Friday, April 27, 2018



I will put on line  weekend of May 5 @

pdfs of zeroxes of the pertinent pages I cite 150, 377, 385, amd especilly of the great sequnce the night that Alexia spends om he Aubge de Dieppe  before and after p. 440 and one from the end.

The manner in which FRUIT THIEF is composed - as self-contained discontinuous paragraphs – or sequences of that kind –  which does not diminish the overall drive of Alexias adventure once it gets underway in Clergy-Pointoise – makes FRUIT THIEF a Minima Moralia kind of book where you can leaf around – and appreciate the different ways in which these various essay-like sections and sequences are composed...In that respect FRUIT THIEF can be regarded as yet one more Handke writing lesson... Had I the time, I could annotate or comment on each of these more or less „minis” - that can be several pages long with their small interim bridges - of this more than by and large marvelous book on which I cavil only in a few instances in the main commentary and here

However, as I am engaged in completing, finally and very belatedly – in some ways glad to be late - for, the overall story - DARLINGS & MONSTERS - set in the 70s & 80, in New York City, in retrospect – with its financial shenanigans, its shifting tectonic real estate plates, its mob pornography production, the disintegration of the New Left, the increasing crudeness of the various Lumpen contingents, its infusion of cocaine, a huge city on the verge of bankruptcy, rife crime  reaching into the artistic precincts, future arbitrageurs future jail birds and money mavens of the like starting to invade our downtown turf - can be regarded precursor, it turns out, for „the current state of affairs,” retrospectively... deregulation and the pleasure of the breakdown of all taboos, a very sexy period...Grosz would have a heyhayday!

For resons of time, therefore, this SPECIFICS section will confine itself to about half a dozen instances of appreciation of the magic that the Weaverbird of Griffen, Voelker-Markt spins in ALEXIA, FRUIT THIEF, but concentrate on the Auberge de Dieppe section around p. 440 – Alexia’s dream and related sections strike me as the most delicate writing I have encountered since I became an admirerer of Eudora Welty.

1] Starting with the single major grumble - to get it out of they way and not to beat a dead horse, anyhoo not too much. The only matter that seriously bugs me is Handke’s way of motivating Alexia’s expedition from Clergy-Pointoise to Chaumont sur Oesne, - about p.150 - the creation of a family, giving her the Bankieress of SIERRA  DEL GREDOS for a mother, pretty much springing a family get together on the reader at the end. These are the book
Alexia is said to be a world traveler, as a kid a runaway who just happens to have been to all the same places its author has been to - but Siberia instead of Serbia and its rivers - and who shares his or some of his other imersonations’ superstitions such as first walking backwards, and a host of other oddities.
ince Alexia is said to have spent one semester at university in Pontoise, as motivation for Handke’s chief objective to memorialize a section of the Picardie and its Vexin Plateau along the river Voisne her wanting to explore a region closer to home would suffice; a brother, too, is not needed - if Handke wants to work in one more shared appreciation for the craft of carpentry and we want to dispense with the brother there sure exists ample opportunity among the  many wonderful episodes that are strung along that 60 k.m. stretch to raise a   carpenter onto a roof... after all, nearly no end of marvelous stuff is fitted into that round the world hike up the Voisne with its Brasserie de Universe and its Kurdish host; and Alexia’s father, too, could still give Alexia that marvelous persiflage of advice - but we don’t need an allegedly nutty Bankieress mother who is as lost as that cat that its owners so improbably searches for the length of the Voisne River. Though allegedly the objective of Alexia’s expedition only a single mention of her then occurrs during it; we don’t need that family background nor a family get together that’s pretty much is pulled out of a hat at the end... it literally comes out of all that blue sky during the ever-prevailing high summer August days – fabulous ending though it is, a reprieve to the Nth power of the ending {and I don’t mean Nova’s dramatic poem} of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES.
Handke does a barely better than workmanlike job in establishing this family business around P. 150 -  not the usual A+  -  AND of the sort of thing he once said he would never do – though, judging by the reviews, giving those folk a simple handle is the way to go. They all write „search for mom”!
What strikes me as essential though is that this pizza deliverer hitches on to Alexia along the way – who gets his own several pages then – if only for the sake of  Alexia’s dream fantasy – of agape intimacy – that reminds me of what some  of us were like before we really bit into the apple and chewed!There is another take on the dream:that it can also be read as the description of the state  love making reaches when both parties become disembodied and male and female no longer matter Handke certainly knows that stage after all the lovers he has had.
Let’s not forget what made LEFT-HANDED so successful – and Alexia is her younger sister - namely, that Handke did not provide an explanation, ascribe a single motive to her decision to leave her husband – also lets not forget Handke’s notebook comment that while writing LEFTHANDED he was attending lots of porno films in Paris – to indicate a conflict between impulses of a roue and monastery kind! Any half-witted reader - but Anatole Broyard in the New York Times - could fill in the explanation lacuna with a dozen over-determined reasons, as there are for events of that kind; but for the Modern Love secion, the NY Times again, which feels it needs to provide complete explanations so that its readers are not bereft but assured that the world makes sense??? – Alexia having her chaste dream.
 ALEXIA, FRUIT THIEF as much as LEFT-HANDED WOMAN could have been a psychological novel, not Handke’s strength or interest, as FRUIT THIEF once again confirms except that the dream sequence shows something that no psychologizing can, I don’t think  - And what does Handke know about French haute bourgeois? – Well, his wife Sophie Semin is of that class, and it made Handke, at least initially, so I was told, quite uneasy to be affianced to wealth.
Alexia - if the dream Handke invents for her during her night at the Auberge de Dieppe is the most substantive matter we get to know about her – might strike you as having been raised at a Catholic boarding school who yet might enter a nunnery! – it strikes me as on that cusp -
the kind of Catholicism which jibes with an ending that advertizes marriage as a sacrament. Fortunately - but for the section when Alexia’s family background is sketched – family matters scarcely crop up during her expedition into the Picardie, the few mentions of a call to her brother and the like are more like pro-forma fluff to keep that part of the superfice architecture barely afloat for those to whom that part matters,
 and do not drive the narrative nor divert from the spectacular evocation of the seenery.

2] page 390 about  FRUIT THIEF also features Valter, the pizza deliverer waif who attaches himself to Alexia as entirely unencumbered by family but for his dreams of having parents and whom the author – and barely in time - gives his due in telling us who he is – a wonderful sequence of the kind i mention above.  

3]  One of the if not the most marvelous sequences commences when Alexia and - I nearly said „surrogate dog” - Valter spend a night in the Auberge de Dieppe in the middle of the Vexin.  P.  440 thereabout. In its entirety the sequence reads like an Eric Rohmer film – and I don’t mean only Alexia’s time spent in that petit chambre under the stairs or that amazing dream of hers [see above], which tells us who she substantially is – I mean the entire sequence until the hold-out Auberge-keep, for ages  he hasn’t had a single guest– shades of the restarateur of  NO-MAN’S BAY who makes the world’s best word salad as he keeps going broke and retreats further and further into the woods – does all he can to delay their departure – it is breath-taking the timing  of this sequence, magical, it is so touching to empathize with this man - and Handke’s amazing artfulness is equal to the so amazingly perfectly paced opening of MORAVIAN NIGHT – the kind of artfulness of Handke’s that no one hereabouts seems to notice or they take it for granted in this artless country a musical ability goes back as far as the pacing of his first play without word – but not without sounds - MY FOOT MY TUTOR.

4]  The astonishing sequence when Alexia is caught in the blackbery brambles and comes upon the cat whose owner’s voice she has been hearing all along the Voisne –    Now if the cat would turn out to be the Bankieress which allegedly Alexia is searchig for – but no, it is a morbund cat and her owner has most improbably been looking for her for miles and miles. The physicality of the description here will stick bramble-like in the reader’s mind .

5] The manner in which Alexia addresses that dog who has decided to follow her and tell him to get lost is one of many dramaturgical instances in the book – and a most amusing one. And you can just lift it out of the book and put it the stage all by itself.

6]  The „psychophysicist” in me objects to one particular little superficial essay where Handke describes what is ordinarily called the „associative” fabric of the brain. Handke’s no-knothing relationship to modern science shows – not to worry Peter no one will be able to predict what goes on in the bilions of associative pathways no matter that major features of oor brains and what they accomplish are pretty well known.

7 ] The end sequence which is a reprieve to the nth power of the end of WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES – „wallow in your despair,” „dont’ extirpate your beastliness,” „be even more hopeless”...

I usually don’t comment on a Handke work until I have read it several times. In this instance that is the case only in the specifics I cite here, but rereading this marvelous invivogarating book in its entirely I expect will generate further comments.


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