it an apparition, could easily be the case. He talks to birds, so do I! His behavior is puzzling, even for someone who is introducing the routine from
his own home to the home of a woman, where he might be more
at home, and not find certain items, such as the ironing board, "as though sleepwalking." He is not in the very best of health with his aneurysm, or small heart attack, which weakens him briefly. He is ill tempered. He is supposed to play the
part of someone who runs amok, barely glances at the book
on which the film is supposed to be made, claims that by not
delving too deeply into it is the better part of his preparation. Lots and lots of details, the romancier is in virtuoso command of their presentation, of our hero's interiority as well. Our actor wants no traces of himself to be left, he scrubs like a cleaning woman. He comes across as what we call "very anal" in the U.S.The disappearance of a slippery lemon kernel drives him almost batty.
If this were the scenario for film we could just follow the action, occasionally the hero mutters a few words. How much time has passed since he is woken by the thunderstorm until he leaves? About an
hour, he does not like to be rushed - one important detail is missing entirely: he does not relieve himself! I would have him pissing when he is being washed by the rain in the thigh high grass. If he had to take a shit I imagine he would do it on the toilet, and perhaps bound about the way my cats do after their first visit to the cat box, which in my instance is now the great outside! He prepares himself for his walk as though for a role, but then ends up with two mismatched socks, the wrong color tie, his shoelaces break, and the hat of a bum! Initially we have that Handkean "he wakes up in a state of mind to face himself" [as at the beginning of KALI and in other passages, which however never happens, rereading the rest I will keep that in mind. Dazzling work on the part of our author, neo-classical, the neo refers to the filmic elements, SOUVERAEN!


Chapter II has none of the razzle-dazzle of the first, and is only half as long. It begins quietly on page 45 with our scarecrow of an actor - mismatched socks, a loud tie, a crazy hat, let's always remember he has
seveal dates, one to receive a prize from the President of the Republic 2nd with his lover - turning around to take one last look at the house, glad that he is not its owner, or of any real estate. Throughout the chapter he is engaged in the eternal dialogue with himself as are most of us; he walks through the forest; however, if you know Handke's works this is not a celebratory mushroom hunt or expedition through the Foret de Chaville, no commemoration as in DEL GREDOS of what it looked like after it was hit by a tormento tropical in the 90s, perhaps the most amazing five thousand words Handke ever wrote, that show how many more details his eyes pick up, and verbal ability to note matters that most eyes fail to note. For a second, as our actor comes on what is evidently a stray from the Yugsolav wars I had the sensation, even on this second go around, that this might be another apparition as the "rainman" may or may not have been - does it matter? Well, our actor makes a fair number of suppositions which he then admits were projections. Blue and yellow signs are first mistaken for humans in suits.
He comes on the once refugium of a once carpenter apprentice, aged 16 like his own son. He notes the changing sky. It is a transitional chapter and nature appears to be in transition too. He also engages in some truly odd asides or mental speculations, perhaps
just to keep himself from being bored: various items are transformed into what one would generically call "fools gold" of every kind, meant to trick potential fellow walker into being educated and accurately informed. Our actor has a fine way of working his way directly over just about any kind of obstacle. The immigrant he calls the last man on earth on page 70, but then forbids himself such grim thoughts. but the ending of this chapter, that contains no end of beautiful observations of nature, ends on this fairly somber note.
xx michael r


Chapter III is the 2nd stage of the transition. Whereas Ch. II remains largely
solitary, our actor in his internal dialogue only meets "the last man on earth"
towards the end, Ch. III, as he enters a clearing, becomes overpopulated with no
end of elicitors of our Actor's, or is it Handke's own?, antipathy to the
species, misanthropic impulses to run amok, berating of the lack of attention paid
to thresholds, this could also be part of ACROSS/ CHINESE DES SCHMERZENS,
or quite a few other books, it is an impulse, to run amok, first articulated
the violence that surfaces in Handke's books and in his life, as of the early 90s
in VOYAGE BY DUGOUT a woman generally ultimately assuages the violent conflict
or the amok runner, formally this was perfected in the amok-raver protagonist
of SUBDAY BLUE, about ten years ago, and this book too finds our actor who
decided NOT to play an Amok-Runner, salvaged by feminine love. Anyhoo, better
than jail or the looney bin. But as I think I said before: when I heard of DER
LETZTE FALL and that it's hero an actor who then decides not to play an amok-runner
I had thought Handke was making fun of himself [as he does frequently] and that
maybe the ague had passed. Not so I'm afeard. Anyhow not on the 2nd reading so far.

Odd in some respects for those impulses to reside in a actor who initially also seemed, struck at least me, as un homme moyen sensuell, if an odd bird... Here the misanthopism is as generic as the descriptions of those that are disliked.


Just you/ I think we are in the UNREFLECTED world of our old misanthrope running Amok once again, a form of self-criticism, some awareness
sets in... and I feel so much happens, is done in this 2nd part of CHAPTER III [as of page # 2 on page 81] that I feel clotted thinking of all of it. To unclot myself, let me enumerate - A trough F at least, :

a] Our actor, or rather an alter ego, now becomes aware of
himself, or the part that wants to run amok, and mimics it
and gives it a voice, an ugly voice, and appears to criticize
that amok-runner's hideous voice and puppet movement [it
is an uncontrollable puppet that is alleged to want to run amok at the sight of the hideous people in the clearing, on aesthetic grounds.
The alter ego could be called a super-ego eye.

b] "Die Vorstellung einen Zuschauer und Zuhoerer zu haben .. someone who stood behind him and shook his head, was so powerful that he turned around. No one. Only the high grass..." This is something that allegedly happens to our actor at least once day.... It now appears that he has been ENTLARVT / unmasked in front of the invisible observer [i.e. super ego ?] and in front of the entire world. .... He decides he is not the one who he is aside the roles he plays in films. He is not a peace with himself... i.e. he feels fraudulent ..

All this is quite interesting in this respect of self-berating,
except that this sense of de-realization, of feeling like a fraud
also accompanied the attacks to want to run amok... way back in the early 70s during the NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS days. Plus ca change...

I can't tell whether this consistutes the 'facing himself" promised
at the beginning.

mas anon.


c] The sense of fraudulence is then elaborated for several pages
83-86, beautifully of course, admittedly he recovers, it last only an hour, and thenwe suppose he's his old self, ready to run amok again? But there is a transition, a transitory moment between the states, a threshold.

d] On page 87 it comes to "nach dem gerade vorgefallenen unerwarteten
Harmonie." And he reflects that after an existential moment,
a defil, a narrow space, is followed by an opening up, and a firming up
of the ground under his feet.

This too, although far more philosophically phrased, corresponds
to the mood movements of the 70 NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS. And not only he feels harmonious, the harmony connects him, the estranged, to the others in the clearing, who differed scarcely from the personages of the the new World Theater. If only for a second they all belonged together, and he the misanthrope, the amok-runner harmonized himself with them.

e] and there ensue several pages of what might be a part of THE HOUR WE DID NOT KNOW EACH OTHER succession of unrelated images, whose succession however induces peace and harmony. and our actor feels that this is no deception. He regains his former authority, and I feel the moment is upon us where the actor will bless the world as Sorger does at the end of
A SLOW HOMECOMING. There come a series of pages where the friendliest
greeting are exchanged with assorted clearing inhabititant, which, it is difficult to recall, a short while back filled him with nausea and murderous impulses. The overall movement is the same as long ago, but it is far more beautifully elaborated, and it is in the various elaborations that I take pleasure.


For the time being, the fourth and final comment on
as of the "harmonization" on page. 88 until the end
of the chapter, the "clearing" is transformed into a
huge if not baroque elaboration of the section in
NO-MAN'S-BAY where, unless I am very much mistaken,
we first encounter Handke's observation of groups
of strays who have started to inhabit the Foret de Chaville,
and subsequent other observations of that kind,
he has his alter ego observe similar matters. The one
I liked most, there, was how animals had taken up
residence in the left-over grassy triangles at huge
traffic interections, rabbits and foxes huddling together
Here these observations are first elaborated, fabulated
and then we have individual portraits, talking heads
THE COLLECTOR who carries on most amusingly about the whys
and wherefores of his obsession, a STOCKBROKER, and so on.
From the p.o.v. of "moving the story along" or walking
muy rapido to town one would have to say that he is temporizing.
A character in an upset state of mind would not have
time to sit down and paint such complete portraits.
One could easily lift these portraits out of the book
and it would not be the lesser, but the shorter for it.
Narrative passion, anyhow not in this section.

Chapter IV which I will take another look at now, begins with
the actor walking backwards, out of the clearing,
which gives me a sufficient sense of deja vue to think
where exactly where have I seen a Handke character
do that before. The stray thought occurred about the
book a night or so ago: was our man perhaps writing
an "entertainment", something he once hated Graham Greene for?

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott Abbott said...

Michael, you're performing a reading, a slow re-reading, that reminds me, as does the deliberate pace of the actor in the novel, of an epigraph that you'll know well as the translator of Ueber die Doerfer:

"Eine zärtliche Langsamkeit ist das Tempo dieser Reden" (Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce homo; A delicate slowness is the tempo of these speeches).


I generally don't write about any of Handke's books until I have read them three times. Although Handke's style is within the classical tradition, that is straightforward, with few modernist tricks or the materialistic use of language as say, you can find it in the work of another favorite of mine, Josef Winkler, or in Werner Schwab using language to s m e a r like cloaca in his unappiness - here comes the end of this long thought with all those qualifiers and comments like a freight train - he has a deph and richness, has had it, say, sine LEFT-HANDED WOMAN, a concentration of thought and formultion that I at least need to, want to reread his books, and also to read critically, to fathom how his mind works as a writer.
Indeed, that too is one of my favorite Nietzche quotes. If only it were so: as you know I walked in a village in the Baja for three years. Very rural - however, the mainlanders found the Mexican spoken among these farmers, pescadores so muy rapido they had a hard time understanding. Who was Nietzche referring to? where did he walk among rural folk, except Sils Maria? It is a wish perhaps? In Northern Germany where I have some rural root, the folk speak platt deutsch, very monosyllabic, very concise... a musicality to be achieved again but then refound in classical texts. a comment on the entirety of chapter IV in a bit: the most amazing confidant stitching I have seen his mind do! x m.r


Towards the end of this chapter we have a marvelous metaphor for the manner in which this and the first chapter are written: our protagonist, the aging actor, demonstrates to this chapter's
foil, his woodsman acquaintance who has been changing from beautiful to ugly, the Dorian Gray inside himself, to stinking swine, rotten, near impotent, who keeps running halfheartedly into some kind of wooden post that is part of an odd path-clearing equipment [Trimmbalken??] full force, and how to balance, and he does so as a virtuoso, moreover on the insecure and difficult trunk of a tree that a recent storm brought down [the one reminiscence here of the tormento tropical that made for those great 5 thousand words in DEL GREDOS]... that is also how these two chapters are written, vigorously dancing like a Nietzchean hero, very male, yet with the flair of the feminine virtuosity. At the beginning of Chapter V we have the admission that that horrendous creature who keeps screaming "shut up" at the top of his thick-necked voice [as Mr. Handke no doubt has the impulse what with lawnmowers and leaf-blowers and is ultra sensitive hearing, and writing about "noise congresses"] might also be himself, the "other" - fortunately only for a second at at time. That psychotic second. I would have a lot to say about that second but I have already done so elsewhere. I don't know whether this admission the constitutes the "facing" that the first chapter promised. anyhoo , great writing from the best writer in the world!

Scott Abbott said...

I envy this second reading of yours.

Trimmbalken -- I'm guessing this is a balancing beam that is laid out as part of a "Trimm-Dich-Pfad."

Ugly words, all. And a strange idea, if you think of it, a kind of set and scientific curriculum for city dwellers unable to go for a simple walk, herd animals that must be shown how and where to exercise.

Alternately, an athletic turn on a tree trunk.

And, of course, a woody guy like the one the actor meets here could only despair at what his woods (including his inner forest) are coming to here. Thus the banging of himself against the Trimbalken apparatus?


I couldn't find it on my on-line dictionaries:

THE CHEMNITZ is the best for translating

This wonderful forest creature derives, also contains I imagin the "Forest Madman" from VOYAGE BY DUGOUT, who is but an aspect of the UTTER MADMAN in that play.

As to second reading. From the first reading of Chapter II I retained the image of an apparition - that "last man on earth" - it seemed to have flitted by, as it might in a film, on second reading he becomes more fully realized, not just a momentary apparition. Apparently a left over nomad from the Yugoslav wars. I had one just like him here, he camped out close to where I live right next to my prairie which you know from my piece. He came out of a hole I never found at around the same time very early in the morning to walk the half dozen blocks to Fiver Corner Tullies. Big strong guy, looking very slavic, bowed down, his night gear packed in a right roll over his shoulder. Wouldn't let me buy him a coffee, just came in to warm up, wouldnt tell me where he was from in Yugoslavia in his heavy Yugo brogue. "From here, Seattle!" I checked my impulse to laff in his face. He was such an image of being totally terrified. Dreadful.

I have had the occasional fantasy of going for a walk in the Foret de Chaville [i have done so via Google earth!] camouflaged in US Army tropical warfare gear and coming on our mushroom picker there! I am even more tempted now with that odd machine for keeping paths clear, that overgrow. In such an temperate rainforest in which I live with lots of parks, some very wild, and a huge bike path all around Lake Washington and straight through the northern part of the city - Burke Gilman trail, a former small gauge railway line for logging, there are lots of tree trimming services, and the city spends a pretty penny on that endeavor too. Now, in an hour or so, one or maybe two more comments on Chapter IV.


1] Here is a paragraph of what I have in mind in claiming that our man keeps getting to be a better dancer on the page as he gets older: you can pick just about any, I am blindly going to page 113, # starts in the middle of the page:

"Bemerkenswert wieder, dass der einstige Blickfreund einerseits bei jeder Begegnung ungestalter geworden war, anderseits - anfangs der Schöne, behaust in der tiefsten Tiefe der Wälder - von Mal zu Mal sich deren Rändern und damit den Ausläufersiedlungen der Megepole angenähert hatte. Inzwischen die Ungestalt selbst, war er eine Hörweite (Sicht oder überhaupt Sehen, das schien bei ihm auf immer vorbei) naeher an die Häuser und Straßen gerückt, dass ihm kein Geräusch von denen daher entgehen konnte. Nicht nur die Rasenmäher und Presslufthammer, auch die Staubsauger..."

Just the way the comparisons are made in time and space, the transformations within a few words, the locations, how they become present in a reader's mind, how the senses are employed... all in a single small ball of wax... how the obvious old designations are avoided and new ones created: Ungestalt instead of hässlich, Rasenmäher instead of Mähmaschine... and the way the gramatical constructions move you around - thus I am reminded of the original title for my project: the dictator of syntax. If we are its prisoners, let us take charge of the prison, some such thought must have passed through Handke's mind on the way from KASPAR to WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES and the turn to the classics, was implicit of course in that demonstration. And here it is merely a case of the caterpillar of narration moving forward with great efficiency... I can imagine no end of writers taking pages to account just for the information that is conveyed into the readers mind with these few words...

Just look at the masterly way he STICHES past present and everything together! I admired his weaving as the THREE ASSAYINGS culminated
in that of NO-MAN'S BAY; now, about 20 years later, the weaving
has become a well tempered stitching on the trembling broken trunk of language! The immensity of achievement! Of course I knew that it would come to something as unimaginable as this when the rotznasige Count von und zu Griffen wrote me around 1975 that he was now capable of everything!


2] Here a few other quotes, relating to an entirely different matter: 118-119 is the sequence I have in mind:

"Er, der Wald Tölpel, war unfähig zu gleichwelcher Gewalttätigkeit, und hatte niemandem ein Haar gekrümmt, und war vielleicht auch so zum Ausgestoßenen geworden. Und sein Erschrecken ueber den da, der die Gewalt in der Menschenwelt darstellte, ging Hand in Hand mit dem Ausdruck eine Beschwichtigenwollens. Das Erschrecken, das hilflose, und das Beschwichtigenwollen, das ebenso hilflose, brachte beide zusammen das Kindergesicht hervor. Da stand er und ließ sich sehen, in seinem Versuch der Beschwichtigung halb die Hände gehoben."

First of all I am reminded of Handke calling himself "schreckhaft" - as he might well, which indeed he is as I once found out when I sent him my friend Boris "Policeband" Pearlman, a six foot four "Latte" dressed in Punk black and dark shades,m to look him up in Paris,
see for Dike Blair's and my memorialization of this punk violinist who dressed that way and had that NY mouth because he was equally "schreckhaft"!

This scared, somewhat impotent "Halt's Maul/ ta geule/ shut up" forest critter is called a "mama's boy" a page or so ago, as Handke has started to call himself as of MORAWISCHE NACHT. Reading IMMER NOCH STURM I realized that he was also aware that he had been/ was a "love child" to the nth power, in GREDOS, someone like me, a careful, analytically schooled reader could not but help be surprised by two or three mentions of "the unconscious" -- ha ha I laughed! - those AWESOME depths, has my man acquaintance with that realm. Here in just a few formulations I feel that our man is as a great as any living analyst, but does not need to use what he regards as their "dog language." "Halb die Hände hoch." I nearly break out in tears at that!


a] As mentioned brief in my last comment on Ch. IV, I was glad
to note that our itinerant aging actor acknowledges that it might easly be he [p.121-3], the utterly down and out forest critter who shouts shut up at the slightest noise and literally decays before his eyes while the original painting, the memory of who he was once like, becomes ever more spectacular, that inversion of Oscar Wilde's DORIAN GRAY, or that he has that kind of "other" in him. Fine and good. We admit that we exaggerate what we fear most about ourselves breaking out. If you happen to know Handke's work and remember it more than in the form of its marvelous titles, you will realize that the state here described with all the powers of novelistic finesse was once experienced at the point of pain and madness in the three long poems in NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS [Als das Wuenschen noch geholfen hat, 1974]. Perhaps the past is made present and being merely novelized via this newest incarnation from the Handke personae factory. I have written at length about Handke's "other" and to which I attribute the wound whence it can leap out, at a moments notice, or also after long periods of frust.

b] Then, however, as we work our way out of the forest into a marvelous view of the metropolis some oddities.

[1] Our actor claims to live two hours by plane away! Yet he has just described the forest critter and his appearance and where he walks and stays and rots in such detail that you get the idea that he has seen him every day for many years... That's the kind of discrepancy that a good editor might catch to at least make his author aware of. Why not have the lover actor who pays frequent visits to his mistress, have him live on the other side of the bib big, mysterious forest! It is one of those gaucheries that are not that infrequent in our autistic author, of some he is aware and makes fun of, as putting on a ludicrously colored tie, Handke the also occasionally color blind, perhaps because of surging rages. At any event, a very unusual phenomenon. Some of Handke's labors to conceal the lover's domicile, his having his actor pretend to be ufamiliar matters that you cannot be if you have been visiting there forever, the way he cleans up, fall into the same category. It's minor stuff, but a careful reader will notice, and needs to put it aside like cobwebs as you work your way through the underbrush
s]However after this slight oddity, a far graver or more peculiar one crops up, on Page. 124:

"Auch dem Helden jener Geschichte war, nachdem das Abenteuer mit dem Fassenwollen der ihm immer wieder entglitschenden Zitronenkerne so oder so ueberstanden war..."

I experienced with a weird sense of deja vue, for, after all, our protagonist it was who not very long ago crawled under the bed to get hold of these forever slippery lemon pits! My sense of estrangement derived from the possibility that [a] Handke the author
forgets that the actor is not a hero in a novel, but an actor who reads novels, or that

[b] this is an awfully subtle way of introducing a kind of Hornissen-like extra dimension where the reader does not know what dimension of narration the book and the evoked reality exists in.
At any event, that sentence ends with the actor managing to pull his keys out of the pocket and not exploding.


By the time our actor, or is it an actor in a book
that someone is reading, is the narrator then describing
what he reads - I am referring to my last comment on Ch. IV where I noted that the actor had been reading of someone who couldn't hold
on to slippery lemon pit, something he himself is described as having been unable to do, around the same time - is described as finally extricating himself from the forest and the clearing and the last wooded belt - fastidious he dips his fingers in a puddle and
cleans the spots on his pants and shoes! he is such a sum of
odd behavior and thoughts: walks backwards out of the clearing because he feels he has done it an injustice, he constantly sees himself as an actor in one of his films, that is he is acting, but self-consciously, he makes bets with himself, such as that if he slows down when runners approach him, they will to, one bet he of course always looses, he really is the most marvelous agglomeration of neurotic tics! and therefore I concluded that our nameless aging actor is the by far most faceted
of the various standbys that Handke has created over the years, the older you become the more burrs on your pelt, and, thinking whether he reminded me of anyone in that cast of vehicles, I had another one of those deja vues, and concluded that he reminded me of the restaurateur in NO MAN'S BAY, the one who keeps going broke because even though he serves the best food in the world he will only serve it to deserving guest, and so must move deeper and deeper into the forest. I mean this similarity in at most two powers: in oddity and in the sense that the actor no longer can find any roles to play that are deserving of his evident greatness. Sort of like Literary Prizes wanting to acquire some of Handke's aura by awarding him with a prize, in reverse if you see what I mean. He is truly wonderful our actor, I want to be with him and all his weirdnesses for as long as possible.


I am [merely] going to comment about two interlocking paragraphs in Chapter IV this time. Close focus on the efficiency, the virtuosoish caterpillar as he works his way to town - after all, this is fairly ordinary stuff that is being narrated here, imagine how many pages it would take most writers to detail what is packed without seeming densely packed into just a handful of sentences, that is what I am after, to indicate the everyday genius of Handke's genius, the formulations don't bore him and delight at least me. The everyday caterpillar chewing up 1000 words worth of leaves of grass each morning...

Our magnificent oddball actor has worked his way through the forest, the clearing, the last forested belt, has had that magnificently described view of the Metropolis, which Handke - perhaps trying to obscure the fact that this is Paris - describes as fortunately being devoid of any green, that is parks, no Bois de Boulogne, Jardin de Luxemburg, even though the view is very similar, but more beautifully done than in THE LEFT HANDED WOMAN, that is, as seen from the gentle height of Clamart/ Meudon which can also be seen in Handke's film of the same title. Our near forest madman suddenly delights im the lack of green in the white city! One of those gaucheries by which we recognize our genius when he thinks he is being extra clever! Or whatever!bly


The #s I have in mind are the ones that start about ten lines down on page 137, and is followed by the one on page 138 where the actor then realizes he has recognized someone from his past and then calls him the first name that comes to mind, Andreas, and I stop a few lines down at page 139... because I think what I quote suffices to my purpose here.

"Ungegrüsst wegschauen und weitergehen, es gab nichts zu sehen. Und zugleich wurde ihm bewusst, dass er den, der auf der Busbank hockte und durch ihn, und nicht bloß durch ihn hier, durchstarrte, kannte. Das wusste er in einem Nu, so klar wie nur bei einer nie und nimmer für möglich gehaltenen Sache. Der Fremde da, im fremden Land, war einmal, in ihrer beider gemeinsamen Land, war einmal, in ihrer beider gemeinsamen Land, sein Nachbar gewesen, ein guter. Fast ein Freund. Ein Freund. Mit einem Ausruf zu dem herumgefahren, mit dem Ausruf seine Vornamens: >>Andreas!<< - der erste Name für eine Person der dem Schauspieler an jenem Tag über die Lippen in den Sinn kam. Die Frau hieß bei ihm, seit Beginn, nur <> - was in seiner Herkunftsgegend bei den Männern ein Ausdruck der Ehrerbietung war, gewesen war, hatte sein können; und sein ferner Sohn war am heutigen Tag sein Sohn gewesen, oder auch nur <>.
Keine Reaktion von dem Angerufenen. Bestätigung dafür auf den in Frageform wiederholten Vornamen mit dem Nachnamenzusatz, von der Mitsitzerin auf der Busbank, in einem Gemisch von mindestens drei Sprachen. Ja, das sei er. Und es sei vorbei mit diesem Andreas. >>Der wird nicht mehr. Sagen Sie ihm, was Sie wollen: es kommt nicht an bei ihm. Es ist aus mit dem. Ende!<< Und im Blick auf den anderen kehrte dem Schauspieler, in wieder so einer Sekunde, die gemeinsame Zeit zurück: durch ihre so verschiedenartigen Berufe - nie hatte er sich als Nachbar oder Freund seinesgleichen vorstellen können -
waren sie einander näher gekommmen und gute Nachbarn geworden, was zeitweise genausoviel zählte wie eine Freundschaft. Er hatte sogar eine Verwandtschaft zu dem andern gespürt und die wiederum verstärkt durch die Berufe, die nach außen hin kaum zusammen gingen....


IN THD FIRST PARAGRAPH note the directionals they are implicit but evident: in a film or on stage you would see the pointing the closeups, hear the languages which, here, are left to the imagination. And within that one second we are in the past, the past is now the reader's present, closeness of the two men, that has been interrupted by time... what a wealth of information is being conveyed and in alacritous fashion. I am calling this the "Handke Caterpillar" because it slows the reader down, somewhat, to be able to take in the unusual - comparatively - amount of information that is being conveyed, playfully, but also because a Caterpillar machine has tracks has gears, grammatical ones in this case.

Notable also are certain moments such as "über die Lippen in den Sinn kam." The awareness of the fact that "über die Lippen" although it implies consciousness, it is such a usual phrase meanwhile that it needs to be made clear that it also enters his noggin. Have fune Krishna Winston solving what are huge problems in a language that has not as many hooks as German.


Last comment on the 2nd reading of Ch. IV of Handke's DER GROSSE FALL The second half of this chapter concerns what is the third iteration of a "down and out", ex-nighbor Andreas, and the first person to whom our actor speaks, if only that one word, turns out he had been thinking about him who he thought was gone and lost in the Gobi desert. Subliminaly on the alert!

First we had that apparition as I recalled him, from the civil wars, then the more and more cadaverous "shut up" shouting inversion of Dorian Gray acquaintance from the woods, the forest madman as it were, now Andreas. If these are interior side of our "actor" - as he "really" is - these are changes wrought on the personae of "the afternoon of a writer" - i just penned a note on Steve Mitchelmore's

and ought to have mentioned AFTERNOON as well as DER GROSSE FALL, by far the most self-conscious performance since this is very much a romancier's novel. As compared to THE REPETIITION it does not really impose a pace on my being, except, as noted, the caterpillar way that the syntax rolls forward, not speedreader's but a real reader's heaven, a very writerly book. Handke in NOMANBAY weaves a grand Bokara, in DEL GREDOS strands a long long rope, MORAWIAN NIGHT has a lot of walking in it, but has no real over all form that I detected so far. DER GROSSE FALL is like one of those rolls of moss that we cut out when we built fire-breaks in Alaska, or a certain width of carpet that is unrolled, a runner of a certain thickness.

The Andreas section elides into a regret on the part of our Actor that he did not help him, and some pages on the subject of helping, only individuals; which is where the Actor and Handke's way of doing coincide. I keep wondering about the title: this entire walk so far concerns the "actor" being on the verge of... falling out of history.


PART I of two comments on the second reading of CHAPTER 6:

Ch. 6 starts at page 155, a couple of my last comments really referred to Ch. 5, which is the start or our protagonist actor wending his way down into the metropolis. The sequence of what he sees is the following, after he has worked his way through outlying new developments that consist not of straight streets but semi-independent looping cul-de-sacs, modern developments.

1] a lot of couples where one is always quite young, one of them is his once friend and neighbor who is under the care of a younger woman at a bus stop, and whom the actor then regrets not helping - in early work such as the 1995 ONE DARK NIGHT the theme of helping might not have been that well integrated but have been put in as a recit as are those about NARCISSISM and the MODERN WOMAN there.

2] Juvenile delinquents....with invariably one tomboy who is sassier than the guys.

3] Busy schoolyards even though school is not in session, invariably with one loner who stands aside and is ready to spit at any passerby.

4] Old men, on their fragile way home, existentially challenged in their doddering last days.

5] One man who can't get into his house with his assortment of hundreds of keys, and who is of course pissed off as hell.

6] Neighbors who are engaged in fighting, that is, the entire world appears on edge where it takes the slightest of slights or irritations for EVERYONE to run amok!

This section , starting on page 165 and ending on page 170 begins "The time of the GREAT FALL [or whatever the title of the translation will be] was also the time of the big and the small wars"... develops a theme that initially cropped up in such a generalized fashion in the 1992/3 ONE YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S-BAY where one side of Germany is said to be fighting with the other - that is just a few years after the Banana Eaters and the Banana Advertizers had re-united, the theme of the Civil Wars on which Handke's hated Hans Magnus Enzenberger is rather better, and which I imagine was one way of Handke's to raise NO-MAN'S BAY to ITS advertisement of being a "fairy tale of the modern age". This attempt to introduce fairy tale elements I find variously more or less successful as Handke keeps proceeding in this manner.



There are the three "topes" as I call them, in CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS, "retardos", where the Bankieress gets stuck, allowing of increasingly more Swiftean description of communities in weird disarray. Rather successful I found the section towards the end of MORAVIAN NIGHT where Handke's home village of Griffen [20 years in the future, all these books claim to be set in a future decade] has minarets and where Arab music is playing. DER GROSSE FALL at the advent of the metropolis is venturing into similar fairy tale parable terrain, I always felt that with some of his plays, as early as KASPAR, Handke was on that verge. Here we have internecine warfare between neighbors, the initial in "Nonsense and Happiness" [Als das Wuenschen noch geholfen hat] query "why there are not more of them" [running amok] is answered in the form of: everyone nearly is. At the same time Handke seizes
his own opportunity to dismiss his strawmen sociologists and "PsychoPhysiker" [of whom I am one!] explanations for the tense state of affairs, such as "with such a long period of peace as there has been in Europe pent up anger is bound do manifest itself on an individual level" - strawmen are negated by citing arguments they never proffered. I won't list mine since you know the slew of them. Where I might agree with Handke is by suggesting that if you probe any neurosis you will hit a psychotic kernel. My hunch is that Handke rather feels that such volatility is an aspect of "la condition humaine." Ideologically he is not alone there. J.G. Ballard comes to mind, lots of dystopians. Neither monkeys nor the other great apes have that problem, not that they don't fight, over women, or bite and kill, best I can tell. Perhaps Mr. Handke is also projecting his own short fuse amokness onto the entire world now? But such parable moralizing opining verges on the bad abstract. And one does not want to argue or quarrel with a novel, as little as one does with an analyst who is meant to make no more than the occasional observation and linkage as the patient listens to what speak out of him or herself.

Scott Abbott said...

I just read through all your comments here, many of which made me smile with good memories of the book or with new insight. I love, for instance, your pointing to the formulation "ueber die Lippen in den Sinn kommen." And the idea of a caterpillar, in the case of the actor and of the writer as well. Remember the snail Gunter Grass used to such good effect, the snail that moved slowly and thoroughly and slimily as opposed to the Hegelian horsed Napoleon bounding through history?


i meant caterpillar not all that much in this instance in the sense of the s l o wand s l o w e r pace at which our man, impersonating a slippery! actor, approaches the city, losing one bet with himself after another that his slowing down will slow others down,
but chiefly as an earth boring machine,
a tunneling machine that has a lot of different gears that interact
with amazing alacrity. genius is half hard work, but the other is speed.
in our man's case on a virtuoso order, when it comes to writing
i think i saw this one time when he read a long poem by levchev
the Bulgarian poet the way you drain a pint of beer, in one long
draught, drained, absorbed and then judged. this is i think
the rate at which he absorbs everything and it must be hard
to be an animal of a higher order living amongst us ordinary steers.
that is also why i called what looks like sheer genius in narrating
"everyday genius". this is also henry james' definition. an immense
amount of narrative material is held still in time and space,
and then the caterpillar twitches, all of it.
in THE REPETITION Handke became a "god of slownesss"... and I was in a position to respond to the syntax, those longer periods, not all that difficult since i have a lot of country in me... here in DER GROSSE FALL the slowing down does not occurr because of its syntax, but i would suggest for the sheer richness and concentration of the text, no syntactic difficulties, everything seems clear, certainly none of
the interpretative difficulties that are inherint in some famous modernist texts... so the SLOWNESS has entered his being, when he writes, in another fashion...
the fact that he is also an idiot or used to be socially of course
doesn't make it any easier being in the world. i'll post something
like this as a reply to your note. x michael r


I notice that I am reading differently the 2nd time around,
the shock of the new has worn off and I can contemplate and
delve into the text with greater seriousness. And matters
become quite serious as of the last paragraph on page 170:
the lust to murder and run amok with the rest of the world disappears and is replaced by a state of joy... perhaps because he resisted the impulse to kill...
"Wie der Himmel blaute, und wie der Sommmerwind wehte... und sprach>> gibt Frieden...<<"
but then the impulse becomes regret at not having run amok!
He is seized by the "second hunger", the serious hunger...
our actor may be along in years but not libidinally, he is seized with hunger also for the woman in the city... a single bell intones...And we, and our actor finally meet another person with whom the actor has a meaningfull interchange, a priest, an ex-auto-mechanic...and what a beautiful sequence it is... and this priest mechanic holds the kind of sermon subseqeunt to a silent mass, that would surely increase patronage at churches if it would 't get him defrocked in no time at all: "The body of the woman is the derivative of the all-presence of the Spirit at night. Together with the woman the other language begins, there ensues a different kind of tolling of the bell... Woman, the other letter of the alphabet. Not I come over the woman, she covers me, and my flesh turns into spirit. I the man, the hungry one, she the thirsty one... Man, the hunger, she the thirst..."
All the things we tell ourselves in order go get laid! Anyhoo, within Catholic sermonizing this is pretty risque
but marvelously novelistic.... It's too much to summarize,
or I can't do it... how the priest recognizes him .. and who he is.... and admits that he too needs to be an actor.


I want to comment on the description of actor's multifarious qualities that the priest delivers himself of, before proceeding to Chapter 7.
But at catching sight of some delightful Lillian Birnbaum photos of how and where the author lives and also a photo what he and his squirrels eat:
also immediately posted at:

it occurred to me to speculate a tad about a comparison of Handke's forest
retreat in Chaville and the woman's domicile he describes in DER GROSSE FALL.
From Lillian Birnbaum's photos it becomes apparent that of the
Sueddeutsche Magazin's headline "Messy and Messiah" at least the "messy" appears
justified. I recall first wife Libgart Schwartz once mentioning that she would
occasionally go to Handke's abode, even after she had left him, for such multiple
good reason, just to clean up a bit! Handke mentions in his correpondence with Freddie Kolleritch, [published by Jung & Jung as SCHOENHEIT IST DIE ERSTE BUERGERPLICHT] - this is in the early 70s in Paris, Rue Montmorency - that but for his Portuguese cleaning woman he has not seen a single person the past week [but for his first daughter, Amina, I expect, who was living with him]. Let's put this side by side with the way our author describes the actor once more turning around and scrubbing away his tracks etc. once he leaves the woman's house which evidently is forest-bound, too. No doubt it would be nice to have a lover with a well-kempt house living within Handke's kind of walking distance, and in the woods, and not to have to walk to Paris a couple times a week to spend time with wife Sophie Semin and daughter Laocadie, if she still lives with her mother -THEY moved out of MESSY'S house quite a few years ago, around 1999, finding its owner to be a cold salamander, but - NOW reconciled - the author has mentioned that his forest abode is "hell hoerig", which is a wonderful way of projecting one's own hyper-sensitiveness to noise onto an abode! where he can live his obsessive writing life for himself and for us the reader of these beautiful products, the best "word salad" in the world! Handke discovered the Chaville forest at around the time that he lived in Meudon/ Clamart in the middle 70s, that there was a kind of rabbit hole that led to a path to Chaville. It was during the careful readings i did in the mid-90s of ONE YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S BAY that I reconstructed his life and this path, and also realized that if you read Handke's work carefully, that is, if you knew how to really read and follow and combine and have a bit of an imagination, there is absolutely no need for him to write an autobiography or anyone to write a biography: you could assemble the like from his work, just as has been done of Faulkner's mythical Yoknapatawpha county in Mississippi. Not that Malte Herwig, lacking a relationship to the work, followed this obvious path! Here is the link to Google Earth where you can walk your eyes from Chaville to Paris
and you note at once that you can walk from Meudon entirely through woods to get to Chaville. [note attachement of screenshot].
I am sure there is a way of figuring out what the distance is,
at most ten, more likely five miles. The compilation promised at the opening will then come later.


The promised last comment - in two parts due to word limitations per comments -on Chapter VI is later in coming and will be longer
in part because I came on the below Gerardze Depardieu quote of something Handke
once said to him: Depardieu played Quitt in the French production of THEY ARE DYING OUT, the perfect actor for that big part that needs to physically demonstrate what
pipsqueaks the rest of the businessmen are.

euronews: “You have quoted Peter Handke, who talking about actors said ‘when you become an actor, you burn your life’.”

Depardieu: “When all of a sudden you see yourself on screen, all or a part of what you’ve done, it’s tricky, because there are emotional moments in every film, a moment where you are overwhelmed. And then there’s a moment where you say to yourself ‘that’s too much’.

“I’m shooting a film at the moment where I play a hero, but a hero from World War One. He’s not dead but he has a bullet in his head. Hostages were taken because of a German death, they demanded 20 people, that’s how it happened then. And the small village made arrangements so that my character Ipu, who is sick, he still has a bullet in his head, they try to convince him to be one of the hostages. Ipu agrees but says he wants to see his funeral, the statue that they are going to make for him, he wants everyone to see, to see all that. I have the impression of that when I watch my films; all that I have done, finally, you notice that you – from the inside – see things differently.”

This quote leads me to wonder how much the writer who has written a dozen major plays and uses the vehicle of the actor in DER GROSSE FALL actually knows about acting! Handke it appears is talking about something along the lines of Method Acting which involves the use of the self and of emotions, not the mere demonstration of them, the standin apart from the role that is being shown, which suffices in Brecht's instance. We will recall that our actor in the novel claims that he has no roles left to play - which jibes with the above quote - he has played all the great roles, and there is no one present in the contemporary world worth imitating in whatever form. Arrogant or not, it also sounds the goodbye note that we encounter in Handke's recent work in UNTIL THE DAY, MORAVIAN NIGHT, and in THE MAJOR CASE? AN ACTOR'S LAST GREAT FALL? ROLE? - it does not contain recollections of the great affairs he had while on location, or other such from such like. The falling of course also refers, so multiply determined, for his falling for a woman, which differentiates this tale from similar earlier much lonelier ones.


Part II of 3 on Chapter VI

In a moment I am going list the QUALITIES that this wonderful wish-fulfillment of
a priest attributes to the actor. But let us reflect what we know about him at that
point, end of Chapter Six He is a sensualist and extreme oddball the way he behaves - take just the 'walking backward' to make amends for having offended the "clearing", he may or may not be haunted by apparitions, he lives inside a film world, what he sees in those he encounters in the woods are deeply negative qualities, if you read closely he seems worthy of pity... In many way the character resembles that of the one we first encounter in the poems of NONSENSE & HAPPINESS, someone ready to run amok at any slighting moment, the walk itself that of, among others, that of THE AFTERNOON OF THE WRITER.

The priest's enumeration begins on page 183, "Der Priester wurde zum Beruferater"subsequent to several marvelous pages - Seltsam, wie Essen nachdenklich machen konnte, oder wie umgekehrt eine bestimmte Nachdenlichkeit selbst einem Dutzendgericht Geschmack zufuehrte, un wie man sich zeit solchen Essens beschuetz fuehlte, und nicht damit aufhoeren wollte [top.p. 182]:

The priest recognizes the actor not as a highborn gentlemen but as a
workman, and not just because he is ingenious in practical repair matters at that moment. His hands look as having been used "dass er von kleinauf mitangepackt hatte." But perhaps, the priest thinks, he's a great lord after all, who is in mufti. Prior to the actor taking off his odd hat with the two falcon feathers, he the priest had seen him as a king, one of the Louis, no not the Sun God, one of the Louis a few centuries earlier who was already crowned as a child, and remained a child for a long time, and was later called Saint Louis, because of the crusades, during one of which he died... that is a Saint like St. Francis of Assisi and a magic healer. Or he
was a desperado, an outlaw. There was something of a killer in him, even though he had not killed anyone yet, but he seemed as though he would be capable of killing, perhaps even today. Or, the best fit of what he sees seems to the priest, was a nobody, nobody special, a scarecrow ... that changes form according to the prevailing wind or light, blows up into a giant and the next moment collapses, pretends to be a woman.... and then again is a nobody and nothing. No matter what, he was someone from a third country [p.185].... and it is then that the priest names our actor Christoph! "You carry the weight of the world! Fittingly, a line around your mouth indicates that you are someone who has taken a deep draught of the bitters, nearly to the bottom, and didn't even hate doing so."


Part III of last comment on Chapter 6:

There follows a wonderful sequence where actor and priest engage in a revelatory Rorschach game of projecting interpretations on imagery of sacred paintings... And then at the end of this sequence the priest says: "All fun aside, you are neither a king nor a desperado, Brother Christoph. You are an actor. And how did I see that that's what you are? On your inconspicuousness, [at which point I scratch my head a bit: here's the actor, in a suit fit for a presidential award, with entirely the wrong color tie, the hat a Slowenian, such as the writer Lipus might wear, jaunty, utterly out of style, rural, with two falcon feather - a bit like me whom a friend recently gave a tiger-striped red falcon feather, which however does not fit into any of the six ventilation holes of my baseball cap, as do crow and pigeon feathers, which draw a lot of looks and comments, looks from kids who smile and admiring comments from girls that i am now to old to follow up on as I might have earlier on in life. i was also given an eagle feather by the same friend, the molting season is ending. my other weather attire is rather military, british army weather pants and brand new Yugoslav 3/4 lenght army coat, draw no particular looks]. So this comment by the priest puzzles me about our novelist's strategies in obscuring our actor's identity/ vertuschen. It is forced, and it takes away from the priest's other observations which we as readers can both agree with and which intrigue us. Nor does this observation and its subsequent elaboration add anything useful. It is one of those instances where I wonder to what degree Handke's editor and first reader read and advise, I have not the faintest to what degree Handke is beyond his once arrogance of: "I send it to them and they print it."
The worst incongruity of this kind among others I have noted
is the pretense that someone who walks through the woods admits seeing certain critters day in day out then pretends to live a thousand k.m. off - but is not said to have a private jet.
Little things, and they really do not add up.

The priest adds that he recognized his being an actor on his seriousness, and the how collected his self is - true enough. At his uprightness, at his the collectedness of his self and then the priest admis that he, too, is such an actor. [At which I wondered a bit whether this was a kind of endorsement of the representational.]

Next installment from me will be my second coming [s] on
the marvels of Chapter 7.


I was about to do as announced above and had already begun last nite and written:

"Anointed St. Christopher our actor walks on happy and then determined Navajo film feet >>Haski yichi nixwod<< [p.191, end first #], it occurred to me on taking this second look at pages 191 to about 208 that I could see why our man liked the work of Karl May.
And knows how to negotiate underbrush, inclines, not only walks backward but sensibly in this instance knows how to slide backward through thorny underbrush, and what if we/I don't - as in ONE DARK NITE - meet up again with the rabbits and foxes that it appear perhaps just for Mr. Handke in Europe congregate at the few green swards left in the traffic islands between those monstrous exchanges. I am a city walker, too, and can't say I ever saw any one but the homeless camped out at these spots in Seattle or Los Angeles, and this is a city with many wild animals, but also a lot of sometimes very wild parks - perhaps it is because they do have outlets which are missing in Europe, but perhaps also because our St. Christopher has had the features of a St. Francis for some time now... and was going to make some very specific comments after a good nite's sleep and and abating middle ear infection and bronchitis when in my mailbox I come on something from a friend at Suhrkamp entitled to the effect "confidential, your eyes only, chapters eliminated from DER GROSSE FALL."

You can imagine what I did! It appears these chapters - the last of the three is unfinished - would have made for a book of 12 instead of 9 chapters... or perhaps even more - and their action would have had their inception around p. 233 when our actor emerges from the Metro and begins his walk-about the Metropolis. It is a kind of DNK story. Our actor encounters his favorite director with whom he has made his best films, but who is not the one with whom he is supposed to start to work tomorrow. The director - accompanied by his smashing much younger girlfiend who is ever so glad to meet the great actor whose work she has admired since adolescence - persuades his friend to join him for a snack at his nearby apartment, a splendid ancient huge and mysterious pad; but within minutes gets a phone call on his handy - right, our actor it appears lacks such modern equipment! - and says his mother has taken a turn for the worse and he must leave at once. Within no time at all our actor accosts and starts to basically rape his friend's girlfiend who proceeds to scream, as the director, still smarting from a woman of his actor friend once stole from him, who has played a trick on the aging lay-a-broad actor, barges in, takes a photo of the actor mounting the screaming girl a tergo, who however dismounts and, naked, unabated erection, attacks the director who in the struggle succumbs to a heart attack. The girl meanwhile has called the police, and then an ambulance; the actor is heart broken as he is arrested and taken away; he appears before a magistrate; his counsel gets him free on bail; and the girl refuses to press charges, she says she flirted madly and is half to blame; his barrister
advises our actor to seek counsel with one of his hated psycho- physikers - with the prospect of jail, out actor agrees to do so... I am just reading the chapter, it is incomplete... of his first long session with this shrink.... anyhoo: [!] It looks the novel was going to take a very Dostoyevskyian direction... Well, MORAWIAN NIGHT, too, was written on the run, initially called SAMARRA, it grew and grew... the project appear to have been shrunk.
Stay tuned!

Scott Abbott said...

Michael, you're a fine novelist! Perhaps like Nikolai, you could write Die Freuden des jungen Werthers or Der kleine Aufstaender.


Scott, what are you talking about? Didn't I forward the attachment to you? Will do so in a bit, gotta go to hit the dry sauna before it closes. xx michael r.


To continue on Chapter 7 in a moment, which at one point, after our actor has a snooze, and sees, oh my shoes were not stolen, has prose that is as virtuoso as Bach's well tempered Klavier. The several pages devoted to his concern that his son might be in trouble but then dissolves into the conclusion that the trouble is internal and that with that he can't help him, I find as bei den haaren herbei gezogen as i did the first time around. no mention previously of said son. at moments like that i am reminded what a hideous father our man was to his first born, amina. and that A CHILD'S STORY although I can testify to it being by and large true, since i saw enough of the guy during that 70s period, it is yet a huge lie in what it leaves out: e.g. the mother, the family situation. lots of ways you can lie. it's all right to be laconic about matters that require it, are best served by it.

anyhoo: that father's sudden st. christopher concern for out kid passes. and around p. 214 the prose livenes to the liveliest lightest... our man's prose dances. i will quote and perhaps translated a section.

meanwhile you will have received those cut chapters
and have had time to dwell on them.

thanks for the compliment, but no: i as novelist would have had the actor go completely berserk once his old director friend bursts into the room. flip out. run amok. have had him kill the chick, and not just the way the goalie did, because she screamed and her scream was so hideously ugly! i would have him run out and a chase ensue, through the abattoirs of paris, i would have put him into true Dostoevskyian abjectenss in those abattoirs! a real dark night of the soul!


PART I of my last comment on the second reading of Chapter VII
Here, first, is a paragraph of what I described in my last comment as having "well tempered Klavier"-like virtuoso dexterousness:
p.215 2nd #

""Zeitnot, Notzeit: ohne es eilig zu haben, hatte man es eilig. Oben wurde unten, recht wurde links, vorne wurde hinten, vor
schien zurück und umgekehrt, und wieder umgekehrt, und so fort
Durcheinander. Die kleinsten der Häuser unten ragten himmelhoch über ihm auf, der Fluss strömte aufwärts, und im nächsten Moment

Part II of Ch. VII has our Actor suddenly feeling pressed for time, although once he scampers down the bastion side where he has snoozed it then turns out he has all the time in the world to flaneur about, until his rendesvous later at night. Thus I question the "formal" urgency and economy and passion of the writer in this instance, compared to other walk-abouts of his!

Chapter VII is transitional, from our Actor's kind of nearly day-long amble through the woods to the outskirts actually nearly into the center of the metropolis - he is resting atop the wall of an ancient fortification - with an afternoon snooze from which he wakes
disoriented and... suddenly lacking time, becomes harried, imprecise:

" p.218 # 2

Im Nüchternwerden war die Zeitnot auch endlich zu bedenken: Sie war zugleich begleitet gewesen von einer monströsen Langeweile, und die
Langeweile war in eins gegangen mit Hektik und vor allem Unaufmerksamkeit. In der Zeitnot war die Erde nicht nur ein fremder, sonder darüber hinaus ein feindlicher Stern. Und seltsam wieder, dass diese Not nur auftrat an Tagen des Müessiggangs. Aber war Müssiggehen denn nicht eine Notwendigkeit? Und so auch die Zeitnot."

and panicky [and just a short while back he was blessed by the most carnal of self-fashioned priests and had set out with determination], and the old alienation from the self sets in.


PART II of my final comment at the 2nd reading of Ch. VII:

This last paragraph reminds this Handke specialist not only of similar moments in the three long passionate fuguing poems in NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS [Als das Wuenschen noch geholfen hat] 1974, but also of Handke's panic attack/ tachychardia that landed him in a Paris hospital around that time and which panickiness he also mentions in his correspondence with Nicolas Born, as he does his physical altercations with Jeanne Moureau. The official version of that hospital stay was that Handke has a congenitally lousy heart valve. However, panic attacks and heart valve problems are seperate debilities, although jointly they are not a good thing at all. Around that time, the early 70s, Handke had lost both his mother, to suidice, and his wife Libgart Schwartz, to flight - as she told Klaus Peymann*
who confessed as much to the recently deceased interview champ Mueller. Handke's official version for that event, which elicited a suicide attempt on our lay-a-broad's part [and is the foundation for A MOMET FOR TRUE FEELING], with the pills fortunately spat out - interesting matters one faIls to find in Malte Herwig i-a-d-q-u-a-t-e biography - serious narcisstic injury which is not helped by the fact that our hero remains entirely oblivious of any contributios of his to this state of affairs, or let's say that it "takes two to tango" and that as a "love child" he is amazingly dependent on mirroring approval from mother figures;
matters that remind me once again of my initial apprehension that our "actor" bears suspicious resemblance to the Handke of yore [early 70s] or that our author Peter Handke takes someone as he once was - not as someone he wants to be! - as the vehicle for a long walk to town to string a lot of marvelous observation and invaluable linguistic baubles on; and write an exemplary first chapter from which real novelists will learn as long as there are such who would be.
Let me note once more: as compared to all the other personae Handke has adapted throughout these endeavors we find out far more about who the Actor is than any of the others save perhaps the bankieress in DEL GREDOS. And though the overall form of this walk-about strikes me as lackadaisacal, this cat is by far the most intriguing, what with a veritable hull full of barnacles of quirks. That old ship however seems destined to come home, to the woman, who - altough she once spurned him as "cold as a salamander" has allowed him back into her graces.
A good woman, and a good priest and
a good day's walk with the world a marvel of sights for the sight collector, what more can an aging roue ask for!


"Beruemt wurde Müller mit einem (hier nicht abgedruckten) Gespräch mit dem damaligen Burgtheater-Direktor Claus Peymann, in dem dieser allem und jedem ins Gesicht fuhr, was mitunter so klang: „Ich wäre (beim potenziellen Selbstmord, Anm.) bestimmt geschickter gewesen als Peter Handke, der die Tabletten wieder ausgekotzt hat. Er hatte ja die gleichen Probleme. Seine Scheidung von Libgart Schwarz geschah auch nicht aus heiterem Himmel. Er hat sie dauernd mit anderen Frauen betrogen, war aber ganz erstaunt, als sie weglief. Sie ist von Düsseldorf zu mir nach Frankfurt geflohen und hatte dann ein Verhältnis mit dem Lyriker Adam Seide.“


Ch. VIII, for those who have not yet read the book, indeed starts with
our Actor in a dreadful hurry: only his salvaging angel keeps him safe from breaking his neck as he scurries down the polished side of the old fortress [recently
laid bare by the metropolis's new mayor as we will find out, who had made a lot
of other changes, skewing it in the direction of the futuristic - Handke's hand as an artificer of that kind is at work.]

Then there comes a wonderful description of a nearly soundproof entirely white
huge-seeming modern pissoir - I have not been in Paris for quite a while and
must check online whether the old fashioned ones have really been replaced by these nearly soundproof and odor repressing ones. Our hero, who is as allergic to sounds as so many heroes of Handke's and Handke himself is, does not comment on the relief
this refuge provides. Anyhow, yet another beautiful section.

Which is succeeded by an even more futuristic trip in what Handke calls
the Metro! All those people who want to be making calls, or pretend to make calls,
Handke is on to that too, wear helmets. The section is fascinating for the
moment where our Actor sees an Amok runner reflected in the window... and
realizes it is himself, which moment of recognition is followed by what might be a quote from the 1973 NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS "Verwunderlich eigentlich, dass so wenige Amok liefen." In 1973 the thought was not voiced that REFLECTIVELY. He ctd:
"Und wenn, jaeher Gedanke, einer der Amok lief, sich zugleich opfern, jemanden oder etwas retten wollte?"... the joining of the two themes, the "helping theme" having slipped in with the thought of his son, perhaps also with the priest anointing him St. Christopher....and thennwe segue back into the film that does not need to be
made since it has been running all along! In AS IF fashion.

Well now. I think I know the main reason why Handke used to say that thrice a day
he felt like "running amok", and also the other determinants. It's quite a ball of wax! In NONSENSE we never question that the poet is enraged, it comes through the prosody; also in that great section in MORAWIAN NIGHTS where the bus driver to the Kosovo keeps shouting Apache... the rage thrumbs deep and true... yes, the Kosovo... we don't really need to question why the driver is so pissed... it shows through the prosody. It is made PRESENT in that fashion... Here we have an actor, a roue, who is haunted by apparitions, as of the git go, nearly, especially with those creatures in the woods, in the subway it becomes clear that he - created by the innerworld of the outerworld of the innerworld artist Peter Handke - however, the prosody is leisurely... and I am puzzled.



I left off being puzzled by an aging actor who is meant to play an
amok runner, and who has some serious irruptions of amokitis during his leisurely perambulation to town, looking forward to the "god with two backs" with his main squeeze; yet the writer works in a sudden lack of time, whereupon our actor then flaneurs about town as another review,

the 16th of this title, reaches me, all of which are collected at:

and it is sound and favorable and also makes note of the book's leisurely quality, but like all these reviews lacks the kind of space to git into ye olde nitty gritty [noticeable in the respect of that lack is Andreas Breitenstein whose review at the NZZ - Neue Zuricher Zeitung - amounts to no more than a recertification of Handke as a great writer.]

One of the problems of being super-successful early on as a writer is that you have no end of time to contemplate your own navel and to get yourself into trouble, with women in Handke's case. The Peoples
Republics sought to obviate such bourgeois flaneurism by assigning writers to factories, combines and kolchoses, which sounds good, but is so only on the face of, the involuntary among other involuntaries then meant to write positively about the experience. Handke is fortunate in that he seems to need to write at least four hours a day to stay healthy enough so as not to actually irrupt in amok actions all that often. Still, life is short but the days are long even if you pick a lot of mushrooms, talk to the birds, and collect various herbs.

Subsequent to the set piece in the ultra modernist pissoir and his recognition of himself as an amok runner in his reflection in the window in the Metro, our flaneur has a fine sequence in a plaza with all kinds of billboards, the president appears on one of them, big brother with his arms in a kind of half akimbo, I have a hunch our man has not a great liking for Sarkozy... and then we have that great scene in a brasserie where our man watches a woman, I will quote this in full in a moment... and then recognizes her after a fulsome description of her utterly exquisite being... as the woman he slept with the previous night... Handke wanted to, is my guess, work in a portrait of his wife... and what he loves about her... and of course if he says right off the bat: ah, there she is! he can't really give us a description as Eudora Welty might of a pear, but having got himself, once again, into some logistical hot water, we try to extricate ourselves, and do so with another huge improbability: don't lie, one lie means that ultimately you are completely entangled, the actor claims never to recognize those closest to him, here this exquisite noticer, sight collector - who notices how spittle if held too long in a mouth tends to get thick and stick to the spitter once the spit is meant to be spat - makes this claim, which reminds me once again how linkisch, gauche Handke is is so many ways, the writer of THE LEFT HANDED WOMAN. And not really a good liar, at least not as far as I am concerned, no matter how much Handke prides himself on that ability.



p. 247 the second # starting with:
"Antlitz, wo verbirgst du dich?

to the end of the first # on page 250.
Too much to type in for me right now.

This is a magnificent passage, and Handke finds an elegant solution for getting the writer out of the brasserie without the awkwardness of his obviously needing to talk to the two women, since his lover has recognized him and blushed at the thought that he overheard, or that lip reader read her lips as she told her girl friend what he means to her.... a woman who has been with Handke for some years and still blushes! at least in a novel -
by having the film director appear, the last person the actor wants to see, and he takes the emergency exit.. which leads ... to an entirely different world than that of the front entrance. Nature intrudes via a back alley. Great stuff.

Where else might this passage have been placed, in this string of baubles and a great first chapter that is DER GROSSE FALL.
In the morning waking up next to the woman - but then the writer would have to lie about how women look in the morning, before they have put their faces together, etc. The object of ambling to town
and looking forward to her there, would be even less convincing than
it is already.

At the very end?

The KULTIVERSUM reviewer seems to think that they don't get together at the end, that something goes wrong. Hmm. I thought the book ha
a happy ending for once. Anyhoo, chapter 9 for my second go around here I come.

However, let me also note a formal, or rather the lack of the drive for form here, that already marked MORAVIAN NIGHT where far larger sections float about all over Europe as the FORMER AUTHOR goes about a last big round-about and tells it one long night on the Moravia, that hotel houseboat tied to the shores of the Morava River in deepest darkest Serbia. The individual sections there, as well as in DER GROSSE FALL, are by and large superb... but I miss that extra kick I got out of the clockwork wizardry, say of Handke's DON JUAN. Nor does a leisurely walking pace take command of me, as in THE REPETITION I could not help but become a king of slowness, too.


Part I of what will probably appear as three comments on Chapter 9 at Scott Abbott's http://goaliesanxiety.blogspot

In chapter IX, the final one, we
will recall our Actor proceeds to walk all over
town, back and forth across the bridges,
and claims not to be a flaneur, but to walk
determinately. He encounters a pack of dogs
but they do not tear him to pieces as they
did some millennial ago a Greek actor, he noticed
that the light in the city of light gets
into every crevice, how the buses have fewer
and fewer passengers... there is a church full of people, but they are not worshipping, the actor feels he cannot save the world... the writing is of a kind that I don't want to stop at the sheer virtuosity of it, sovereign, light, Capricio-like. We are nearing the end, the "Cafe de Destiné" and she is waiting, a consummation of consummations is impending, but the novelty ends with the mystifying sentence: "Aber dann kam der grosse Fall." Pretty much the same sentence with which the novel started, with a thunderclap. There has been a second impending thunderstorm, but it averted. The weather, the atmospheric conditions are perhaps the most unifying element through out this wandering tale of a daylong amble through the woods, the outskirts and the center of the metropolis. Throughout the book there have been these either deja vues, or intrusions of earlier events and creatures. At the very end, too, the madman who who shouts shut up ,"ta gruele" in the woods... or is it just an echo... in the actor's mind, who now professes that utter seriousness is his chief quality - why should anyone believe anything he says? - so what might the title, the first and last sentence of the book imply? I am reminded of the of GOALIE'S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK. Bloch, the construction worker goalie absorbs the ball that is shot, so surprisingly, to him, at his midriff, the equally anxious forward guessing that he will either leap to the right or left. The all around surprise is complete. [And I always felt that was the moment that Bloch was put under arrest by his paranoia tapping him on the shoulder, from behind]. The surprise here, in DER GROSSE FALL, is complete, too, at the moment of consummation... lightning strikes, coitus interruptus! It is a first rate ending for a poetic novel.




What would Henry Green with such an opening?! DER GROSSE FALL isnot as closely worked a piece as Handke's DON JUAN, another exemplary piece of work. Aside the opening chapter it is a series of often amazing pieces of writing,that could stand on their own, or could be shoe-hornedinto other books; Handke has bought a whole set of shoehorns here. And I don't see the premise, the kind of premise
by why Handke says one needs to judge his work - a challenge, and the right one, to which I have invariably adhered.

Looking back to the opening chapter it is rather
surprising that our aging Actor then walks to town
to spend the night with the same woman he had been with the previous night. The visit to the house has
the air of an affair, albeit of long standing,
yet occasional; that is that perfect first chapter
that I would use as exemplary in a course about
novel writing, could go in very different directions. It could be a triangle story where two women find out who has been disloyal to both and they decideto tear our actor to shreds! The rain man apparition never reappears, might in fact really materialize! as the vengeful husband.. in other words, many other words,the ending of the book is not contained in the first chapter,
not presaged, not inevitable, least of all formally,in a work that is devoid of Handke's as a weaver bird as we have come to appreciate it since MY YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S-BAY at the latest, as as rope maker of that very long many stranded, occasionally dangerously thin narrative rope, CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS... with its knot, topes; and DER GROSSE FALL has nothing in their stead to offer, but a walk, with highly theatrical incidents, which do not amount, do not cumulate, although they seem to be projections of aspects of our mysterious actor, the pitiable creature, nearly ready at any moment to fall into an abyss.
Nor does the book, as do so many other Handke books, impose a sense of time on me as a reader. This is not a rewrite of THE REPETITION, possibly though of THE AFTERNOON OF THE WRITER... who has fashioned a sort of faith for himself - the section with the priest after all, let us recall, is the only encounter when two people actually converse, although the encounter with his woman in the brasserie...


PART III of Last Comment on Chapter 9
If we keep in mind the dozen or so odd discrepancies that appear: the actor
supposed really lives two airplane hours away, yet knows the forest and some of its creatures as though he walks throughit every day; he walks in a leisurely fashion, is suddenlyin a great rush, but then goes walking in just as leisurely manner, first the metropolis - which he claim not have visitedrecently - turns into a kind of futuristic nightmare, later in theevening he walks around, determinedly, back and forth acrossthe bridges, as though this is the Paris we know; he claims
to have been in the woman's house many times, yet doesn't know his way around as though it was the first time; not only does he have to try to capture the elusive lemon kernel, but he then remembers
it as though he read about it in a book [which of course may be the trickiness of the narrator who keeps us on certain tenterhooks and not the author's or his editors' lack of concentration?]
whether we are not experiencing what we read as a film, one of the finer narrative features here; the narrative is so sloppy that the narrator has to convince us readers of improbabilities such
as the Actor's inability to recognize his Iseult, or that he can lip read one moment but not the next... after Chapter One in other words, the narrator and the author go about their business in a rather happy go lucky way. Perhaps GREAT FALLS, MONTANA was not conducive to great overall concentration. Wonderful sequences, for sure,
don't let me keep you from reading, the book is worth at least twice the price of admission, it just hasn't an overall concept, a capricio is as good a category as any, no premise by which it can be judged, and it is those premises that Handke invoked, and by which I abided, and could
always defend his undertakings; and that comes as a surprise in the case of Handke the formalist. ... sof DON JUAN, SUBDAY BLUES,less so in UNTIL THE DAY. As a weaver bird rope maker Handke knows all about splicing and bridges which are used as transitions... yes, a capricio. Capricio, capricious, a caprice. Make your own rules as you go along!

I will reread the book once more in a month or so.
Perhaps something else will occur to me then.

Scott Abbott said...

Michael, I have just read your last 10 comments after having read the latest section of your essay about reading Peter Handke.

The contrast between the former (thoughts on the fly, even though this is a second reading, thoughts that are reaching for final resolution) and the latter (thoughts that have developed and even crystalized over years) is enlightening, a lesson in what Kleist called "the gradual development of thought while speaking."

In short, I love seeing ideas being born. And I love ideas that have matured.

You write that The Ride over Lake Constance brought you to a "state of pure stasis."

Remember the "nunc stans" evoked in "Saint Victoire"? I'll have to think more about why the "now, standing," that ongoing moment without past and present is important.

And now a question: as you read The Great Fall, you repeatedly wonder about the form, about the lack of narrative structure you find in Repetition and other work. I too see the structure of this latest novel as baggy, as baggy as was The Moravian Night. But isn't it possible that Peter is working with another kind of structure, an associational structure?

Remember when I pointed out the connection between the scene in the church and the scene in the pissoir? The second was a revisiting of the first, a comment on the first, a questioning of the first. A making sure that readers don't read mysticism into the church scene.

And remember the connections I made throughout the novel between incidences of standing and falling? That's a thematic thread that structures the novel from title to final sentence.

The structure I'm talking about is more like the structure of some poetry (Mallarme, Celan) than like the structure of a story.

In the end, your sense for this may be right; but until I've thoroughly worked the other possibility I'm going to leave this question open.


-- And my reply [ in probably at least two postings:

1] As to the effect that the 1971 performance of RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE had on me. It was one that I could repeat by just attending about ten minutes: and I was back in that delicious state! "stasis" i imagine was part of it, yet it was not instantaneous, it took at least ten minutes - that is, a short hit - I didn't necessarily come in at the beginning but midway, it is a play in one long act - and what the kids on stage were doing started to have the same effect. It was unique, I had attended a lot of theater by the early 70s, wonderful things, too.
I had no idea what to expect at the premiere since I had not attended a single one of the perfomances. When I met the actors and actresses subsequently, one of them, I am just remembering, a very strong attractive woman who had had an affair with JFK took a real fancy to me, and if there had not been a Cathy in my life I would certainly have taken her up on her proposition.
It was not a state to which I could return without attending at least 10 minutes, but it was an addictive state, that's all it took for me to have my "clock cleaned", which is the short hand for the feeling, for that kind of catharsis. It is not epiphanic, but my perceptions felt opened up, it was not in any way something one could describe as mystical.
Translating the play, the playful dialogue, had not done anything unusual to my state of mind, and the only other experience like it are what is called "a good hour" in analysis, certain matters appear to have resolved themselves in a state of transference to an analyst who is a surrogate for the earliest and most significant figures intra-psychally.
What the two experiences share is that they are both PROCESSES... in which you paricipate, the question being who that YOU is, rather more than you your consciousness is usually aware of; saying which points to the major mistake people make in approaching the play: they look for a story, something to hold their mind's on to, strap hangers of stories, stories the subway to which they entrust their
minds, while the process the subway is running in a process! That is why I am writing up the special experiences I had on reading, in the process of reading certain Handke texts, which I have not had at any other time in 70 years of reading. RIDE, the text, has its own apparently illogical logic too - that is it I imagine, the contrast of two very different kinds of logic.
Handke is addicted to writing, he is cooking one project or another and making notes, or used to. It is a p r o c e s s there, too.
The game of dice that God plays is far trickier than Albert Einstein imagined who failed to make his peace with quantum theory. And onceyou have admitted to yourself that there existsthat vast realm that has been designated "the unconscious" ...nunc stans is something different
entirely I think.



2] Yes, thoughts re-think themselves it appears. My recollection of THE REPETITION is of a fairly continuous walking experience. Ditto for the very different and far shorter AFTERNOON OF THE WRITER, to which DER GROSSE FALL bears some resemblance; but AFTERNOON is far more laconic and compressed, novella-like, and GROSSE FALL at least starts off as a romancier's ROMAN, as Handke became as of NO-MAN'S BAY, although he keeps tossing in medium length narratives such as ONE DARK NIGHT I LEFT MY SILENT HOUSE, a very quirky book in many ways, with some amazing dream sequence writing. KALI ["Saltworks"]is a unique departure, written in many ways to memorialize a special landscape and underground, KALIMANCHARO! Very much of a whole, very congruent, the sort of thing that still appeals to my longing for sense of completion, which is why I quibble or whatever it is with the "form" of GROSSE FALL.
> Your idea, Scott, that one can also do it in the way that
> poetic sections - the simplest form of that being different images placed side by side which as it were create their own meaning simply by means of contiguity, that merely have a few bridges between them as they do here,- yes, one can do it, for sure. - coincides with my notion that FALL is a capriccio, or scherzo; it is the collage principle, which may be the best way to approach its different sections in their togetherness between book covers,where the different sections subsequent to the spectacular opening chapter: a] the man/tree/civil war left over;[b]"ta greule", whom the actor knows only too well, a very complicated projection for sure![c] the crowd in the clearing, the city intruding [d] the descent into the metropolis via the crossing of the encirling highway [e] the railway yard, etc etc. the warring factions, the juvenile delinquents; the couples that each consists of differing unsual age discrepancies; the one familiar he encounters from his past; that extraordinary church experience and that priest who endorses the earthly pleasures.... all of these are very intense experiences, the book has a leisurely air about it after its BANG of an opening, yet most sections, but by no means all, are filmically strong, and the sheer writing elicits sheer joy in me, for the sheer good time the writer seems to have in being able to write so damn well, in such arpeggios... but I miss the sense of wholeness, that kind of congruence. I would say, the book is not resolved, it starts with a bang and ends with a bang that we must imagine. A boulder falling off from the nearby cathedral! Another lightning strike. But how do you end it? He could leave it at the meeting at the Brasserie Destine. CUT. MYSTERY. But the underlying problematic remains unresolved? That can have its own honesty .


> You mention that futuristic pissoir - I just checked on line, Paris pissoirs have changed, only one of the postwar one remains, but not that radically - as a contrast to the church scene. I must reread to see if I agree. But shouldn't there then be an attendant? Handke the futurist is at work. The claim that the actor has not been in town for quite a while, like others of that kind is not convincing! It's like a tick meanwhile, this need for futuristic fable quality. He does better when he remagics reality verbally.
> The first chapter is so rich in possibility, but then only a few of them develop. That he seeks out that very woman who he seemed glad left only her leaving behind her comes as a surprise, at the Brasserie Destiny. It sure doesn't seem that our intriguing aging actor has any destiny at all. That he then recognizes himself as an AMOK RUNNER in the metro window, doesn't come as a huge surprise considering that he is what he sees, his several projections of himself, starting with the phantasmal rainman... then followed by what looks like a left over from the civil wars and the "ta guele" fellow... echos from the walk, from the forest and the outskirts follow him to town, subside, like an abating thunderstorm, that supplies continuity of an unusual, subtle kind - if we regard the book as yet another INNERWORLD OF THE OUTERWORLD OF THE INNERWORLD procedue, a very mature one indeed!
> We never see him acting for one, I don't think - it is merely stated that that is what he is, was; he is recognized in the sort of way a star likes to be recognized, that is with pleasure but also without much fuss, after he takes the emergency exit so as not to have to talk to the director. but does he act, as he might when he is frisked by the railway police? not as i recall. that would be an occasion for at least an attempt.
> everthing is heightened in this book however, starting with the first sentence. highly dramatic. very emphatic all the major scenes. very filmic. the very irony of someone like Handke who has stated many time that thrice a day he has the impulse to run amok then writing a book about an ACTOR who is meant to play a character in film where he runs amok, that hearsay elicited in me, as you will recall, the guess that our man was having fun with himself. but as we read, we realize that our ACTOR, all the many different things he is, sides he has, is actually already an AMOKER! on the verge... at nearly all times.... a true BORDERLINE personality if ever there was, says someone who finds that Otto Kernberg suffers from categoriesis, a more severe malady even than adjectivitis which is a bad as ingesting too much wormwood or having syphilis.



3] Also about walking and walking through the woods, to distinguish this walk from the other and the woods from the one we have become familiar with in NO MAN'S BAY and especially the section in DEL GREDOS that treats in such amazing detail of the
effect that the hurricane around 2000 had on the French forests. Yes, these woods, too, have odd creatures hanging out in them, in NO-MAN'S BAY I believe here was an entire encampment. Intrusions. Here you have some of that, and incursions - but, and this is my point, if Handke just wanted to describe his typical ramble around the Foret de Chaville, he wouldn't use these inentisifying stylistic means, be so capricious, this is very special walk all right. Capricious, light, intense, virtuosolike, variegated.
And Handke goes out of his way, i think, to avert the possibility of this actor being identified with him, the way the Actor cleans up after himself - if you recall that odd discussion at DER FREITAG on the occasion of the publication of Lillian Birnbaum's photo album of his house and garden
the volume is also discussed and lots of photos are online
at the Sonntag magazine of die Suedeutsche Zeitung
where they talk about "messie/messy" Handke's house!
we note that in some sense Handke lives in his own chaos
as do most artists, who usually pretty much know where
each item is located.

i have meanwhile a separate photo album, Chaville
that has all those photos and of Chaville itself
I looked at Google Earth, and so can you to see the forest and
approximately how long it takes to walk to Paris, to Clamart/ Meudon
and what impediments there are. Here he of course walks
pretty much into the center of town, and is still on a promontory
of an aging fortress!

Handke mentioned in a recent interview that he lives by himself
since the his house has "ears", but that once or twice a week
he walks to town to be with his wife, Sophie Semin, and their
daughter, Laocadie. He could I imagine write that straight,
and it would probably not be boring, but that is not what this
book is, although I venture that the beautifully handled declaration of mutual love in the brasserie, is at least a wished for state of
the two reconciled beasties. So it is the declaration of
trying not to feel so grisly about himself as he does in
in AFTERNOON, he won't play AMOK ... the impulse is fading...
it lies, he hopes, in the past as the impulses surge forth a
few more times. But one difference from most of the other books since the THREE ESSAYS is that it is really not located in one place which is explored. DON JUAN plays in an ancient abby within easy walking distance of Chaville and is explored so that
it becomes a character in the book! It's absnce here, too, contributes to my sense of a lack of unit

franzangst said...

Dear Professor Abbott, I have followed your and Mike's discussion of Handke's latest; although not having read it as closely as either of you, I find something missing in your discussion.
The novel purports to be the account of one day in the life of an aging actor who is meant to play an "Amok Läufer", and who manifests a few impulses of that kind at certain moments; eventually recognizes himself as such: i.e. Handke knows the fundamental principles of projection. The book is told by a classically omniscient narrator, who of course cannot be assumed to be identical with the author. "Our," or "my actor" he says. What I am driving at is the utter lack of even wondering why our actor, who is only meant to "play" a psychotic is just as psychotic, at moments, as the character he is supposed to play.

We all know that there are psychotic episodes in the life of the author Peter Handke. I was appalled to read that at about age 30 he smacked his two year old child because he was irritated by her bawling as his basement was flooding; there are also these incidents of violence towards women. Thus the author know what he himself is capable of under moments of stress; and it isn't just stress, the injury that was his wife leaving him elicited a suicide attempt, however he than spat out the handful of pills, sleeping I assume. During the subsequent stressful period in Paris he became so seriously panicked that he ended up in a hospital with a tachycardia. I know all this because I was Mike's chief discussant while he wrote his psychoanalytic monograph. What I am driving at is this: there is nothing in the world to keep the omniscient narrator of DER GROSSE FALL from speculating about the reasons why the actor, too, has the very tendencies that he is meant to represent in a film.
As readers we of course have our hunches why someone might run amok, all we need do is read the papers. Most often it appears to be a man who is fired or who does not get along with his fellow workers, or who "hears" things, who is paranoid, like Handke's goalie construction worker Bloch. The only instance I see in your discussion of any mention of this theme that runs like a read thread through Handke's life and work is when Mike characterizes our nameless actor as being somewhat like Handke himself was during his stormy period after his first wife left him, the poems in NONSENSE & HAPPINESS, fugueing! I think we are well beyond being able to write Dostoevsky's THE POSSESSED without engaging the reasons for being so. Not easily done of course, since I appreciate Handke's unwillingness to employ
the psychoanalytic epistemology and its terms; and going back to the ancient terms of "he's got the devil in him", he is bewitched. Some of those terms are lovely of course, still, and we retain a sense of their meaning. However, having given some
thought to the book - it certainly does not seem to be written in a driven mode, as those poems in NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS were. If driven, Handke strikes me is to write as joyously and well as possible. Yours truly, Franz Angst, M.D.

franzangst said...

As readers we of course have our hunches why someone might run amok, all we need do is read the papers. Most often it appears to be a man who is fired or who does not get along with his fellow workers, or who "hears" things, who is paranoid, like Handke's goalie construction worker Bloch. The only instance I see in your discussion of any mention of this theme that runs like a read thread through Handke's life and work is when Mike characterizes our nameless actor as being somewhat like Handke himself was during his stormy period after his first wife left him, the poems in NONSENSE & HAPPINESS, fugueing! I think we are well beyond being able to write Dostoevsky's THE POSSESSED without engaging the reasons for being so. Not easily done of course, since I appreciate Handke's unwillingness to employ
the psychoanalytic epistemology and its terms; and going back to the ancient terms of "he's got the devil in him", he is bewitched. Some of those terms are lovely of course, still, and we retain a sense of their meaning. However, having given some
thought to the book - it certainly does not seem to be written in a driven mode,
as those poems in NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS were. If driven, Handke strikes me is
to write as joyously and well as possible. Yours truly, Franz Angst, M.D.

Scott Abbott said...

The new question raised by Franz Angst (why doesn't the omniscient narrator speculate about the actor's periodic veering toward running amok?) is indeed one we haven't raised here; and it seems important.

In the post that can be found here

I wrote that the novel is about narration, as opposed to being about an actor walking through the woods; but that possible answer seems to beg the question.

So I'll keep thinking and perhaps Michael can come up with something.

In any case, many thanks for the question.


Scott's reply to Angst's comment in a way interests me more. Our man can be full of tricks, and coy as hell,
and he has been in love with ambiguity for a long time.
I am certainly glad that he hasn't addressed the question of his own or his protagonist's amockish tendencies, say, in the manner of the "Modern Love" column in Auntie's rag:
as tiny url link:
where every catastrophic dysfunctional family's problems
dissolves in comprehensibility.

I must have read upward of a 1000 case histories since the mid-80s,
overall what you come away with is the sum of the horrors that parents
perpetrate on their children, and the analysts who write up these case
histories, marvelously or badly, scarcely a one will admit his
own failures! A certain optimism prevails, and I think it is justified. The procedure is marvelously interesting, it helps, you can glue the broken jug back together, and in a different
form, but the fault lines, and a certain fragility never disappear,
as compared to some repairs which strengthen the original.

I have for a long time now thought of Handke more as a composer than
just a writer, a special case of the Romantic urge to become music.
I also address that matter once again in Part II of my Essay on Reading,
which has all these special instances of reading experiences I had only
with Handke's work. Regarded as a piece of music, what comes to my mind
first is Prokofiev's CLASSICAL SYMPHONY
Such an approach certainly fits the the novel's perfect Chapter One.
Then we get a kind of extended virtuoso curlicue in Chapter II, the kind of curlicues that the cartoonist Steinberg was master at. This is followed by the apparitions in the forest and the invasion of the clearing. Throughout, our "actor" behaves most oddly! He is the most richly drawn of Handke's novel characters, and far odder than Handke himself is, and certainly not
a self-portrait, no matter what Marie Colbin may think on that score.
The subsequent sections, too, all loosely connected, have the intensity
of the filmic, as Handke, this utter virtuoso of what can be done with
language, has been using at least since the late 80s tale, ABSENCE,
and in that respect, too, in a variety of manners. What sticks in my mind are these very powerfully executed scenes, no matter whether it is the noirish railway yard scene, especially of course sequences in the church and the the brasserie with the woman of his life. I have enumerated
any number of inconsistencies and improbabilities in the mechanical
scaffolding of the book, they are like dandruff, point to possible lack
of concentration on the author's part, and/ or of his editor Raimund
Fellinger. I always liked the fact that Herr Fellinger forbade Malte Herwig access to his correspondence with Handke for MEISTER DER DAEMMERUNG and so I don't need to direct my speculations in that direction. I myself like the fact that the book ends with this huge "cut", unresolved into mystery. But I would not agree with you that it's chief object of its writing was about how and why to narrate.

Scott Abbott said...

I didn't mean "why and how to narrate." I was trying to get at the way the novel thinks about how our lives are made of stories, how the actor's life is "related" to the story he will act (also of an amok runner) and to the story of the slippery seed he has left behind and that returns in another form.
The narrator himself must compose this account out of stories, the narrator's life, as the actor's life, is woven out of film scenes.

Unknown said...

Let me first reply to my friend Angst in the identity that goes with my analytic comments blog, an identity I took fairly recently when I came on Handke's disparaging remarks about "PsychoPhysiker"! Then I will go back to being "Summa.Politico", which is the blogger identity I ended up with when I didn't know how this business worked, and started a political blog with ambitions of that kind, and which quickly became overwhelming. Around the start of the invasions of Afghanistam and Iraq. I scarcely post there any more, but am stuck with that odd identity, even when I am not directly political.

You may recall that toward the beginning of this long discussion when I addressed the "actor" going to Paris - I suggested a far more adventurous time there then just walking around, which is what it is aside the long scene in the brasserie. And I suggested that maybe our "actor" after some Dostoyevskyian adventures might seek counsel with a Psycho.Physiker as Handke once did during his first Paris Period [see WEIGHT OF THE WORLD for a number of references and accounts]. I pretended that someone at Suhrkamp had sent some chapters that had been cut out. It is the recollection of the first Paris Period [1971/2-78/9] that brought that on, since the character of the actor still bears some of the same features, the amocking, the fuguieng. In the early 70s Handke observed in WEIGHT that his therapist [possibly of the Catholic persuasion, Handke seems to have seen him en face, not on the couch] at Easter time, mentioned that he too felt the weight of the cross. Indeed, analysts do, they feel the weight of their patient's depression. I have not the faintest whether Handke's notation also included that knowledge. At any event, Handke has little of interest to say about the matter, and some very negative comments can be found about the language of the therapeutic, since women appear to have used it to berate him for his child rearing methods early on. I myself was merely puzzled
why child Amina was really too quiet for words. Analysis happens also to be excruciatingly painful to one's grandiose narcissism, of which you may not have been aware and then to the extent it is affected during the procedure. Freud committed, as has been often noted, a huge injury on human kind's sense of self, one might think of Freud as the "Mohel" [the Jewish expert who performs circumcision] of the species' grandiose self. I don't see our man going through that. So my speculative answer to Franz Angst is: perhaps Handke has never looked up the material that is available, e.g via one of the main portals to just about everything psychoanalytic, my friend Stephen Soldz's
as he once did the linguistics involved in paranoid schizophrenia
then, around 1970, nominated as book of the year. Paris certainly is not lacking in extraordinary analysts.
If he had and wanted to address that aspect this would of course have been a very different book. As the author, Handke trusts our knowledge of the world to have
a good idea of what running amok is, and that it's source of course is a huge anger.


Let me see if I understand what you mean, Scott. An answer in two parts due to space limitations.

["I didn't mean "why and how to narrate." I was trying to get at the way the novel thinks about how our lives are made of stories, how the actor's life is "related" to the story he will act (also of an amok runner) and to the story of the slippery seed he has left behind and that returns in another form.
The narrator himself must compose this account out of stories, the narrator's life, as the actor's life, is woven out of film scenes. "]
I am feeling more than usually dense after too good a long nite's sleep,which means I managed to get back to sleep at 3 AM
and then woke at the barest crack at 6 AM, with the full
moon a few degrees way off in the so autumnal northwest
plump and very bright.

1] We have a narrator, devised by the author, Peter Handke which narrator however is not identical with the author. I.e. instead of
the kind of Handkean lens with which we have become familiar over the years, a Sorger or a Loser, we have a nameless narrator,
and it appears irrelevant that he lacks a name. It is a lens
that appears to have a certain kind of omniscience, as Angst
pointed out yesterday; that is, the author is the puppeteer,
God is his puppet! This is a very self-conscious use of that
strategy, which comes with a number of narrative constraints,

This narrator, the author's tool, manifests himself as astoundingly knowing in Chapter I. It is one of the great chapters in a neo-classical vein. Just the efficiency with which it handles
monologue interieur suffices to prove that point.

The fable, for GROSSER FALL is that too, starts with a bang,
and we find out an amazing amount about how our Actor behaves
and what he feels and his sensations. He has not any one left
whom he wants to represent, he derives from the working class,
yet appears to be possibly a roue - is the "rain man" that
appears briefly an apparition? A manifest of a guilty conscience
that pursuers a cuckholder? This is very much film like already.
Ambiguous, intriguing.


PART TWO OF MY ANSWER TO SCOTT'S { I didn't mean "why and how to narrate." I was trying to get at the way the novel thinks about how our lives are made of stories, how the actor's life is "related" to the story he will act (also of an amok runner) and to the story of the slippery seed he has left behind and that returns in another form.
The narrator himself must compose this account out of stories, the narrator's life, as the actor's life, is woven out of film scenes. ]

It would have been possible with that chapter to have STAID IN PLACE, as Handke does in so many of his books [the three ASSAYINGS as I think of the pieces on TIREDNESS, THE JUKE BOX, and THE DAY THAT WENT WELL, NO-MAN'S BAY, the background fabric
for the unity of narrative time. One could have him wanting to leave
but then change his mind: the woman was not "merely good to him",
he realizes that he really wants to have her. He waits for her
return from the city, she arrives with a girlfriend, and we
could have that great scene from the brasserie transposed to the
place. Instead we are told he will walk to the city, and surprise surprise it is that very woman whom he is going to see. It is mentioned that he reads some pages of the screenplay about someone
who plays an amok runner, he has the damndest time getting hold
of a slippery lemon kernel, later it says that he read about that
in a book. A number of other apparitions appear to him during the course of the day, he is his own apparition, there is a lot of speculating on his and the priests part about who he is, evidently a fellow with "a lot of qualities" - unless I am getting confused, towards the end he thinks of his "patience" as his chief quality. It is certainly an intriguing character and an intriguing walk that he takes, these are all set pieces. Perhaps Handke just wanted to
work a lot of brillliantly rendered set pieces into a book? I wouldn't put it past the writer of MORAWIAN NIGHT to just sort of string them together and have the reader become as a puzzled as I am about the overall structure. In the course of the book we find out
some matters about the protagonists past, he even encounters one man from his past, now very down and out, whom he regrets at being
unable to help. Helping and running amok become twinned themes,
the helping sections and the sudden mention of a son, but not
of his mother, off in Alaska seem to come out of the blue.

To write something as extraordinary as the first chapter at the very least manifest extraordinary concentration, not that surprising
for someone who appreciates the art of HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER or of DON JUAN, to mention two of the most stellar performances; and then, the concentration appears to lapse;and I continue to be puzzled. If you could elaborate on what you mean I might be less so. Densely yours, but the sun is shining
and if not a sun bath, a light sun glazing at midday, that prospect
I have.

Scott Abbott said...

Hope your sun bath is pleasant.
As for denseness, you'll remember cases of my own. And sometimes the argument is impenetrable and needs a better working out.

What I'm saying is that a major theme of the novel is that we are determined/spoken/structured by our language and the stories that make up our culture (Peter often explores this theme, which is evident throughout his work, perhaps most strongly in Kaspar).

One way to emphasize this is with a string of characters each of whom is dependent on the one behind him or her.

1. Peter Handke
2. The narrator
3. The actor
4. The man in the woods seen through the actor's eyes
5. The character in the book the actor reads
6. The readers (you and me)

I tried earlier in the discussion to explain breaks in the text you were pointing out with this related argument:

". . . 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:

'. . . 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."

part 2 to follow

Scott Abbott said...

"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."

That the meaning of our lives depends on film scenes and books and narrators means that we don't speak language, it speaks us (Herder). It means that unless we're very skillful narrators of our own lives, unless we're strong poets, unless we're able to change the conversation that determines us, in short, unless we're Peter Handke and able to simultaneously point out that we live in the prisonhouse of language and give us new language, then we're simply the cliches we fear we are anyway.

As an answer to the question about why the narrator doesn't examine amoklaufer, your answer is probably better: the reader is left to think this through since neither the narrator nor Peter is especially interested in psychological explanations but rather in describing the phenomenon.


Scott, since I am completing Part II of my assaying of "reading" [where I also try to account for the fact that Handke texts, quite aside the extraordinary experiences that can be had with his activist theater happenings, have provided a series of unique reading experiences to my aging eyes] I also gave some thought to what can be regarded as real: or as really real as we must say in our fantastical world of reality television and someone like David Shields suffering from "reality hunger." - The ink on the page, their electronic transcription into pixels, the page itself and of course what these impress on eyes
and the wax that is our minds that in your and mine and our readers instance exists within a consensual world of understanding; that is, whatever the lettering elicits in our minds that as we know has an unconscious and pre-conscious and into which the forever dialogue that is going on inside it, the latent fantasies can intrude. E.g. that perfect first chapter of DER GROSSE FALL establishes also that "the actor" talks to himself - dialogue interieur; perhaps suffers from apparitions [the rainman], and that this is going to be a special day,
and is it ever as of the opening thunderbolt! The "rainman" prepares us for further apparitions, in the subway "the actor" becomes his own apparition of an "amok runner."

If what I am writing here were written in the far more melodious Arab script I imagine you would only realize that that that is the case, and since it came from me might be sufficienty interested to have it translated, unless. Occasionally I wonder whether the insistence or at what point the insistence that "this is just a book" does not become specious, since we do know in what form the transmission of the text comes to us. What we read can elicit [a] a sense of something in us which we regard as real outside the book where we are reading it, and [b] as belonging exclusively to the book, to that "world of words", that LEBENSWELT in which literary conventions and the harsh law of formalism exists. FINNEGAN'S WAKE is the supreme example of a book that exists entirely within the world of words, in the world of puns, of dream puns. Beckett's great trilogy, begining with MOLLOY exists entirely within its own world word of his devising, a metaphysical world. Handke in his books I would say dithers between realism and world of words, has since his first novel, DIE HORNISSEN. In some of his plays, KASPAR, RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE, QUODLIBET entirely within a world of words that then stand in a special relationship to the world that exists in our minds outside the world of word, each in its own way.


PART II of at least 3 replies to Scott Abbott's last two postings:

So what purpose does what you call subversion serve? The text asks to be understood and it is to different degrees by each of us; it exerts itself on us, Handke's texts in unique ways, which uniqueness we can account for by resorting to aesthetic categories, judgments about words and sentences can do. Handke affects me powerfully, especially the sections of GROSSE FALL that express the author's absolute joy in writing!

Handke can also be one of the great realists, one chief example of that is the 5,000 word section, early on in DEL GREDOS, where the Ex-bankieress describes what the famous tormento tropical that hit northern France around the year 2000 wrought in his forest. I knew he would describe that since I gathered from NO-MAN'S-BAY what a forest walker writer he is, had become. Still, I keep being amazed as I occasionally re-read that section at the amazing detail in which he describes, say, the rootwork of these overturned trees, how much more he sees! I had Angst send him a shoe box full of a collection of the finest conniffers from the Pacific North West, which is famous for that wealth, but Angst never heard back whether Peter received and planted them to replenish what had been downed, they may have never made it through French Customs and whatever regulations pertain about vegetation entering their precincts. Thus, I may be a little too drenched in Handkeana, and this enters my reading and real-ization of DER GROSSE FALL. E.g. You cite the view of the metropolis after the actor has ploughed his way through a forest, as an instance of "nunc stans" [these are also invariably moments at which Handke seems to be able to breathe again, feels less constricted around his heart!] that isn't quite the forest of NO-MAN'S-BAY, it strikes me on a different order, but the view from that spot is pretty much the same as at the opening of LEFT HANDED WOMAN, about which you have written that fine essay.

And it is the same view in the film and also the one I know when I visited Peter there in the mid-seventies, the film was shot in the very house in which he wrote the book, and so I know the view from Meudon/ Clamart where I also visited another author, the famous war reporter Wilfred Burchett.
Some matters are as they are also
outside the book, and then are only in the book, e.g. that old fort, or once castle that in the book is said to intrude nearly into the very center of the metropolis, that and other matters including the futuristic urinals make us see Paris or any metropolis differently, a now customary Handkean way of estranging us from the familiar, most sucessful to me at the end of MORAWIAN where his home village Griffen in the year in that future when that book is alleged to play, now with Minaretts,
intrusions of the Arabic, as we can already find Arabic intruding in NO-MAN'S-BAY, perhaps Handke has taught himself to read Arabic, and not only reads their masters in translation. But he is charmed by the music, as am I.



Scott, when you write the pararaph that starts with the sentence: That the meaning of our lives depends on film scenes and books and narrators means that we don't speak language, it speaks us (Herder).
sentence you might recall that Nietzche wrote "es" lebt uns, whence
we have Freud's "id", and perhaps I ought to send you my little book A PATIENT'S EXPERIENCE OF HIS ANALYSIS to drive home what an extraordinary experience it was when I had a dream, during the analysis, where the vastness of the unconscious opened up to me. In ONE DARK NIGHT Peter writes a section, after the "Pharmacist" as the protagonist is called there, is hit over the head, in dream syntax. I was absolutely stunned when I came on it, and even
more amazing an American reviewer,
in XXX actually got what Handke was doing there. In GROSSE FALL, since so much is experienced, at least by the two of us, also as film with its grafic intensifications we have a differnt film syntax of the kind according to which, very much in the "nouvelle Vague" manner, the 1971 SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL is organized. Very big jump cuts here.

The cauldron of the unconscious with its fantasies and conversations and wishes bubbling away indeed seeks to organize and articulate itself in narratives. Let this translator of KASPAR address that cleanly executed formalist concept of what transpires in the attempt to find an identity, a vexing matter also for our actor, who at the end of his carreer wonders who and what he is. In KASPAR Handke took the original sentence "I want to be a horseman - cavalry officer? - as my father was" in a far more abstract direction. The play is like the demonstration, a clinical experiment where a character has his original sentence expunged, and is then educated into the world of platitudes, into becoming a normal sheeple. Goat and monkeys. Goat and monkeys. Goats and monkeys, I was sufficiently adept to translate the last sentence that is repeated thrice over. Handke himself the cut what had been the last sentence "I am only accidentally I" as being too programatic. However, that was Handke, age 24, and language, which is so painful to Kaspar at a time that Handke frequently mentioned how language nauseated him, is experienced joyfully meanwhile. So much for now.



I still don't feel done with my understanding of how DER GROSSE FALL works, although Scott's pointers are helpful. Especially his writing:

"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."

There is something to what Scott points out, and it is for me that it brings to mind the behavior of Bloch of GOALIE fame, who segues in and out of focus as he dissociates, Bloch who can irrupt into violence if something irritates him, but about whom we find out comparatively next to nothing with all the matters we are told about the actor, and see him behave. Not that what Scott says as yet convinces me of the need for what he calls subversion in this instance. I can accept that our "actor", a kind of absent minded professor, too, is already in a film mind as he walks to town, in and out, and that it occurs to him suddenly that he really has a deep love for the woman whose absence in the form of the air she leaves behind as a kind of draft he appreciated most early in the morning; in which case his dubious personality - he is everything and nothing seemingly, nothing but an actor, as Handke once felt that he was "nothing but a writer" [!], this indeterminacy becomes him, and we are exposed to it in the present of the book. A middling writer might tell and not show us, films show, they have an eternal present, image by image, the middling writer might write:

"As the actor walked to town he fantasized what it would be like for him, who also suffered from occasional attacks of rage that made him want to run amok, to play a character who runs amok? What if he had an attack while on the set?" That would not be entirely uninteresting, but it would not have the tactile immediacy of what Handke did. Not that I am yet satisfied with how he did with what he did.


Let me take a few long steps back, and say that, meanwhile, I have made me peace with the internally open-ended form of the immediately prior novel, MORAVIAN NIGHT. That book was originally advertized as SAMARRA, then Handke wrote some more, it
grew into MORAVIAN NIGHT, it was loosely tied to a house-boat-hotel that is by the shore of the MORAWA in deepest darkest Serbia... besides the many things that novel is, it is a kind of calling card of a lot of different things that Handke does better than anyone else, and since MORAWA has such a provisional quality despite its allegedly being the last thing our ex-author writes perhaps Handke will go back to it in another few years when a true goodby song, not merely its make believe,
is in order. I can see some additional places our ex-author might visit, or re-visit, especially Thuringia and its Harz mountain where, in the way the book is written
now, the ex-author merely sniff around his father's air. Aside what he failed to do, "Gutes Schuhleder" [shoe-leather] Herwig has done us all a service by retrieving that trove of correspondence between Handke and his leiblicher Vater, Herr Schoenherr. And that a graduation trip of the kind as it is described in WUNSCHLOSES UNGLUECK never happened in the there described fashion. Oedipally speaking Handke, the forever son, never really had to confront a father: Bruno Handke, the stepfather, was despised by the Sivec clan, the actual father, by not marrying the mother, had also abandoned his son. It is no wonder that Handke, under those circumstances, turned toward the grandparents on his mother's side, especially "Ote" Sivec. The ramification of the lack and the then surrogate are manifold and this is not the point to re-iterate them, but to indicate how clear and unobstructed the road to literary conquest seemed.

What I mean to say I think is that like MORAWIAN, DER GROSSE FALL strikes me as under-developed, especially with the sense of completion I gain from nearly all of Handke's previous work, and also from the then previous work IMMER NOCH STURM which Scott and I discussed at great and varied length at, see

for links to the discussions, background, and accumulated reviews.
The only book of Handke's that gave me some real difficulty during all these years was DIE HORNISSEN, his first. Subsequently I discovered the concept and admired how it was realized and judged it, if I needed to judge, it by its own premise. Here, this admirer of the so completely realized first chapter, feels cheated! Handke presents none of the difficulties of the then moderns of the early 20th century.

I also wanted to come back to Fabjan Haffner's pointing out, a while back,
that these novels also have an "as if" quality. True, the "as if state" realized becomes the living death mask of the experience" to ring a change on Benjamin's great insight. Here, DER GROSSE FALL, with sections of the most joyous writing I have ever encountered, nonetheless strikes me as a very fragmented death mask.


LET ME POST SOMETHING, IN ABOUT THREE SECTIONS, THAT ADDRESSES THE QUESTION THAT ANGST RAISED LAST WEEK WEEK, the author's as well as the protagonists lack of speculation what might elicit such Amok running. The formidable German analyst Julian Bielicki here addressses even more violent behavior. Let us also recall that Handke's protagonist Loser is a kind of Amokrunner, who kills an old Nazi, i.e. he has righteous permission. He however appears to suffer, sadistically, form "agenbite of inwit", sadist that he is.
aus: Julian S. Bielicki, „Der rechtsextreme Gewalttäter - Eine
Psychoanalyse“, Hamburg, Rasch und Röhring Verlag, 1993, ISBN 3-89136-479-2

Das archaische drakonische Gewissen oder: Schlagt sie alle tot

Der rechstextreme Gewalttäter ist mit Recht ganz am Ende eines Spektrums
der Pathologie anzusiedeln, dort, wo primitivster Sadismus an Stelle
eines Gewissens steht. Ungemilderte Aggressionsäußerung und ein nahezu
unbeherrschbarer Drang nach Machtausübung und Erniedrigung oder
Ermordung anderer beherrschen das Welt- und Selbstbild des
rechtsextremen Gewalttäters.
Die Verbindung zu einer politischen Ideologie ist ein leises Anzeichen
für ein rudimentär vorhandenes Über-Ich, wenn sie dadurch den Gewinn
einer "moralischen Rechtfertigung" suchen. Es ist, als handelten sie
unter Geheiß einer extrem grausamen Gottheit, als hätten Grausamkeit,
Egozentrismus, Rücksichtslosigkeit, Menschenverachtung die Bedeutung von
Glaubensinhalten für diese Menschen. Meines Erachtens ist der Grund
dafür in einem archaischen Über-Ich-Vorläufer zu finden, einer
Tiefenschicht im Seelenleben des rechtsextremen Gewalttäters, die
geprägt wurde von dem Bild einer überwältigenden und grausamen
Elterngestalt, die totale Unterwerfung oder vollständiges
Aufgenommenwerden in die Macht des omnipotenten Elternbildes als
Voraussetzung für das eigene Überleben verlangte. Eine wechselseitig
befriedigende Beziehung erscheint ihnen völlig unerreichbar, vor allem
aber als beängstigend instabil und beinhaltet daher sogar die
Aufforderung, zerstört zu werden, soll die sadistische Beziehung nicht
verlorengehen. Der "Gewinn" dieser Einstellung liegt in einem Gefühl der
Freiheit von Angst, Schmerz und Furcht, sowie in der Überzeugung, die
einzig deutliche Form einer Beziehung zu anderen zu leben.



Das normale Über-Ich ist beim Rechtsextremen nicht integriert,
realistische elterliche Verbote und Forderungen wurden nicht
internalisiert. Der rechtsextreme Gewalttäter ist nicht fähig,
moralische Verantwortung zu übernehmen, es sei denn, er kann sie in der
"nur guten" Gruppe unter Beweis stellen. Kameradschaftlichkeit und
Einsatzbereitschaft sind Anzeichen dafür, daß das Über-Ich in Ansätzen
vorhanden ist (ansonsten hätten wir amoklaufende Einzeltäter vor uns),
es funktioniert jedoch nicht überall, sondern nur auf den weissen
Feldern eines streng schwarz/weiss gehaltenen kleinkarierten Schemas.

Die Angst oder: Was passiert, wenn andere merken, daß ich ein
Charakterschwein bin ?

Mord und Selbstmord bieten eine extreme Erfahrung totaler Kontrolle über
das Leben eines anderen Menschen, bzw. über das eigene Leben. Diese
Erfahrung zu machen, verbietet dem normalen Menschen sein Gewissen. Wo
das Gewissen fehlt, liegt diese Erfahrung nicht fern und kann sogar zu
einer für den rechtsextremen Gewalttäter notwendigen Aggressionsäußerung
werden, wenn er sein narzißtisches Größenselbst bedroht sieht. Ein
In-Frage-stellen ihres Größenwahns, das auch nur den leisesten Riß in
ihrer kalten, unbarmherzigen Schale erzeugen würde, bedeutet für sie ein
In-Frage-stellen ihrer ganzen Person und ihres ganzen Lebens. Jeder
leise Zug von Menschlichkeit, der an sie herangetragen wird, wird als
äußerste Bedrohung empfunden und muß unter allen Umständen abgewehrt
werden. Ihre innere Einstellung zur Welt und zum Leben ist bestimmt
durch totale Unterwerfung oder totale Unterdrückung und wo die Totalität
einen Riss bekommt, ist für sie nur noch das andere Extrem lebbar.
Deshalb müssen sie diesen Riß, koste es was es wolle, verhindern.
Dahinter steht die Angst vor der vollkommenen Leere, zum einen, daß sie
selbst dieser Leere anheimfallen, zum anderen, daß andere diese Leere in
ihnen entdecken könnten.
Der Selbstmord ist an sich eine grandiose Lösung für diesen Konflikt.
Mord löscht immer nur eine einzelne Person aus, die diesem Konflikt im
Wege stand und es können immer wieder neue In-Frage-Stellungen kommen
oder solche existieren, von deren Existenz er gar nichts weiß.
Selbstmord hingegen löscht all dies auf einen einzigen Schlag aus und
mitunter ist Selbstmord der einzige Weg, sein Größenselbst zu bewahren
und es sogar noch im Moment seiner Vernichtung zu vergrößern in der
Phantasie, totale Kontrolle über die ganze Welt auszuüben, die er auf
diese Weise im Gefühl des totalen Triumphes über das Weltall imaginär
für immer auslöscht.
Nach seiner Verhaftung unternahm z.B. der Attentäter von Mölln, Peters,
einen Selbstmordversuch, auch Hitler, und andere in ihrem Größenwahn
gescheiterte Menschen töteten sich selbst, nachdem ihr mit heißer Luft
aufgeblasenes Größenselbst zerplatzte. (…) S.166-168
Es ist für die Freudsche Psychoanalyse evident, daß der Mensch ein über
den Lebewesen mit höchster Intelligenz und höchster Triebhaftigkeit
ausgestattetes Mörder- und Liebestier ist. Seine Intelligenz benutzt er
leider fast ausschließlich, um den beiden Trieben den Weg zu ihrer
Befriedigung zu bahnen.


PART III OF IV Bielicki excerpts

Alle Massen- und Volksbewegungen sind
kulturfeindlich und triebhaft. Deswegen wird bei Massen- und
Volksbewegungen immer auch der Fremdenhaß und der Antisemitismus
triebhaft. "Es ist immer möglich, eine größere Menge von Menschen in
Liebe aneinander zu binden, wenn nur andere für die Äußerung der
Aggression übrigbleiben. (...) Nachdem der Apostel Paulus die allgemeine
Menschenliebe zum Fundament seiner christlichen Gemeinde gemacht hatte,
war die Äußerste Intoleranz des Christentums gegen die draußen
Verbliebenen eine unvermeidliche Folge geworden; den Römern, die ihr
staatliches Gemeinwesen nicht auf die Liebe begründet hatten, war
religiöse Unduldsamkeit fremd gewesen, obwohl die Religion bei ihnen
Sache des Staates und der Staat von Religion durchtränkt war." (Freud,
Sigmund: Fragen der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt 1982. Band IX. S.243)

Demokratie ist keine ¬Basisdemokratie¬, sondern eine¬ repräsentative¬
Demokratie. Die Forderung nach einer Basisdemokratie kann leicht zur
Diktatur und zum Terror einer triebhaft agierenden Masse werden. Es ist
wichtig, den repräsentativen Charakter unserer Demokratie energischer zu
betonen, der unserer Hoffnung folgt, daß die gewählten Repräsentanten
des Volkes, unsere Abgeordneten und Regierungsmitglieder, über ein
stärkeres Gewissen verfügen als der Durchschnitt ihrer Wähler, so daß
z.B. die Todesstrafe in Deutschland keinen Eingang findet, obgleich die
Mehrheit des deutschen Volkes sich die Todesstrafe wünscht. Es ist
wichtig, daß "Hinz und Kunz" die vom Bundestag und Bundesrat
verabschiedeten Gesetze achten, ob es dem Einzelnen paßt oder nicht.
Viele Deutsche haben offenbar vergessen, daß eine Demokratie durch
-parlamentarische¬, und nicht ¬völkische¬ Mehrheiten regiert wird. Die
Gefahr, die von den tollkühn gewordenen braunen Flegeln ausgeht, ist
gerade, daß sie für sich in Anspruch nehmen, "das Volk" zu sein. Auch
wenn zutreffen sollte, daß "das Volk" die Brutalität gegenüber
Ausländern, Muslimen und Juden vertreten würde - trotzdem muß klar
gemacht werden, daß sich ¬jeder¬ an Beschlüsse der demokratisch
gewählten ¬Vertreter des Volkes halten muß,¬ mit oder ohne Einsicht ¬in
den Sinn parlamentarischer Entscheidungen. Illusionäre Idealisierung
"des Volkes" muß kritisch betrachtet werden. "Auch die Bolschewisten
hoffen, daß sie die menschliche Aggression zum Verschwinden bringen
können dadurch, daß sie die Befriedigung der materiellen Bedürfnisse
verbürgen und sonst Gleichheit unter den Teilnehmern an der Gemeinschaft
herstellen. Ich halte es für eine Illusion." (S.Freud ebda S.283)1)


Politische Veränderungen dürfen ¬nur¬ auf parlamentarischem Wege
geschehen, das Zündeln auf der Straße könnte sonst einen Flächenbrand
entfachen. Psychisch kann ausschließlich die Kultur, wenn auch mehr oder
weniger mangelhaft, die Triebhaftigkeit des Einzelnen und der Massen hemmen.
"Das menschliche Zusammenleben wird erst ermöglicht, wenn sich eine
Mehrheit zusammenfindet, die stärker ist als jeder Einzelne und gegen
jeden Einzelnen zusammenhält. Die Macht dieser Gemeinschaft stellt sich
nun als `Recht` der Macht des Einzelnen, die als `rohe Gewalt`
verurteilt wird, entgegen. Diese Ersetzung der Macht des Einzelnen durch
die der Gemeinschaft ist der entscheidende kulturelle Schritt.“ (
S.Freud, ebda S.225) (...) „Die individuelle Freiheit ist kein
Kulturgut. Sie war am größten vor jeder Kultur.“ S.Freud, ebda S.226
(...) „Die Kultur muß alles aufbieten, um den Aggressionstrieben der
Menschen Schranken zu setzen, ihre Äußerungen durch psychische
Reaktionsbildungen niederzuhalten.“ ( S.Freud, ebda S.241) Die
Schicksalsfrage der Menschenart scheint mir zu sein, ob und in welchem
Maße es ihrer Kulturentwicklung gelingen wird, der Störung des
Zusammenlebens durch den menschlichen Aggressions- und
Selbstvernichtungstrieb Herr zu werden.“ ( S.Freud, ebda S.270) Es
besteht offenkundig keinerlei Aussicht auf Erfolg, die Aggressivität des
Menschen abzuschaffen: es ist jedoch möglich, kurzfristig die
Auswirkungen dieser unumgänglichen Aggressivität zu verhindern und
langfristig in eine gesellschaftlich akzeptable Richtung zu lenken.
Der real existierende und weiterhin anwachsende Rechtsradikalismus wird
uns vernichten, wenn wir nicht endlich an die faktischen Konsequenzen
unserer Albträume denken und sie rechtzeitig, hier und jetzt, energisch,
mit allen uns zur Verfügung stehenden Kräften, unterbinden. (S.199-201)


I haven't come back to DER LETZTE FALL since I posted a Julian Bieliecki piece on violence and asked the author, a practicing psychoanalyst in Frankfurt/a. M. to elaborate in the case of an "amok runner". However, Julian turned out to be "unavailable" in suddenly claiming that Handke was a fossil. The correspondence to that effect is part of my membership in a German on-line group of fine analysts. Thus maybe one should even remove Bielicki's piece? At any event, I myself had a fall and fractured the Trochanter of my thighbone, but am hearling nicely, will reread DER GROSSE FALL - the promised third reading - in a few weeks. However, here is an excerpt from an interesting piece in DER ZEIT
which cites DER GROSSE FALL in another context:
"Ein anderer Schriftsteller teilt diesen Befund, und niemand käme auf die Idee, ihn mit Houellebecq im selben Atemzug nennen zu wollen: der erwähnte Peter Handke. Auch Handke lässt, von einigen Rezensenten geflissentlich überlesen, in seinem jüngsten Roman Der Große Fall (Suhrkamp Verlag) eine innerzivilisatorische Wildnis entstehen, auch für ihn ist Honneths bürgerliche Gesellschaft bestenfalls noch Gegenstand einer barmherzigen Erinnerung. Für Handke gibt es keine langsame Heimkehr in die alte heroische Moderne, denn diese ist nach einem globalen Börsencrash geräuschlos in sich zusammengestürzt. Wie in Michael Hanekes Film Wolfzeit leben die Menschen wieder in den Wäldern oder führen in den großen Städten ihren endlosen Totentanz auf. Die neue Zeit »ist eine Endzeit. Aber man hatte sich an diese gewöhnt. Sie würde nie enden.« THIS I WOULD THINK AND SOME OTHER POINT IN THE PIECE ARE WORTH COMMENTING ON.


I then left the following minimalist comment at DIE ZEIT which I guess needs to find a memorialization home here as well:

Peter Handke's schillernder Roman DER GROSSE FALL wird ausführlich diskutiert

Ihn NUR als Beweismaterial zu einem nochmaligen Ende der Moderne oder des Geistes überhaupt zu nutzen würde seiner Reichhaltigkeit kaum gerecht. Aber was Entropie dort betrifft und besonders das Futuristische in der Gegenwart, hier taucht's nicht zum ersten mal bei Handke auf, den Beweis für Handke's richtige Beurteilung der Lage, wir leben in einer Welt wo die Machthaber absolutistisch handeln und lügen können, und ein Herr Vickers, U.S Assistant Secretary of Defense, über Leben und Tod mit Drones richtet: [vide Andrew Bacevich:,_uncle_sam,_global_gangster/#more]
Meiner Ansicht und meinem Gefühl nach ist dieser Kultur Pessimismus weder das interessanteste noch originellste an GROSSER FALL.