Friday, July 1, 2011
Peter Handke's Latest Novel
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.