28. It was directed by Claus Peymann, a longtime friend and collaborator of both Handke and postwar Austria's greatest playwright, Thomas Bernhard. I have elaborated above what Handke has accomplished in the theater, it is of importance to world literature, Bernhard’s plays are local affairs; not in the same league. You can make a culture with Handke, Bernhard buries it in brown-green sauce as far as I am concerned.
29] Eventually he went to a besieged Serbia, writing yet another travel piece—the basis of his new book—for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. He gave a long, preposterous interview to an Austrian tabloid, casting doubts on the accounts of expelled Kosovar Albanians. ("The refugees, the ones who have been driven out, all say the same thing word for word. Is that therefore believable?") Not having seen these T.V. casts with Kosovo refugees, I obviously cannot speak to that. But I can speak to the practice of “looping” for TV. broadcasts. In 1992 I was in Mulege, Baja California, Sur when Ballard of Woods Hole came with the Jason expedition to film the vents of the volcanoes that lie between Mulege/ St. Rosalia in Baja Sur and Guyamas on the eastern side of the Sea of Cortez/ Bahia California. The animals – sulfur based life, and sea life feeding on sulfur based creatures were supposedly being filmed live by the underwater sled or a camera on the bathysphere. Nonsense: all that was on a loop and broadcast for a week to kids all over North America – however, the voices that you heard were from live Scientists aboard ship who had to describe the same damn critters over and over! Imagine how exhausted they were! Their authenticity would have been in doubt, not that of the silent beings from the depths + Thus Handke’s suspicion might be well founded. If that really was the case that they said all the same thing, mine would have been too.
31] in May Handke's former girlfriend published an open letter to him in an Austrian magazine in which she accused him of beating her up, and Germany's tabloid press ran the story. In his 2007 novel DIE MORAWISCHE NACHT [see
for a very detailed piece on this great grab bag, Handke introduces his admission to having beaten a woman, tactical concession defense, as a belated response to former lover and Lebensgefährte, collaborator on a film now Erinye Marie Colbin’s going public, during the Handke/ Yugoslavia publicity wars in the 90s, first in Der Falter, which was picked up by:
with a description of how Handke had nearly killed her. ["Ich höre noch meinen Kopf auf den Steinboden knallen. Ich spüre noch den Bergschuh im Unterleib und auch die Faust im Gesicht... Solange es Männer gibt auf dieser Welt - Männer wie Dich - einäugig, unnachgiebig, machthungrig und Ego-breit - wird es auch Waffen geben und somit Kriege... Wer bist Du denn, daß Du Dich so wichtig nimmst? Bist weder groß, noch edel oder gar bescheiden und aufrichtig. Ein eitler Schreiber bist Du, der sich sonnt in der Rolle des 'einsamen Rufers.'... Irgendwie wirst Du diesem Krieg dankbar sein, denn er befriedigt auf perverse Weise Dein unstillbares Verlangen nach öffentlicher Anerkennung." A translation of her statement reads: „I can still feel my head bang on the stone floor. I can still feel the mountain hiker boots hit my stomach and your fist in my face… As long as there are men in the world – men like you – one-eyed, unyielding, power-hungry and egomaniacal – there will be weapons and therefore war… Who are you, to think of yourself as so important. You are neither great, nor noble nor modest nor honest. A vain writer is what you are, who suns himself in the role of the solitary prophet… In some way you will be thankful for this war [The Yugoslav wars of 1994] because it will satisfy your insatiable longing for public acclaim.” - I myself would have to say that while I have found Handke at other moments to be the most empathic, generous and sensitive friend… albeit at a remove, unless it become a matter of his precious self-image even if you were supporting his work, that ever so unfortunately I have to agree with each and every item that Ms. Colbin lists and was only surprised that it took so long for one of these women to speak up, in this instance an exquisite actress whom my man exploited in the film they made of a Margaret Duras book who, however, as the now Erinye who haunts Handke’s books as of the 1984 Across, and, after the beating, haunted him all over Salzburg so that he had to go to a pub at its edges with his friends, and who still haunts him Moravian Night, a Fury who evidently has little appreciation at the moment [the usual forgetfulness at moments of such irruptions of the good times once shared] she made her statement, initially to the Austrian Magazin Der Falter, that a certain kind of extreme narcissism - is required to do work at Handke’s genius – after all, he lacks the modesty of a Bruckner - level, and that his [in this instance insatiable compensatory need to exhibit his wound – and have a response, to make contact] is one of the major drives that produces the books. He describes his egomaniacal behavior toward the end of Moravian where we find the “ex-author” with his half-brother in Griffen, and the brother describes what a holy terror Handke had been already as an adolescent when he wrote, terrorizing the entire family. I once outplayed Handke at Tarok, a full account of that can be found at
and so discovered how he couldn’t handle losing, couldn’t handle being kept waiting, and a lot of other matters.
Unfortunately, after making this tactical concession in Morawische Nacht [that he had wanted to kill her, not just beat her up] to his accuser Marie Colbin, Handke goes into one of his formalistically utterly compleat explanations why he beat her in the first place – not leaving him alone any moment of the day that leaves the reader gasping and with no imagination, and thus has the hollowest of rings, the more so since Colbin is by no means the only woman Handke has beaten, certainly a surprise to those who have read SORROW BEYOND DREAMS, superficially, not to those who appreciate what it means to witness the father figure beat up the mother for a decade, and what this will do to a love-child intra-psychically. Don’t let what I say here keep you from reading MORAWIAN, one of his greatest beginnings, greatest endings, it was initially called SAMARRA, but Handke kept writing – and he ought to have kept writing until he got the whole of it as right as many of its parts are.
I myself, as of about 1977 sought to be alone with Handke as little as possible, I found him to be sinister, although if anyone knew his genius his translators did, and also that he could be an angel, in the good sense, a matter I suspect that Ms. Colbin, the fury of furies of his in Salzburg who haunts his work as of ACROSS  and also MORAVIAN [paranoid he is by now!], the guilt that is always part of paranoia, imagined or real, there are women like that, forever unforgiving, she shows up at the premieres of all his plays, and since she is yet another of those fairly well known actresses that Handke keeps hooking up with still reads Handke texts in public! And when she was younger she was exquisite, Handke met her on a bridge across the Salzach, the river that runs through Salzburg, which has been sort of mythified in No-Man’s-Bay into the Rio Grande as that now elephant piss stream flows beneath the bridge to Ciduad Juarez in A Touch of Evil – a truly nice touch that. I had a girlfriend who looked to be Colbin’s younger sister in Paris in the late 70s, and made it a point not to introduce her to Handke. Thus Mr. J.S. gets one point for having found Handke sinister on a televisions show. I keep thinking what luck Handke and I both had that his first wife and I didn’t run away with each other in 1971 when he seemed to be a couple with the “Austrian dramaturg” of SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL. He would have had his break down even earlier and I would never have got the chance to translate WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES! For, I used to have my problems, too: drag the beautiful wench home by her goldilocks and soon enough she will turn into the hated governess who bring out murderous impulses in me. However, my signifying grandfather had a far better sense of humor than old man Sivec, he was still making fun of the guards in his fourth concentration camp, although he then would not show his back either to his wife or his daughters after WW II, yet otherwise his sense of humor was intact.
32] The Burgtheater production turned out to be an anticlimax — pompous. The performance dramatized the failure of the play: Handke, and now Peymann, cannot compete with the mere facts; they try, and fail, to extinguish the actual images of the Yugoslav wars and replace them with their own. Cannot compete with the mere facts I have addressed this already by pointing out that  the only facts you have on stage are a play; that the play is presented as a screenplay, that is doubly removed, for the 28th film ten years after the war – perhaps the director who says that it is still too early is right: after all, all you get is a proposition, an “as if” and it exists in that realm. I wish J.S. a rich, fact-filled naturalistic existence! We have Scott Abbott’s response above, I have collected a lot of German reviews at the CANOE page of the drama2.site
33] He does not mention [in WITH TEARS] that the party is part of Milosevic's regime. He describes the "strange homelessness that comes from [Risti´c] on this war-night." The fine Serbian director Zeljko Djukic who runs the Tutato Theater in Chicago tells me that Risti’c is / or at least was a kind of Serbian Riefenstahl! And that he remained loyal to Milosevic to the end. I can’t imagine why Handke ought to record the man’s party affiliation. As though he were suppressing something! This is either an accurate observation, or Handke is projecting his own feeling into Risti’c, or both. At any event: it is an impression he had: and he conveys it to us laconically. With reading all those Handke books, J.S. might have got at least a inkling of Handke’s “innerworl[d]-of the outerworl[d]-innerworld procedure, and of his working on that interstice! Nor does he appear to have noticed that Handke is a formalist – not that you need even know this word, as you don’t need to know the word rhythm to notice what rhythm is.
Trivial but globally telling of Marcus’ failure as a reader is his then having seen what no human eye has beheld, that is Risti’c’s Belgrade performance of Canoe, cancelled so I was given to understand because the director had “packed his bags’”.
It occurred to me to wonder as what J.S. might be used if employed, to walk the dog, take out the garbage?
34] The second piece is filled with turgid prattle. Handke writes about a deserter he sees near the Kosovo border:“He comes from the adjacent (?) Kosovo, for a short (?) vacation (?) here at home (?), but it's as if he became scattered on the way, in search of his troop—not only through his running does he seem this way, also through his gaze, his stare, between consternation, dismay, endurance—and at the same time rejuvenescence adding to his youthfulness.” turgid prattle? It appears that J.S. who claims to have read a few texts has not caught on to Handke’s way of questioning his own text.
35]In a short preface Handke tells us that the book "is in almost direct correspondence with my notes…." The effect, apparently, is meant to provide the reader with an eyewitness account of literature-in-the-making. The only “claim” I see Handke making is one of close correspondence to his impressions as noted down at the time. Handke may be guilty of a lot of matters: pretentiousness is not one of them.
36] Questioning Through Tears turns out to be a highly selective account of what Handke sees as an apocalypse, or pre-apocalypse, with pungent or lyrical descriptions of Serb suffering, or lyrical accounts of resilient Serbness. In Srebrenica—"I am here for the fifth or sixth time"— Handke attends a Serbian Orthodox service.- "Mass: the women stationed to the left of the wall of icons (or cabinets); the men (not at all less in number) to the right." Then the now familiar, and rather exhausted, invectives against the "Super-information" of the "Superpowers." As expected, Handke scarcely mentions the Kosovar refugees, whose accounts, he again complains, are all the same, "word for word, phrase for phrase." highly selective ? Was Mr. J.S. with Handke during that trip? Everything is selective. E.G. I am selecting the most grievous idiocies that J.S. commits – I could go on even longer and be even more devastating. I have addressed the matter of what the Kosovar Albanian refugees said above.
38] The first victim of the war, Handke argues, is language itself — the capital letters stand for a kind of interchangeable wordlessness. But Handke's own believability is another victim. By now he is so discredited that we have no more reason to believe in, say, the bombed auto plant in the southern town of Kragujevac and its innocent victims than we do in the existence of Svetlana Vrbaski. We are imprisoned in Handke's imagination, and the only reality is the sound of Handke talking, narrating his own dream sequence. I would disagree with this facile syllogism: I approached the controversy knowing of Handke’s genius as a writer but also of his exhibitionism, thus he was suspect, and since I was engaged in a Handke project took my time to understand him, or as someone whom Handke and I both know, the first rate writer, Erich Wolfgang Skwara once put it to me: “One always wonders what he is up to now.” [Handke had just walked arm in arm with Umberto Eco through the halls of the Frankfurt Bookfair, at the publication of No-Man’s Bay, and if I had not known Handke and been well along on my Handke project, I would no doubt have pretty much bought into whatever I read in the organs where I get my news, and put the matter aside as something I could do as little about as the slaughters in other parts of the world. If we merely do a depth probe of the coverage in the NY Times Magazine or of specialist Roger Cohen, you would have to conclude that language suffered grievously… and always does, especially during war time. Handke at least provides with matters that are believably Handke, authentic Handke. Handke’s impressions, his immediate observations have always been extraordinarily reliable, what is beyond his horizon of that he refuses to report. He makes far fewer truth claims than J.S. impugns him with!
39]In 1994, Handke published a much-awaited novel called My Year in the No-Man's-Bay, his longest book to date — over 1,000 pages in the German edition. The book is narrated by another autobiographical character, an Austro-Slovenian novelist, called Gregor (a favored name in the Handke oeuvre, recalling both Kafka's Gregor Samsa and Handke's uncle), who has a failed marriage and other failed relationships. The book turns out to be a predictable, if highly elaborate, Handke meditation on his tendency to live in language rather than in the world, not to mention in his own life; it is a sustained description of estrangement and, again, of the necessity and futility of writing.
predictable,/ My Year in the No-Man's-Bay? I can’t imagine what is “predictable” about No-Man's-Bay but that it consists of words. If further proof is needed what a predictable non-reader J.S. is, his comments here are it. N.B. for short is Handke’s portrait of his six artistic sides, ex-cultural attaché Gregor Keuschnig [Hoveler] out of A Moment of True Feeling still somewhat Left-Handed-Woman, painter-film maker, reader, writer, priest – the only actual of the friends that Keuschnig has, and who is also an actual friend of Handke since his Seminary days, and of course represents Handke’s toughie country priest side. Those six sides are stitched together on the ground of this bight outside Paris in the Chaville Forest where Handke has lived since the later 80s, talking about not being LOCATED! It also incorporates some long sections about Yugoslavia and walking there. I myself read the book about five times, a couple of times in German and then thrice in English, at a 24/7 Hmong-run donut place on NE 45th Street in the evening among not just our donut maker Hmong “Lola” but as authentic a no-man’s place as you could find with Gogol’s lost souls, and various Dostoyevsky refuse, Smerdiakov, a Persian ex-computer programmer who had had a breakdown and who brought his gold fish in his goldfish bowl, the toothless cabbie, etc; in other words, in sacred company, and felt as good as I have only one other time in these fifteen years in Seattle and that was spending the summer of 2009 reading Crossing the Sierra del Gredos several more times, and then also writing about that, and so I know now what Peter Strasser meant when he wrote his book Peter Handke: Der Freudenstoff. Handke may be fairly impossible in person at times, a near criminal, all his love goes into writing and a real reader absorbs it through his texts, and responds in kind. Here and there I quibbled of course, this business about the book being set 7 years in the future and the German tribes being at war with each other, his making light of one of his worst period when he couldn’t get beyond the first sentence, rehearsed for years, of A SLOW HOMECOMING, in the Hotel Adams in New York in the late 70s - that showed disrespect towards his own suffering; as I also quibbled here and there with Del Gredos when my man seemed to have had a bad hair day and had to fake it a bit, and I haven’t made up my mind yet about the three “topes”, as I call them, those speed bump enclaves that hold up the heroine’s progress. But let us all celebrate that Maria Sivec loved her little bastard and didn’t abort him as she then did so many other pregnancies! J.S., you couldn’t predict anything, and are as responsive as worn out sandpaper.
40] In a 1992 interview, Handke dismissed Hölderlin as "ill with Germanness"; in his novel, Hölderlin becomes instead a source of regeneration: reading his poems fills Gregor's "veins with new blood." The novel contains a few strange exaltations of violence, and tries to make connections between the mythical, the irrational, and the natural. I will check my interview collection for the Hölderlin opinion. Sounds like the sort of thing my man might say to put an interviewer on, or to be controversial, because Nova’s long aria at the end of Walk about the Villages is infused with the pathos of Hölderlin and the high thin air of his idealism – not a one note pony that Hölderlin! Around 1980 Handke wrote that he now understood Hyperion completely! And that was meant in sympathy.
40] There had previously been a connection between Handke's dissociative style and his willful irrationality (he published a manifesto with his first collected plays, saying as much), but in the novel we glimpse something beyond that. "I wished I would get sick," Gregor thinks, reflecting back on a spiritual crisis that some readers might describe as writer's block, "or that the Third World War would break out, so that I would at least not be so alone with my very own war…. What, pray, is “the connection?” now that J.S. mentions Handke’s dissociative style as though this were a well-known feature [not a style anyhow, method perhaps] in There had previously been a connection between Handke's dissociative style and his willful irrationality you willfully rational being, J.S.? AS to “dissociative” style might J.S. have this in mind, the “Handke effect”:
I’ve been spending some time trying to figure out what makes reading Peter Handke’s fiction such an unsettling literary experience, and I think I’ve isolated one of the formal techniques he uses to achieve his peculiar ambience. I haven’t given the secondary literature on Handke more than a passing glance, so forgive me (and maybe even gently inform me) if I’m retailing what turn out to be critical commonplaces about his work.
First, an example, from Handke’s 1997 novel, On A Dark Night I Left My Silent House. I’ve chosen this one because the effect is fairly obvious here. The protagonist, a pharmacist from a Salzburg suburb whose wife has left him, has gone for an evening drive and now sits on a stump in a roadside clearing near his car. The novel is narrated in the third person, and seemingly a very “close” third, sliding at times into second person, as here:
“Crouching down to see what was happening from close up; and besides, crouching you were closest to yourself. Yet the field of vision remained as broad as possible: the parked car, in which, with the increasing dusk all around, a curious brightness seemed to have been trapped, the seats very obviously empty, and as if there were more of them than usual, whole rows of them; beyond it the airfield with the last plane rising into the air, at one window that passenger who thought he could rub off the haze on the outside on the inside; to the right, on the highway, an almost endless convoy of trucks, white on white, United Nations troops deployed against a new war, or rather returning from there (a few trucks were also being towed, half burned out); to the left, the training place for police dogs, at the edge of the forest, where one of the dogs seemed to have just got caught in a culvert and was howling piteously, while another, growling almost as piercingly, kept leaping at a man hidden behind a wall, burying its teeth in the ball of cloth in which the ‘fleeing criminal’ had wrapped his lower arm, then refusing to let go and hanging on stubbornly as the man ran in a circle with him, swinging the animal through the air.”
Even though the passage seems to be focalized through the protagonist’s perspective, it defies basic physics for many or even most of the specific details to be available to his point of view. Most obviously, of course, the pharmacist wouldn’t be able to see the airplane passenger futilely wiping his window (and still less would he see the haze), but there are other distortions as well. The crouching position described in the first line (after which no change in posture is given to us) makes it highly problematic that the protagonist could take in the convoy of UN trucks on the one hand and the policeman training his dog on the other, especially considering that the convoy is described as “almost endless” (i.e., seen disappearing into the horizon) and the dog trainer is at first “hidden” behind a wall. Such a vista might be available to the pharmacist were he crouched on top of a hill, but he’s not.
In the Newtonian physics of conventional realism, what you see from a crouch is your shoelaces, yet we are assured that “the field of vision remained as broad as possible” (but not “his field of vision” or “the field of his vision”). Could it be that when the pharmacist crouches to draw “closest to himself,” some other physics takes over, a kind of Handkean quantum mechanics? It’s a strange new self-communion that has the result of seeming to evaporate its subjectivity into the evening air.
Even the switch to second person contributes to this evaporation, paradoxically suggesting at once a greater intimacy than the third-person – as if the pharmacist were now recounting his own impressions to himself – and a greater distance, in that the invitation to the reader to closer identification with the protagonist simultaneously dissolves his specificity as a particular, situation-bound pharmacist from a Salzburg suburb. This move ‘closer to oneself’ is therefore ambiguous, and could include a swerve away from oneself or the discovery – even the in-habitation, so to speak – of the realization that one might not be one at all.
There are other things of note in the passage – the suggestive locution “on the outside on the inside”; the “white on white” of the trucks; the lurking savagery in the possible faraway war (Serbia?) and the police dogs in the middle distance – but the main effect, and what I’m calling (just for fun) the Handke-Effekt, is this destabilizing of conventional novelistic focalization, at least in its “close” variants (third-person limited, first person, and second person, leaving out for the moment third-person omniscient). Like Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt or ‘alienation effect’, it’s a species of defamiliarization, but what it defamiliarizes most of all is the depiction of consciousness in traditional realism. Conventional focalization overlaps with the sensorium of the character, so that the reader sees what the character can plausibly see, hears what the character plausibly hears, etc.; Handke subtly violates this. Think of a sort of bathyspheric bubble around the character’s head, start moving the bubble to the left or right, or up and down, outside the range of physical plausibility, and there’s your Handke-Effekt.
Part II of Edmond Caldwell’s piece ctd. at
What might be “irrational” about such a procedure, or connection with irrationality, as ordinary language understands that word? You wilted flower, you last rotten petal of the enlightenment, J.S. Marcus?
In Handke's essays and interviews and outbursts, and in The Journey in the Dugout Canoe — which all seem of a piece, a Serbenwerk — there is a strong element of exaggeration, but with this new book his identification with the Serbs has become simply genuine. It would seem that he has never come back from Serbia, that he has disappeared into some colorful, bloody Balkan wonderland.
First: Let me bring the readers up to date on what Handke has published on the topic of Yugoslavia since Marcus had a go at him. We all know I think about his appearance at the Milosevic funeral and yet another Handke controversy, the third time around as it were, the guy certainly “stays in the picture” as he advises us to imagine to be once a day [!], as a refresher: the eyes of God the eyes of the media! That affront ended with the dismounting of his great play THE ART OF ASKING at the Comedie Francaise, the refusal of the city council of Düsseldorf to provide the money that went with that city’s Heine Prize, Klaus Peymann raising the money for the equivalent 50,000 Euro Berlin Heine Preis and their highly medianized trip to an enclave in Kosovo to which Handke gave the money, in 2007 I think this was. Look at the many photos of Handke taken with his Kosovo hosts: indeed he looks extremely happy and I am happy for him and his hosts! Everyone has their Yugoslav tribal pet, the German writer H.C. Buch has even adopted some original Dalmatian rabbitts in Kosovo! Handke has stuck to his guns and affects my reading experience of his texts neither one way or the other.
Handke also won a suit for libelous defamation against I think it was Le Nouvelle Observateur or Liberation.
There are two pieces on the de Hague tribunal, the Daimiel piece which I mentioned above, here the link once again, where Handke so nicely criticized himself for being a “hanging judge” prior to being one again in no time, this once of Günter Grass:
And a little book Rund um das Tribunal, where Handke is in DeHague but actually does not attend a single session… Perhaps he didn’t want to see that Milo the Bad Bad Wolf had at least one bloody fang? No, he doesn’t seem to want to honor a tribunal whose legitimacy he does not want to honor with his presence? I can’t say that such a tribunal that fails to bring no end of US war criminals to trial is anything but a farce. If Nuremberg is one of the highpoints and sets the bar for international justice – a treaty the U.S. for good selfish reasons refuses to sign – every president and national security adviser and sec def and many more would have been hanged since the United States became the inheritor of European imperialism.
There is the 2008 Die Kuckucke von Velica Hoca, mentioned initially, a magnificent piece of reportage of a week’s stay in that enclave, Handke takes a walk to an adjacent Albanian village, but that is all; his observation overall appears to be that there exists irremediable hatred between the two peoples; his chagrin is kept tightly in check as he only reports of the there and then.
Handke's work as writer of ever more accomplished prose cannot be said to have suffered, nay it flourished during his engagement, as Guenter Grass continued his elephant dance [as which Irving Howe these many years described it to me.] There is not only the 1995 DARK NIGHT, but the extraordinary 2002 CROSSING SIERRA DEL GREDOS, the 2004 DON JUAN, the 2007 KALI and 2008 MORAWIAN NICHT, the 2009 VELICE HOCA. His work as a playwright, too, continues, thought not on the same high order as before, a delicious play conceived with a Serbian director, LA CUISINE celebrates, wouldn’t you know it, Serbian hams! The 2004 SUBDAY BLUES [see the handkedrama2. site for an extensive discussion] formalizes what I call road rage, a subject where formalization, no matter how well done, struck me as the wrong approach. A section in MORAWIAN, the APACHE part of a trip to the Kosovo, would seem to do a better, more immediate job of that. In 2006 Handke premiered Spuren der Verirrten [Traces of the Lost] at the Berliner Ensemble which struck me on reading to be an off-shoot from HOUR THAT WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER – but I would have to see it to be able to judge whether the twist that Handke gave HOUR in making the author a member, a participant in the play, lends it that desired different twist.
In 2008/9 Handke wrote a kind of rejoinder to Beckett’s KRAPP’S LAST TAPE, called "Bis daß der Tag Euch scheidet oder Eine Frage des Lichts". I have not read it, the book was stolen, but it has received most interesting reviews from its performances at the Berliner Ensemble and at the Salzburg Festival. A translation of Euripedes HELENA is in the offing, as well as a big play "Storm Still" [about a Slovenian partisan uprising in Spring 1945] for the Burgtheater in Vienna which its director Klaus Peymann describes as the counterplay to Bernhard’s HELDENSCHLACHT. We shall see.
MORAVIAN, drenched in Balkan, contains what could be called a “take out” from the subsequent Velica Hoca, a trip with Kosovo Serbian mourners to and back to their cemetery of their murdered brethren in Kosovo: it is one of several, of many utterly brilliant tours de force, where I wish the entire book had been one, and not turned into a grab bag, that trip is as powerful as anything that Faulkner or anyone I ever read ever wrote along that line, especially the sequence of a furious bus driver who keeps muttering Apache Apache to the song: it might be for what the Serbians suffered, but it could be the melody and the mettalica song [?] that accompanies human existence; an absolutely amazing piece of writing. As J.S. notes already in the year 2000, the German reviewers want to welcome the bastard back into their ranks: after all, they sort of know as a writer he is a kind of a Goethe or Stifter, a once every 100 years event, want to welcome the now even more bemedaled writer back in their ranks, and so seize on the one paragraph in the book where he expresses his own disgust with Balkan miseries and wishes to be back in the West with the kind of 5 star hotel that Handke prides himself on staying in; except for one reviewer with the wonderful name Rutchky who, I would say, correctly smells a big fat very much alive inextinguishable Balkan rat. Toward the end of the book, that contains a number of fantasies, the now [ten years hence, as in VOYAGE] ex-writer is in a big big limestone pit “Dolmine in the so “abstract gray J.S/” Slovenia with a weird Japanese girl reporter who appears to have been stranded in Yugoslavia during the war [Mr. Handke when did you have THAT affair?] and… Hey it’s Ramsey Clark … whom Handke must have encountered in deHague… the last three hold outs, ten year’s hence… for Justice for Serbia!
As to actions: there are those frequent trips to the Kosovo, especially the one when he and his director Peymann gave the Berlin Heine Prize $ 50,000 to the enclave – look how happy the guy looks on the photos [LINKS once more at the very end here] Handke received a piece of Serbian land; and was awarded the Cross of St. Lazarus awarded by the Kosovo Serbs in honor of their defeat at the hands of the Turks in 1384 is it? But didn’t have time, he said, to receive it in person: or suddenly shy of the photo op?… Well, you can see him shaking hands with the Serbian nationalist candidate
an interesting site that goes entirely overboard in its defense of the Serbians.
““Austrian writer Peter Handke yesterday visited the SRS presidential candidate Tomislav Nikolic. On that occasion Handke said: ‘Never in my life have I voted in Austria, never in my life have I voted in France, either. But, if I had the Serbian citizenship, today I would vote for Tomislav Nikolic’,” reads the caption underneath photo on the left, published in January 23, 2008 edition of Serbian daily Politika.
Handke himself appears to be playing along with the German media make believe that he is now reformed and talks in Kasperfied language that Srebrenice and the whole damned business was the worst that happened in Europe since WW II, compliments the German reviewers how well they did by him whom until a short while back was calling riff-raff, which in fact quite a few are, though to a far lesser degree than… you guessed it: the dear olde u.s. of a. which indeed takes the cake once again! My guess, his publisher [s] have assigned him a handler! After all, his work, which is what counts… threatened to disappear in the controversy… book sellers refused to stock him, etc. etc. He has the kind of fanatical backers in one Byzantine lady who runs [de] construct
and some otherwise half intelligent folks who are too befuddled by him to be willing to criticize him and just go
“beautiful” beautiful beautiful” as a demented bus passenger here in Seattle does, e.g. Lothar Struck at Glanz and Elend
goes soft in the head, who runs the otherwise intelligent and interesting begleitschreiben blog:
well, it’s all right to have your mind go soft over a woman I guess, Handke’s books mean to waken it!
Handke, himself, in No-Man’s-Bay, makes it very clear that “he is not the one” – but whenever has that stopped those in need of idols!
41 Many German cultural figures have vigorously attacked Handke, notably Günter Grass and Jürgen Habermas, but he has his loyalists. I would add future minister of culture, publisher of Die Zeit and now of Cicero, Michael Naumann, to this list who, in the mid 90s when he was the publisher of Holt, Rinehardt in the U.S., didn’t even want to hear the name of Handke, he was so much part of the New York, bien pensant crowd.
42] and Peter Turrinni, Austria's leading resident playwrights, have publicly defended him. (Jelinek called The Journey in the Dugout Canoe "partly infuriating, partly magnificent"). I have put a collection of German reviews at the CANOE page of:
I might agree with the brilliant truly original Jellinek if I had to put my estimate into one sentence – but when have you caught me doing anything of the kind?
43] Then J.S. prattles on…
“The Romantic sensibility changed, as the nineteenth century passed, from an idea about art and the artist to an idea about society and how it should be ruled—the "inner ideal," as Isaiah Berlin calls it, turned outward …and b-ses a bit about Isaiah Berlin, Gottfried Benn, Klaus Mann and insinuates: hey, that Handke is really some kind of reborn romantic fascist!
44] In 1997, between A Journey to the Rivers and The Journey in the Dugout Canoe, Handke published a short novel called On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House, which will appear in the US this fall. (Interestingly, Handke's American publisher neglects to include A Journey to the Rivers in the list of his translated work.) The book is a fairy tale, once removed. An unnamed pharmacist, from an anonymous postwar suburb of Salzburg, recounts a story to an unnamed, impassive narrator. One night, while wandering through a forest, the pharmacist was hit over the head and rendered mute; he soon found himself magically driving across an imaginary Europe with an unnamed poet and an unnamed Olympic ski champion. They had hallucinatory, near-murderous adventures in a Balkan-like village, improbably called Santa Fe. Afterward, the pharmacist returned home an unchanged man, except, he tells the narrator, now "my feet are bigger; I had to buy new shoes." Interestingly: I expect one of the ten editors Handke has had at his mediocre U.S. publisher since 1966 simply forgot or didn’t even know. As though they were trying to dissociate themselves being the nasty suggestion; truth of which could easily have been verified by one phone call.
There are many allusions to Yugoslavia in the novel, and it is tempting to think of the pharmacist's story as Handke's reflection on his own "journey." Yet the book does not accommodate such speculation; its blank reverie is a mere track record of the imagination at work, another dream sequence, framed, this time inside Handke's familiar, gray fantasy of detachment. As suggested above: an eye examination for J.S.; gladly foutre the bill! If only he could do a single paragraph in dream syntax! That poor fellow who is apparently haunted by the color “gray.” A blank? Only he. Large parts of the book transpire in Spain, I, however, love Handke’s nasty introduction of some damaged NATO trucks being hauled north on the Autobahn near Taxham/ Salzburg! See Edmond Caldwell comments above and excerpt.
45] Perhaps one day Peter Handke will explain himself in, say, a novel about an Austro-Slovenian writer who masquerades as a Serb nationalist. Until then his Serbenwerk endures as a celebration of irrationality. The reader retreats from it, from the tyranny of its impressions, its raving subjectivity. Handke has let himself become an instrument of the Milosevic regime, a state writer. If we resist Milosevic, then we resist this Handke and reapproach even the best of his previous work with that resistance in mind.
It is truly wondrous to see a complete ignoramus in literary matters, someone neither able to read nor describe, someone as blind as J.S. Marcus, calling, essentially, for a McCarthyite prohibition of Handke’s works and to have done so under the aegis of the bloody NYRB; and for that reason with hugely damaging effect in the United States. Handke was never the instrument of Milosevic or the Yugoslav state, he has nicely dissociated himself from demagogic ultra-nationalism, from Seheli; t’would that the NYRB did the same of the fascism so deeply ingrained in US. Marcus is proof of the pudding of thorough-going Serb hatred, and no matter that I wish that Handke had gone about his business in a more civilized manner, that as Mensch he were less flawed, am I ever glad that at least there was one person who extended himself in this fashion, even if exhibitionistically , not entirely altruistically, to even the balance between truly mad Serb and Milosevic hatred that is far more irrational, that belongs to the darkest of dark ages of the witch hunt, of the one devil theory, and proves, in ways that would have turned Adorno and Horkheimer to stone had they beheld it, the truth of the dialectic of the englightenment taking a J.S. Marcus twist and in your pages, Bob Silvers!
Your “getreue Korreptitor” in Seattle