Wednesday, July 28, 2010

OUTLINE REVIEW OF freiheit des schreibens ZSOLNAY VERLAG, Kasterberger, edito


Profile 16, Peter Handke
Freiheit des Schreibens - Ordnung der Schrift – herausgegeben von Klaus Kastberger
Erscheinungsdatum: 07.09.2009
Flexibler Einband, 352 Seiten
Preis: 21.50 € (D) / 37.50 sFR (CH) / 22.10 € (A)
ISBN 978-3-552-05476-9

[Ausgangspunkt des Bandes ist die betonte Eigenständigkeit der Literatur von Peter Handke. Eine Art zu schreiben, die oft quer zur veröffentlichten Meinung steht und sich planvoll gegen äußere Vorgaben zur Wehr setzt. Legendär sind Handkes Auftritte vor der Gruppe 47 ebenso wie seine Theaterstücke und Bücher - von der "Publikumsbeschimpfung" über "Wunschloses Unglück" bis zur "Morawischen Nacht". Beflügelt von frühen Erfolgen vermochte sich der Autor in einer jahrzehntelang weiterentwickelten Schreibarbeit als autonomer Dichter zu etablieren. Auch die vieldiskutierten Aufsätze über Jugoslawien zeigen: Aus dem alltäglichen Schreiben und den konkreten Ausformungen der Schrift gewinnt er die dazu notwendige poetische Kraft. Ein fundierter Beitrag zur neueren deutschen Literaturwissenschaft mit zahlreichen Faksimiles aus dem Vorlass des Autors am Österreichischen Literaturarchiv und aus anderen Sammlungen.]

FREIHEIT [for short], is a large-size, elegantly produced, paperback of 350 pages, appr. 500 word per printed page; and, overall, is a first collection of essays about various aspects of Handke's work. What makes it essential are the seventy pages  - p.31-72 + 157-182 - of documentary material from the Austrian national Handke Archive, and fascinating indeed it is to see Handke’s diaries on which he draws in his very own way for his books, manuscripts and galley corrections and photos, drawings, etc. etc, and photos of the salt works that provide the background for his operatic novel KALI. Nearly worth the reasonable price of admission itself. The Austrian National Archive and the German collection in Marbach got their moneys worth - two payments of E 500,000 the reports say and our upstart can continue to haunt five star hotels. Moreover, Ullrich von Buelow, a medium distant relative, provides an excellent lead-in into the archival material.

Broadly speaking, the content addresses various works of Handke’s going back to his 1980-1987 Salzburg period and earlier, to the then most recently published [2007/8] MORAWISCHE NACHT and DIE KUCKUCKE VON VELICA HOCA, and certain interesting aspects of his work, GOETHE/HANDKE, MUSIL/HANDKE… the subject of Stifter crops up frequently but no single essay addresses itself to the subject STIFTER/ HANDKE, [which I compared recently in my long piece on DEL GREDOS by taking a close look, and translating passages from WITIKOV]...

...or, say, to that of Handke/and the Grilled Seal [Robbe-Grillet] something that of course has been done earlier on... or for that matter address the development  of this driven virtuoso genius phenomenologist from his early work - from 1964/5 to the current work.

Most of these essays are first rate, Hans Hoeller’s on VELICA HOCA a standout – even though I read KUCKUCKE twice Hoeller proved an eye-opener; as are Fabjan Haffner and Elisabeth Schwaegerle’s on Handke and translation which are on line PICASSA ALBUM WEB PAGES via links at respective pages at the and at
Georg Pichler’s on HANDKE/ GOETHE has been on the scriptmania site long prior to publication of FREIHEIT and so is Karl Wagner’s on MUSIL/ HANDKE now, essayings which can be found at:

as well as at threspective pages of the:

and its links to their Picassa web albums.

Ditto for Katharina Pektor's piece on CHINESE DES SCHMERZENS  [ACROSS is its idiotic American title] - very useful that provided the jump-off points, its denials did, for me to take a depth psychological perspective at our author; from Ms. Pektor's piece and the documentation we get a notion how Handke manages to project himself into his texts that then so powerfully hold the real reader.

Leopold Federmaiers piece on the Kunjunktiva in Handke's developing epic style is utterly pertinent; so is Thomas Deichmann's piece on traveling with Handke in Yugoslavia and amplifies what we already know about from these matters from Handke himself and Scott Abbott on these matters. Deichman emphasizes the autobiographic nature of Handke's work, without addressing the more interesting question of how this Cezanne of the word manages to create a different view of Mont St. Victoire every time he sets out - after all, Handke does not repeat himself. That is, Deichmann as well as the other contributors fail to address the question of form, or why Handke's are as graceful as they are, why most of them describe that "line" - the line of a shapely breast! As seen from the side!

Raimund Fellinger on the development of MY YEAR IN THE NO-MANS-BAY makes someone like me who read the book five times and then wrote at length about it, want to run to the site where the galleys and versions are kept to see what's been cut, etc.
The over-all editor Klaus Kasteberger is in a position to indulge himself in his essay on KALI     in dwelling at length on my adolescent favorite, Stendhal’s  ON LOVE, in connection with the KALI's love theme,  and discussing the significance of salt, before admitting that it really is of little pertinence - that is, he avoids the artistic and formal and thematic issues that that again extraordinary book raises.

I discuss it only briefly so far on the page devoted to KALI at: 

 Surprisingly, the volume, which has the crème de la crème of Austrian Germanistik and Handke studies as contributors [Fellinger and travel companion Thomas Deichmann, I think, are the only non-Austrians in the volume] lacks anything by Handke’s first reader/ out of house editor Peter Hamm. Perhaps he is all written out on the subject, as I am not quite.

 The one rather disappointing piece is on Handke’s later plays. Since I translated all the plays up to and including WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, I recall wondering how that ultimate anti-boulevard boulevard play THE RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE would actually play – I had directed the other early one or participated in rehearsals, and so had an idea of what effect they produced, and was then astounded that RIDE left me entirely addicted to the STATE OF MIND – refreshed, mind wiped clean, that RIDE produced at its American premiere in 1971 at Lincoln Center. And during its five week run would go for just a ten minute hit! Better than the best cocaine any day! HOUR has the same effect and does so without juggling words, it is just a series of images and a movement when you see it – and in fact it leaves you reborn. As far as I am concerned, Handke achieves what Brecht set out to do: a non-Aristotelian catharsis – that, too, I imagine my neurological scalp cap could ascertain – the health of the group depends on the health of the minds of its members. I am uncertain whether the 3-D spectacles in movie houses perform the same necessary trick.

Leopold Federmair contributes a useful reading of how Handke roots his work in
localities, as is of course evident to anyone who has read the THREE ASSAYINGS or the novels.

The volume also contains a good, not great, interview with Handke who continues to give good interview in serious times, or have his coy fun with folks like Andreas Mueller. However, if the book length Gamper/ Handke interview of 1986 ICH LEBE DOCH NUR VON DEN ZWISCHENRAEUMEN sets the standard for an important Handke interview the current Kastberger/ Schwaegerle - comes in as a B. It fails to follow up on certain most important matters that Gamper addressed or which Handke offered there of his own free will. It is too deferential: when Handke baldly states "I don't have a poetics"  no one seems to recall the poetics as expressed in a wonderful passage in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES.

I miss something on the several matters that interest me:

A] the experience of reading Handke – how via what he does with language, no matter that he changes over the years, reading Handke constitutes a very particular experience – which, say in DEL GREDOS, conveys the writers love of writing in such a way as to put me – I don’t think and I know it is just nutty me – into a finely agape state of mind. THE READER in NO-MAN’S-BAY and also in MORAWIAN NIGHT is one side of Handke’s artistic self – and being not just psychoanalytically half-well trained but also paying the proper deference to the ever neurological interface of our mind am planning to try to get one of my friends in that field to put an electronic cap on my brain to see how the brain changes while reading Handke! Handke as better medicine than anti-depressants – which I have never taken, and which is surprising since Handke absorbed his mother’s depression intra-uterine and is a depressive who for a considerable time during his prolonged adolescence suffered from suicidal impulses. Yet utterly self-confidente prima primadonna initially. The conqueror of fear, writing, now, conveys his love of existence. Still a primadonna though! The book lacks a biographical essay, and as is customary in the instances of these collections of essays about Handke, anything critical, he didn’t use to permit it, perhaps here, too.

B] No one seems interested in how these forms are conceived - or follows up on Handke's comment that he draws out the book for as long as possible, another version of
the 'Angel the longer the better."

1] “vom biograpischen aufgerollt” – since Handke projects himself re-imagined into his text, the naturalistic question of the autobiographical...?? interesting as this is when and if you write Handke’s biography, if anything shows the irrelevance of the biographical this might….unless you decide to explore what it means to be a genius who started to practice writing …. Thomas Deichman, the editor of NOVO, and traveling companion to Yugoslavia talks about that a bit. As I put it the other day to a Handke biographer: he might be goat with three heads, what counts is how she meckert! Thus the relationship between text and biography if one wishes to approach them in that manner needs to be carefully calibrated: in SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL we have the buddies “German Writer” “Austrian Dramaturg” and a wife who pursues… is that pursuit a physical representation of the neglected wife Libgart Schwartz’s longing, which is perceived as a threat, a very pronounced theme, once again, in MORAWIAN NIGHT, a threat to the solitary profession as a writer? His isolation? The fine analytic notion of “over-determination” and how each of these complicated locks can be unlocked, from one vault lock to the other…

2] “autistsiche Zusstaende” I would ask him to describe what he means and how he came to that formulation. Autists have been showing up in Handke’s recent work, idiots nearly from day one!

3] A closer probing of what those “threshold” inbetween-states consist of, or are comparable to in the case of someone as super ultra hypersensitive as Handke is.

4] Why Handke, while going to the Milosevic funeral and visiting him in jail and in general coming to the defense of the Serbians being made exclusively responsible for the disintegration and the atrocities [do you ever come on, except with me and Choussevsky, on the suggestion that economic warfare ought to be regarded as a crime on the order of war crimes?]… why Handke then did not follow the request of Milosevic and family to be an expert witness for the defense; after all, he offers no explanation in DIE TABLAS DES DAMIEL for his refusal, and didn’t even write the requested letter to the tribunal!!!???

5] What he meant when he said “I am writing out of my wound – has he configured its complicated nature, at least for himself?

6} Is he meanwhile aware that the list of matters that tired him as he recounts them in Essay on Tiredness all derive from intense rage?

7] Gamper’s observation about a certain naturalistic use of linguistic material on Handke’s part.

8] Re what I hint at above with his texts and the experience of his plays being fairly unique experiences – does he have an image of a reader and how he wishes that ideal reader to experience when he composes. I myself prefer to think of Handke as a composer.

9] are we to believe, from Morawian Night, that, as a young man, he left an illegitimate child behind in Cordula/ Krk?

10] and for good measure: does he still beat up his women and the like when they step out of line?

11] And perhaps, following up on a wish he expressed to Mueller, that he would like once in his life to "behave like a Schuft" - whether he feels that Mueller's idea that he had lots of time left to do that, whether he had managed to accomplish that too?


p. 5 MEINE FUELLFEDER [my pen] an essay written for school, 1956, aged fourteen.


p.31-72 WERK MATERIAL on: Kaspar,  Ride Across Lake Constance, They Are Dying Out, A Slow Homecoming, Austrian Poem, The History of the Pencil, Two Letters to Rene Char, Voyage by Dugout, Lamenting, in Tears; Del Gredos; Hanging around the Tribunal; the Milosevics Funeral Speech; a letter to the magazine FOCUS; Subday Blues; Morawian Night.

p. 73 Fabjan Hafner, on Handke as translator, on-line at the handke translation site and the handke-scholar blog via Picassa album here;

p. 87 Elisabeth Schwagerle, on Handke translator, as above accessible in the same manner via the translation site and the scholar blog.

p. 109 Katharina Pektor on Across: “How do I approach Loser’s story.” Fascinating!

p. 133 Raimund Fellinger, on the creation of NO-MAN’S BAY. Fascinating!

p. 143 Klaus Kasterberger, on KALI see my note above. Provides extraordinarily interesting background material.

p. 157-174 WERK MATERIAL on the creation of THE CHINESE OF THE WATER TORTURE [Across], NO-MAN’S BAY, KALI [great photos of the salt works which become so very present in the reading of the book].

p. 183 Thomas Deichmann TRAVELING WITH PETER HANDKE [Klaus Peymann, too, is absent in these pages, who not only did some actual traveling to Kosovo with Handke, but had all those trips prior to the premieres. Bondy, too, might have some interesting matters to say.

p. 205 Hans Hoeller’s terrific piece on KUCKUCKE OF VELICA HOCA.

p. 222 Michael Hansel HANDKE AND THE PENCIL.

P. 237 Ulrich von Buelow, the archivist of these Euro 500,000 papers!


p. 281 Georg Pichler on Handke and Goethe which has been online with the scriptmania site for many years, and can also be found on the

p.294 Karl Wagner, HANDKE/ MUSIL accessible Picassa web album
HANDKE-SCHOLAR and via the handkeprose2.scriptmania site and via its page on the handke-scholar blog. These blogs exist to encourage discussion.

p. 306 Leopold Federmair: ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHRONICLE AND THE EPIC in Handke’s work. Need to re-read it. Very interesting so far.

p. 325 Alexander Honold: DECIPHERING THE ECUMENICAL… need to finish reading what looks like a very obscure approach TO ME!

p. 347 Index of Authors... which, oddly, list a Clemens Oezelt who however
does not have a piece in the collection, but appears to be working on the "polphonous" in Handke, which sounds fascinating.


Saturday, July 17, 2010



A + B
There is nothing like stupidity to give you a good foretaste of eternity.”
Oedon von Horvarth
[A-The Plays]
Peter Handke’s first book publication in the U. S., my translation of Kaspar & Other Plays, was unusual in receiving a favorable review, any review for that matter, from Stanley Kaufmann in the New Republic, their film reviewer, even prior to official performance of the plays; the more so for it being of a young, foreign, unknown author, albeit some waves he had made in Princeton at the Gruppe 47 meeting, but especially the impact ofKaspar + Public Insult [as I now all Offending the Audience] +Self-Accusation in the arenas of its home language had no doubt generated interest among American intellectuals who were not as insular and self-involved in things American as most of them and U.S. stage directors have become again since.
Mel Gussow of the New York Times and Steve Kroll of Newsweek showed some real understanding of the performance at B.A.M. [Steve Kalfin artistic director] of Self-Accusation and My Foot My Tutor; and the early reviewers not all their names are readily at tip of tongue, Erika Monk, Gordon Rogoff I think, folks around TDR at the time, at Yale Drama Review and School, and it spread across the country from there.
Clive Barnes of the New York Times, evidently uncomprehending of the razzmatazz of the piece and Handke’s intention in withholding any kind of story in Ride Across Lake Constance’s Lincoln Center Vivian Beaumont premiere, however, decided to fence straddle, and Ride received its finest review in the Windy City in one unwinded line, by a woman, who simply said: “Experience it and then describe it [your experience]” is as good a way to approach Handke and better than anything categorical. The experience of course was totally opposite of the usual theater; the very notion of “experiencing” had also been articulated at that time by one of Susan Sontag’s early essays; whose later one, on “Illness as Metaphor” articulated a point that Handke demonstrated in yet another of the early pieces that confine themselves to the exclusive self-presentation of word series, the 1965 Prophecy which demolished metaphor and simile as a lazy way of thinking and experiencing… until around 1996, in the novel One Dark Night I Left My Silent House, Handke found a way of carefully and powerfully re-introducing these means into, anyhow, his usage. That neither Sontag nor Handke’s language critique has had a salutary effect on our politicians and editorialists goes without… What would I have coursing around Leopold Bloom’s noggin occurs to me occasionally when I think on how Joyce would do it now. The first long serious essay in American on Handke’s work in the theater was Richard Gilman’s inclusion of Handke as one of the greats of the The Making of Modern Drama. Dick and I became friends over Handke and Kroetz where he would write a fine introduction, but then had an ongoing never resolved argument on the Wittgensteinian in Handke’s Ride, where my point always was that the use of Wittgensteinian and similar ways of querying language and actions in theater, plus comedy type routines, andreading Wittgenstein are two very different matters with different effects and intentions: one introduces skepticism, clarity, distinctions; the other has a cleansing effect in ridding the mind of patterns of thinking and experiencing [perhaps not that different?]. Gilman wrote his piece without having experienced the effect that the pieces have on an audience and, to the best of my knowledge, did not address Handke’s later plays, not that anyone else in the miserable world of American theater has either. Kaspar won two Obies in New York one as the best new foreign play and for Christopher Lloyd, the beginning of a great acting career. Lots of reviews and photos on line at:
and here is something else I just came on:
These early reviews of these first plays were representative of the overall reception - occasional incomprehension, especially of a ritualized play, of the sadistic master slave relationship, without words but with sounds such as My Foot My Tutor and ofRide, but positive by and large; where of course I suppose you cannot expect deep understanding of their musical structure, genuinely as opposed to of that time rather superficial revolutionary nature in being thought of as “in your face” still remains ununderstood here; or that Handke is a composer who lost his way into language. Performing and directing these works you sense the music of the spheres emanating from its extremely classical use of syntax. Public Insult’s Insults at the end are really Haydn’s Surprise Symphony by other means, and the Dadaists and Surrealists had abused audiences from Berlin stages already during the 20s. Neither this nor any of Handke’s other plays are meant to “blow minds” as those whose minds were already in smithereens desired; and that all this “experiencing” would then spill over and out… Ah well…. Their rather specific aware-making quality bore affinity to the conceptualist “happening of the time” which however were not that formally “durch komponiert” [thoroughly composed]; or that they are conceptual works or that these early plays – from Prophecy, Insults, Accusation, Cries for Help, Quodlibet, Tutor to Ridestand in a particular relationship to each other. Closest affinity that reviewers might have found is to early Ionesco, but I don’t think any of them did, and Handke is not any kind of absurdist, he stands in the tradition of enlightenment theater. He is the successor also to Brecht in an ambiguous ways, that all this aware making, what it amounts to I address in a separate note.
It took Handke nearly thirty years to subsume the summa of the early dramatic play work in The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, the sort of achievement that made me think that maybe there was something to Hegelian dialectics. The reviews starting in the 90s, of Hour, memory can be so short, rarely connected that piece with the early ones. Some of the early plays are done now under the aegis of typical U.S. generational revivalitis, in this case of the 60s/70s.
There were of course fine scholarly, and not so, explications of these texts: let Germanisten loose on Kaspar’s discernable structures and a heyday they will have! Hour happens to be one of the very great texts in German in the last 100 or so years, it’s syntax as I keep saying takes your by your pony tail and never lets loose! an experience images themselves in succession cannot have, which point to the need of both together to achieve a really grasping effect on mind; the only thing comparable, textually, that comes to mind is Heiner Mueller’s Quartet. The infamy here is that Handke’s great and deep poetic playsW.A.T.V., Art of Asking, Preparations of Immortality and Canoehave not been done in this country: it bespeaks a culture that is still that, or again that of the whore Hugh Selwyn Mauberly bemoaned these many years ago; and its pimps, I know a few of these forever let them in namelessness be forgotten, as they were and will be then also in Seattle.
The 1974 They Are Dying Out had its U.S. premiere in 1979 at the Yale Rep with a weak lead where the equivalent of Gerard Depardieu who played Quitt in France was required [i.e. Scott or equivalent] a dreadful Paula Tax and some hilariously one on one casting in Marianne Weber as the Quitt’s mad wife; otherwise, I at least, couldn’t have been happier with the players who all had a great time. But it is a weak piece in the sense that making Quitt’s problem, his coming out on top, the issue, it cops out on a dramatic resolution. Since Dying is basically a Viennese Raimund type comedy, albeit with a continuing – fromRide – linguistic, now business and leftist lingo, patter, it of course does not have “warm real living flesh and blood characters” that American reviewers asked for: it has types who are used as critical foils. But by 1979 the time for the play to cut with those quite sophisticated foils had passed. The most interesting part of the play occurs at the beginning of Act II where Quitt and his factotum Hans discuss the low down play they went to see with “real people” and where Handke, quoting Stifter, indicates that he will take the high poetic road from now on to make contact with his audience. See Note # 28 on the ultimately hideous Kroetz who is the playwright Handke has specifically in mind, aside all these lower depth plays.
The early plays fit in with the cult of happenings and the general ethos of American avant garde procedures, though I keep being surprised that the high serious conceptual wing did not see how conceptualistic all these plays were – how right on the nose they pinned the butterfly of the king’s conscience; or their formalist procedures which not only enhance their playfulness but their intensity; my own favorite, aside Ride andSelf-Accusation [which has nearly entered the college and off off repertory] being the rarely if ever performed Cries for Help, urMarxist existentialist, which has the kind from left field approach I like best, but that is me. I myself have written a tough piece on what it meant to translate them that at
With the great change in Handke from being purely critically aware-making, into a ambiguously affirmative stupendously poetic author, in Walk About the Villages and the series of grand fable plays that followed up to an including the rather Brechtian/ Kipphardtish Canoe, this idiot’s optimism that American directors would follow a writer of such apparent genius into unknown reaches keeps being gravely disappointed. No realization that Ride might be done instead of doing the same Noel Coward over, to indicate that side of Handke, more manifest perhaps inThey Are Dying Out, the comedy with “real” people, real types, that Handke if he had so been inclined has the virtuoso facility to have become a Coward kind of boulevardier. But, as one can also see from Dying, he was interested in more demanding endeavors and the laurel crown. Handke is the true successor, completer of the chief aspect of Brecht’s anti-Aristotelian theater, in that it achieves not transcendence nor apotheosis but catharsis without indulging in the pornography of violence of any kind, which however is the dark ground, background on which all of these works play for someone who calls himself with for once great self-understanding a “melancholy player.
So much on that side of Handke’s work. Lots of reviews, an entire reception of a most formidable body of work yet to come??? Don’t bet on it in the American theater of any kind.
[B-The Prose]
In general and also specifically
Reviews of Handke’s first two prose texts to appear in the U.S. – Goalie and Short Letter Long Farewell were positive, too. Since neither of the first two novels and the early short texts from Begrüssung des Aufsichtsrats but for a few are available in English the Handke reception is somewhat limited in its overall understanding of his development. I try to fix that a tad with a few notes and excerpts from these novels in the Note # 6 [p. ].
A lot of these and reviews from other language have been assembled at
there is even a site devoted to Romance language reception of Handke:
I had let ancien amis Frank Conroy have a look at my translation of Goalie and this pol in the making wangled himself a review of it in the NY Times where he properly found a few exceptions to my translation. No one could say that this was an inside job! I well recall John Rockwell’s review of Short Letter which found it brilliant but terribly cold – and my offering him a puppy to take to bed. But these two books were taken up widely and might have been better understood if at least Hausierer existed in English too. My fault entirely. When I had my own firm, or part of one, one of the other partner’s, who felt he had been dissed by Handke, objected to my wanting to do Hausierer there; not that all the rest of U.S. publishing, except for Farrar, Straus which passed, hasn’t had a chance. So if you don’t read German: it exists in the Romance languages and Hornissen may too. Just check the web.
More serious and sounder reviews would be forthcoming from Frank Kermode and Michael Wood in the New York review in the next few years, I have them on the prose site. As reviews went, they were pretty good, appreciative; except for my having this sense that the fellow had access to the music of the sphere, which I had acquired by directing the early pieces and working with Herbert Berghof and E.G. Marshall on them, I did not have a sense of where Handke would go, and that he sure was one odd fellow indeed, but then so were most of the geniuses I had or was to meet, Uwe Johnson, Sam Shepherd, Theodore Adorno.Innerworld, done at Continuum Books, in 1974, went over well, too; I am so embarrassed by my postscript: now I have made up for that miss by devoting some thought to the extraordinary being that tries to exteriorize itself. I can’t say that anyone got that these books, aside being excrudences of Handke’s imagination and need and wish to write differently, were also projection screens. I as the translator of course understood them perfectly, if only I could say that! One short work after the other: Sorrow Beyond Dreams, was certainly Handke’s highpoint in the United States. A Moment of True Feeling – that’s where the misunderstanding set in and you could see the inception of anything but close reading: I think everyone just about missed that moment – certainly Neil Gordon, who traces Handke’s change to A Slow Homecoming, did; so did that fast reader John Leonard surrounded in all photos by piles of books about to crush him. The change from Kafka bug to June bug was on the way! Love burst through! Indeed, one Kafka is quite enough, though a second Handke who could avail himself of what he has enabled… maybe another classic period of German literature… that would certainly be welcomed, and he or she may or they may be writing and publishing now but I am no longer nor will I ever be as well read in the contemporary literature as I was once upon a time. Handke impersonating the Left-Handed Woman was read quite literally and was a big hit with the girls! The automatic writing notations that became Weight of World did not seem to unduly disturb the hell out of anyone! As it did me! Then there was an awfully long pause since Farrar, Straus [see footnote # 12] in their benighted cheapness – my guess is that this was the doing of Handke’s and my nemesis at Farrar, Straus, the ass-licking stiletto man as I think of Michael DeCapua, then editor in chief, a low point in the firm’s career, in tandem with ever cheapskate Roger Straus, who reached that disastrous for the Handke reception decision - had decided to publish the first three works of Handke’s “Homecoming Period” -- A Slow Homecoming PeriodThe Lesson of St. Victoire and A Child’s Story in one volume… instead of sequentially, say in 1981, 82 and 83, as would have been proper; and which would have allowed to connectA Slow Homecoming with its predecessor, The Left-Handed Woman.Instead, reviewers were faced with a volume of three very different works; which even lacked the fourth part of the “Home Coming” quartet, Walk About the Villages. See note # 30, my attempt to see them as a unit. And that proved impossible no matter some fine responses to the novel Homecoming, I recall a fine New Republic Review, I think it is on the site. Farrar, Straus had done well with Handke. Kaspar was being reprinted just about once a year, they had sold paperback rights to the previous books. There was and is no excuse for that miserable publishing decision. Nor for failing to publish the successor to Weight,Die Geschichte des Bleistifts [The History of the Pencil/ L’histoire de crayon] which whose chiefly workbook side would have shown those who were interested the direction was taking and also why and that his thinking was, so that there are least there would be less of an excuse for all many numbskull reviewers being so puzzled by rake’s metamorphoses.
The mythic calmness that began to infuse the calmed down Handke with Left-Handed Woman might of course have given reviewers pause, but how many reviewers are there, or review editors, who keep even a native rake’s much less a foreign one’s mood progress in mind or puzzle out reasons for it, which in this instance was staring the reader in the face in that “moment” inA Moment of True Feeling. The by and large poor reception of Handke’s subsequent work was not helped in that FSG failed to publish the successor volume to Weight of the World though they had done well with Weight, for this successor becomes a work book that would have told Handke’s audience what he was up to, especially with Walk About the Villages. Handke must have had perhaps close to a dozen different editors at that house, mediocre by compare not just with Handke’s chief German but with his French and Spanish and Italian publisher, and others too most likely, Portuguese I think. And probably Serbo-Croat.
Then came the 1884 Across around 1987 in the U.S.
Here a photo of my subject with his inamorata Marie Colbin with a group of folks on the Mönchsberg, boy is she pretty and he did meet her on a bridge, but on bridge across the Salzach not the Rio Grande! And am I ever glad that I didn’t introduce him to the dark-haired beauty I was with in 1979 in Paris.
Folks start talking about p.m.s. instead of responding! The Repetition, a very different book really from all the others, an excerpt ran in “The New Yorker,” had a fabulous review in the Guardian, and good enough overall in the U.S. I’ve already mentioned the stupidity that Auntie [the Grey Lady] committed in N.Y. The Afternoon of a Writer had one of several other slovenly reviews from the intellectually so lazy John Updike in the New Yorker. I already have brief comment on the by and large favorable but also mystified reception of Absence [see a text excerpt at Note # 23] but let me repeat: Not a single reviewer nationwide had the eerie reading experience of Absence as experiencing a film! And what if they had caught on, been sufficiently sensitive as readers to be alert to that dimension back then? No critique that caught on to some of Handke’s evasions, mystifications in AMTF and ACROSS. A lot of p.m.s. [post mentrualist] verbiage starts creeping into the reception around the time of Across; and real disasters occur even prior to Handke becoming controversial with his so different take on the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
Three Assayings I already mention in the main text as I do No-Man’s Bay, the one time that Handke has received a review from one of his peers in this country, William Gass, in the L.A. Times when it was edited by Steve Wasserman. Steve Siegel and J.L. Marcus I decimate at length at
The reviews of Winter’s Journey were devastatingly uncomprehending by the uniformly media-washed bien pênsant, except by my Trotskyite friends at the
but since all that is treated in the Yugoslavia Note [#2] I will not beat this horse once again.
Outstanding reviews: I can only think of a single one in all these years, William Gass’s in the L.A. Times, favorable impressionistic inarticulations there were quite a few. Incomprehension and the inability to react to and report or insensitivity to the experience of reading these text is in the ascendance. On the one hand the gobbledygook from the turkeys in academia, on the other the nefariousness of reviewers ill-picked by a succession
The response to One Dark Night I Left My Silent House, the novel subsequent to No-Man’s-Bay, surprise, surprise, just to prove me wrong, received uniformly favorable but also surprisingly comprehending reception from a host of reviewers and review organs, Kai Maristad the NY Times, Benjamin Kunkel in theVillage Voice, Mark Levine brilliant in Cosmo of all damn places, the idiot J.L. Marcus of the NYRB is still looking for signs of pro-Serbian sentiment and keeps missing those wrecked blue and white U.N. trucks that “the pharamacist’s” wish fulfillment sees being dragged north on the Austrian Autobahn! Richard Bernstein I forgot where right now but he too received a note of appreciation from yours truly.
 With that we come to the focus of my rambles: Del Gredos which received the customary “masterpiece” from Erich Wolfgang Skwara in The International Review of Literature, and if you get to know Skwara a little as I once did it will not be all that long that this sometimes first rate writer allows that he thinks he’s really the better of the two! The country being as lousy as it is, he’s had four novels published by Ariadne Press and if he has received a sing;e review I sure haven’t seen it. Not his fault of course but his publisher which doesn’t even send galleys to Publisher’s Weekly or Library Journal [yes, folks, that too exists!]
One splendid review, in the Washington Post, from the Canadian novelist Vanderhaege
something positive but not as good a reading in the L.A. Times Book Review,0,2189379.story?coll=la-books-headlines
several shorter favorable notices, and a crucially stupid review from a Neil Gordon in the N.Y. Times:
and here is my letter to its Book Review section:
“It is time readers of the New York Times Book Review were made aware of Handke, the prose writer, having gone through something like half a dozen changes. Starting of as a supremely playful demonstrator of the quelling of anxiety in his first three novels, only the third, GOALIE [1969], exists in English [in my translation], his nausea, once including words [he now fondles them] is not like Sartre's idea-driven kind, but has psychosomatic origins; is the nausea produced by what for him is "the ugly;" no matter that it hits the same nerve. And that his hyper-sensitivities are uniquely his. If Mr. Gordon were as exacting as he says Handke is, he might have noticed that Handke already shifted to a more open hearted mytho-poeic, but equally if not more exacting, position in the 1976 LEFT HANDED WOMAN, [whose personae resembles that of the woman subject of the current DEL GREDOS] the book just preceding A SLOW HOMECOMING, whose Alaska section must be one of the most articulated responses to nature in world literature for its selectivity in naming. What entered Handke's writing shortly after HOMECOMING, in THE LESSON OF ST. Victoire, was the pictorial Cezanne re-arrangement of reality {"Close your eyes and see the world arise anew", the opening sentence of his 1984 Salzburg novel ACROSS, provides a hint.} With THE REPETITION [1987, "retrieval"] a book fabulously praised in The Guardian, the promised re-write of both his first novel, DIE HORNISSEN [1966], and of SORROW BEYOND DREAMS [1972 – Gordon even manages to find a negative take on Handke's emotionally most immediately accessible highly praised book], Handke's search ["I want to be someone like somebody else was once" KASPAR, 1968; OBIE 1972] rearranged his roots in his Slovenian grandfather and uncles' region; which provides a hint to the unnecessarily baffled Professor Gordon why Handke might prefer a continuous existence of the Yugoslav Federation over its decimation into small consumer entities; his defense of the Serbs and Milosevic against the more customary "one devil" theory of history and journalism. With the three narratives in THREE ESSAYS [especially ON THE JUKE-BOX, 1989], culminating in the six-sided weaving self-portrait of himself - as the once nauseated ex-cultural attaché Keuschnig [of 1974 A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING], as writer, painter-filmmaker, priest, stone mason, super-finicky misanthropic restaurateur, and reader, in the 1994 magnum opus ONE YEAR IN THE NO-MAN'S BAY, Handke demonstrated for stretches – he is the greatest of exhibitionists – the capabilities of narrative as pure writing music image, as he did already in the 1986 ABSENCE, a narrative that a reader experiences like film. Subsequent to NO-MAN'S-BAY he then demonstrated that you could zoom like a camera, in the 1996 ONE DARK NIGHT I LEFT MY SILENT HOUSE, into the mind of an apothecary, in the improbably named, Salzburg suburb Taxham, and make that fellow's dream syntax absorb the readers' projections, a feat worthy of the Joyce of FINNEGAN FUNAGAIN; and in his 2005 DON JUAN, the fugueing novella that followed the 2003 GREDOS he showed that you could write both forward and backward in time while standing in one place. - I know it is all a little much, the fellow just turned 65 and has published 60 books, and sometimes I wish I'd never set eyes on him, but he can't help it, he must write to stay healthy; his symptom is his salvation. And it is that of real readers whose minds his self-state inducing work opens up. It matters little that the so other-opinion-oriented Mr. Gordon's search for "opinions" yields so little of note; or that Handke is the whipping boy of miserable reviewers chosen by overly busy editors. Gordon has searched poorly. REPETITION and NO-MAN'S BAY are regarded, rightly I think, as two of the great novels of the past hundred years, e.g. William Gass's estimate of them. Since Gordon cites the Book Forum review:
I would like to point out that as a professor of literature he might be aware of the classical tradition of Goethe, Stifter, Flaubert, Hermann Lenz and Bové in whose steps Handke, the last great walker on the earth, exerts himself as someone who is so infinitely of his medium's contemporaneous possibilities; and to sensitive responses in [as already listed above]. And the:
3] San Franciso Chronicle
> Crossing the Sierra de Gredos
> San Francisco Chronicle - CA, USA
> as well as to sites and blogs I and others run on Handke, accessible
> via:
 These not only contain a wealth of material, but there Handke, his own severest critic, also is critiqued on his own terms; and flinches at every lash of the whip! Gordon's reading of DEL GREDOS shows me that he is the wrong reader, that is a non-reader, responder for this book, written in large part to memorialize, salvage a landscape. He bristles at being shook up.
The nadir of 40 some years of being published in the U.S. and having 20 some of his 65 works published here comes fittingly from the American Innerest as GH Bush used to pronounce it [“we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors.... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do. We say what reality is.”]first in the once lustrous American Scholar
the second time going after Handke in the Weekly Standard.
but accessible for free at
probably in their 2007 archive is a certain Michael McDonald, supposedly a not just, but literary, counselor who has been working on a biography of Malaparte since his days in high school. No wonder the country is in the shape that it is in. The first time he charged Handke with committing Robbe-Grillet using a paragraph quoted by John Updike as an authority without it appears being familiar with any of Handke’s other work or the fact that among the several hundred books and dissertations written about Handke’s 65 five books and plays, one deals specifically with that topic but with a completely different book where Robbe-Grillet served as kind of grid, namely Der Hausierer. If McDonald only had the talent to be influenced by Robbe-Grillet this poor sod of a hired gun for The American Innerest and The Weekly Standard [which is quite capable at times of doing perfectly fine reviewing] when it is not in need of Stürmer-like tendentiousness, but this great “humanity hyena” [you find them outdoing each other on both sides of the aisle] thinks Handke’s three dystopias are a Chomskian utopia, whatever that might be, evidently the chap is blind or speed-reads {?} lives in an inverted world of his own making {?}. There is a connection between Handke and Chomsky, but it is via the former’s language education play Kaspar; however dear Naom has not read what he too helped whelp – I mean it is just a guess of mine that Handke also read Chomsky in the late Sixties, butKaspar obviates a lot of reading of difficult technical prose in linguistics.
I wouldn’t carry on about that infamy McDonald were it not that his first piece was published by Wilson the current editor of The American Scholar, which, like the American Innerest has gone to the dogs; or that if both McDonald’s pieces had not given wide circulation by Dennis {“Le Mouton”] Dutton of Artsdaily who is well aware of other more perceptive reviews, if he too, who claims Kant as his patron saint, [Pauvre Immanuel!] were not part of the vilest group of piler-ons that has been whelped in some time, since the Nazi days I would say. No need for Hegelian formulations I don’t think. Swine. Little swine with small stiletto tusks, editors, cuntellas, if you follow artsdaily for a while, run under the aegis of the American Chronicle of Higher Education no less, you notice how our mutton chisels when it comes to providing a sense of spectrum, especially since he often does in matters where his ideology is not at stake. If these conservatives only knew how conserving and conservative the innovative Handke was it might give the movement some substance.
Last and least, on par with McDonald, searching for reviews I had missed brought up John Leonard’s in Harper’s, which elicited the following nasty letter from me:
Quite belatedly, while doing the "U.S. Handke-Reception" footnote of my "Musings about Handke's Prose on the occasion of his Crossing the Sierra del Gredos" [on line at: 
I happened on the now deceased John Leonard's review of Del Gredos

and the there perpetrated infamies require a response, correction, even at this late date, working backwards in order of the ignorance and lies that this review contains:

1] As to Mr. Handke's denying or excusing Srebrenice: that is of course why he has a surrogate for himself
exclaim over and over, in "A Summer's Follow Up" [
Sommerlicher Nachtrag] at S., which he visited at least a dozen times: "I don't want to be a Serb!"

2] As to "A Winter's Journey" being "agitprop", Mr. Leonard's ability to read in anything but the simplest of U.S. and bién pênsant approved propaganda terms is not only confirmed by his take on "A Winter's Journey", intentionally written in poetic and not in the usual categories, as is Leonard's entirely superficial response to "Del Gredos." Mr. Leonard hadn't understood what Handke did since the beginning when he praised him, nor subsequently, as his various ignorant responses [also, in 
The Nation] demonstrated to me.

The most simplified down version of what is known as the "Handke-Yugoslavia Affair"
I have in Footnote 2 of the above[ that is this book]
Evidently Leonard is stumped by 480 pages, and fails to ascertain that he is meant to read a book that normally would be between 750 and a 1000 pages if its publisher did not try to save money at the cost of readers’ eyesight. Known as an astute reader, he wastes that reputation in this instance. He resorts to a bit of plot summary where plot is the least of it; and then he expre his general disenchantment with P.M.S. as I call it. Let’s hope he has more time in reviewers hell heaven or limbo wherever his soul wafts.
And on that sorrowful note, finito for this very long footnote.