Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In the age of Handke

Michael Roloff continues his essay of McDonald destruction, this time discussing the literary side of the American Scholar atrocity. He's also a great advocate of Handke beyond the critical disdain:
Think of Handke as composer with the inclinations of a Cezanne, to create alternative verbal worlds that stand in an unusual relationship to the world that we inhabit. Handke is also a didactician, a kind of activist Wittgenstein. To live in the age of Goethe is many a Germanist's pipe dream, I am glad to live in a world that at least has one Handke. He nourishes me as no other writer does. A few pages of Handke, one good analytic essay, my friends the smart crows and I forget all about the McDonalds of this world.
Elsewhere, and I had meant to mention this yesterday, Alok of Dispatches from Zembla reports on a perplexed reading of Handke's Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia while Antonia of the wonderful flowerville (link now broken) provides the necessary rejoinder.

In my current reading, I've been revising my opinion of Handke's massive My Year in the No-man's-Bay. First time I read it some years ago, boredom reigned. Now it's something like a lucid dream of a world incandescent with signs. By-no-means as great as Repetition, but I can't think of a more beautiful book than that beyond Dante or Proust. Really.


  1. Anonymous11:48 pm

    Just imagine someone attacking McEwan like that and getting a furious reaction like Roloff's... That won't ever happen, will it? I agree with Roloff's estimation of Handke: the massive "Der Bildverlust" was (I think) a failure, but "Kali" (his most recent - very short - book) is marvellous.

    Have his three essays (on the jukebox, on tiredness, on the "successful day") ever been translated? I think they are among the very best Handke has ever written.

    It's a pity his journals (jottings, rather) have never been translated into English (as far as I know. Of course they have been translated into French and into Dutch). So far, 5 volumes have appeared, 1500 pages in all. I keep them near my bedside, as a tonic.

    (Excuse my clumsy English.)

  2. Thanks. The essays have indeed been published. Ralph Manheim translated two and Krishna Winston one. There's a cringemaking mistake in one where Handke refer's to Van Morrison's song "Coney Island" and it's translated to mean the American island despite it being clear throughout the song that it's in Ireland.

    The journals have appeared in small part in a volume from the 70s called "The Weight of the World".

    BTW, your English is better than most native commenters.

  3. oh hi Steve,
    thanks for linking to me. This sad old debate again.
    I agree the No-man's Bay is wonderful and I wish I had the time to reread it again. Great Horace quote also in the beginning. I can remember, when it was newly published all the critiques hated it, but am with you there, it is one of the most wonderful books out there. Handke's best I would say or at least his most lenient one.
    The Journals, strange, I did not knew that they got published. I knew of the 'Weight of the World', too, but there are a couple of similar ones. I wonder, are these journals onyl a special editions of his journal-aphorismlike writings that already existed or are that new journals?



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