Thursday, March 15, 2007

Peter Handke's greater life

The first part of Peter Handke's Repetition presents the memories of Filip Kobal's early life. It ends with an epiphany in a railway station. The second part begins like this:
What I have written thus far about my father's house, about the village of Rinkenberg and the Jaunfeld Plain, must have been clearly present to my mind a quarter of a century ago in the Jesenice station, but I couldn't have told it to anyone. What I felt within me were mere impulses without sound, rhythms without tone, short and long rises and falls without the corresponding syllables, a mighty reverberation of periods without the requisite words, the slow, sweeping, stirring, steady flow of a poetic meter without lines to go with it, a general surge that found no beginning, jolts in the void, a confused epic without a name, without the innermost voice, without the coherence of script. What I had experienced at the age of twenty was not yet a memory. And memory meant not that what-had-been recurred but that what-had-been situated itself by recurring. If I remembered, I knew that an experience was thus and so, exactly thus; in being remembered, it first became known to me, nameable, voiced, speakable; accordingly, I look on memory as more than a haphazard thinking back - as work; the work of memory situates experience in a sequence that keeps it alive, a story which can open out into free storytelling, greater life, invention. (Translated by Ralph Manheim)
With this in mind, listen to Michael McDonald froth at the mouth over Handke's quiet resistance to US hegemony, an attack he extends to the fiction.
By concentrating with surgical precision on the physical details of life, Handke can paint a horrifying image of the mechanical numbness of everyday habit. But is what he describes really life? Literature is many things, but it wouldn't be worthy of our attention if it didn't have something to do with human psychology — from which Handke clearly wishes to escape.


  1. Your blog is really interesting. serendipity has lead me here, as in other things too.
    i find that you have an immense reading stamina and have appraised a lot of other writers too.
    a really great blog.
    will link to your blog.

  2. Anonymous1:29 am

    McDonald's criticism may, for all I know, be unjustified and even politically motivaed, but I'd struggle to justify describing his thoughts here as frothing at the mouth.


  3. Maybe not Jim, but read the other comments in link - this extract is just the spittle.

    And thanks kubla.

  4. Anonymous3:00 pm

    I'd agree with irritation over nonsense of the line "But should we, for this reason, forgive him his admiration for Milosevic?" Who is this wise and morally pure "we" that decides whether or not to hand out forgiveness?

  5. Anonymous5:57 pm

    McDonald starts by comparing the recent Grass Waffen-SS media flap to the supposed lack of attenti paid to Handke's musings on Milosevic and the 1990s Balkan wars, but he fails to point out the salient difference in the treatment of the two: Because Grass' post-SS politics is more in accord with the fashionable leftism of the literati, numerous defenders were found to give him a pass on his youthful involvement in Nazism. Handke's politics, on the other hand, being less fashionable among the literati, he has been denounced as indefensible by many of those same defenders of Grass.

    There isn't enough space here to address the media's manipulation of opinion and distortions of fact during the 1990s Balkan wars, to which Handke was largely responding. For the sake of literary integrity, however, the purely literary achievements of both Handke and Grass must be separated from the authors' personal politics.

  6. Since I posted this blog, the article has become available online. I'm not sure it's worth the trouble of replying to as the guy is obviously a chump. Michael Roloff is promising a response though:

  7. Yes, I am decimating the chump both as legal counsel as which he presents himself and as someone who claims to have some knowledge of literature [he claims to be writing a literary biography of curtius malaparte] and i am calling on wilson, the editor, of the american scholar to resign for publishing something as primitive and ignorant as this attempt to ride the american high horse. i will post it at both my

    handke discussion and arts critic blog and whoever likes may disseminate it but please do it in its entirety then.


    Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society

    and 12 sub-sites
    ============================= [dem handke auf die schliche/ prosa]
    reviews, etc.
    ============================ [some handke material, too, the milosevic controversy summarized]

    "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde



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