Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On the one Handke

The blog Short Term Memory Loss offers a substantial Books of the Year list. To my surprise, two Peter Handke novels are included - Across, one of my favourites (read the customer review for why), and Absence, which isn't. "I wanted to like them" says STML, "but they really got under my skin. There was something extraordinarily loveless about them - not just misanthropy, but a real self-hatred, and a kind of sexless passion." Well, one can't argue with impressions, but is this meant to be a warning or a recommendation?!

He goes on: "There’s also a terrible dichotomy of a writer who clearly hates modernity and its embodiment in America, but longs for wide-open spaces, grand vistas and a very American kind of freedom." Setting aside the half-rightness of that apparent clarity, presumably the brother in Repetition walking over the limestone escarpments of the Karst region of Slovenia and the woman crossing the Sierra de Gredos in the forthcoming novel are experiencing "a very American kind of freedom". If so, then US imperialism really knows no bounds. But there is more than one America.


  1. Interesting. What exactly does it mean to "like" a book? He admits that these books "really got under [his] skin", but says this like it's a bad thing, as you suggest. I do wonder what he could mean by "a very American kind of freedom".

    What are your thoughts on The Left-Handed Woman? I read it last month, and I think I need to return to it (happily, it's extremely short) to figure out just what I think of it. Beyond Across and Repetition, what are the Handke books you prefer?

  2. I can't remember much about reading "The Left-Handed Woman" and my copy disappeared years ago.

    My other favourite is "The Afternoon of a Writer" and "The Lesson of Mont St Victoire" (in Slow Homecoming, which is a trilogy). I'm quite cool about many of the others but I would like to read many of them again to reassess etc.

  3. "american kind of freedom". This is the strangest thing ever I heard someone saying about Handke. Don'tt hink that this speaking in those strange dichotomies does justice to Handke. "It is a passion that is directed to spaces. And spaces don't allow themselves to be told. There are very few moments in spaces when the spaces that are so good for one and whom one cannot transcendend...and there are those few moments when those spaces allow that they are being told - or narrated." cf. Handke 'Aber ich lebe nur von den Zwischenraeumen' - Zwischenraum means something like space inbetween.



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