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Monday, November 29, 2010

Excursus NY Spring 1971 The Austrian Cultural Package Arrives for a 21 events in 28 days marathon...

By the time the Austrian threesome arrived in New York in the Spring of 1971 I had been beseeched by Siegfried Unseld, as he does the Left-Handed woman – Herwig who quotes from LHW misses Handke’s succinct x-ray portrait of the great suitor - to become  the Suhrkamp agent to replace the fine ex-Berliner Joan Daves, who had her nose full of that representation. See 
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for a detailed account of what transpired during the two years I endured, also for the relationship with Farrar, Straus + Giroux.
I had managed to put Handke’s work over at Farrar, Straus with support from Susan Sontag – barely: had it not been for  Robert Giroux realizing Handke’s talent that ass-licking stiletto man Michael DeCapua as I will memorialize him justly in the annals of literature would have had his way again and shot down another of my projects. KASPAR AND OTHER PLAYS had been published, to some fine reviews, of as yet officially unperformed plays. I had given up my own royalties as translator to get two plays finally done, officially, at B.A.M. A clown had appeared in my office who wanted to do them and since I had not gotten anywhere in a couple of years I had no reason to say no.
Since Princeton 1966 I had seen Handke once more, in 1969, in Berlin, to discuss my translation of KASPAR ["more abstract, as abstract as possible" had been the author’s wish] and my heart had sunk at the prospect of finding the German originals for the quotes from American black mask type novels that DER HAUSIERER contains, I might have asked Handke whether he could help me find them. As it was, GOALIE was substituted for HAUSIERER in the contract I had drawn prior to becoming Suhrkamp agent  and thus also Handke’s US agent. I had translated that, too, by then.
 I had already run around town with a wild ex-pat troupe that had re-appeared from San Miguel de Allende with my friend Michael Locascio and a certain JB in whose scrawny arms “the Hammer” – Neil Cassidy - had expired one cold Mexican Tequila night  on some railroad tracks - to give a hint of how relatively hardcore down-low hippie we are now - and will not except for mere mention indicate what the weed they brought with them elicited in me - and arranged for  one shot performances of PUBLIC INSULT and SELF-ACCUSATION at any venue that would have us, me and my trusty Sony tape recorder, weight about 20 pounds those days. I had worked with Herbert Berghof and E.G. Marshall at his HB studio on two two week performances of these plays and of KASPAR. E.G. Marshall! A memorably intelligent actor.
 During the five years 1961 and 1966 that I got a job at Farrar, Straus I had not only been a scout in Germany but been a reader for a lot of US publishers, for George Braziller’s Book Find Club, had been a reader for my friend the Trotskyite novelist Danny Gordon’s Columbia Pictures Reading Service, Robert Phelps had proved to provide a whole new dimension to my appreciation of British and American literature. I was the Suhrkamp Scout and so got to read a lot of wonderful things in manuscript. I had had magazine, Metamorphosis whose publisher from one day to the next started to lift imaginary rocks in his head as he joined a Sufi sect, and that was that. I had translated quite a bit and wanted to stay out of offices of any kind.
In Berlin Handke had shown me Baby Amina as we left his dank prince’s apartment in the Uhlandstrasse, Adorno had told me of the  ownership of this anything but princely seeming rat hole,  and I had thought it perfectly normal -  look at Handke’s A CHILD’S STORY,  a pretty good account [but for its leaving out the lay-a-broad’s womanizing or any real mention of the girl’s mother!]  of those years that also touch on Berlin, and am I ever glad that I like little more than liebäugeln with babies -  as compared to the revolutionaries who lacked time and interest for the like in their self-important endeavors. Handke’s “showing” and invariably wanting to go quickly outdoors [we worked at a table at an outdoor at my old familiar Ku-Damm] would eventually become to seem other than “normal.” I had translated GOALIE by then, and all of the early plays all but Quodlibet, which I would do a few years later during a half year’s trip half way round the world and back on the Hellenic Splendor.
    The Austrian Threesome appeared to think that the Suhrkamp Rep’s small apartment was their home away from home. Handke at once moved them out of the Austrian assigned hotel on Lexington Avenue into his there-after forever preferred New York abode, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Algonquin. Uwe Johnson would stay in the next door, far cheaper, Iroquois. I was beginning to learn the odd ways of the once               fabulous writers’ invariable eccentricities. We trouped to the premiere of what struck me as a barely good enough performance, the reviewers, Steve Kroll in Newsweek still comes to mind, seemed to like it fine, so did Mel Gussow at the NY Times. Not so Herr Handke who felt it was just as well it had been done in Brooklyn, of course how would he know that B.A.M. and being outside Manhattan was becoming an “in” thing. He went backstage and must have had unhappy words with the director, Wieland Schulz [passport name, a.k.a. Schulz-Keil.
for during our ride back to Manhattan, to Elaine’s, my home away from home since 1965 when it had just been a hole in the wall on Second Avenue, Handke said that he thought                                   Schulz was very dark. When I who had no particular reason to be apprehensive questioned that assessment, Handke qualified himself by saying “at least very German.” I of course was keenly aware that Handke was a genius, but learned to appreciate his x-ray vision for character only with time; that he, too, would prove “very dark” and “very German”, differently of course and with that admixture of salvaging Slovenian Maria Sivic, and incomparable to the ultimate masochist Schulz-Keil whom John Houston sent to Mexico City to bring some real whores on to the set of Under the Volcano, proud of being a pimp, I could not imagine such perverse character structures at the time – live and learn, never live long enough - came as a surprise only because Handke’s genius had made me forget all about my initial 1966 impressions. Translating these works – challenging, but to understand them  would take half a life time, to understand what genius can accomplish.
    I had not had time to attend rehearsals, the Jezebel, the only one who could have accomplished this, for whom I had broken out of a six year marriage had had the part of the woman in Self-Accusation; however, Pamela Bellwood [King] who had been married to Peter Bellwood ofThe Fringe had got a good part, in the touring company of Butterflies Are Free I think it was, and had flown the coop, and had mentioned that the director shouted. What German director did not shout? – well, I never saw Herbert Berghof shout. It was a first alert, like others tucked away in the                                   underground storage bin. Handke I imagine was unaware of most of the preceding, and he never asked, as a matter of fact during the 20 years that the relationship translator author lasted he never asked the                                   simplest of questions, such as where were you born, when did you get to the U.S., where did you go to school, whose parents child are you – and so I have to agree with Marie Colbin’s assessment that Handke is a one-eyed mono-maniac, entirely self-involved which numerous documents that Herwig cites prove, especially the letter to Siegfried Unseld seceding from Suhrkamp Verlag because Siegfried is also publishing the Reichs-Kanickel, and the lengthy diary complaint about Sophie Semin’s son from an earlier affair behaving as unselfconscious                                   possessor of Handke’s space in his house in Chaville. I was never at ease with Handke even prior to what he did with my girlfriend Judith Thurman, and I don’t think just because I was awed by his genius, the early impressions that that then proved so premonitiously accurate I expect played into that, if there had been a chessboard out during my visits to Rue Montmorency in the 70s we might have gotten something on, those days when some of us at Elaine’s and the crossstreet bar Eric’s followed every move of Bobby Fischer’s championship games was the last hey-day of my chess. I was at ease and talkative as could be with no end of people but my then uncomprehended gut feelings made me freeze in the presence of murderers and major criminals. Schulz with his act of being one of the guys and saying “shit”
at the right moment  - it took me a long time to admit that Handke had been right about him in five minutes.
  At Elaine’s it seemed perfectly normal, as though we had been flirting for a long time, for Libgart and me to play footsie and hold hands under Table 3 while the Bicyle-built-for-Two Kolleritsch-Handke was entwined intellectually. As we left Elaine’s Handke wanted to take a photo of the three of us, Libgart in the center, and I realized by the way she moved my hand away from her tush and placed it around her right hip that she was a woman with finesse. I wanted to “walk back” – to the Algonquin, a mere two miles, but Handke was tired. I seemed to have lacked the finesse to instruct Libgart to spend an afternoon at “a hairdressers.” Either by that evening                                   or subsequently, at the Austrian Institute, I saw Libgart “perform” an entrance from that marvel TE RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE on its long winding staircase – I noticed how proud Handke was of her as a bewitching and light as air performer. Within a day or so I gave a party at my three room apartment at 55th and 6th Avenue and invited                                   two of Handke’s earliest American backers, the critics Richard Gilman and Stanley Kaufman, maybe a dozen people, no one from Farrar, Straus best as I recall, and it was when the two critics and Handke and I were a foursome, and Gilman who had noticed Handke’s use of Wittgensteinian [Philosophical Investigations] forms of querying language in RIDE [Gilman had not experienced a performance and so we, good friends to be, would forever argue about the irrelevance of Wittgenstein to that], it may have been Gilman asking some lit-crit question along those lines that Handke                                   dropped out and squatted down by my record player on the lowest shelf of a book case and put on a Beatles Record [?] that I subsequently realized something had been … too much… perhaps one of those episodes that he tersm “autistic” to Herbert Gamper. The “dark fellow” with the Alan Ginsberg Karl Marx visage all the time stood by the window to the apartment building shaft. After everyone had left, it occurred to Handke to say that I had was gay. Libgart might have of course pointed to herself, but mentioned the also departed flaxen-haired beauty, Renate Karlin, who had had to leave to look after her two splendid kids. In retrospect what strikes me as odd                                   about myself that here I am having this passionate affair with Renate, which founders on insane jealousy on my part, and I’d have been willing, money allowing, to run off with Libgart, to wherever. Renate was a recently divorced professor of art at                                   Sarah Lawrence, who could what my wife had been too stubborn and socially incompetent to do, hold her own, and not be fazed by the tough talk at the so male oriented Table 4, the “big table”, at Elaine’s – it took very little really to be admitted to the circle if you were a woman, but only two other women come to mind who could handle it, Anthea Sylbert who was married to my close friend and author Paul Sylbert, and the woman who did the acrostics for the New York Magazine and tended to hang out with friend Tom Buckley, a New York Times reporter who had been in 'Nam, she had a touch of that forties hard drinking reporter gal about her that seemed to admit you to the male club. Renate was entirely feminine but smart, and charming. And yet… so much for my sainthood. Perhaps Handke still had Ginsberg’s pass at him via me of 5 years earlier in mind, or noticed that I held my cigarette they way my mother had. I                                   might have pointed out to him that he had squatted down by my record player like a woman!
  At the Threesome’s return from their jaunt through the US they seemed to have headed straight for my apartment, Fredi Kolleritch collapsed on what had been my marriage bed, Libgart, too, was exhausted and got to rest on the daybed in my work space studio, all I did was some liebaeugeln  as Handke seemingly energized by the experience asked whether there were                                   any international news stands about: indeed, he had come to the right area, both Rizzoli’s and a fancy hotel had them and were within about a block. Would there be images of him in those pages? I failed to ask at his return. Oh yes, Handke asked me whether I could guess whose signature they had managed to get during a flight. I threw up my arms. Muhamed Ali’s on their way to Atlanta. What kids we all were, straight out of the Ride Across Lake Constance, not to forget is sinister bass line.
    We also has lunch one time at the Russian Tea Room on West 57th, they had gone to see a play with Lauren Bacall in it, Handke was disappointed in her of whom he of course had those marvelous memories as a film actress. At one point we also met with the translator Joachim Neugroeschel, another mama's boy whose mother via the Austrian Institute had arranged for the meeting. Handke nearly threw up at the physical ugliness of Neugroeschel, whose character would turn out to match his physique. The people I was willing to put up with, Joachim was a pretty good translator, I used him a lot later at Urizen, and when I read my translations of                                   INNERWORLD at the Goethe House asked him to join me with his Celan. There would be a second time that Handke nearly puked, at Barbara Rose as the then wife of friend Jerry Leiber when I was working on putting some songs into THEY ARE DYING OUT, this was in Paris, at the Rue Montmorency. Her character, too, would match her physique. Thus Handke's sense of the aesthetic
and the moral seem to match. No wonder he sometimes is overcome with self-disgust.
  Later, back on the West Coast in the 80s, I heard of Handke’s behavior at UC Riverside’s Austrian shin-dig, he had cursed everyone as idiots and gone off with a woman not his wife. Donald Daviau who ran that operation before he took Summer’s off to drive the USA in his Goldwing, of French Canadian working class origins, and in many ways a splendid man, did not take kindly to                                 Handke’s Tourettism, and it cost Handke a special issue of the magazine he edited.


 

 




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MICHAEL ROLOFF http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html