Sunday, June 03, 2007

A new attunement

Tense, unnerved, and close to madness before writing - and when I read what I've written it looks so calm.
Again Peter Handke's diary entry for January 1976 emerges unbidden from my mouth. It has the presence, in my memory, of poetry. It is a reminder of why the best of Handke's writing is magical. It does justice to the distance between life and writing without exalting one over the other, as if one could without the necessary contradiction.

By coincidence, today I saw Ross Benjamin's sensitive review of Krishna Winston's translation of Crossing the Sierra de Gredos, a month before it is published. "The story involves a female banker who embarks on an excursion across the Spanish mountain range of the Sierra de Gredos." Yet "[t]hroughout the tale, she remains a spectral figure."
Early on, however, Handke does convey a critical feature of her character: her exceptionally keen sensitivity to "images," ephemeral impressions that yield "her most powerful sense of being alive." [...] The motif of the image (Bild) is the thematic fulcrum of the novel. Curiously, the English translation retains only the second part of the original title, Der Bildverlust oder Durch die Sierra de Gredos, meaning "The Loss of the Image or Through the Sierra de Gredos." A key passage in the book illuminates the significance of the title, arguing that the potency of images has been lost in a contemporary culture flooded with "synthetic, mass-produced, artificial" stimuli.

Displaying a strong affinity to German Romanticism, Handke seeks to inaugurate a new attunement with the world. The heroine embodies the poetic impulse that animates the novel.
Well that's why I read, to inaugurate a new attunement with the world - although I would be unable to write such a sentence. And if I escape reading to go cycling instead, it is in the same spirit of seeking. Both offer such "images". Today there was a rare meeting at the racecourse at the top of the long hill. As I climbed eastward, several shining horses galloped west. The earth rumbled. Then I was beside the sea, riding slowly along the Undercliff Walk. Despite the hot June sun and minimal breeze, there was a swell. With no beach, the waves lacked space to dissipate. It was like the path was in the open sea. They splashed into the seawall not expecting the interruption. I watched the bright green water as one wave, falling back from the collision, merged with the one following with a soft boom, and then slapped into the wall again and for the first time, spraying me and the path.

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