Dear Jonathan Galassi,
To summarize my findings on the publication
history of Handke in this country,
as I am winding down my 25 year + Handke project.
The idea of a Handke Reader, to make up for the mediocre way he has been published, has found all around approval.
Suggested introducers have been made.
If you seriously entertain such a project
I suggest you also consult first rate Handke scholars whom I cc herewith:
Fabjan Haffner, also in charge of Musil Institute in Klagenfurt, and author of a wonderful book on Handke's, how shall I put it, "Dalmatian" side; Karl Wagner in Zurich whose collection of writings on Handke have just been published; Hans Hoeller [whose marvelous piece on Handke's THE CUCKOOS OF VELICE HOCA I will send you]; Georg Pichler whose piece on Goethe and Handke I have on the scholar site. That way you will be in very sound hands. David Coury, Frank Pillip who edited a volume of essays on Handke's work
for Ariadne Press are not complete idiots.
I reiterate my extreme unhappiness with your decision to pass on Handke' KALI [The Saltworks] on the basis of Krishna Winston's
ignorant and megalomaniac advice. Krishna came in on the death of Ralph Mannheim with the translation of the third of the THREE
ASSAYINGS [as I call them], she did not know of Handke as of Adam until then, and has not troubled to read what came before; even
if she had, her opinion that in KALI Handke is repeating himself, is utterly off the wall. First of all, Handke NEVER repeats himself,
it is one of his pride of prides! And KALI is one of his MOST DIFFERENT prose works - if only in that it has TWO CHARACTERS, that is, it is not a book in which he devises a personae for his consciousness, or if he does in a very different fashion; artistically it is a kind of filmed opera,and in its exploration of the salt mine it is fascinating on that level; and is also a great act of narration.
Thus, to take recourse to a translator albeit a professor of German for an evaluation of a text such as this, far more perfect formally than MORAWIAN NIGHT, smacks of the same old
amateur time that prevailed when I set out at FSG in 1966, very green behind the ears, no more now. And Krishna wants some time off from translating... and meanwhile thinks she
is the only one. Alas.
Something else that occurs is that a Paris Review interview with Handke on his prose would certainly bring the so severely dropped ball a bit back up in an area where Handke needs to be
discussed. I suggest James Woods for this, in tandem with perhaps the Handke friend and translator Scott Abbot, who is a professor
at Utah, and adventurously inclined to have re-walked Handke's tour in THE REPETITION, and along on one of those famous Yugoslav
jaunts of Handke's and close friend with his Serbian translator.
Two interviewers as in two detectives etc. are better, and I noticed that Klaus Kastberger & Elisabeth Schwaegerle did a better job
than usual in their interview for the Klastberger edited volume of essay and primary material FREIHEIT DES SCHREIBENS, devoted to Handke, that Zsolnay put out this year. Another possibility is also the fine novelist James Krusoe, who knows Handke's work and has a drift on how and why it works.
Such an interview, focusing on Handke's achievements and innovations in prose is worth doing, if only since prose writers on the order
of Goethe, Stifter, Flaubert do not come around all that often.
Let us all recall Roger Straus' early letter to Siegfried Unseld where he says he has a problem called Handke. That was after Handke had been
collected into Two and Three by Handke and done by Avon and Collier Books, after the New Yorker had run THE LEFT HANDED WOMAN in its entirety, and a huge edited excerpt from THE REPETITION....but FSG waited about 10 years before publishing the successor novel A SLOW HOME COMING, and in tandem with two autobiographical text, confusing the'
reception and readers, say like that heavy headed mind, Kunkel.
And passed on the centrally important WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES and all the other great plays, far greater and more or at least equally important than what had come before, KASPAR AND OTHER PLAYS, [Steve Wasserman, who then was in charge of Hill & Wang/ Noonday Books shares some of the blame, or is it the quarterly return to whose ravages...] went through a couple of dozen editions; RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE + OTHER PLAYS sold out, not reprinted. Despite the success of WEIGHT OF THE WORLD, FSG passed on its successor volume THE HISTORY OF THE PENCIL that might have alerted Handke's audience and the occasional half awake reviewer how Handke worked and planned as an artist. Meanwhile Scott Abbott's first rate translation of VOYAGE BY DUGOUT: THE PLAY ABOUT THE FILM ABOUT THE WAR still has not a publisher in this country; nor have I been able to find a university press to do a fairly
complete edition of Handke's "Dalmatian" texts - so that that long episode can be taken out of the rumor mill of this forever dark age. Seagull/U. of Chicago is doing Handke's UNTIL THE DAY US PART, his parallel text to Beckett's KRAPP'S LAST TAPE, meanwhile all the money mongering and all the uglinessess that prevail among humans are still with us.
Anyhow, I have had my say and that is all I can do.Hoping that you had a successful Frankfurt Book Fair.