Monday, April 26, 2010

This is a long summary piece I wrote on the subject of Handke's involvement to make it clear to myself, it derives from the mid 1990s

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[1] – baja
time/ smooth transitions/
[2] what I know about handke
[3] first controversy
[4] handke and Yugoslavia
[5] summary of # 1
transposition onto u.s.
[6] # 2 –kosovo ctd.
[7] Milo Funeral
[8] upshot

In 1993, with the publication of A Winter’s Trip to the Rivers…[subtitled Justice for Serbia by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung which brought the short book in two installments; and the second book of his of what are a total of six on the subject, not counting the extraordinary novel of 2007, Moravian Nights] there ensued a controversy - parallel to the wars in Yugoslavia; that with Handke’s 2006 appearance at the funeral of Milovan Miloscevic, I think has had it third and final coming. The controversy was telling not only about Handke but also about the thoughtfulness [or lack thereof], the vengeance [lots of that], and the consequences of going against the received wisdom of the intellectual class [or lack therof]. I myself did not participate in the controversy because it took me some time, not to just familiarize myself with the twists and turns of the Balkans, but to think through Handke’s identification of the Yugoslav Federation and his motives, aside those he himself list in Justice for Serbia: wanting to look himself, disgust with exclusive blame in France being heaped on the Serbians; utter disgust with the mass and not so mass media French publications. However, by that point in time I had already written one book on Handke, and had the offer from Ariadne Press to publish my analytic monograph on him; whichk fortunately I had the good sense to withdraw, chiefly because I did not feel I knew how to regard his plethora of symptoms once he himself confirmed [2] that he continued to suffer from occasional bouts of autism. Without wanting to summarize this in any way, I point the reader to Handke’s Essay on Tiredness which lists a huge variety of matters that tired him in his youth; each of them connected to anger; and the Essay on the Jukebox – which in early days allowed an escape not only from anger but also the familial reasons for it.
 Moreover, I had spent three years in very rural Mexcico, for stretches living on 17th century time with Jesuit installed [but no longer gold dust gathering] goatherds in the Mesas of Baja California Sur. I had come el norte only to give the once a year Handke lecture at the Austrian Symposium, then at UC Riverside; and in the very hottest part of summer when I feared this baked potato would burst in the steam heat of the Sea of Cortez – and the Mesas were under daily attack by incredible lighting and thunderstorms. I had kept up my Handke project and supplied myself with analytic reading material for my time down el sur.
   Knowing of my man’s exhibitionism QUOTE

, I stayed on the sideline to see what he was up to this time; even though his arguments for heading out on his own with friends and drivers [one of whom I recognized as being his acquaintance from The Afternoon of the Writer. I no longer translated him: my swan song to translating was meant to be his Walk About the Villages, which work Handke liked so much that, puzzlingly, he regarded it as mine, and which it is in the sense that I was able to pour all of myself during that translation process into that magnetic vari-valences projection screen; and for which I had fought as nastily as Handke then would fight to absolve Serbia [the Serbians] of exclusive blame for the vast crimes committed during the complicated disintegration of that federation; had fought with such focused sledge on the toes of liars and contract breakers that Handke felt “one couldn’t do this to a writer;” a statement that puzzled me [since I was certainly not doing anything to him] but once again alerted me to his ultra sensitivity in that // respect. Having been threatened at a time I was more allergic to it than at any other I seized the opportunity to come out from under his spell and mentioned a few things his highness had not been aware of; and was unfortunately confirmed in prior judgment that he the great writer, the Napoleon of syntax, lacked a truly deep sense of humor. Also, I was free to be somewhat distanced, close yet far.
   First of all I wrote two long sections of a monograph on Handke’s growing body of work which can be accessed on line at vv; slowly carefully in rather long periods, in a rather different, anyhow, my way of analytically influenced ultra slow scholarship; and reached the conclusion that a man whom I regarded as having adopted a Slovenian identity with the writing of The Repetition [father etc] most deeply identified with his Slovenian grandfather Sivec, and I appreciated that as an analyst who had undergone a complete regression during his work and appreciated his own identification with his mother’s father, no matter the different constellation, and how profound something like that could be. All right: however, if my grandfather had chosen to vote for the Yugoslav federation – would that necessarily mean that I too valued the continued existence of its second, its post WW II coming, as Handke evidently did.

   I read a good deal about Yugoslavia, a country I knew not that much about I had once spent two wonderful months in Dubrovnik, I knew something of the resurgence of Nationalism in lieu of an appatenly hollowing socialsm from a USIA sponsored visit to Bulgaria in 1980, and had felt very Bulgarian for a while, and realized that I had always felt good in the company of folks from the East including the Ukranian, alleged guest worker on the working farm part of my fathers small estate outside Bremen [A day or so before the end of the war in April 1945: “Would Ivan still be my friend and retrieve the last tennis ball that had managed to lodge in the groove on top of our the thatched roof of our sort of farm house villa?: yes, he was I who was desperate for friends in my loneliness was relieved.]. I read closely everything of Handke’s relating to his walking trips through the Karst. nomans. He had noticed how cold etc. Here was a writer who certainly knew that part of the world I realized. Whereas all those who were upset with him and called him “fool of the year” [Rushdie]… Sontag… the reviwiers once the controversy transferred to this country, duplicated but far more crudely,.. didn’t really know diddly doo; but were mightily upset at the carnage, especially in Sarajevo where the displayed themselves, and later played “I was under attack”…instead of, I don’t know, worrying and doing something, if only in writerly fashion, about no end of monstrosities occurring un their own country or being done in its name.
I realized how all of this human rights biz played on the background of the holocaust. I had most intimate acquaintance with that since early childhood..

Already I 1949 I had learned that the CIA, it had been driven home to me once more as a publisher…
So actually doing something for the rights and human survival… the Quakers I suppose and some other churches… not these writers on their high horses, by and large. Susan Sontag quote:  

===================================At the onset of the European and then American controversy that Peter Handke ignited with the publication of A Winter’s Trip to the Rivers…[subtitled Justice for Serbia by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung which brought it in two parts] I was exceedingly knowledgeable not only about his very considerable body of work, but also about him as a person. I had taken the trouble to follow up on details in S.B.D. TE ESSAY ON TIREDNESS. I had written the better part of a psychoanalytic monograph, that only awaited the thinking through how his various personal problematics related to his autism. Although books such as The Repetition [,…] My Year in the Noman’s Bay [//] Abschied [Solong to ] and his mother and grandfather’s Sivec’s Slovenian ancestry had made me very much aware that Handke was exceedingly well knowledgeable

half Slavic, I had not really regarded him or his work from the perspective of his national identity or ethnicity.

grandfather, Yugoslavia, installing as father figure…

I also knew that Handke was an exhibitionist…QUTE, diabolical
in his work he wanted the work to become active
and he achieved it
granted his po.v. about Slovenia
but did not think it tragic…
ny times travel section

It was because of Handke’s seeking of the limelight and wish to block it out, Norman Mailer comes to mind, his being that kind of darling of the German media since his earliest days, that I initially was distrustful: “What’s the guy up to now?” [a mutal acquaintance’s observation at his walking arm in arm with Umberto Ecco] was my operative state of suspicion.

One question I only wish to raise rhetorically: why the hubbub anyhow why does what Handke or any scribble or artist have to say about the disintegration of Yugoslavia matter. What special purchase claim on our attention do they have besides historians experts political scientists foreign service. The truly astonishing matters that Handke has accomplished in the world of writing – which few if any of his reviewers either understand, enumerate or or mention – ought to provide him with special standing in the world of the logos. Having stated the matter in this fashion, I hear the chorus of names of other writers who intervened in the last two hundred years being shouted back at me. Have any of their interventions had an effect, well yes, there instances, a few; have any of them posed a danger to the powers that be; considering how many have been imprisoned, killed and fled into exile. Apparently so. It goes back to Greek and Roman times, and Chinese ancient history; Sumerian too and Egyptian one supposes.

If I were a dictator…
I’d say here come prattle at me…

Handke’s achievement…

Famously, his prior anti engagement stance has been held against him, as though one needs to engage in every campaign for dog cather; yet if you take a hard deep look at the early work…

I read Winter and then Sommer and the various as yet untranslated…
and certainly noted that his observation re French then was duplicated in US; wished that his general media lambasting had been a bit more differentiated; and then noted with pleasure that his account of his first trip [one friend was a familiar from the ‘Writer’s” pub visit!] certainy did not use the same language a that of the numerous foreign reporter; and his unappiness was expressed metaphorically and theatrically; and that he also noted life in certain peaceful or again pacifi stretches. However, if Handke’s accounts were the only one’s I would certainly not feel that I knew all that much. For that in fact I did depend on newspaper and magazine accounts. Until DUGOUT where…

Accusations were that he had not QUOTEs

Schneider , Marcus, Sontag

this degenerated….

to Michael McDonald



When did you know what?
And what did you and..

I spent the years 1991, that fall, to 1994, that spring, in Baja California Sur, chiefly in and around the Jesuit founded [1703] pueblo Mulege [wide mouthed river in the now extinct Cochimi] and came, gradually, to live on what I can only call 17th century time, a meaningless designation unless you describe its feel; or the feel of trying to then return from 17th century time back to, re-adjust [for someone who had never adjusted anyway] the then contemporariness in Los Estados Unidos Norte Americano, actually Tijuana will do the trick, too.
   Time still passed in the 17th century, it did not stand still, fine measurements were taken, in grains, though coming from El Norte you might at first think not, with all those Mexicans saying manjana and showing up semana manjana; one stage coach later; the next schooner; and there were clocks then in the 17th century, collectibles now, but time passes not only far more slowly, oozes, so it seems at first to the still harried, with harriedness in their system - it’s the waning of harriedness that shows you the change in time, or its again inception - even as I had not already become some kind if not “King of Slowness” but at least its prince during my previous five years as I slowly tread the dusty paths winding up and down in the chaparral of the St. Monica Mts. and equivalent texts out of myself.     Most importantly, time, being wider, is different in kind, thicker if you think of it as rope it’s body clock heart breath time; more like an undulation that drives all the way, elongating as it surges out from a storm way way off in the South Pacific half a world away,

what surfers as they build up to their original height as they break, marked more by the seasons.                    

Qith the St. Monicas, prior to that the Sacramentos in South East New Mexico, in my immediate past, I had not that hard a time adjusting to the slower pace, the high of being away from Bush country that was literally dangerous to be free of those depressions,

I had already slowed down, way down, living in the St. Monicas and walking the dusty paths in the chaparral, treading like a cat its mother’s teats. I didn’t really think I could slow down any farther as I was reading the book with the perfect syntax for the occasion, The Fetching Back, Die Wiederholing, The Repetition, the Retrieval. I was open to it. I could retrieve that feeling from my childhood.

Mulege really has only two seasons, the summer - which brings high humidity from the boiling Sea of Cortez and daytime thunderclouds that build all morning to relieve themselves that afternoon atop the back country sierra spine that runs the length of the peninsula [with some Paseos ventanas of course]; and in nightlong flashing fire works display on the Sierra on the opposite eastern mainland; a display that abates only in the early morning [eliciting all kinds of battle fantasies in a European wartime baby such as myself: ah, the Soviet Kashukas are having a good time tonite as they fire salvo after salvo!], about 40 miles across the sea of Cortez. Mangoes and oranges and tomatoes are year round as are the goats and burros and ducks all the animals that still ran loose in the pueblo; the nightly conversations among the numerous tethered perros, all it took was one to start barking and eventually each and every one had to sound off… that could take an hour to quiet down. And once you had lived long enough in Mulege you knew each dog by the sound of their voice – my book “The Developing Account of Time” is dedicated to one of these perros, descendants of the many miniatures that the French miners’ wives had bequeathed to the French mining town St. Rosalia, which was about 25 miles up the road; to Winky, an extra wide and long shoebox sized low-slung, mottled brown and white pit bull type with the head of a bull and a loyal and amusing heart of gold. I will never forget the moment the kids in the dusty street I was living in told me his improbable name. It bowled me over: the US though 600 miles up the road had intruded in the oddest ways into this odd backwater of a peninsula. [backwaters/ aside.] Yet though it has only two seasons - August being the most torrid and January the coldest, dank sometimes when cold poured down the mountains, the cold East Pacific exerts its influence as far south as the Cabos – it cannot be said that these seasons segue into and out of each other without a single hitch, smoothly, like one long undulating forever repeating repeating wave. There is one major caesura, in Fall, the El Norte’s that blow out the humidity of the huge wind tunnel – as which the 800 mile length of the Sea of Cortez/ California can be regarded between the Sierra on the mainland and the Sierra spine on the Baja Peninsula , all the way from San Filipe, near where the Colorado River trickles its chemical waste down to the Cabos; fall also is marked by the occasional intrusion of one of the tormento tropicals, hurricanes that usually make a left turn before the reach the tip of the Cabos, left turn to Hawai the California High sign says, and mosey up along the coast and suddenly turn inland, or those that enter the mouth of the Sea of Cortez, and wreak havoc and flood along the entire length of at least Baja sur; that gets your attention in your somnolent sense of being. +++
It was not just the pace of peoples lives that elicited the 17th century feeling, the pace was not all that different from small town America; early to bed early to rise, some of them worked very hard though waking at the cool dawn in summer, they only start to get to it by the time the sun was is scorching around 9 AM], there is a fair amount of car traffic, even minor traffic jams in its alley sized streets; not all that many burros coming into town; the u.s retirees settlements in coves of the xx 25 miles south, etc.; had made the restaurants tourist oriented; but it took just a few steps from the square block of central Mulege and you were on 17th century time; walking up to the small hill top where I lived for a a year or so I seemed to be seeing Indians in their palapers, with t.v. sets aglow; as I walked the mile along the playa road to Loma Azul [where…] I was on something slower than 17th century time [the word “timeless” is a fiction that needs to be eliminated from the language] but especially you left 17th century time as you walked or rode up into the Mesas, the flat foot hill terraces that adorn the mountainous spine that runs the 1200 km length of the Baja; and “hung out” with the goatherds that the Jesuit Padres had put there three centuries before and given Spanish [Nubian] goats to tend and provided with mercury to sift gold dust, fine grains, from the mountain streams, then to pour that precious substantial translatable substance, the true substantia, into sucked-out quail egg shells, strung in necklace-form around the Indian necks, which necklaces would be delivered monthly in exchange for what tools and other goods were useful and needed by a goatherd; so to further the erection of further Missionary fortress churches built of volcanic rock [mere touches of Baroque excess on their outside tower], and convert and control the heathen. What this might have to do with Christ only Christ knew I suppose. The Dominicans, who succeeded the Jesuits when that order was prohibited, succeeded in killing most of the natives, only a few northern tribes were saved later by San Francisco de la Serra; Saint Francis and his ilk being about the only saint I admit into my firmament, that is, aside St. Bartalomew de las Casas. But then I am ignorant in matters of sainthood; there may be others deserving of that approbation within the monstrous history of religious hegemonization.
Initially planning for a six months surcease from the extreme annoyance of Bush the First and the ensuing numerous investigations - which fade so fast there are as many of them as there are thunderstorms in the Sierras, a kind of general forever mess that it gives good employ to law school graduates - I was meant to stay in Santa Rosalia, a derelict French 19th copper mining town – destroyed landscape, ruined lungs - opposite the mainland Guaymas, but the Hotel Francesca and its enticing dolares 7 plus b/f was closed, it was offered to me, to become an innkeeper for dolares 250,000
nor was it a whorehouse [a rumor I had picked up on the way down.] By then I had been waylaid for a month with a marine biologist in Bahia de los Angeles, a harsh 12 volt d.c. station, and there I would have staid, more productive and ascetically but far less tumultuously, had I not run into someone – we fell into a conversation over a Frank Sinatra song at a motel bar where I had sought refuge during a thunderstorm - who told me that I ought to check out Moo-Lay-Hay [as it is pronounced]. In Mulege on the Todos Santos Weekend there I’d been bitten: back country bare back quarter mile racing, I was in country; and so was the pueblo still, even though it had been featured in a Linda Ronstadt song.
 I had managed to revert. Prior to its opening up with a carretera [Mex 1] that ran the length of the Baja [good road make for bad people, but I drove a real beater] people like Bing Crosby or “Duke” [John Wayne] had stopped by on their boats. Steinbeck and Doc had avoided Mulege on their Voyage of the American Flyer – malaria rumors – and so I had no description of it from my chief guide book to the Sea of Cortez.
Looking back, I was so well prepared - I had read everything I could get my hands on at the Malibu library; I put in all the native cures for its hosts of possible ailments at the Pharmacia Tropical in Ensenada - an unacknowledged part of myself must have known all along that a longer stay might be in the cards..
I had been regressing anyhow for some years. First there had been that complete regression during the breakup under analysis, that sure blindsided me, and the being reborn with freshened uncalloused senses into the NY of the mid-80s: I wondered how babies actually managed that, to be born into a city like that, Calcutta on the Hudson it was then once again, and not go mad at the first whiff of it; or throw up. 
There had been that year in the Sacramento Mountains in S.E. New Mexico at about 8.500 feet, I’d gotten a taste of Mexico in Ciudad Juarez and liked its liveliness [especially by compare to that military morgue El Paso], those splendid garish primary Mexican colors, the food, the music which still seemed country based no matter how electronically enhanced. Some vaqueros, the original buckaroos, had also shown up in our mountain fastness, from some wild ranches in Mexico, with the cattle that the Bureau of Land allowed the cattlemen to drive up into the meadows, to watch; to make crude passes at my wife.
 No doubt my translation of Handke’s Walk About the Villages, his by far richest work, the most intense focused work I had ever done, well maybe once before, but certainly not under similar circumstances, had awakened memories of my own far too brief yet intense part village childhood life in a hamlet outside Bremen: Schoenebeck – Pretty Brook: and indeed it still was and the saw mill was still there, and the moat around one of the weirder chateaus ever built in factory style during the 19th century; and the meadows looked pretty much the same with the fog lifting at day break; and the farmers, who all had the same last name, had spruced up their wonderful thatched roof monstrous squatteries where they lived together with their livestock; in many ways Pretty Brook looked quite unchanged when I spent a day walking around it late summer of 1991 before letting Steinbeck and his Doc’s The Voyage of the American Flyer [The Account of a 1941 expedition to the littoral of the Sea of Cortez] then make up Hamlet’s mind whereto escape Southern California and Bush the First for a while.
It was during the first weekend in Mulege, on Todos Santos weekend, that I had had my first glimpse, not just of its rich back country [an aquifer that is replenished by the summer torrents coming down out of the hills] but also of the lower reaches of the terraced mesas. I drove my tough vehicle through a boulder strewn wash accompanied by the local Mexican dentist who was known as laughing gas, and all that laughing gas must be what kept the Chevy Malibu, raised frame, extra tough tires, afloat [see Part I for a syntactically boulder-strewn rough account of that wild trip. And saw the first Indian caves. Useful in those summer, cool caves by the stream. The Cochimi, judging by the white handprints on the side of the cave, with imprecations for deer and whales [whose carcasses, now sun-blanched, they had dragged these 15 miles out] were either a tiny people or, more likely, had lifted their kids to make those imprints? Caves not that many miles further north featured Indians with cases of extreme grandiosity, ten feet tall or more. Among the Yaqui, pretty much the same as Apache, I met quite a few strapping six footers. The Baja has a far motlier population than mainland Mexico, a lot of ships have wrecked on its shores; a lot has drited down from El Norte; there was an influx of Chinese when they were no longer wanted in El Norte, who themselves the Mexican government then dispersed when their business acumen proved too dominating. The present day goatherds were not entirely pure Indian any more, it seemed, pure blooded Indians you would see only amongst the migratory workers from Oaxaca or other tribals from South America, itinerant musicians;
mestice like the rest of the Mexicans. Were they the descendents of the original settlers? The life of a goatherd on a mesa is anything as idyllic as that of a shepherd, who after all has his dog to keep his charges in order. Goats are far friskier, more playful and refractory; in short, goats are really totally impossible. Making a life off a herd of goats…with wife and kids help… its dawn to dusk work… it was only a tourist like me, a tourist of being

thus there are no sharp divisions between these senses of times passage, how much or little you have, are wasting…


I returned to El Norte Americano a few times during those three years, to lecture on Handke at the then annual Austrian Symposium at UC Riverside; and in late summer when it just got too torrid for this baked potato in the steam cooker of the Sea of Cortez. Every rock 90% at dawn; the water too warm to swim in at any time but then. The rest of the world faded, there was television of course and what seemed to be Indians in their palapers had a screen going as I walked up the hill a nite.
I kept up and with my analytic training by always putting in several boxes of case histories and technical papers. Read a thousand case histories and see what that does to your estimate of Western Civilization. Just amazing that it manages to endure at all with so many hideous families; and with Handke’s work – I had put in some years of work already; figured somewhere down the line I could write the most unusual biography.

When I returned for good in Spring 1994 – finances - I began to read about the wars in Yugoslavia. I had a slight inkling of them, but that was all: I think maybe once a photo of a black-masked Arkan, and such a dark name too, appeared in one of my local papers, leading a gang; the Sud Californian and the Corretero Peninsular, amongst other outlandishnesses, scandals, Woody Allen and Madonna escapades: I found it wonderful how these stories then are whittled down, sift trickled down, into distant rumors and then appear in smudged print on lousy paper as a few lines with the names of the suspects in heavier print among the Sociedad pages - bits of noise from a different galaxy; you wonder why the editors even put them in.

   Re-entering the then 20th century from the so much healthier seeming 17th I needed to refamiliarize myself with the events that were current in 20th century time; and I think the first half way intelligent seeming piece that helped me make some sense of what was transpiring in a country where I had once spent two wonderful months, chiefly in Dubrovnik [Ragusa in Dalmatian] with thousands of Dalmatians going for a swim each morning at certain spots [you see, that silliness got your attention!] during a junior year abroad, was a long piece by Mark Danner in that old standby for hardworking scientists who don’t have time to read the books discussed there, the NYRB [footnote].                         I had of course followed Yugoslavia out of the corner of my eye all along. I knew that Tito, for reasons of health, had withdrawn out from under the sway of the Steel Hand, subsequent to the elimination of another fabled old time Communist, President Dimitroff of Bulgaria. I had even spent a wonderful month in Bulgaria in 1980 as a piece of cultural exchange and had felt pretty Bulgarian Slavic for a while. Bulgaria, too, had a two tier party system as Milovan Djilas had described. Felt good amongst these people. I knew that Tito seemed to be taking something of a third way during the war between the behemoths while being the western one’s communist son of a bitch in Jeanne Kirpatrick’s so honest deathless and death-bearing words. Oodles of leftist from the West went to conferences about Socialism, had no end of affairs and talked their heads off on one island, Cordula.
. I also knew it was somehow a tenuous federation, Tito was said to be a great jongleur of that.       As little as I knew about Yugoslavia, there was not all that much I did not know about Herr Handke by then with whose work and my analytic interests I had kept up during the vaccaciones from los Unidos Estados de Norte Americano.
As a matter of fact, these two interests had become linked. On reading a novel whose title is mistranslated as Across in the 80s I realized not just that Handke was a sublimator, but, as I had personally, of extraordinary denial: “Close your eyes; and the world will arise anew.” I also realized that few people actually read, least of all did they as physicians might, and you pick up quite a bit of medical knowledge during analytic training. Sorrow Beyond Dreams which, allegedly everyone loved, its therein announced second coming.
love child
exposure ten years
anaclytic depression
tiredness essay
numero uno

The Repetion walk slowly

tiredness essay

  had written most of an psycho-analytic monograph on him; had explored  [enumerate] the main thing left to do was to explore how his autism figured in all of this. Excess of nerves, inability to process, irritability, valium

another wife withdrawing
displaying once again

   I thought of him as an Austrian author with a German father and stepfather who, with the writing of The Repetition, during the course of which he had learned Slovenian well enough to be able to translate from it, as someone who had, via mother and interiorized grandfather father figure, who preferred a Slovenian identity over any other. From reading the amazing No-Mans Bay I realized that one of the last great walkers on earth had also traipsed along large section of that coast, and what not; at any event, Handke knew that part of the world close to his inside pocket especially compared to the hordes of foreign journalist that would descend and all write like experts!

From among the various points of view I had regarded Handke’s work and its author, however I had not regarded him that thoroughly through an ethnic and national lens; it mattered little to me, grafted on.
Yes, I realized that he kept saying how much he hated Germany, tiresome in the extreme on the part of someone of his stature, and of course for his hated Berlin stepfather [vide Sorrow Beyond Dreams]; later he would admit that self-hatred might play a part; and, deriving from a lean poverty stricken childhood, despised the “fat Austrians;” and had a soft spot for Slovenia and its language and its horticultural practices.

In 1994 the Handke controversy that was to run parallel with the disintegration, had its firt irruption and was quickly transposed from Germany and France, intact, including one of his chief antagonist, Schneider, to the United States.
   Let me briefly summarize this first coming. and the polemics on both sides. arguments on both sides…

2] NYRB / author/ New Republic/ American Scholar/

3] Handke … what I know

  Peter Handke & Milosevic: “Is he really going out with him?”  -

When Slobodan Milosevic died, in his prison cell in de Haag in April 2006 I wagered, with myself, that Peter Handke would show up at the funeral in Pozarevac; it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for someone who advised "to stay in the picture”, and who by then had taken his own advice for forty years, who had even dreamed in adolescence of appearing on the cover of “Der Spiegel”.[You could see M.’s impending death even in the dearth of reporting.] But Handke, then, had a variety of interesting and convincing reasons, too [see their enumeration in his own words below] for this provocation; among them an invitation from the Milosevic family, that of course could have been declined, but some sound reasons that the Western media itself provided with their near uniform, factually false, condemnation of Milosevic upon his death. That Handke’s attendance, and speaking a few words, would be noticed, [PHOTO] of that of course there was no doubt, that they would have the dire consequences of having one’s by far most ambitious, among many extraordinary, his greatest play, his “Faust”, cancelled by a Messieur Bozonnet of the Comedie Française, or to have the City Council of Düsseldorf refuse to fund the money for the Heine Preis that he knew he was likely to receive, and that the surrounding world-wide controversy would rekindle the embers of the 1996 and 1999 Handke-Yugo controversies, I suspect that Handke, who has a most lively imagination, did not envision the extent of these consequences even if he has said, meanwhile, that it was “wonderful” that this happened to him! [x]      Handke had actually vowed, in 2003, to remove "his idiocy" as he called it - with that soupcon of self-amusement of the idiot savant autiste-artiste -, LINK [2] once and for all from his frequent orgies of self-display  upon receiving an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Graz on the occasion of his 60th birthday, a statement that itself made waves. His first big public display took place in Princeton in 1966, with his famous whole sale attack, but its most recent comings have been associated with his two prior Yugoslav controversies, in 1996 and 1999, the publication  of “Winters Journey, Justice for Serbia” in 1996, and the reading tour of the text when he felt his critics had misrepresented his text.                  Handke happens to be one of the great, preternaturally needy and assertive exhibitionists [photo, childhood] and his work would not be so strong and defined without this powerful drive. He even displayed his naked psychic "self" in the accumulated involuntary jottings in "The Weight of the World" – 1975 – and did so again, in poetically sublimated, superior manner and in far more self-aware form, in the dramatic poem play "Walk About the Villages" [1982/1996]. There are reasons for this of course, for this need to be seen, which are out of the ordinary in the case of someone who continues to suffer from autistic liabilities. Since I cannot comprise the huge field of autism in a few sentences, Handke’s  might be thought of as his having the nose of your best hunting dog, the ears of your favorite bat, the eyes [Handke suffers from bouts of periodic color blindness] of an eagle, but having no better equipment than the usual “processor” to accommodate all that extra-sensory input, making for some odd, discombobulating behavior and spoken spontaneous verbal outrages. Moreover, his talent is that of an “idiot savant.” At his desk, or with pencil in hand, Handke is supreme. However, once you get a drift of how askew his liability can make the him, the case allows for considerable understanding, in that you ignore his personal tics, and appreciate him for his work. However, since Handke's wont to show off has not exactly gone unnoticed since his first appearance on the world stage – walking demonstratively arm in arm with Umberto Eco at the Frankfurt Book Fair at the publication of his extraordinary novel "My Year in the No-Man's-Bay" [1994], taking the long way right in front of the screen during the performance of an Anselm Kiefer film [2004] are two graphic examples of this volume displacers behavior that come readily to my mind -  some people regard his actions, both spoken and written, in defense of Serbia and in behalf of a federated Yugoslavia and Milosevic as suspect, as being unnecessarily serving as advertisement just for Handke himself. For example, his once live in girl friend during his Salzburg years, the film actress Marie Colbin FULL QUOTE, released a statement during the second coming of Handke/ Yugoslav controversy, the one that paralleled the Kosovo war, saying that he probably welcomed this war what with his insatiable need for attention in the public sphere; he, a warrior at heart, who merely pretended to give voice to the lost souls; that she still remembered his climbing boots in her belly, on her head; that there  was nothing special about him... an accusation to which Handke, these many years later, has failed to reply, but whose truth I do not doubt; they mesh with my experience of Handke's wish for power, control, domination, the autocratic, easily distempered side of him, pleasurable as long as it confines itself to the word, not so when he violently slaps his three year old daughter [see "A Child Story"] in another fit of temper that is elicited by endless irritation of his hyper-sensitivity; it fits the side of the man who as a child from age two to twelve was exposed to his stepfather's violent behavior: read or reread his most famous book, "Sorrow Beyond Dreams," and note what his mother's future biographer experienced during those years.
  Handke had pretty well succeeded in his most unlikely Ash Wednesday of self-abnegation, for nearly two years, until in Fall 2005 he started to creep back into public view with an interview to L'Observer, on the occasion of the French publication of his "Des Gredos" novel. However, even during that L’Observer interview, Yugoslavia appears to have been foremost on his mind when he said that Germany, France, NATO had perpetrated a nearly perfect crime in engineering the disintegration of his beloved Yugoslav unity - more likely than not he had the German Foreign Minister Genscher's unfortunate and ill considered recognition of the independence of Croatia, then under the Ustascha successor government of Tjudman in 1991, uppermost in mind, which, as Europeans know, removed one major obstacle to the centrifugal forces that sought to assemble around nationalist magnets of all kind.                     Subsequent to the end of Handke’s surcease there had followed a series of pronouncements on the occasion of the withdrawal of his "wild man" play "Untertagsblues" [Subday Blues] from the prize competition at the Mühlheim theater festival, culminating in the explanation that he had had a sufficiency of prizes, a convincing explanation on the face of the contemplation of his accumulation of them since he received the most important German literary recognition, the Büchner Prize in 1968, a prize which he gave back during the Kosovo War, to the bafflement of the prize committee, which had had no truck with the NATO destruction of the Serbian infrastructure. However, I think, it seems more likely that he disavowed even the possibility of receiving the Mühlheim Prize because what with all the truly great plays of his that had not been awarded the Mühlheim Theater Prize it would be awful not so much to lose yet again in that competition, but to win with one's most – actually his only – pedestrian - oh what an ordinär – piece it is boot on the part of someone whose greatest achievement, for me, had been to create works for the theater that worked independent of naturalistic conventions. A work more likely than not written just in order to "stay in the picture," though it hits the road rage note of the contemporary worldwide mood, although this wild man's enumeration of all the things he hates [that irritate him] does not derive from a well-known strain in Handke, his  nausea – there was a time when Handke complained of suffering from “nausea in the eyeballs”. Handke’s misanthropism, however, is given for more interesting and truly delightful expression, say, in his novel "Nomansbay" in the personae of a restaurateur who keeps going bankrupt as he serves the world's most delicious food but is as particular about his guests as he is about the gustatory ingredients; a split-off part of Handke's self my Kleinian friend's might say, but very true also, judging by the recent Croatian weekly Globus' interview with Handke [XX LINK] at his forest abode, of someone who, once the worst of hosts, has become a splendid cook and host - as one might also guess from a truly delightful play of his entitled “La Cuisine”; who, however, judging by yet another long fairly recent interview, no longer even takes his friends, since he cannot abide having men in a room with him for long, on his extensive mushroom rambles in the forest in which he lives. A very special misanthrope indeed. "Could I have another serving of wild boar with your hand-picked mushrooms, Herr Handke?"
Following the French interview, [with someone who has given hundreds over the years, the most interesting being the book length "Ich Lebe doch nur von den Zwischenräumen" – I live exclusively from the thresholds between rooms - with Herbert Ganscher, that is counted among Handke’s 100 or so works {xx}, there followed a rich, long interview with Herbert Greiner, the chief literary editor of Die Zeit, also conducted in Handke's Chaville Forêt abode, where, so it struck me [as it did also, and more forcefully, in the more recent Globus one], that Handke seemed to be toying in a passive aggressive manner with his guest {QUOTE}, alternately threatening to evict the guest every few minutes, insisting on his rights as lord of the castle, and grumped, justifiably so I felt, at being favorably received for his novels and diaries in Die Zeit but given the shortest and nastiest and stupidest of shrifts for his half dozen Yugoslav books. The Croatian weekly Globus [date LINK], occurred half a year later, and as of this writing in October 2006 is the very last of at least half a recent dozen to date to address Yugoslavia in the contentious interim between the start and the ebbing of the third Handke-Yugo war . It was an interview that followed on the heels of a veritable interview orgy that his visit to Pozarevac and the resulting demarche of his greatest play, "The Art of Asking," by the since demoted head of the Comedie Française, "Bozo" Bozonnet, had elicited; and the subsequent uproar over the awarding and then withdrawal [in the form of the City Council not releasing the Prize money!] of the Heine Preis to him by the City of Düsseldorf; an most interesting interview – it is more of a description of an interview than an interview as such –  not only for its recounting of our forest madman's behavior, but for Handke’s revelation that one other reason for his attendance of the Milosevic funeral was that he is planning – may have written at this point – a novel about M. as a tragic character, and wanted to absorb the atmosphere; which may of course may make the whole debacle worth while. And if Handke really had such a plan, I had the most absolute confidence in my man as the fastest veritable atmosphere sponge on both sides of the Mississippi - just take a look at Handke's Alaska, the opening chapter in "A Slow Homecoming", where the essence of a near timeless - and necessarily and relievedly unconfiningly nameless place and river is deposited after just a couple few weeks visits. - Amongst the interview slew is also one with the NZZ [Neue Zuricher Zeitung, LINK] which I find most notable for Handke's detailed acquaintance with the ins and out of current Belgrade politics. [I may yet be missing one or the other interview on the occasions of the publication of that truly extraordinary, mercifully formally succinct late performance, "Don Juan – as told by Himself," and of the fourth of his published diary tomes "Gestern Unterwegs," [Yesterday, While Underway] both in 2005, which, now that Handke knows that he has enemies, are edited somewhat less revealingly than used to be the case.
In the course of these numerous interviews, stretching for some forty years, you notice Handke, who has some real difficulty speaking in person, who in the one on one is relievedly incapable of engaging in chit-chat, and whose every sentence is memorable for its succinct weightiness, beginning to impersonate an interview subject by the name of "Peter Handke" who… "gives good interview"; and, who, moreover, near invariably, toys, if that's what it is, with his interviewers, and tests them by saying something entirely out of character, or opposite of his stated belief, e.g. "its all about the  economy, stupid,” and welcoming the rebuilding of the Serbian infrastructure by Western companies. The interviewers nearly never point out even the grossest of these contradictions, thus proving I suppose the interviewer's ignorance of Handke’s views and work and his sole value as a subject who will provide saleable copy for the interviewer and his employer. ["Let's ask Handke what he thinks," is what it's like.] It is the commodity Handke, the postage stamp during his own life-time Handke, talking. However, when Handke is interviewed by a sympathetic friend [e.g. Thomas Deichmann of the Magazine Novo LINK,] a participant perhaps also essential chauffeur in one of the Handke's Serbia troupes’ adventurous trips through wildest darkest Yugoslavia, the result can be something quite extraordinarily interesting, Handke’s voice, his passion, his confidence come through.

One reason I expected Handke to have good reason to seize the opportunity to attend Milosevic's funeral -  if only to find a somnambulistic way to go to Pozarevac in Spring 2006 - was because he had been hanging around the Milosevic trial off and on for years, had even published a little book in 2004 about the goings on there, "Rund um das Tribunal" [“Ring around the Tribunal”] which, though not lacking in the usual finely observed matters of all kinds, at the edge of the tribunal, reminded me a lot of my cat’s sniffing the hot sauce but only, very tentatively, reaching into it with one of its paws; and which I found especially disappointing because I had hoped, in the dearth of information about the trial that became available, to have Handke as a source. [XX] But he is not. “Por que?” I thought, what's going on?
Handke had visited Milosevic in prison, I do not know how many times, once apparently with Harold Pinter [or perhaps at the same time, it is not clear from his accounts [XX] and Handke had subsequently spoken of Slobodan in tones of grave respect [“No, I would never address him familiarly as ‘Slobo”’] that were new to me in his public discourse; in his literary discourse one can find respect, piety, in one of his greatest if unknown works, "Walk about the Villages," the seminal work for everything that is to follow as of the early 1980s  QUOTES [XX] There may be a relationship to the Milosevices dating back to earlier years of the disintegration, during which time Handke's plays were favored in Belgrade whereas now…                                 There were even rumors that Handke would be a witness for the defense at Milosevic’s trial. In 2005, however, Handke put a stop to these rumors, rumors  apparently strong enough to require disavowal, with his "Die Tablas des Damiel" LINK [PDF/ XX] where he explained that it was pointless to be a defense witness for someone who had been, de facto, condemned in advance. QUOTE. I would have to say that if Milosevic had been found guilty as charged, someone as deservedly prominent as Handke is in Europe appearing as a "character witness" – which is all he could have been since he was not present at any of those times when Milosevic allegedly conspired or permitted or ordered any of the crimes that he was charged with being responsible for - expressing his personal belief in the defendant's innocence, or that he was the "tragic character" that Handke has frequently in recent months held him to be, might at least have lightened the defendant's sentence, or helped shed a kinder and more differentiated and possibly more just light on this now no longer the latest universal interchangeable voodoo doll, incorporation of all evil for which the news media and no end of lazy righteous journalists [e.g. see Charles Simic in the Summer issue of the Virginia Quarterly: “Milosevic, a Worthless Man” for a particularly example of this] and their flotsam, keep projecting onto this or the other subject in this again night mare dark age world.         However, if Handke had actually appeared at the trial, might he not have drawn rather more attention, and in the difficult seat of a witness, than he himself was willing to stomach? For it is not that Handke has not intervened, in the similar instance of a Serbian who was arrested in Germany and condemned to prison because he failed to act to prevent a war crime during a massacre on a bridge in Serbia - an extension as it were of German Post WW II law to Yugoslav civil war circumstances [!]; and had done so subsequent to the man's sentencing; had even been "best man" for this Serbian at his wedding, in prison itself I think, and had subsequently used him and his story as a model for the character of someone driven nearly mad by the circumstances, by the bind that the goodhearted can find themselves in, during those civil wars; the character called "the forest madman", in "The Play about the Film About the War" [XX] from whom Handke "split off," in that play, someone who has gone completely bonkers… Yet another maddening war... the continuum of madnesses. However, I must say I agree with Handke, based on the trial material I have been able to obtain, that Milosevic's conviction was a foregone conclusion. His posthumous conviction in Belgrade, which Handke felt was the proper venue for a trial [as compared to the other defendants for whom in a recent interview Handke felt it was appropriate to be tried before the international tribunal in de Haag] [LINK-8], is another matter, and so far I have seen no public comment of Handke's on this fairly devastating verdict that convicted M. of murder of his predecessor and of a Serbian foreign minister. [FN]. - I have communicated to my subject my interest in his possibly changed opinion on the matter in question, and perhaps I will have it before this rumination goes to press.                               So it was not as though Handke could not come to someone's defense, even of someone who had run afoul of the justice system of a country that now compensated to near world wide extent for its perversions of justice during those infamous 12 years of the short lived Reich! [7] Moreover, Handke once penned the fairly Kafkaesque sentence that, if he were ever accused in court, he would find it difficult to defend himself - Kafkaesque in the sense of feeling too guilty, in general, so that a mere pin prick of an accusation will bring him down, place the bull of muteness on his tongue; although Handke, who started expressing regrets about a variety of matters as of the late 70s, is not lacking in the sufficient grandiosity to absolve himself of the whelming weight of guilt, with the stroke of his pencil as it were. “Enough already of feeling guilty”... Handke after all has also become a Viennese it appears. This just to indicate that Handke, too, is as Swiss cheese, richly riddled with contradictions, easy food for nasty hungry mice if they should choose to gnaw at him, as I will only when he behaves irredeemably!           In other circumstances, such as literary feuds, Handke is more than able to avail himself of the publicly spoken word in defense and sometimes the most vicious and typically derisive counter attack, in what must be hundreds of interviews by someone who in person is rather reticent, or the written word, in little or not so recit passages, poison pills, excoriations that he inserts into his prose works. Handke is anything but a defenseless babe in the woods, too stunned by preternatural guilt feelings, to mount some of the most wonderful, gratuitous ad hominem or occasionally, pathetic counter attacks. SOME JUICY QUOTES
    Among the matters in the "Tablas" piece – yet another exceedingly well argued and observed piece by someone who failed to take his law school exams only because he was already a successful writer at age 24 [PDF/ XX] - and did not need to take recourse to the  possibility of availing himself of the sinecure of becoming an Austrian Cultural Attaché to subsidize his time as a writer - that I found both striking and amusing was Handke's wonderful, funny admission how, trying not to be self-righteous, nonetheless his conscience somehow or other found a way of making him come out on top! , it found for him, of clearing him! Think of Dostoyevsky with an occasional salvaging sense of humor. QUOTE Pure Handke gold. Not that that put's Handke's self-righteous, guilt-driven strain to rest, anyhow not for long: 13. September 2006 
Der österreichische Schriftsteller Peter Handke nennt seinen Kollegen Günter Grass nach dessen spätem Eingeständnis, der Waffen-SS angehört zu haben, „eine Schande für das Schriftstellertum". Der österreichischen Info-Illustrierten „News" (Donnerstag) sagte Handke: „Ich finde vor allem die Sprache, mit der er das betreibt, völlig verfehlt. Bei ihm kommt nichts von innen."
Handke, der selbst wegen seines Engagements für Serbien und seine Rede zum Begräbnis des ehemaligen Diktators Slobodan Milosevic heftig von Kollegen und den Medien angegriffen worden war, kritisiert weiter: „Sogar sein Outing, wie man das heute nennt, ist so selbstgerecht wie er seit 50 Jahren: böser, selbstgerechter Formalismus." Der 63jährige in Paris lebende Autor zweifelt zudem Grass' angebliche Unkenntnis an: „Die Ausrede, daß man mit 17 nichts weiß, ist eine der schlimmsten. (...) Das Nazitum, ob es in Danzig war oder nicht, hat ein Volk zum Feind des Erdenlebens erklärt, und das waren die Juden. Sogar ein Zwölfjähriger muß spüren: Wenn ein anderes Volk als schlecht hingestellt wird, ist diese Ideologie grundböse." Grass habe das „gewußt und nicht demgemäß gehandelt. Das ist ein ewiger Makel eines empörenden Menschen."
Text: FAZ.NET mit Material von dpa
Bildmaterial: ddp

   The man who delivered himself of these words, at the age of 40 beat up his girl friend, at the age of 28 nearly killed his three year old daughter in a fit of irritation while he was confronted with a flood in his basement at his house in Kronberg while he was writing the biography of his mother, Maria Sivec-Schönherr-Handke, who during her 20s had certainly embraced with wonderful enthusiasm a number of Nazi soldiers stationed near Griffen, Austria. Give me break! And the Germans who entered Austria during the Anschluss were certainly welcomed also for their anti-semitism. It is the most unpleasant side of Handke that reveals itself there, also the most competitive, since he’s trying to give that extra shove to give the final kick to get the wounded sage from Gdansk off his pedestal!
In one of these numerous interviews Handke mentioned that he concluded that M. was innocent based on the smile that the huge list - everything including the kitchen sink - of crimes with which M. was charged elicited from the accused. {XX] Well, yes, that list of indictments [10] might even have made a Hitler smile! However, smile or no smile, appropriateness or not of the de Hague tribunal, neither says anything about Milosevic's innocence or guilt, anyway not as far as I am concerned, it doesn’t. Handke has also expressed the belief that there does not exist a shred of written evidence linking Milosevic to the crimes of which he stood accused; and that these crimes were committed by Milosevic's underlings, without Milosevic's knowledge, and I wonder how Handke knows this; whether Milosevic's or his wife said as much to him, since he had a family invitation to the funeral, or whether this presumption is based on noticing yet another smile, or on inference from the trial material, which Handke felt lacked proof of any written criminal order by Milosevic. It is fairly clear to me that Handke wants to shield Milosevic, but I think more for reasons of what Milosevic represents inside Handke's psyche than for any great need that Milosevic had of Peter Handke. And quite beside the fact: even if Handke is entirely wrong about his estimate of  Milosevic, as he might very well be, it neither takes or adds anything to my response to Handke's work, since Handke nowhere during his defense of a federated Yugoslavia disparaged any of the various other tribes. The fact that an old-time adherent of Partisan Belgrade [two of Handke's Slovenian uncle's were such] has little liking for the Nazi-installed Fascist Catholic collaborative [of every dastardliness] Ustasha Croatian government or its newest  incarnation, or the Albanian equivalent thereof, is to be expected; not all such memories can be wiped out during one life time.
But Handke's evident need to protect, shield the man who sought to hold Yugoslavia together is interesting and requires understanding, as do Handke's screams of pain when he compared, in absurd language, what was happening to the Serbs to the suffering of the Jews under Hitler. A lack of words for his pain: the why of that pain is what interests me. – Whereas I don't know enough about Milosevic to know whether he might interest me or not. For example, after perusing the two great analytic studies of Hitler's pathology by Dr. Ted Dorpat and Fritz Redlich XX + XX Hitler even lost fascination as a case.
I myself feel - based on several events where Handke manifested a then near instantaneous sense perception of personal evil - one among other reasons  - that I can concede the possibility that Handke might just have a case in his frequently voiced opinion that M. is/was a tragic figure [see NY Times Magazine Interview 11]; that is, that the former émigré banker - who does not appear to have the now all too familiar histology of being an already early deeply wounded childhood monster, or prior to his return to Belgrade from his career as a foreign banker - that Milosevic was someone caught up in terrible squeeze plays, sequence of squeeze plays not entirely of his own making… Yugoslav federalism, socialist obligation, Serbian minority Nationalism in Kosovo; the difficulty of continuing Tito's difficult dance while the stupid economy was going down the tubes the more so after the end of the cold war when the U.S. stopped footing the bill for this, the U.S.' communist S.O.B’s tanks whose guns were facing east; the Croatian laws that disenfranchised the Serbian minority… Lincoln, too, if the Union had lost the war between the states, would have been put on trial for many things he ordered and had done during his presidency. I look forward to the novel that Handke announced to the Globus interviewers as yet one further reason for his funeral trip.
The only ultra nationalist moment in Milosevic's behavior that Handke concedes is the famous speech at the "Field of Blackbirds". {LINK} I myself, who would not have preoccupied myself with this topic and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, or not much more than with the disintegration of the Congo, had I not been engaged, and had it not taken me on a long detour away, from a long  deeply absorbing scholarly appreciation of numerous other aspects of Handke's work and person, must express my astonishment why the Serbs of the great variety of Slavic and other tribes in that region, why their nationalism is any more reprehensible than Croatian, Bosniaker, Slovenian, Kosovo-Albanian.
Before engaging in some halfway complicated commentary on Handke's relationship to Yugoslavia and trying to provide the background to the Milosevic relationship in particular, and their reception in the literary world of journalism, it is good for the reader to have Handke's own words, so as to avert the kind of instant Pavlovian-Bozonnet type responses, or to put some of them to rest, that set in, in certain ill-informed quarters at the mere mention of the name of Milosevic [and Handke], the sort of thing that made for the onset of the controversy when Bozonnet cancelled the production of the greatest of the variety of  Handke's important plays when he happened to come, so he said, on mention of Handke funeral attendance, in La Liberation, as though he had not been aware of Handke's stance in this matter for the previous ten years; question, mine, also being whether Bozonnet, a major functionary, as so many of them do not, had even read the play that he took off the calendar, or had depended for judgment of this very great play, initially, on that of its French translator and director Bruno Bayen. - An aside: neither this play nor any of Handke's works ever entered into a discussion in France or Germany or in the English speaking world, into which some of these tempests spilled over, except to the extent of calls to dismiss them as deriving from someone who held the wrong political opinions; which were not just politically wrong, but because they were politically wrong the author had to be a monster who… was the equivalent of the monster whom he did not condemn; or during the revocation of the Heine Prize. The moralistic reproofs, these rants entirely concern what opinions you might hold, or not express [such as the journalistic demand to express sympathy with victims] or the company you keep, or what you must acknowledge, preferably without the least equivocation, are not allowed to deny, and must express in pretty much the same language rules that the proscribers prescribe, [to which Handke, perhaps finally sick of the fracas, then submitted what in fact he had never denied QUOTE], saying that yes Srebrenice was the most horrendous genocidal act to be perpetrated in Europe after WW II, and if you happen to lack the Good Housekeeping seal of approved opinion within this crew of home makers all your work is instantly out the window; you become that dog out in the rain, not even in the window. And the publications with self-appointed judge and juries and executioners ranges from Liberation to L'Observer in France, to the Guardian in the U.K., to the New Republic, the New York Review of Books and The Weekly Standard in the United States, the latest of which list, however, numbers among its contributors the sort of ex-Haight-Ashbury commie born again Bosniaker Muslim who will damn you simply because he disapproves of a film based on one of your books, and who neither reads, but only asserts… his and his journals assertable reality. Hey, anything goes! Just say it often and loudly enough! It is not just the Bush administration claiming that they make a reality of their own in a phantasmal world QUOTE

   Within the comparatively rich and more sophisticated German feuilleton culture you could find a more differentiated range of opinion, from outright righteous outrage to defense. [LINK] Even so, nary the mention of a book or play! Had they left no impression? Not even a one of the well formulated titles? After forty years?

 Prior to quoting a few statements of Handke's in their entirety, so as to be able to appreciate some contradictions in this amazing charnel house of a controversy,
its third coming, and with little feeling, I want not to be so remiss as to fail to appreciate Handke as though he really were a postage stamp issued 100 years after his passing, and to point out his importance, within the logos and the theater, and prose, as though he were a mathematician or scientist, who might have had flippers, and six toes, three sausages dangling from his nose, but who in fact is remembered for his contribution, and will later go more deeply into the two prior comings of this controversy,  why Handke coddles Milosevic, gives him more breaks than he would other figures. For, although Handke has access to people in power, such as the Austrian President, and is a fairly autocratic person himself meanwhile, an arriviste from early on, he has no compunctions about treating people in power, including his own deceased once very powerful publisher Siegfried Unseld to his patented "tinny derision" and unaccommodating critical portraits, or to salvoes of some of the mostly powerfully and fiercely  wrought mud to be propelled from his Austrian Village origins.

... These explosions of our autist, with the not infrequent addition of Tourettism, Handke, apparently without further examination, disavows, as not being his true self; well not his best part of his self, I would agree, but evidence of the psychotic, the productive volcanic core of his being nonetheless, indication of his access to the threshold whence the great work, too. Furthermore, for someone who is excellent at derision, as a recipient thereof Handke is anything but, a dreadful chink in the armor, which makes for not end of continued verbally challenging fireworks.


April 2006 / III

»Auf den Tod von Slobodan Milosevic habe ich, anders als die sogenannte Allgemeinheit, an deren Allgemeinheit ich nicht recht glaube, nicht »mit Genugtuung reagiert«, zumal das Tribunal den seit 5 Jahren in einem angeblichen »5-Sterne-Gefängnis« (»Libération«) Verwahrten erwiesenermaßen hat sterben lassen. Unterlassene Hilfeleistung: ist das nicht ein Verbrechen? Ich »gestehe«, etwas wie Kummer empfunden zu haben, der am Abend nach der Todesnachricht beim Gehen in den Seitenstraßen zu der Vorstellung führte, irgendwo für den Toten eine Kerze anzuzünden. Und dabei sollte es bleiben. Ich hatte nicht vor, zum Begräbnis, pogreb, sahrana, nach Pozarevac zu reisen. Ein paar Tage später erreichte mich die Einladung, nicht etwa von der Partei, sondern von der Familie (die übrigens an der Beerdigungsstunde dann, anders als verlautet, zum Großteil anwesend war). Freilich bewog mich weniger das zu der Reise. Mehr waren es die Reaktionen der durchweg feindlichen, nach dem Tod noch verstärkt feindlichen Westmedien, und darüber hinaus der Sprecher des Tribunals und auch des einen oder anderen »Historikers«. Es war deren aller Sprache, die mich auf den Weg brachte. Nein, Sl. M. war kein »Diktator«. Nein, SI. M. hat nicht »vier Kriege auf dem Balkan angezettelt«. Nein, Sl. M. hat nicht als »Schlächter von Belgrad« bezeichnet zu werden. Nein, Sl. M. war kein »Apparatschik«, kein »Opportunist«. Nein, Sl. M. war nicht »zweifellos« schuldig. Nein, Sl. M. war kein »Autist« (Wann übrigens werden die schmerzhaftest kranken Autisten sich wehren, daß ihr Kranksein als Schmähwort gebraucht wird?). Nein, Sl. M. hat mit seinem Sterben in der Zelle von Scheveningen »uns« (dem Tribunal) keinen »bösen Streich gespielt« (Carla del P.). Nein, Sl. M. hat »uns« mit seinem Tod nicht »den Teppich unter den Füßen weggezogen, uns das Licht ausgeschaltet« (dieselbe). Nein, Sl. M. hat sich nicht vor dem Schuldspruch, ohne Zweifel LEBENSLÄNGLICH, weggestohlen«. Sl. M. wird »dafür aber dem Urteil der Historiker nicht entkommen« (ein »Historiker«): abermals nicht bloß unwahre, sondern schamlose Sprache. Solche Sprache war es, die mich veranlasste zu meiner Mini-Rede in Pozarevac - in erster und letzter Linie solche Sprache. Es hat mich gedrängt, eine, nein, die andere Sprache vernehmen zu lassen, nicht etwa aus Loyalität zu Slobodan Milosevic, sondern aus Loyalität eben zu jener anderen, der nicht journalistischen, der nicht herrschenden Sprache. Beim Anhören des einen oder anderen der Vorredner in Pozarevac dann allerdings der Impuls: nein, nicht sprechen nach dem schneidigen General da, dem nach Rache schreienden Parteipolitiker da, die beide die Menge anheizen wollten, welche sich freilich, bis auf ein paar vereinzelte Mitschreier, keinmal zu einer Haß- oder Zornantwort kollektiv hinreißen ließ: denn es war eine Menge aus Trauernden, still und tief Bekümmerten, so mein nachhaltigster Eindruck. Und für diese Bekümmerten, gegen die markigen, starken Sprüche, machte ich dann doch den Mund auf wie bekannt -- als ein Teil der Kummergemeinde. Reaktion darauf: P. H., der »Claqueur« (FAZ) - gibt es eine verwahrlostere Sprache als diese? Ein »Claqueur«, was ist das: Einer, der für Geld Beifall klatscht. Und wo ist der Beifall? (Nie habe ich auch geäußert, wieder laut FAZ, »glücklich« zu sein nahe dem Toten.) Und wo ist das Geld? (Flug und Hotel selbst bezahlt.) Mein Hauptbedürfnis jedenfalls für die Grabreise: Zeuge sein. Zeuge weder im Sinn der Anklage noch im Sinn der Verteidigung. Heißt denn inzwischen, Zeuge nicht im Sinn der Anklage sein zu wollen, für den Angeklagten zu sein? »Zweifellos«, gemäß einem der Hauptschlagworte der herrschenden Sprache?« (Quelle: / Suhrkamp Verlag]

To whatever degree you concur with Handke's setting straight of the record of language, and I happen to agree - but it would make little difference if I did not -  with most of his specifics, * his statement says little if anything about Milosevic real guilt, how extensive or not. Handke, however, could also have issued a statement, expressed his condolences from Paris. Life is long and compunctions are few. Handke can get just about any statement publicized. The appearance at P.[PHOTO], an act of public theater, I would think  was also a calculated media event. The media need him as much as he needs them; if not one star then another…  A classic in your own life time,  which means that you are not much read, famous for being famous – he has that kind of power, that kind of access since he, who had dreamt during his youth of appearing on the cover of Der Spiegel, and of addressing the world, was first discovered by the hungry mirror in 1966, two hungers lying in wait for each other. If anyone knows how to appear on the world stage it is the fashion conscious Peter Handke, and knows that you need, occasionally, to withdraw behind the curtain! Coy as only a star, occasionally sulking. “Play the game.” [W.A.T.V.]… and Handke would appear for the third time… on the cover of Novo, but now that Günter Grass had seriously damaged himself with the admission that he had allowed himself to be drafted into the Waffen SS for 45 days and for reasons of peculiar guilt feelings had become that extra righteous conscience, Handke, and his quickly resurrected righteousness, cannot be far off from finally appearing on the cover of Der Spiegel itself??? 

Regrettably the deserved occasion of the Nobel Prize has probably passed: it is not to be expected that the Nobel Prize committee will be so generous as to look past Handke’s problematics and the hue and cry such an award would unloosen, his miserable humanness, and make the award for what it is designed, and in which respect I cannot think of anyone more deserving.
   No harm of course if all this controversiality led to the reading of his works, to the improvement of the central Europe! Which it has not in the past nearly 50 years since the first appearance of Count Sivec-Schönherr-Handke from Griffen on the world scene! However, no matter how exhibitionistic Handke may be, to whatever extent he, too, is a domineering, power hungry, space displacing autocrat, has any bearing on his literary exhibitions nor on whatever truth value his very different poetic, non-journalistic responses, records have, and – I think this is one of the chief rubs – his by and large non-Goyasque descriptions of what he beheld during his several trips, whereas most everyone wanted him to scream "oh the horror of it" so they even missed the amazing moment when he actually did: QUOTE FROM “SOMMERLICHE…”

What he actually said in P. QUOTE has since been misquoted and degenerated in their misquotation as they were passed from news organ to newsroom into the magical mystery tour of the blogosphere [LINKS]. Assuredly there would be consequences, though not necessarily such a compounding as the cancelling of a great play, and a city counsel, running scared after the decision of its jury has become controversial, withholding prize money for a prize which not long ago we said we were no longer interested in [but which it was then claimed would have been useful for a translator symposium, of translators of one’s own works into the 30 some languages in which it exists!] or whatever reason we pick out of the air as is needed to get ourselves of the hook of yet another contradiction, so that we can then say something as wonderful as QUOTE; and whose appropriateness – is Heine a Handke? – was underscored by the Prize Committee’s language TRANSLATE/ LINK

Handke, who by the mid-seventies had decided that he, who was nothing but a writer, would put his big self into play! An extremely well known extensive self, few of the warts left out it h  , on display in his whelming work. There is little that we cannot find out about Handke, from his birth – no trauma according to the  midwife’s  published report; interest in the genetic origin of his occasional color blindness which may or may not be connected with his autism, Handke is as an artist an idiot savant, who suffers from the social disabilities that mark that extensive syndrome. Some embarrassing matters, are concealed, there is the language regulation that claims that Handke’s first wife, Libgart Schwartz, left him to resume her career as an actress, which she had never done in the first place, and not for the good and multiple causes that she did leave; though if you read his work closely, his wanting to maintain a friendship allows you to conclude on your own that this claim is absurd; as is the claim that Handke spent some time in a hospital in Paris during a critical period in the mid-70s because he has a congenetically defective heart valve – which is contradicted by the evidence of the huge upset that this event, the death of his mother, and his finding himself needing to take care of a baby girl produced, and of the fugue states he describes in the “Nonsense and Happiness” poems and in “A Moment of True Feeling” and because in “The Lesson of St. Victoire” [1980] he boasts that he had been accepted by the Austrian army, the only thing his hated stepfather had ever approved of, even with his lousy eyes it appears, although it seems that  Handke never went through basic training, and that he must have been deferred [his vision]. The taking of valium in the hospital eased the anxiety states and, with some therapy [see: “Weight of the Word”] apparently at together with a religiously oriented therapist, led to his access to a richer emotionality which began to mark his far warmer work, starting with the mythically orienting “The Left Handed Woman”. Chiefly, he  worked wrote his way out of the Paris crisis and, after briefly considering moving to N.Y. with his young child, proceeded to write “A  Slow Homecoming” [#]-  set in Alaska, San Francisco, Colorado, New York - in the Hotel Adams in N.Y., which then became the “Slow Homecoming” quartet [+] while settling in Salzburg until his daughter graduated from High School; whereupon, after a year or so spent traveling around the world, he returned to the outskirts of Paris to a place that he had planned to settle in already in the mid-70s. Judging by the evidence of the mystification of  woman troubles that mark the less interesting part of “Across” [1982] [Chinese des Schmerzens], the first novel Handke wrote to celebrate Salzburg, his newest place of Residence, the underlying problematics - women troubles, rages galore - that had come to a head in the Paris crisis of the 70s had not been solved, no matter that Handke in spite of them had by then become, for me, a far better writer now that a painterly element had entered
of his repertoire.

nearly as good as immediately starting to write your mother’s life in “Sorrow Beyond Dreams” upon her suicide.

This self display is unacceptable within the civilizational norms of western society when Handke needs to displays himself physically, a volume displacer who inveighs against bodies that displace his, {XX} also in the nude.

["Herr Handke, I'd been wondering who you are?" "Read, W.A.T.V., I'd be delighted to know how you can fit all those parts into one rabbit."].


I myself especially admired Handke’s courage, of someone “born to terror,” [who is only calm with pencil in hand:] in the 1996 “Winter’s Journey,” his second book on the devolution of Yugoslavia, but the first to make waves, to point out the extraordinarily simple-minded media witch hunt that, as of a certain consensual point, made Serbia, Serbian nationalism responsible for that complicated, multi-dimensional cascade of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. In his first book on the topic, “Ninth Land,” this writer [the illegitimate offspring, born in Griffen in the ancient Austrian province of Carinthia, bordering on Slovenia, of a woman of the Slovenian minority and a German Army paymaster stationed in Griffen in the early 40s] argued – and still does [XX] - touchingly, so I found, but not convincingly -  that Slovenia with three million inhabitants was too small to be independent, that it would quickly turn into an Andorra-like  shopping mall, that there had been no war [as in “Milosevic started four wars.”], but a ten day skirmish during which some Slovenian beer bellies had killed half a dozen young soldiers of the Yugoslav Federal Army, an issue that Milosevic saw no point in pursuing; but anyway, that with its independence, its affiliation with European capitalism and NATO, Slovenia had lost its perfume, for him who had spent many a day walking through its hills and river valleys and many a night in one or the other of its many Dolminen, those vari-sized sandstone sinkholes for rabbits of all kinds: No arguing with that really; if the charm is gone, I well recall a dream, that’s it. Meanwhile Handke has for a surrogate Spain, large stretches of which he, one of the last great walkers on this earth, appears to have traipsed [see the best parts of the “Del Gredos” + the essays “On Tiredness” + “On the Jukebox” XX]
   However, no matter that Handke appears to have been right about Slovenia quickly turning into another mall, I was not entirely convinced that that would make much of a difference to walking the Karst / Carso or spending the night in its Dolminen, which were unlikely to turn into bazaars selling carrots, to someone less nostalgic about WATV QUOTE; they certainly had outlasted many a human denominator; and Handke, whose biography unlike Goethe’s will be able to be recounted not in terms of the women he was involved with but of the landscapes he, the rootable, memorialized, has given a fine account of them in “The Repetition.”
What I liked about “Ninth Land”, as well as about the first part of “Winter’s Journey” is that, initially, both books are rationally well argued, “Ninth Land” in its entirety. Handke states his reasons, they are charmingly self-referential in the instance of “9th Land,” devastating in the instance of “Winter’s Journey” - its very reception proved Handke’s point:  the witch hunt for Serbians - if you did not join, they will turn you into a witch yourself. At the time he wrote “Winter’s Journey” he emphasized the French craze to blame the Serbs, something that has persisted throughout the decade of the inception of the controversy to the point where 100 or so French mind workers, not a one of whom would last a day in a coal mine, supported Bozonnet’s decision to single-handedly dismiss… well, it isn’t just any old play, not even “The Play about the Film about the War,” [see anon] the conceptually great – everyone has their say - play that the Yugoslav controversy elicited from Handke, but a true pilgrimage of the human spirit play… with Percival as a ragged near idiot… a forever receding horizon for the future of human kind… during whose five hour you experience a different time, Handke’s greatest strength, his overpowering ability to put you, at least during the reading of certain of his books [“The Repetition”, “Absence”, “One Dark Night I left my Silent House”] and of a number of his plays, through his very different, more materialistic, that is also materialistically affecting,  use of language and signifiers, in an altered, open state of mind that refreshes, if  freshenable, all your senses; that is, a “rational”, step by step, catharsis if ever there was one outside the consulting room; Handke the successor to Brecht whom it will take the same sixty years as it took Brecht to finally have his Central Park success, but unlikely in cabaret fashion.

I don’t think that Handke, to whatever degree “Winter’s Journey” was meant to provoke, could have imagined the near unanimity of the media condemnation in Germany and France, and then in the U.S., a mis-reception that I think he facilitated by his thorough media spanking and his irruptions of verbal violence when challenged,
 whereas the kind of rational, laborious, analysis of the flow of propaganda - that has, meanwhile, been provided - of the way the western Media insured the domination of their preferred version of the Yugoslavia story, use by the Croat and the Bosnian Muslims of the same Washington P.R. firm that “sold” the Iraq war and its shock and awe [xx]-  would have been both less provocative, some of it tiresome in the extreme to detail,  but would not have availed his opponents the easy opportunity to describe his book as a rant, which it is anything but in any other respect; and anyhow, a good rant now and then, why not when appropriate or when all kindly approaches have failed; or that Handke who, like me, consumes two hours worth of newspapers a day, while claiming to despise  journalistic language and the entire journalistic approach, even guns after the excellent journalists working in Yugoslavia, say Chris Hedges of the N.Y. Times, or Michael Danner. - Handke has been a whole sale condemner since the day he first spoke in public, one reason, perhaps the chief reason for his controversiality, since the wholesale condemnations are as gauche… as unexpected… as odd as only an autist’s behavior can be; whereas as a writer, if he wants to, e.g. in “The Repetition”, few know to differentiate as emphatically.
“Winter’s Journey” publication, in two installments, in the Süddeutsche Zeitung in 1996 set off the controversy; and it did not help, except the paper itself, that the S.Z. provocatively titled this travel account plus media cussing and rational argument “Justice for Serbia”, emphasizing just that one aspect. Thereupon Handke set off on his famous reading tour, sometimes in company of his fellow Austrian playwright, Peter Turrini.
The controversy then spilled seriously over to the U.S. and I will confine myself – largely - to its even more primitive version here.                            The German fracas had certain  memorable moments as where Peter Schneider, who carried the critic’s torch in Der Spiegel, claimed to tighten his pants before he set out to write, while Handke, a Mignon-ephebe in his youth, whose masculinity initially was so questionable that that gross bully Alan Ginsburg demanded of me to help him make a pass at Handke, who is proud how geil his formulations are, claimed that, as compared to Schneider, he kept his Hosenbund nice and loose! “I’m hot already, I don’t need to heat up my balls.”    After the mis-reception of the text Handke went on a Central European reading tour of of it, and on some occasion he and his backers, the Austrian playwright, Peter Turrini, did not take kindly to opposition question from the audience, whereas at others he kept his cool. During a public discussion in Madrid, Handke’s violent streak threatened to light forth, and he was reported to go for an extended walk in the country side. During the second coming of the controversy, on the occasion of pre-emptive attack on the Serbian infrastructure during the Kosovo war, Handke not only traveled, demonstratively to Belgrade PHOTO, but engaged in what can only be described as a series of running interviews with his eager media hunters, during one of which he disavowed the German Philosopher / Sociologist Jürgen Habermas title as philosopher for a single sentence in a long piece in Die Zeit LINK defending the NATO war. I happened to have translated a volume of Professor Habermas’ essays and during that time familiarized myself with nearly all his sometimes exceedingly laborious work and so had taken the trouble to work myself through Habermas’ tortured language in that essay, too, and had concluded that, once again, we had a German philosopher, who if pressed by the state would find a way to justify just about anything. Habermas subsequently commented that he thought NATO was merely going to administer a slap, not such a spanking – alas, our liberal philosophers and what they know about the demonstration show of an armament industry. When an interviewer pointed out to Handke that the writer poet essayist Hans Magnus Enzensberger endorsed the NATO action, Handke exploded in the kind of ad hominem attack that entirely failed to address the issue,  but in a manner that I concluded that this fussilade had lain well prepared on his tongue for many years, it’s just not the sort of well formulated rejoinder that comes trippingly out of the spontaneity mine:   QUOTE.  Again, it was someone whose work I knew well, and had translated quite a few, in some instances, magnificent essays. I could not make rhyme and reason for the intensity of the attack except to put it off to Handke’s envy of Enzensberger’s ability as an essayist, and, possibly, to Enzensberger’s nearly suave ability to argue his points calmly; to listen; all of which Handke is unlikely to learn to do. If it were for Enzensberger’s chameleon like ability to change colors with the changing winds, Handke might have a point; or that Enzensberger’s days as an interesting poet passed after his first three books in a long and varied career. All three persons are published by the same once formidable Suhrkamp Verlag. Anyhow, my misanthropist is certainly not currying anyone’s favor. Bully for him!

After three, at times quite archaic years, in Mexico, as  I was re-immersing myself in the world of global horror stories in 1094, it was with some real pathos that I set forth, as part of the larger Handke project, to try to follow this parallel campaign that shadowed the larger Yugoslav battles, from my far away vantage of Seattle. By now, its third coming in 2006, I feel like an old hand at retrieving information – in “real time” - via the world-wide web and the news sources available on line. It was not so at the inception of the controversy ten years ago.

My prior investigation of Handke’s origins and his psychology came immediately into good stead in 1996. I had put the single-minded Handke project on something of a hold during my years in Mexico, had come up North once a year to the Austrian Symposium at the University of California Riverside and given one lecture and chaired a few sessions; had kept up with my rabbit’s indefatigable yearly productions; had withdrawn my analytic monograph on my subject because, much as I knew, some critically important matters made no sense, and would not – or at least far more - until I found out that Handke was autistic; on my return North had given a lecture on Handke’s language saving the world [!] at San Diego State. A then mutual friend, the excellent writer and all around Don Juan Erich Skwara’s winged foot, but especially loose mouth disease kept me abreast of the goings on Chez Handke - indeed, as expected, my man was once again emotionally withdrawing from yet another wife, another blow-up was only a question of time; hopefully not another “Moment of True Feeling” and ”Nonsense+Happiness” like fuguing crisis; another girl, not the wished for, prematurely proclaimed boy, would have to be baby sat!

I realized that Handke, who at one time shared or used Gottfried Herder’s romantic nationalism to     support his wish for ever more languages, for the logos to articulate itself - with tight borders separating small principalities, bad roads that made for good people [the opposite of the principle of the open road, one of Handke’s many conflicts]
- contradicted himself with his endorsement of a centralized federation. I had found out that the two figures, the two relatives longed for in “Die Hornissen”, Handke’s first novel, were two uncles who had been WW Yugoslav Partisans and that their wartime letters were heirlooms in the Sivec family household in Griffen, Carinthia [XX] the porousness of that border;  “Die Hornissen” [1965] a difficult book,  suffused with longing, on the part of someone whose finest side, I eventually concluded, not only from the immense portion of mother love he had imbibed already intrauterine [plus a modicum of anaclytic depression], also derives from the then psychically internalized position of what anthropologists call “the avunculate,” for the two dead missing uncles [!].
   I was aware, most keenly, of the importance of the famously cussing, violent tempered forever geil, groping, well into his eighties, Grandfather Sivec within Handke’s psychic economy, that already in childhood he had been a surrogate father figure, the more so because Handke had all the good human childhood reasons to hate his stepfather, the only thing with whom Handke seemed to share was a last name; though as one delved more deeply into Handke’s psyche, the stepfather, as negative model for Handke’s sexuality, had bequeathed unpleasant consequences to his stepson while exposing him for a dire decade, as of age two, to the horrors of violent drunken primal scenes.[XX]
I realized what psychic work, labora verimus, it had been to internalize, absorb, join this hot-tempered figure, insteading him - in the re-writing, re-imagining of “Sorrow Beyond Dreams” that is “The Repetition” - while finally learning Slovene, preparing his own Slovene-German dictionary, PHOTO well enough to be able to translate - for the hated father figures in “S.B.D.”  - where Handke also shows contempt for his real father when this Herr Schönherr shows up to take his neglected, but not forgotten, offspring on a high school graduation trip: that arrogant portrayal in “S.B.D.” one of numerous later regrets [XX]. Handke had done this job of the internal sea change in his being, best as I could tell, entirely without the facilitating assistance that a good analyst might have provided in such an undertaking. – That this grandfather figure, meanwhile, might want some revising, updating would appear self-evident.
   “The Repetition, ” the rewriting of “Sorrow Beyond Dreams”, the second entry, was as much a key text for me as Handke’s first novel “The Hornets” which he had written, aged 24, on the Yugoslav, now Croation, Island Krk, [“I croaked in Krk” just has to be a Croation rock tune?]. That entire, quite extensive background, well aged by now within the good oak of my revisable memory vat, also provided me with a clue, not just to Handke’s favoring a united Yugoslavia, since Granddad already endorsed it in the plebiscite 1921 [as a form of continuation of the now defunct Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the K.u.K.; while its post WW II version, for Handke, who with all his success has never quite gotten his childhood poverty, the culture of poverty out of his system, it presented an alternative, at least an imaginable, counter-formation to the E.U.], but also the hint of an explanation of a possible transference affection of Handke’s onto the Big Bad Woolf from P.; why Handke is so protective of him, for I don’t think Handke’s attempt to salvage Milosevic is an instance of Handke’s perversity, or of his sheer, near automatic contrariness, uppetiness, or obstreperousness, or of the side that, in “The Repetition” adopted the name of a Slovenian independence fighter Kobal, of the rebel that Handke can be too – though he denies being a rebel in one of these recent interviews, perhaps just testing the interviewer’s knowledge {X} – Filip Kobal, Handke’s surrogate self in “The Repetition” who is on his way to Slovenia, to Ljubljana, to locate an uncle who has gone there to study horticulture, an ultra sensitive, slightly depressed Percival on his way to becoming a gentler pastoralist. “The Repetition” is a book with the kind of syntax that can put you, the person sensitive to syntax, who really reads, for Handke’s syntax enforces reading, in touch with the God of Slowness… the god that heals a sick [and angry] heart better than any medicine as it walks the dusty roads. Nothing, or perhaps everything that the flippant really need. Also: large, wonderful sections of the lives of several characters in “No-Man’s-Bay” are set in Yugoslavia, along the Dalmatian coast, in Dubrovnik. Oh how amazing it was to have that now, 2006, truly noxious juiced writer, Salmon Rushdie, who at that point knew nothing but what he had absorbed during the media witch hunt – which had started to focus near exclusively on what was transpiring in Sarajevo -interrupted, overshadowed in self-display during a European book tour by both the war and the Handke controversy, call Handke “fool of the year” for having his say in a matter on which Handke might of course not be entirely right, but was deeply equipped to know. Rushdie’s outcry was typical. But I think it was preceded by “Sarajevo Susan,” as I think of Susan Sontag [as per “Hanoi Jane”] with respect of her theatrical self-display  during the internecine strife in that city, as essayist and person and general good egg much beloved by me except as novelist, who had been helpful in convincing my colleagues at Farrar, Straus in taking on Handke’s early plays there, and who, after her stint in braving danger in Sarajevo, as though stepping out of the Godard film that must have been playing inside her head all along, was to play “hiding, dashing in and out of doorways while there is shooting going on” [xx]; and, during the Kosovo war, say something as horrendous as “And now the Serbs are the victims” in the chief organ for hunting Serbian witches, the    NY Times Sunday Magazine,
witch hunters galore among the Benetton ads, Roger Cohen the lead hunter,


 no end of hunters of corruption in Belgrade: it was most galling to see writers in New York of all places, or any American writer anywhere for that matter, getting exercised over corruption in other parts of the planet. The New York Times, with one bureau chief after another and oodles of partisan reporters in Yugoslavia, did not get its act together there until Steve Erlanger became bureau chief; unfortunately “Auntie” has too few Erlangers to go around, bureau chiefs who are sufficiently adroit to be equanimious and not to editorialize or push a party line, which is not much but I suppose the best that you can ask and hope for under the circumstances. [It was not that much of a surprise to find out during Mr. Okrent’s tenure as the N.Y. Times’ first ombudsman that the regular reporters despised what was published among the Benneton ads.]

“And now the Serbians are the victims”, Susan Sontag wrote in the N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine, a statement that on the face it proved her ignorance of the half a million Serbs displaced from Croatia, not to mention the Serbian victims in Bosnia, and the Serbian victims in Kosovo, proving her entire, total complete ignorance of the complexity of the disintegration and all around violence. How American I feel like saying to find a single culprit, to get exercised in that fashion if I did not know that there also exist, still, occasionally, American diplomats, such as Richard Holbrooke, who found the big bad wolf a more possible partner, during the Dayton Peace Talks and afterwards, then Izobetgevitch of Bosnia, or Tudjman of Croatia; as compared to the journalist pack, with editors as lead dogs.

On that stage of parading important worthies, if nothing else, fallible, singular Handke had at least chosen not to be part of the gang of what he termed humanity hyenas. He might be in opposition, but was the only one to stand out, and to deliver far better honed and memorably vicious verbal salvoes.
 Susan Sontag had proclaimed she would never again read another Handke book, it was dubious that she had read any recent ones for her then appreciation of this author. The controversy transferred intact from Germany to the New Republic whose literary editor apparently thought nothing of letting Handke’s chief German antagonist Peter Schneider write an entirely predictable review of “Winter’s Journey”,
By: Schneider, Peter
Reviews the book "A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia," by Peter Handke and translated by Scott Abbott.
and then refused to run a letter by Professor Abbot refuting Schneider’s claim that Handke denied the crimes committed HTTP://WWWW.HANDKEYUGO.SCRIPTMANIA.COM
a scandal in any other country. The New York Review
found a hired gun in J.S. Marcus who, for Handke’s position on Serbia, questioned the value of his entire work, [“even the best”, without being able to qualify what made them good to begin with], misrepresented any number of them or gave them the most cursory of shrifts while examining Handke’s then latest, “One Dark Night…” {XX] for incipient pro-Serbianism and,  finding none, dismissed it as “dream writing”; that is, while failing to appreciate the heretofore unheard of feat of putting the reader into the dream  syntax of its protagonist [see Freud, Lacan, etc.], while missing, as it were, the Easter Egg of some blue and white UN semis dragging their wrecks northward on the Salzburg  Autobahn! - Handke, naturally [!] I feel like saying, at that time entirely opposed the  U.N. intervention in Bosnia, as he would later NATO’s in the pre-emptive Kosovo War, and of course NGO fostered democracy-seeding [Handke, in “village” matters, is a true “nativist”!], knows how to stick a nasty little dig, as “wish fulfillment,” even into a “dream book”! the Yugoslav humanity salvaging campaign altogether the preamble to the Iraq war for many of the war hungry humanity hyenas, the road-ragers among the lumpen, who might look to the troubles in their own country, the millions incarcerated there by the privatized prison industry, etc. etc. - Marcus on the witch hunt, and the  NYRB refused to run my corrective:
HTTP://WWWW.HANDKEYUGO.SCRIPTMANIA.COM & HTTP://WWWW.HANDKEPROSE-2.SCRIPTMANIA.COM [for a paragraph by paragraph decimation of Marcus’s ignorance.]
   Mary McCarthy had been right about the editors there, if you ran afoul of the party line of those big village intellectuals; another good reason not to be in New York while the N.Y. Review pulled out all stops to endorse yet another dreadful Sontag novel, one of their own;  not, it appears, that such pro domo advertising allayed Susan’s anxieties in that respect since, until the bitter end, she kept claiming that “in Europe”  they appreciate them. My ass they did or do! A bad show all around. And once the switches are set, the rest of the country falls in line, like neighing sheep, the bleats getting thinner as the echo is handed on until it is as thin as rice water by the time it trickles west coast to the Seattle Times. {XX} McCarthyism of the left I would say if what was going on wasn’t something far older and more common. “One has to remind oneself occasionally,” Teddy kept saying, “that intellectuals are not the worst of people.” But with consequences such as Scott Abbot being unable to have his translations of the other Handke Yugoslav books published by a University Press so that, unless you read German, you have no access to the voice that is being shouted down; not to speak of the performance of Handke’s plays. Farrar, Straus, faithfully, goes on publishing the politically not overtly overly contentious novels. [XX]

Handke does not really deny anything that occurred in Yugoslavia, something of which he has been foolishly and ignorantly accused by people who have not read his work, he does something more interesting, why in Gods name would he deny? However, he regards Yugoslavia through the same somewhat wishful prism, a now wider prism, with which he regarded Slovenia, a possibility that remained unrealized, something that might have been. Or who condemn him because they are not versed in the literary convention in which some of the Yugoslav writings are cast, nor have the faintest idea of how well versed this walker of the entire Dalmatian coast is of the region [SEE NZZ INTERVIEW-12], but have their own firmly held view, however arrived at, of what went down during the disintegration  between 1989 and 2006. Yet if you inquire of them how they came to their view are like the ordinary blokes who’ve relied on T.V, and the papers. What work it is to be more completely informed than the passive absorbers!
Something more complicated is upon us in this instance than outright denial or relativization, of which Handke has been accused, too.
In that most interesting interview with the Croatian weekly Globus, LINK-13] Handke, the forest madman chef extraordinaire in the  kitchen of his castle, asserts that it cannot be possible that anyone might have attacked, bombed, shelled destroyed something as wondrous, a jewel, the center of Dubrovnik ... after all, he had celebrated his 45th birthday there! It was a statement that left me breathless with astonishment, not only for Handke's once again extraordinary self-referentiality, but because this wishful assertion was the repetition of a statement from “A Winter's Journey,” the book that he wrote in 1996 that set off the furor, where he reports that his then wife, now again mademoiselle Semin [with whom he was then on a rather belated wedding trip, typical of south Slavic mores, child left with yet another grandmother] asked him if he wanted to deny everything. That moment in “Winter’s Journey,” for those who know Handke's way of writing, is a wonderful admission of his wish if only he could deny, something that, in special circumstances, such as the bombing shelling of Dubrovnik he then tries to once again ten years later! and does shortly after having made all the requisite admission and in the standard language so as to be admitted back into the club. {XX} – Handke, who is more capable of surpassing denial through realistic transformation in his prose – and through alterations of the audience’s state of mind in the theater - than any artist of that kind whose work I know, excepting possibly Adalbert Stifter, occasionally does seek to disavow what cannot be disavowed; and I once saw him doing so in person, that kind of splitting goes way back into the earliest childhood; Handke knows how to lie like the worst of them; he even admits it that he lies like the dickens when he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar; and does perhaps also in the case of Milosevic, about whom he does not feel neutral or has no feelings one way or the other as Handke also claims to some interviewers.
It has occurred to me, who knows Handke’s life history back to the midwifes report of his birth [no problems, head first, no umbilical cords to strangle the little beast!] that that capacity to be capable of disavowal was a very early psychic survival mechanism of his under special circumstances – thus any admissions will have, preferably, to be made through indirection, sort of like peeking at matters out of the corner of your eyes, his Euripedean dramas do not show the horror onstage; glancingly, instead of head-on: in “A Winter’s Journey” Handke expresses his chagrin at what has occurred in the following manner: standing by a destroyed bridge by a river trough which the corpses floated not long ago he reports skipping angry stones over the water - evidently a signifier that did not suffice for his critics. Instead his detractors picked on the adjective “noodle yellow” as being impermissible under the circumstances. Nothing idyllic please, Mr. Handke. In “A Summer’s Addendum”, the sequel to “Winter’s Journey”, Handke, speaking of not denying anything, has a Serbian, at the sight of Srebrenica - whom he apparently saw, but who then figures as his own mouthpiece, overtly theatrical metaphor - express the wildest outrage to the extent of not wanting to be a Serbian, over and over and over – which, originally, elicited from me, who had been closely following Handke’s progress during these events, the then written thought HTTP://WWWW.HANDKEYUGO.SCRIPTMANIA.COM

“who in God’s name ever asked this son of a German paymaster and a woman of the Slovenian minority in the Austrian province of Carinthia, who detests Germans and fat Austrians, and who not that many years before had chosen, worked like the devil to create a Slovenian identity for himself, who had learned Slovenian to the point where he could translate the work of some of their great writers and poets into German, to assume the identity of a Serbian!” That was before I had it all puzzled out! So the persistence of the inviolability of Dubrovnik resurfacing ten years later, my aging, well-smoked lungs... got the most wonderful workout when I came on that passage in the Globus Interview. Identity politics, narcissistically over-laden  selves!
   Handke, as those who have read his allegedly most closely read and famous book might know, was as it were born to denial, of the many species and energies of it, “attacks on linking” Alfred Bion calls it, lending an interesting twist to what is going on in the psyche. During those ten years of exposure to violent primal scenes QUOTE.. he pulled the covers over his head, but I suspect peered out from under a few times to the horrific yet hot making, pornographic sight of what transpired, what was done to his beloved, once exclusively his mother: the birth of life-long rage, which he now calls “sacred”... when he allows, or retrospectively excuses, one of his outbursts. - Handke does not report whether or not he initially screamed furiously at the inception of those scenes at age two; whether he fell asleep in despair, nor it appears, from reading his “Essay on Tiredness” - which provides a laundry list of matters that make him both angry and tired - has given any thought to reasons for his insomnia, which has real uses for someone who wants to write and seeks to be the Napoleon of language. - Whence, these experiences, we eventually - by way of being able to control the anxiety through masturbating, and then show how we can even do it – as surrogate for all our anxiety - via works of literature - fashion ourselves into a writer of lyric epics who gradually acquires mastery of the entire classical repertoire and does so in the age of film - of Stifter in particular - who used to be known to writers such as W.H. Auden and Louise Bogan - in whose writing the thunderstorm, the horror is always just off stage, as in Classical drama, the horrors are left to the imagination, not the sort of thing that will succeed in reality deprived T.V. culture [the internet is in many ways just an extension of it] are verbally evoked, but not shown, lending the lyricism of his prose a peculiar tension, but also sufficient consensual beauty QUOTE so that you might even be able to forget the horror, at times,  not always focus on it exclusively. “Close your eyes, and the world will arise anew” is the beginning of “Across” [“Chinese des Schmerzens,” 1982] whose chief claim to our attention as readers is not the unhappy, guilt-ridden, murderous, tortured consciousness of its protagonist Loser, but the detailed Ruysdaelesque celebration of the landscape in the Salzburg surround; Van Ruysdael instead of the anticipated Cezanne, since this was the first prose work subsequent to Handke’s Cezanne book, “The Lesson of St. Victoire”. Lots of ways celebrating the surround of Salzburg, just go on line to see how the Chamber of Tourism does it. Somewhat ennobled is how a van Ruysdael comes out, painterly yet sufficiently realistic, somewhat but not entirely sublime recollection of the pastoral - a geological map is another possibility; the possibilities of representation are not quite but nearly endless. Trakl is from Salzburg too. I found its alleys to be quite expressionistic. Handke’s principle of “the Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld” has matured by the time he writes “Across”, it has been adumbrated, it is far richer. If Handke were an absinthe addict, and not a white wine aficionado, it might have come looking like late van Gogh.
Example # 2: A woman in blackface starts up a vacuum cleaner at the opening of the fairly sinister “Ride Across the Bottom Lake/ Bodensee=Lake Constance,” sweeping away all prior theatrical conventions; actors who impersonate actors proceed to play the most extraordinary, somewhat Ionesco-like, reason-nonsense language games, and the world, through that discombobulation, for a few hours, becomes something very light; unless you are looking for the coat hanger of a story to hang and forget your self on; that is a far more estranging and puzzle-inducing event than anything Brecht ever managed, especially with its dark undercurrents.
So there is something to charges of denial, or certainly of not being unrelievedly Goyaesque, about the horrors of the civil war. His critics say that it would also have been possible to notice similar rural details during WW II in Germany. Certainly, I did myself as a very young child, as trains took me from smoking bombed city to another. Genet, bumming his way back to France from Poland in the late 30s, noted, subsequently, in his “Journal de Voleur,” that Germany was simply the worst because the police and the criminals were one and the same! How unthoughtful of the Nazis! Poor Genet! French criminals need their clear distinction, too, or at least used to.
 But why, I ask myself, must these 100 French intellectuals, whose number is probably tenfold  in this country, insist on wanting to stick Handke’s nose into the dog shit, what is going on inside their righteous psyches??? Why can they not accept someone’s work who puts these matters in his own unusual way? On what background does all this righteousness with its roots in psychotic violence play out, quite automatically? I make a few guesses towards the end, or perhaps I will do more than that. In what respect are they any less fundamentalist than religious fundamentalists everywhere in the world?

Question is, Handke raised it himself during the controversy’s third coming, to what extent if any a lyrical epic writer such as he can even be in a conversation with a journalistic representation of these horrendous events. The controversy was sufficiently virulent for the Deutsche Akademie to convene a symposium on that very topic, which Handke, however, then did not attend! The interesting theoretician of the public sphere Okar Negt, there said that Milosevic must have confused Handke. No, if anyone confused Handke, he confused himself.


Handke who began  - in his first two or three novels - as the purest of phenomenologists [while also showing off his Liszt-like playful virtuosity in his 25 page rewrite of Kafka’s “The Trial”] as pure registrar radar, and who is very much within a concise laconic ancient tradition, shares some of the qualities of the better journalism, the purely notational, the recorder, going back all the way to Thucydides, the “just the facts, Ma’am” type journalism that marks “Sorrow Beyond Dreams”. Handke, with his liking for the American Black Mask writers Hammet and Raymond Chandler, of Fitzgerald, in his early works – “Hornissen,” [The Hornets] “Der Hausierer”, [The Peddler][available in several Romance languages] “Goalies Anxiety at the Penalty Kick,” “Short Letter Long Farewell,” “Sorrow Beyond Dreams” - is even very much of an American writer, albeit endowed with  formalist intention and the ability to write in deep grammar and control of the reader’s attention, that is with a jongleurs knowledge of the psychology of his audience, who, moreover, has early meta-fictional awareness of the dubiousness of narrative, and learns to make his breaks more and more confidently. As a matter of fact, there are two Handke’s, the writer of texts for the theater, and the progressively more subjectively oriented prose writer. The playwright has always been engaged in a conversation, initially a very confrontational one, with an audience in the public sphere, which, however, during the course of his maturing and deepening has followed him to such a small degree that he now writes – or did from “Walk About the Villages” [1982] until “The Play about the Film about the War”  [1999] as pieces that could also be read, that did not require performance to reach an audience. These texts were non-naturalistic, had forms that resembled musical texts and their reality existed only on stage, and therefore stand in a very different  relationship to their audience than any and all of the various forms of theater.  An audience that responds to the playfulness  of Ionesco will respond to them as well, although, as compared to Ionesco, they are devoid of the absurd, excepting that is in both respects for the very Austrian and Brechtian tragic-comedy of the Business world “The Are Dying Out” which contains recognizable types who play types yet who are as absurd as only types can be, and which has a fine surrealist existential ending.
   Handke’s prose work, beginning with “Die Hornissen” but excepting his second and third books, “Der Hausierer”  [The Peddler] and “Goalie’s Anxiety”, which stand under the influence of Robbe-Grillet and of an objectivist logical positivist psychology, as do the plays “Kaspar” and “Lake Constance”, of that period, become progressively more personal, no matter that the “self” that presents itself in them becomes more and more expansive, culminating in the exposition of the many-sided self in “My Year in the No-Man’s Bay” while continuing to present it in an objective manner. Whereas the first three or four books or five book [culminating in the suicidal “A Moment of True Feeling”] tempted the danger of an apparently deeply accessible anxiety, so as to demonstrate its conquest [the artist as surrogate conqueror as it were], beginning with “The Left-Handed Woman” and an opening into a more mythic space and the introduction of painterly elements into his descriptions he  has rejoined the classical narrative tradition of the lyric epic with which English writing world is not all that familiar. Frequently the lyric epis stands in stark contrast to contrast of the troubled soul of the protagonist [the author in one of his many guises, Sorger of “A Slow Homecoming”, Loser of “Across”, Gregor Keuschnig of “My Year in the Noman’s Bay”!]; at other instances, such as the wandering epic “Absence” whose reading is experiences as though you were watching a film, the author’s troubled self does not intrude.
   No matter Handke’s affinity to reportorial and historical prose writing, his preternatural sensitivity to anything platitudinous, to the boiler plate of journalism, both in its phraseology and in its paragraphing and focussing, to its necessary gnat’s view of events, to all that it of a necessity of its own making excludes, would make him a liability as a reporter. He refuses, no is probably pre-naturally incapable to hoe the line of the extreme limitation that journalism imposes.+ So one can take from what the writer Peter Handke saw and noted during his several many trips what there is to get. As subjectivities go, his is certainly one of the most valuable. However, it appears that an audience raised journalistic prose narrative is as addicted to it as Americans are on junk food.
Yet Handke is also a good and trustworthy historian and chronicler, say “A Child’s Story” or “Sorrow Beyond Dreams”, of his personal life “Weight of the World”, and thus can be trusted with a travelogue [many sections from “Noman’s Bay” appear to depend on worked-up notes from his travels.] “Everything has an autobiographical basis,” he  tells Herbert Ganscher, which does not so much mean a one to one relationship of events but includes – say “Der Hausierer’s” extreme states of anxiety -  for which he finds equivalences.
 “Weight of the World” is as honest as it gets, and the kind of appalling record of what one does and thinks and feels that might give the conscientious pause to realize that one needed to change. “A Sorrow Beyond Dreams” is a historical report as well as a mourning, even though Handke then said he was writing more about himself than his mother. “A Child’s Story,” part of the title called “A Slow Homecoming” in American, is, best as I who saw a good deal of Handke in the places that the book covers, an extremely honest and adequately concise account, inasmuch as it focuses on the father-daughter relationship… that it is not a complete history of Handke during those years, only sharpens its focus. So just about anything that Handke addresses, in  whatever form, is bound to be a record at least of his truth.
The fourth Yugoslavia book, “Unter Tränen Fragend” [Imploringly in Tears], written subsequent to the Kosovo war PHOTO, has a woman… towards the end …indeed, imploring at what is transpiring: is that not a sufficient human response that is being theatrically metaphorized? Not it appears for quite a few German critics who responded so predictably to the successor volumes to “Winter’s Journey” that one doubted they had even opened the covers. ”Tears” also notes, in Handke’s laconic fashion, “Yugoslav tank communism” and the danger of running into the para-militaries - which had been my first image, Arkan in his black mask, to penetrate my idyll in Mexico. “Tears” recounts, wondrously for me who is keenly aware of  Handke’s aversion to the need for business transactions, Handke, and to his own surprise, taking pleasure in flourishing the barter trade to which the embargo had reduced Serbia during those years, something he admits that he, the one time paper box factory worker who sometimes strikes me as to the manor born in his attitude to business, used to detest.

When I set out on this entire set of findings, this attempt, once in my life, to follow a story for years on end, I was not any longer particularly well disposed towards some aspects of the person of Peter Handke, which distancing, however, pleasurable as it is to live at some remove form him, as it must have been from Beethoven, failed in the least to keep me from being enriched by his work as I have been by no other contemporary writer during the past 20 some years, which of course also redeemed aspects of his person through growing understanding. As as matter of fact, considering how aware I had become by then of Handke proclivity to steal the limelight, of a vanity that is as afraid of a speck of dust on his coat as your standard cat is of a drop of water, I approached my task with the suspicions of a detective; the more so because, initially, I was of course exposed only to U.S. media accounts of these events.

In Germany it is said that Handke’s 1999 play “Die Fahrt im Einbaum oder das Stück zum Film über den Krieg” [The Trip in the Dugout Canoe: Or the Play about the Film about the War] see: +
is his most differentiated take on  Yugoslavia and its disintegration, not that I have seen anyone, except myself, take the trouble to specify what the greater differentiation, by itself, or compared to Handke’s written or spoken pronouncements on the subject might be. “Canoe,” for short, is the as of still now, last attempt within the now honorable tradition of post world war II German speaking theater to pose, demonstrate, make available for contemplation and discussion, rational entertainment, issues of great national and social import, a tradition that, most immediately, has its root in Brecht’s rational-oriented theater. Important plays within that tradition that have also made an impact in the English speaking theater are the likes of Grass’s “The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising,” which addresses the problematics of the engagé artist [Brecht] rehearsing Coriolanus during the 1953 East German workers uprising, to point out possibly irreconcilable contradictions between artistic and political activities at a particular moment in history; [2] Rainer Kipphardt’s “In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer”; Peter Weiss’s Auschwitz trial play “The Investigation”.
   “Canoe's” proposition to investigate, entertain the history of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, resembles “Plebeians” in that it take as its mediating matter a film script, that is of the 28th docu-drama that is to be made about Yugoslavia. It is an ingenious, if not a genius’s idea. Two directors, stand-ins for Louis Bunuel and John Ford, that is for the long view and for the absurd-grotesque, that is for the audience’s p.o.v., have some actors act out, discuss, play out the screen play. Basically we have the situation of a play within a play - where the play within the play is alterable, the way matters used to be alterable, tried out as in Brecht’s honorable theatrical rehearsal tradition. Within that proposition everyone - as in the “everyone is in the right” of Handke’s “Walk about the Villages” - has their say. The stage manager who comments, the forest madman, the local “historian,” the “internationals” [newsmen as well as interventionist forces], a newsman [Greek] who seeks to come back out of the cold of not being heard - so that you have the various contending points of view articulated. At the end, the two wise directors beg off, they lack confidence that such an amount of truth is saleable.
   The play, which premiered, Klaus Peymann director, at the Burg Theater in 1999, was caught up in controversy, due to its author’s controversial nature, already during rehearsal during the Kosovo campaign, and most reviewers [except for Kaiser of the Süddeutsche] opposed it, reducing one or the other point of view to the author’s own personal view as he expressed them in his various unhappy screams of pain and outrage. Something similar happened in this country, where the only real note [aside a German Professor’s demonstration of the inability to read xx] taken of it was in J.S. Marcus’ NYRB piece, which is singular in its lack of understanding of the dramatic history of convention of the piece, and tries to reduce it to Handke’s political opinions on Yugoslavia, with which he disagrees. Marcus thinks he can reduce Handke’s voice to that of the “Fellfrau” [Bearskin Woman], a symbolic representation of the “canoe” [try making love in a canoe was one of the prime challenges facing me as a teenage canoe instructor!] of the eternally wild Serbian spirit coursing down the untamed rivers in the Balkans; a Bearskin woman who then tries to unfold a “United Nations” type “people all living their happy differentness” happily forever living with each other tent, a tent that, however, collapses. Marcus pointed out, usefully for me, Handke’s quoting of Danner, Handke ought to have picked the b.s. artist Roger Cohen to make his points of propagandistic one-sided journalism more successfully.    There is no reducing the play to one of Handke’s view points unless you reduce it to all its points of views being Handke’s, which comes closer to the truth in the sense that an author’s characters are aspects of his self. In that sense I think that the concept for the play is of Brechtian, Shakespearean strength. However, Handke’s text [who meanwhile has so become pessimistic that he writes his big plays in such a way as though they will only be read, so few of them are rarely performed] will tax an audience’s patience in the extreme in this instance, for “Canoe” does not afford the same linguistic grandeurs and richness of the perhaps overly rich “Walk about the Villages” nor the already better tempered, extended meal of “The Art of Asking” – for, during some stretches “Canoe” becomes a history lesson that it is a pleasure to read, but not to hear; and this despite the fact that Handke’s use of the screen play as the central organizing principle, of course, also avails him of the quick cuts, of the superiority in efficiency that the screenplay allows: nonetheless... too much exposition. Thus the reception of the play was not helped I don’t think, with Peymann, who continues to be a bit too overawed by Handke’s talent, too perfect of a master’s encouraging servant, putting “Canoe” on uncut. The play is also a “model” in the way Brecht used that term: it is adaptable to other historical circumstances.
   Among the various contending points of view, versions of the truth, that appear in “Canoe” is some appreciation, the only time I have seen Handke voice it, of the centrifugal forces in the Southern Balkans. “We never were meant to get along together.” “It was a forced marriage all along.” Matters of that kind. Also, for me, the translator of Handke’s “They Are Dying Out” it came, briefly, as a bafflement to run into the rhythms of an old familiar condemnation aria with different words, Handke’s all purpose condemnation aria, it appear; briefly surprised I was because I had realized in the late 80s, deconstructing the components for the screenplay of “Wings of Desire” what a carpenter collage artist Handke is, who doesn’t throw anything in his shop away, and remembers where the best pickings are kept!
   Behind “Canoe” as also behind “Walk about the Villages” lies the chiffre play “Quodlibet” [1970] – as you like it -  the play “to catch the conscience of the king,” the audience being the modern king, ah what eternal optimism dwells in the heart of certain playwrights. In “Quodlibet” the great whores, the powerful of this world, and CIA/ KGB folk walk around the stage mouthing one liners that are double or triple entendres: it is the only text of Handke’s that depends, like “Finnegan’s Wake,” on the principle of auditory hallucination, a specie of “pathology of the everyday”. For example, I translated / adapted / alluded to the “My Lay massacre”  by creating the line “and Mary was me last best lay”… Although one might not think so on the basis of some of Handke’s interviews and verbal explosions or extended tantrums, he remains true to the salvaging principle of ambiguity throughout his theatrical work.

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MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website