Blog Guest Book N.Y.R.B. / J.S. MARCUS Favorite Links  OPEN LETTER TO ROBERT SILVERS @ NYRB: RE: J.S. MARCUS [1] NYRB=[2]  NYRB=[3] NYRB [4] NYRB [5]

6]“The predominant atmosphere in both books, however, is one of detachment; in Repetition, the descriptions of the Slovenian countryside are almost…” I must have read at least a 1000 psycho-analytic case histories; very coolly written: I supply the tears where I know oceans of them were shed on the couch. J.S. needs to re-examine his use of detached, take a look at how Joyce describes his procedure in Portrait of the Artist. It appears that J.S. wants to contrast Handke’s way of writing his novels with his engagement for the Serbians – well, even the three Yugoslav travel books, the parts that are strictly phenomenological are just as “detached” .

7]  His work may be set almost anywhere in Europe and America, but there is remarkably little of the world in that work; the landscapes and cityscapes are undifferentiated, reduced, often, to abstract visual sensations

Handke is a phenomenologist, he is noted for how rooted, site specific his work is! Whole books and essays have been written on the subject, look at the work of Mireille.Tabah [a] ulb.ac.be. GOALIE is obviously set first in the Viennese Prater Section, SHORT LETTER ever so obviously all over the USA, LEFT-HANDED WOMAN begins with a very beautiful description of the undulating Paris as it look from Clamart/Meudon, where Handke was living at the time and also filmed the book; ACROSS in Salzburg, the chief reason for writing that book was to memorialize its surround, I could go on and on. J.S. must be one of the biggest morons ever to set words on paper! Or whatever, the only reason I am doing this is because this shit appeared in the vaunted NYRB.

8]Handke's prose doesn't translate well into English, but in German it has remarkable power, a sort of full-throated subtlety — he would seem to combine the directness of a writer like Hemingway with the astringency and ease of Don DeLillo, though he has his own, invariably alienating purpose….”Handke’s work does what he, who has translated from five languages, does: it takes the translator by the elbows; he has taken me, Krishna Winston, Scott Abbott, and Ralph Mannheim by their best elbows, he thought my translation of his WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES was better than any translation he could have imagined. Well, t’wouldn’t have been feasible without an original text, which daft as my man can be he clear forgot for a while in his enthusiasm he himself had written! This is yet another of J.S.’s bald ignorant assertions, since he is so ill-versed, so utterly ignorant that then is all he can do. Amazing that you, Bob Silvers and your editors who must have at least glanced at the Handke books that you gave out for review would let this merde pass and go into print.

Here some samples and a link to the site that addresses Handke as a translator:


You have a sample of Scott Abbott’s in his translations of JUSTICE FOR SERBIA and VOYAGE BY DUGOUT coming, and of Krishna Winston’s work on DEL GREDOS above, who succeeded Ralph Manheim midway of his work on the so highly and specifically localized – Lineares, Soria, Paris - THREE ESSAYS [Farrar, Straus, 1993], and boy did Handke get lucky with Krishna! Mannheim did fine work except, I found, especially with the beginning of A SLOW HOME COMING [which American edition of this 1979 title novel also contains the 1979 walking journal book, THE LESSON OF ST. VICTOIRE and the 1980 memoir A CHILD’S STORY,  just re-issued by NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS BOOKS] he failed to find the adequate rhythms. Here two samples of my work. The early plays were pretty straightforward, except that they needed to be tested by actors mouths, as they then were, however the KASPAR was only for the UK Methuen edition thereof. Handke got lucky there with me, not only that I knew my Shakespeare courtesy of my lunatic of an OSS stepfather but also courtesy of my knockabout with the tongue of the street,[3] which is where the re-emigrated Ralph Mannheim is sorely lacking in all his work. With DYING OUT matters began to be more challenging, by the time I got to WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES we were in the realm of great and powerful poetry. However, he also got quite unlucky with Gitta Honegger’s translations of HOUR and the ART OF ASKING where the National’s London Production commissioned a new translation of what is one of the great unspoken text in the German language [it’s syntax takes you by the scruff of yours and doesn’t let go until the end, I only know of one other text like that Heiner Mueller’s HAMLET MACHINE] of stage translations. And ART OF ASKING, prior to its English language premiere needs at least a thorough revision, but “Ekel” Peter has only himself to blame, he hates it when he gets caught with his hands in the cookie jar, and becomes as humorless as death, the confessed liar does!

From the three long progressively more fugueing poems in Nonsense and Happiness, Urizen Books, 1976, at the end of which my man had a panic attack and ended up in a hospital with a tachycardia:

“This fall time passed nearly without me

and my life stood as still as then

when I had felt so low

I wanted to learn to type

and waited evenings in the windowless ante-room

for the course to begin

The neon-tubes roared

and at the end of the hour

the plastic covers were pulled back over the type-writers.

I came and went and

would have not been able to say anything about myself.

I took myself so seriously that I noticed it,

I was not in despair merely discontent.

I had no feeling for myself and no feeling for anything else. (…)


A diary I wanted to keep

consisted of a singe sentence

“I’d like to throw myself into an umbrella”

and even that I hid in shorthand

The sun has been shining for four weeks

and I have been sitting on the terrace

and to everything that crossed my mind

and to everything I saw

I only said “yes yes” (…)

”The longer I think the more Siberian the wind that blows through my head”

I read in James Hadley Chase (…)

I had the need to love someone

but when I imagined it in detail

I became discouraged

In The Man Without Qualities I reached the sentence “Ulrich examined the man”

(“man”, too, Musil meant disparagingly)

when nausea stopped me from reading on

That perhaps was a sign that things were looking up for me

Occasionally I thought of my child

and went to him

only to show him that I was still there

Because I had such a guilty conscience

I spoke very distinctly to him (…)


At that time in summer

when the grass was still dense and long colorful toys lay strewn about in it

and someone said

“That lies there like a child’s dream”

(Before I wrote that

I had to laugh very intimately

But it fit the facts –

and without conceptual exertion)...


In this monstrously glowing autumnal world

writing too seemed nonsensical to me

Everything pressed itself so much upon me

that I lost all imagination (…)


In the papers I read that a wealthy aristocratic banker’s wife had said “The rich became even richer under this government. You won’t believe me


That perked me up absurdly

Once a woman sat before me

so beautifully

and I thought

“I have to get very close to her

so that her beauty can unfold itself.”

but she shriveled

when I approached her (…)


flies died everywhere obtrusively

I picked them up and threw them in the wastebasked

When I turned on the faucet

I always caught the chlorine donation (…)


… and when I went to the mailbox

I was so blinded by the asphalt

I had to put my hand over my eyes

so as to be able to greet the dark figures approaching me

Finally, then, at dusk

at the gabled house diagonally opposite

the EDEKA sign glowed

consolingly yellow

and I went shopping

The shop was so bright and quiet

the manager was counting the receipts

the freezers hummed endearingly

and the fact that the chives I bought

were held together by a rubber band

practically moved me to tears (…)


Then at night

I slept with the garden shears beside me

and the child fidgeted with trembling hands

screaming in his bed

When I closed my eyes I could open them only one by one

Yes, I had once known how I ought to live

But now everything was forgotten

I would not even perceive a fart

as something physical

I’m really in a bad way’

I know one shouldn’t stop like that

but there’s no alternative”

with precisely those words

- Speedy Gonzales of concepts –

- I wanted to stop

even before I started to write

Then with the insolence

of self-expression

what was thought-out beforehand became even ghostlier

word by word

and really with one jolt

I again knew what I wanted

and again felt eager for the world

(As a boy when a feeling of the world overcame me

I only felt the desire tot WRITE something

now a poetic desire for the world usually

only occurs when I write something)

“I am feeling again” I thought

But I made a slip of mind

and thought “I am reeling again.”

In the last few days

nature became musical

It s beauty

became human

and its magnificence so intimate

I sloshed with pleasure through the dead leaves

walked behind the perfumed poodle

The bushes moved

as when soldiers are on maneuvers

are camouflaged behind them

The deep brown fir trees stood animally physical

before the window

and at one place in the ominous landscape

the birch tree leaves glinted as bright

as a cry of pain

“Oh” I thought

Farther away smoke drifted past behind houses

and the TV antennas in front became monuments

With every day you saw more branches among the foliage

the few leaves of grass grown back since the last mowing

glowed so intimately

that I became afraid of the end of the world

even the façade of the houses

smiled in my human reflection

“It hurts so much!” I heard a woman say of the jet trails in the sky (…)


Deep at night

it became bright again

Crushed from the outside

I began to curdle

in full consciousness

Unfeeling my cock twitched


from breath to breath

“Don’t wake up now!” I thought

and held my breath

But it was too late

Nonsense had struck again

Never before had I felt so in the minority

Outside the window

nothing but omnipotence

At first a few bird sang

then so many

the singing

became a racket

the air an echo chamber

without pause or end

Such a down

suddenly no memory

no thought of the future.

I lay stretched out long in my fear

did not dare

open my eyes

relived the winter night

when I did not turn once

from one side

to the other

gnarled by the cold then

now stretched out

illiterate from the horror outside me (…)


The unleveled rolling plazas

in the large graceful city

this repetition of the open country

with the horizons of hills

amid the houses

the land

prolonged into the city

onto these plazas

where you were over-whelmed as nowhere else

by horizon longing…


When I climbed out of the subway

even the dog shitting on the sidewalk

struck me as magicked

I shuddered with disbelief


My cock lay strangely forgotten

between my legs

Joy rose from the deepest depths

and replaced me

“I can be happy” I thought

“Why don’t you envy me!”

For days I was beside myself

and yet as I wanted to be.

I ate little

talked just to myself –

needless so happy

unapproachable so full of curiosity


and self-confident(…)


I as inspired machine

everything happened by chance:

that a bus stopped

and that I got on

that I rode the ticket’s worth

that I walked through the streets(…)


The cats sniffed around in the mausoleums

of the large cemeteries

Very small couples sat in the cafes

and ate Salade Niçoise together…


I was in my element


But in my dreams

I hadn’t yet lost all interest

Straggling slime track

of the snail person.

I was not ashamed

was only angry.

I made myself wishless

by drinking too much

The twitching eyelids became irksome

The passersby were walk-ons

who behaved like stars

“Levi-Jeans-People! I thought

“Ad-space bodies!”

-“Which says everything about you” I thought

without the earlier sympathy.

I became superficial with crossness(…)


In any case:


without deathly fear

My heart throbbed for no one

and the city was foreign to me again

from all its familiar landmark



In a friend’s apartment

I sat absentmindedly

my ears buzzing

and heard my own soulless voice

Being happy all I could remember

was happiness

being unhappy merely unhappiness

Indifferently I recounted

how okay everything had been with me.

Then we talked about fucking

The sexual expressions

provided us with the unabashedness

for everything else

Anyone joining us we greeted

with obscenities

and let loose

they lost their strangeness(…)


Everything without being horny

In the upper deck of the bus

the total strangers grinned

as they listened to us

and felt at home with us

What exhibitionism

as soon as one of us

suddenly mentioned something!

But there was always someone

who found a hint of sex

in the allegedly other…


Yet no one talked about him or herself

we only fantasized

never the embarrassment of true stories

How the surrounding flourished then

and the pleasure of the sour wine in

the heartiness of the sour wine

in the cylindrical glasses

Don’t stop!

The indescribable particular

of the grim new age

and the order of their lost connection

in the dirty stories

Hello meaning is back!(…)


Then it got serious

and the seriousness hit so quickly

that it didn’t want to be me

who was meant

Then I became curious

then ruthless

I would take a woman to the next best toilet

No more flirting

no more obscenities

no more double entendres

instead of “fucking” I now said:

“sleep with you”

- if I said anything at all.

I pared my fingernails

so as not to hurt you too much

In my horniness

I could suddenly call nothing

by its name

Before I had found a metaphor for sex

in the most unsuspecting things


during the experience

we experienced the sexual acts

as metaphors for something else(…)


On a cold indescribable day

when it does not want to become dark and not bright

the eyes neither want to open nor shut

and familiar sights don’t remind you

of your old familiarity with the world,

nor as new sights magick a feeling for the world

-  the Two & One poetic world feeling –

when there exists no When and But,

no Earlier ad no Then,

dawn sweaty

and evening still unimaginable

and on the motionless trees only quite rarely a single twig snaps

as if it had become slightly lighter,

on an the indescribable day like that,

on the street,

between two steps,

the sense is suddenly lost:

the black man walking toward you

in his leather coat –

you want to slug his face,

and throttle the woman

reading off her list before you in the shop.

And more and more often

the thought frightens you

how you nearly did it

- a jolt was still lacking, the mysterious


with which love set in at one time

or the wild resolve to lead life your way,

the certainty of a formless kind of immortality…

(Then you read in the papers of some who succumbed to this jolt and you wonder why there are still so few.)

Wherever you look now – everything greenish-discolored at such moments

as on a too briefly discolored photo,

the objects half complete,

and no hope of completing them,

every sight a rotted fragment

without the idea of a plan,

which became lost,

still raw-girdered and already a ruin,

which you avoid,

fearing you will collapse with it(…)


excrescence of an excrescence

- if only the eyes would close,

- of you could only squint at such moments,

soothe the nausea in the eyeballs,

- and it would be just MOMENTS (after which you could sigh) –




- Someone has stopped on the street

and cannot go on:

not only he has stopped,

everything else has too,

and so it seems that he walks on,

and that the rest walks on too.

But he is only pretending to walk; and the way he regards the horizon at the end of the street is also feigned;

and the French fries which he smells somewhere while he pretends

to walk

- it might be altogether somewhere else –

he only notices

as a last kindness toward himself;

actually he does not smell anything any more,

and the French fries are homeless remnants

from that already unimaginable time

when every object still hugged its meaning:

recollection of a picture in a church where the Just stand beneath the Blessed Virgin’s coat.

Yes, everything has turned into abrasive outer world in this state

and in the open-skull an unappetizing something, once called brain

puffs itself up in the draft.

Instead of consciousness

nettle-like vegetation

skin sensations and allergy:’

an incalculable time of rashes,

of goose bumps,

of eczemas,

of soreness.

An unpleasant itch

when the lips accidentally touched each other

- you have become ticklish to yourself. (…)


The sky above the crane could be a picture,

which rekindles the necessary patience,

but the well-worn sky heals nothing either,

nor the word that soothes so often,

which you say to yourself:

the clouds grow repulsively

lie in unholy havoc,


and the earth too, leveled to the horizon.

Everything wind-wrecked.

Everything mixed up.

And everything expressionless.



and feel in the wrong toward others

and regard your states just one of those states:

as if you behaved “like a schoolboy

not to be taken seriously.

So you don’t take yourself seriously in company

but the nonsense is too real,

and therefore unbearable.(…)


but even the prettiest sight now diminishes life.

A bombing attack of nonsense on the world:

right behind the house wall the earth breaks off

into whirlpools of

the indefinable

(some call it ocean trench, others space, others hell)

and on the last atoll a children’s carousel turns

tinkling, god forlorn.

Stop! Gaze at this picture:

Did not the lids lower over the eyes at this sight?

- It is no picture: and if so, it went under from your impatience

with the last bit of earth.

The gloom where the earth was

distinguishes itself from the gloom

of the indefinable all around

only by its fresher black,

and now even the whirlpools are streaming in…(…)


in the shattering environment,

which had been on the verge of soothing itself,

your dyed in the wool HUMBUG breaks forth aain,

world-wide and skin-tight…(…)


or another time

a typewriter shop,

you stare down at the machine

with paper to try it out,

and there

among the people in the shop,


“O desespoir! O villessee! O rage!...”

- Your eyes grow wide,

whatever you look at


after such long nonsense, suddenly there was so much of the world’s abundance. (…)


a feeling also returns

to your own ugly, deaf face,

and the indescribable day

becomes describable,

it wanes

and when you look at the woman again

you notice she isn’t smiling at all,

but only has an expression:

even the expression on her face

seemed like a smile to you.(…)


gradually you begin to picture these different women

even as something mythical

-old hiccup of poets drunk on being –:

when a woman with water in her leg climbs in,

more awkwardly than the others,

and kindly destroys the facile PICTURE…

And what do you bring home in the evening?-

Such sights for example,

the sight collector answers proudly.

And how do you order them?-

Because the fear of the nonsense is over

they no longer need an order.

And your own impression? –

Because the nonsense is over the sight has simultaneously become the impression.

And the actual words?-

When I see something, I only say: O God!

or: No!

or: Ah!

or simply call out: The evening sky!

or whimper softly..

And yet –

Beware of the musicality of the world!

Beware of the happy ending!

For even when the indescribable day came

you had been warned of previous indescribable days,

as in a fairy tale,

before you walked through the forest,

of the good fairy

or of the talking animal,

- and must,

as in the fairy tale,

have forgotten the warning after all.

At least,

instead of the all too anecdotal happiness,

you cling to the moment

when the nonsense let up and the new familiarity was felt as pain.

The dreams are in the offing.

They are there:

A large red cherry falls slowly past you down the elevator shaft.(…)


the time when you can dream

is a sensible time.

Already you nod to yourself in the street and shake your head; munch like a child an apple before falling asleep;

walk straight through puddles

and again say “merry go round”

instead of “carousel”…

On a cold bright morning

still imbued by a long

bliss-kindling dream

where you were

what you can be

-the dream itself was the fulfillment –

and at the sight of the wide sky

behind the edge of the city

you look forward to growing old for the first time,

and in front of the child

who looks at you

after he has knocked over the glass,

you think

if the child wouldn’t have to look at you like that any more –

that might be the real way.



"At dusk it is quiet and empty there, the mounds are enshrouded , the glaciers have melted just now, it is ten thousand years before out time, and it is our time...."

"The last dramas are those of places..."

"Land, lower your flag and coat of arms. Valleys all, strike your hymns, forget your names. Ways here, shelter yourself in namelessness... Construction site, here, you too, as in the old saying, animate yourself in nameless simplicity."

"We are the figures walking in the distance through the fields, the silhouettes in the cross country bus which drives through the snow plain. Our shadow faces fill the first to last subway are and only in the curves do our eyes briefly lose touch..."

"I saw this spot as the colors and forms which had been cleansed of everything secretive, everything parochial, everything atmospheric, everything typical, everything manic...."

"A few centuries ago it was the practice in this valley to make so-called leaf-masks. Between woodcut leaves a a mouth opened and out looked human eyes. Once I saw us - not just us three - thus together in the foliage, I walked late in fall through a large park that was covered with fallen leaves, the afterglow of the sunset sky on them, the leaves moved lightly between the blades and sometimes one of them also leaped up or flipped over, and while I moved slowly through the leaves all our faces and all our stores rose form the foliage: it was one face and one story, and this one face and the one story that I know now, should be the goal of the work, not only of my work but of all our work. The movement of these fallen leaves in the grass was the gentlest that man has ever seen! But now it is as though only a few single leaves chased after me in the dark crackling and rusting like dogs or pursuers."

"Wretched is everything, from here to the horizon, and here is the pain, forever. I will turn to me dead. Haven't they been the green field on my breast time and again? It is them I address in the dark, and they appear, in the eye of the cat, in the branch brushing the window in the night-wind, even in the humming of the ice box. The skeletons lie there stretched on in the earth and can be approached. I will squat down with them, and that will do me good. No, they don't want anything from me and are not angry. I think myself free of everything - and they are there, not as the dead but as my saints and helpmates. I show my profile to the false abundance of the here and now and they form the interface profile in empty space. I let them be around me and my evil blood flows differently. My dead are not ghosts of the night - they are part of the brightest daylight, and I touch them not when I sleep but when I rest...

From the end of W.A.T.V.  

HANS: [softly to his three colleagues]: Say: "Sorrow"

THE THREE: "Sorrow."

HANS: "Who helps?"

HANS: Look away from me.

ANTON: The river has dried up.

IGNATIUS: The milk stand torn down.

ALBIN: The village tavern without wine.

HANS: It is becoming hard to walk on the earth.

ANTON: The sun is made of ice.

IGNATIUS: It refuses to shine.

ALBIN: I see behind the evil moon an even more evil one rise.

HANS: Gaze, stars, finally down on different earthlings.

ANTON: The man at the well is a good-for-nothing.

IGNATIUS: The barefoot lady no longer lifts the hem of her skirt in the grass.

ALBIN: The boy with the red vest spits on us.

HANS: The girl at the well is no longer an image of life. Sing the song of woe. Scream in rhythm. Rise against so-called creation and, with all your might in the wrong key sing our song of woe and revenge. [They wail off key with all their might.]

ANTON: Sunken the shores of love.

IGNATIUS: I lie twitching on no beach.

ALBIN: My brain twists and turns in the broken-in-two nutshell, no man with the password helps me to get out, no one will sit down sweetly beside me, my despairing glance meets no pair of eyes, my lips twitch in bewilderment, and I pant for no heaven in the last waves before the nought-nought-nought.

HANS: [turning to the Old Woman]: "There is no consolation."

THE OLD WOMAN: "There is no consolation."

HANS: There is neither knowledge nor certainty, there is nothing whole, and what I think I think alone, and what occurs to me alone is not the truth but an opinion, and there is no such rule as universal reason, and collective human destiny walks about more than ever as a ghost.

THE OLD WOMAN: The vinegar sponge doesn't even have vinegar an more.

HANS: The man with the redeeming glance is rattling full of millstones.

HANS: Church spires jut like spears in enemy country.

THE OLD WOMAN: The side-wound has a stench, and the ruby-red gleaming stars are the killer bear's.


So much for the “grey” poet Peter Handke, who re-invented alternating discourse [in lieu of hideous naturalistic dialogue] we will now all take up a collection to pay to give eyes to the sightless J.S.

directness of a writer like Hemingway with the astringency and ease of Don DeLillo,

As for the idiotic helplessness of describing a writer in terms of other writers - the other recourse aside impressionistic loads of adjectives that folks of the ilk of J.S. have - comparisons of this kind are only useful and justified in the case of, say, Hemingway copy cats. Handke uses the standard classical style in an extremely economical manner initially, eventually reacquiring the whole range, and because he has that genius access to syntax and the dream-film screen on which within which he writes he is a virtuoso. Dangerously virtuoso like even. As of about the mid-70s.

full-throated subtlety…??? What might that be, warbles like a Robin??

continued on iii