Saturday, February 20, 2010



I wanted to call your attention especially to a recent marvelous title that Farrar,
Straus declined, Kali [note of mine attached which can also be found at the
page devoted to this novel at

FSG it appears  consulted Handke's current chief translator Krishna Winston
who said it was like some other Handke that had already been done, and also
that she did not want to be completely overwhelmed. While I entirely understand
the second of her reservations, I also entirely disagree with the first,  as is spelled out in detail in my "Note". Handke prides himself on not repeating himself,
and can be said, with all the other contradictions he has committed, not  to have doneso in this instance, so far.

 Moreover, there are other important Handke titles on which Farrar, Straus
has passed, most importantly the second volume of his spontaneous diary 
notations, Die Geschichte des Bleistifts [The History of the Pencil, L'Histoire de Crayon and also in Spanish and Portuguese,  etc.,  published by Residenz Verlag, Salzburg in 1981] which details not only Handke's then troubled state of mind, as in the first diary volume Weight of the World, but, more importantly, details his thinking on how his art is changing, focusing on what would become "the change" to what is called his "homecoming" period, and on Walk About the Villages. This, aside Villages, happens to be my  favorite - that is valuable to me - Handke title!
There are two further diary volumes Am Felsfenster Morgens and Gestern Unterwegs [Mornings, at the Boulder Window + Yesterday, On My Way] that were published by 
 former Residenz editor Jochen Jung at his own firm Jung & Jung, also Salzburg at about 1989 and 2005 respectively. As an American publisher I would combine the two into one volumeand edit them with the English speaking public in mind. 

Scott Abbot has just completed a wonderful translation of Handke's great 1999 play
Voyage by Dugout: The Play about the Film About the War and some marvelous
plays remain untranslated: La Cuisine   [and unusually delightful text that he
did for the Serbian director Materic] ; Zurüstungen für die Unsterblichkeit [Preparations for Immortality 1996] and the most recently produced play
Als der Tag uns scheidet, a pendant to Beckett's Krapps Last Tape that has received wide noticeand, being a two character play, is beloved by cash-strapped theaters for that reasons alone!

And another, about guerrillas! partisans! -Storm Still - is about to premiere in Vienna.

Scott Abbot wants to do a combined edition of all of Handke's Yugoslavia texts
aside the one that was published by Viking, Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia that is, to combine that with the first Abschied vom Traum vom 9ten Land, Sommerlicher Nachtrag, and Unter Tränen Fragend as well as Daimiel & Rund um das Tribunal as well as the most recent of those texts, one which deserves to be published as a stand alone it is so extraordinary [see the prose site for a discussion of it, also the Handke blogs] Die Kuckucke von Velica Hoca [The Cuckoos of Velica Hoca] where Handke, the old cusser of journalists, shows how to do it right.

Farrar Straus started to mispublish Handke about the time that they
combined the novel A Slow Homecoming with the diary of walking The Lesson of
Saint Victoire and the memoir of Handke raising his daughter Amina, A Child's Story
instead of doing these very different books separately. This made for an entirely
confused reception, which persists, vide Benjamin Kunkel's introduction to the
recent NYRB Books reprint of A SLOW HOMECOMING where he speculates 
in true postmenstrualist fashion on how these texts [which were never meant
to be published together or regarded in that dried Tampax fashion] how that
space between them exist in sprung rhyme, I am kidding]

That FSG passed on three of Handke's greatest texts Walk about the Villages and The Art of Asking  and The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other done respectively by Ariadne Books and Yale University Press, doing so despite the fact that Kaspar and Other Plays had gone through more than ten editions by then, that the second play collection, tThey Are Dying Out and Other Plays had sold out, and actually ought to have been reprinted.
Fault for this mis-publication lies chiefly with the now deceased Runyonesque Culture-Vulture Roger Straus. Scott recently called my attention to a letter that Straus, in the early 90s,, sent to Siegfried Unseld and which Unseld gave to Handke who showed it to Scott....a daisy chain  now coming full circle - which says that he's got a major problem:Handke .... and it appears in usual fashion that Rogah failed to reflect that Handke sales - which is what the problem was then about, prior to Rogah! dissociating himself from Handke's undertakings in matters Yugoslavian - of his very own making since FSG had sold semimasspaperback editions of prior work several times over, and the first book of plays had had 10 + editions. Rogah and his succession of editors who get Handke piled on their desk on joining the firm, imagine being settled with the re-incarnation of Goethe as you a very junior thing start to work at such an august firm... well Handke must have had at least ten of them by now. A couple of the earlier ones, one of whom also was mine, and Nancy Meiselas were fine, and so was the recently departed Annie Wedekind... but how can one even keep up with the whelming and how can they poor things with having this towering work bestowed on them, a tower that keeps on growing. Elizabeth Sifton fresh out of Radcliffe got Saul Bellow and swam, did not sink, and I can
see why Saul would have been happy too... after possible initial apprehensions....
read Ms. Sifton's delightful account of the experience at:
However, two editors who were not really Handke's editors, Michael DiCapua,
who if he had had his druthers initially would have blackballed Handke
as he did so many other of my projects, as well as Steve Wasserman who
when he ran Noonday Books, the forever stepchild paperback line, and
Hill + Wang, the designated  play-publishing wing, appears not to have
known either what do to do with these plays or the prose.

 Thus it continues to be amateur time, and I am Jonah ambergris that survived
that experience who realized early on translating the early plays and directing
them and participating in their production that the kid from Griffen was a genuis,
and it would have taken a genius to guess how he developed, a matter that Siegfried
Unseld, too, then had his hunches.

I myself have no interest in translating any of these,  as a matter, since I have
to complete some of my own scribblings, the only author for whom I would
interrupt these is last year's Büchner Prize winner, Josef Winkler, one of whose books I did for Ariadne. His work gives me a great charge.
However,  there is a bunch of what look like fine translators from the German, a whole new generation  has sprung up in the meanwhile. Perhaps even Mr. Joel Agee who commented unfavorably on Krishna Winston's translation of Handke's recently published Don Juan might want to try his hand at one of these. He did a fine enough
job with a Nossack whom I introduced at Farrar, Straus these many years ago.

If anyone wants to republish my translations of INNERWORLD and of NONSENSE AND HAPPINESS and add the wonderful long poem GEDICHT AN DIE DAUER, as Bartelsby
in Spain did just now in Spain with their complete Handke poems....

I will send this on also to a few other American publishers that have sprung
up to do translations once I have their e-mails.

The first Robins are back in Seattle but no early morning mating calls yet
to ease me out of my dreams into the  day.

Michael Roloff

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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