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Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Note on Handke's A SLOW HOME-COMING

If I might just address one of the books under discussion here, the three very different books that an idiotic American publisher decided to put into one volume, giving it the title of the first. A mere look at the copyright page would inform a drudge such as Kunkel that these three parts were published and written over the course of three years. The title novel here, A SLOW HOME COMING, itself  consists of four parts, and was meant to be a major undertaking that then petered  out, as hasn't happened to Handke  in a prose narrative except in this instance; it was envisioned as something along the lines of a "Staatsroman", but Handke came  cropper of sorts in the New York of 1978, while writing the book in the Hotel Adams,
on 86th, which takes up the front of the southern block between Madison and Fifth.
As early in our acquaintance as the late 60s I think Handke once asked me what American winters were like, and I wrote back that New England Winters were like Bavaria, winters in the Rockies like the Alps, but if he wanted something truly different he ought to  go to Alaska, as he did then I think altogether three times, the last time in 1978 at a time when
it was already winter there; one reason he dedicated the book to the snow. Reading that part for me was like a medium finally resolving a nine month experience I had had there, which I could recount in a couple of dozen anecdotes telling experiences as a fire fighter along the Yukon and in the Brooks Range, and then as an assistant geological surveyor which acquainted me with large swaths of real estate,
deltas, mountains and working in the depth of winter. But though I had had that huge experience anda host of different memories, I would not have know how to respond to the experience as a whole, which Handke's way of not naming describing and philosophical response somehow managed to elicit, and the great pathos that is the main note, his sensitivity to forms - one odd moment is when Sorger looks for peaceful signs in geological
formations, and then there is an irruption of a drunken chain swinging Indian: Handke's procedure here as throughout his work is to internalize the experience and then extroject it as it were: "The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld" done with immense tenderness and the delicacy of the world's best seismograph; section two, set in San Francisco, is just as effective, i.e. think of giving us
the best description of Bob Dylan's voice, the voice within the voice, by not naming him;
then the narrative visits the Rockies where I believe an old sky instructor friend of Handke
had just died, and indeed it peters out on the lobb of the Hotel Adams, although"Sorger" then blesses all below in Central Park, but these last pages may already have been written
once Handke had fled back to Europe, and father figure Hermann Lenz.

I didn't see  much of Handke once he had started to write, and hadn't the faintest that he was having difficulties, after all he was the rabbit that wrote all the time, morning diary, his daily 1000 words, and then the notebooks; we took a walk to see Michael
Brodsky across the Brooklyn Bridge on a lyrically lightly snowing evemomg during which Handke revealed that he was about to write a book about Alaska. Knowing that he had paid only two or three brief visits to that huge
area I  was rather worried, and inquired whether he had read the books I then had about it, he had read John McPhee's he said, but he didn't want to hear my stories, he was "full up" with his own experience, which I understood entirely. I myself was leading a multiply fighting what I then thought was revolutionary existence, and had both hands full.

The second book in this weird American edition is
The Lesson of St. Victoire, an account of wandering  around Cezanne's famous mountain in the Provence, and announces a change in aesthetics [to put this hugely important matter, for Handke and his writing, far too succinctly, since with it then came a far more painterly prose], to something more divisive between life and art. St. Victoire also contains a lot of fascinating autobiographical
details, and a famous passage in which Handke, who can be as crude as he can be delicate, compares a German critic who was out to destroy him with a madly shitting bulldog on an air strip!
A Child's Story always struck me as a fine condensed account of Handke as father to his
first daughter, since I saw the two of them in Berlin shortly after she was born, and in Paris
and also in the U.S. when he brought her along. That account however is usefully amplified
by reading those passages where she appears in the books of what I call Handke's  Paris Crisis
Period 1971-76, the three long poems in
Nonsense & Happiness, the spontaneous notations thatbecame The Weight of the World, and A Moment of True Feeling.  I always felt that Child Story did an awfully good job of trying for an objectified view of the relationship - but I must say  I am glad not to have had to suffer  being Handke first daughter! Oh me Gawd: to have to put up with such a difficult
father: in .
W.OW. she has found the solution, she takes a napkin on which she has written "Amina has been a bad girl" and puts it in a glass of water where the words dissolve.


Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society

This LYNX will LEAP you to my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS

"Degustibus disputandum est." Theodor Wiesenthal Adorno
"May the foggy dew bediamondize your hoosprings + the fireplug
of filiality reinsure your bunghole! {James  Joyce}
"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde." [von Alvensleben]
"Siena me fe, disfescimi Maremma." [Dante]
"Ennui [Lange Weile] is the dreambird that hatches the egg of
experience." Walter Benjamin, the essay on Leskov.



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MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website