Monday, April 12, 2010

Yet another Letter to Johnathan Galassi at Farrarr, Straus about the proposed HANDKE READER

April 2010

Dear Jonathan Galassi,

Attached you will find a proposed "Handke Reader", 
not yet fine-tuned, and the thought that went into each section. Such a
"reader" will be a boombox of a book, and force the morons to think
a little bit about what the genius who wants to be and may be the best writer ever is up to. 

I put it to you: you can put Handke over in this country...
or  fail to do so
!  You are the publisher and he deserves  your attention to the same degree
as he has that of his German publishers, Ulla  now instead of Siegfried Unseld,
and of Jochen Jung. You have an author of the importance of  Joyce of Proust on your
hands, actually of greater importance for the logos, and he deserves
a publisher's personal care, not to be palmed off to whatever editor
who never gets up to speed, or be treated as shoddily
and amateurishly as he has been not only over the years but currently by
Farrar, Straus
 [details exquisited once more below],  and now under your aegis...
[and  you have my assurance that I empathize with whatever load of work you carry]...
what with passing on the amazing marvels KALI and THE CUCKOOS OF VELICA HOCA.
Consulting his first rate translator of his prose who, however, hasn't a clue about
Handke from 1965 to the late eighties, won't do; and even my trying to convince
her [with whom I have been in the most pleasant touch for more than ten years],
that it is essential to read WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, because
Handke takes recourse to so much from his most essential work...
so much, his cradle... including the rhythms of some long section of DEL GREDOS.
Krishna, translating so many other authors, and also teaching, hasn't
the time, and I quite understand; but there are other fine translators, and consultants,
and since there is already a Handke industry - 200 books and dissertations? -
 , and he is bound to win the Nobel,
as no one deserves it more for what he has availed the logos... You know,
get on the ball, don't miss this chance.
If he doesn't I will loose yet another shirt off my back! Or be skinned alive!
I want the great exhibitionist of the protean self for once to be
able to address the entire   world... . Whether that will stanch his wound - who knows? 
I sort of doubt it.  Will provide sufficient mirroring?

There are some fine Germanisten, also in this country who
 have concentrated on him and so have a far better idea than
 Krishna of the whole of his work and the
stages it has gone through. German and Austrians galore.
And isn't there an editor in the house who
has German??? Don't be caught too flat-footed.

So [1] do 
Kali before you do Moravian Night and Handke will add
some Wagnerians to his readership, maybe... because 
Moravian will provide those
 who have their knives out  in this country [aside reviewers who cannot
 read or have an actual experience of a text or report experiences if they actually have them
I knew we lived in another dark age, just didn't think it would be that dark]
 with ample meat to sink  those knives . Even I have my Bowie out for about three
serious instances there!

I encountered the phenomenon of ridiculous reviewers once before
in my life, my freshman year, during which I managed to devote
every course to Faulkner. And since I used to be idiotically optimistic...
I didn't think I might see the likes again.

If something like the "reader" becomes a working project,
Handke I expect will have some ideas of his own so will 
 his editors, Jochen Jung and Raimund Fellinger,
 anyhoo, it needs to be batted about a bit, although anything
along the lines of what's called "process" here in Seattle will
  delay it for another fifty years. After all,
the major theaters here are still longing to put on 
Mother Courage,
which premiered in Zurich in the early 1940s,
Seattle has been "rounded" by all of modernism, and in that
fashion basks in being "post modern."

Needed aside good introducers to the various sections - e.g.
John D'Agata for the section on how Handke writes his essays [?] -
is someone sound  to do the general introduction. My first
choice would be William Gass, who provided the one and only peer review that
Handke received in all these years in this country [L.A. Times/ No-Man's Bay].
However, I gather that Mr. Gass is in no position to do that at age 85. Richard Gilman who
provided the first response to Handke's drama is no longer with us.
Via my letter to the NY Times on the occasion of the atrocity that
 Neil Gordon, head of the New School writing program, [oh look how the world
goes to the dogs!] committed on Del Gredos  I came into contact with James Wood at Harvard.
You would have to approach him. He would be my own first choice now.
 On the other hand, if he does a long piece in the New Yorker that might be at least as good.
David Bromwich I found out a few years ago was introduced to Handke's work through me!
I had no idea. I've followed his work for about 35 years.
Frank Kermode, also about 85, wrote the initial reception in the NYRB
in the 70s. Michael Wood then followed up there.  Harold Bloom is no spring chicken
and I have no idea whether he has appraised Handke. A friend has approached
Denis Donahue,  so far I haven't a clue whether he's ever read Handke, but
Mr. Donahue is certainly someone to keep in mind, I gather that when he does
matters along that line, he wants to read EVERYTHING - that 
might be daunting, and I have no idea whether he has German. Perhaps
Greil Marcus, who is a fan at least of the early work and wrote a fine intro
to the re-issue of SHORT LETTER LONG FAREWELL.

I know a little bit about "readers", they can also be "bread and butter" books
and I did quite a few of them, the "Frankfurt School Reader" being probably the
most famous , never got to do # 2, and would have done more... and put 
a year's work into truly fine-tuning [!] an Adorno reader  for which Susan Sontag was going to do the
introduction and which was killed by that marvel of small time killers, Michael DiCapua
after I left FSG in 1969.

 I gladly do a poll for you.
I have a couple of thousands on my e-mail contact list, most everyone
in German studies since there was a time I fancied taking a trip by
train all across the country to give Handke lectures, however,
they didn't seem to have enough so that I would even come close to breaking even from such
an interesting jaunt. Which then became an imaginary.
I learned to love traveling by rail as child expanding with the Reich
and then contracting back to the home base outside Bremen.
That is: German literature in translation,
the time that Handke will be taught like Goethe is probably still
a decade or so off. Then there are the writing programs, I have
little to do with them. David Shields at the University here is a
fan, so is John D'Agata, how many of them are aware what Handke
has opened up to them in utensils I cannot judge.
But at least I would call their attention to it.  I imagine the Austrian
government would buy quite a few copies.
In the event you are unaware of the mistakes that
account for the status of Handke in this country,
let me refresh everyone's memory:

1] At a time that 
Kaspar and Other Plays was in about it 10th printing,
FSG had sold something called "Two" and "Three by Handke, first to Avon
and then Collier paperback; as well as 
Weight of the World; 
Ride Across Lake Constance and Other Plays had sold out and was not reprinted, and Lefthanded Woman had been successful;
then FSG waited nearly ten years before issuing the
three title collection, named after the 1978 
A Slow Homecoming - title novel, which, properly,
ought to have been published in 1980 at the latest, and the succession of the development
of Handke's intimate mytho-poeic way of going about his business might not have been
lost. Instead we get a 1987 collection that added two entirely different titles,
Lesson of St. Victoire [a biographical account of wandering and notification
of change in aesthetic, with some interesting biographical tidbits], and the 1981 a

A Child's Story
, a strictly autobiographical account of his life with his daughter,
very honest work, a good condensation I judge it to be since I saw quite a bit of
both of them from 1969 to the 70s in Paris. And what are reviewers to make of
such a threesome under the covers - Kunkel kunkels about postmentstrualist
intertextuality in his silly introduction in its re-issue at NYRB books.

Then in the early 80s FSG passes on WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES.
I had a fine editor for the second play collection, his name has escaped,
who went on to be editor in chief at Scribners, then there was Nancy Meiselas
I gather from Krishna that she felt she had had one of the best editors ever
in Annie Wedekind, and I had several pleasant exchanges with her.
No idea what happened really between Nancy's leaving, I suppose Krishna'
might who translated the last of the "Three Essays" when Ralph Mannheim
went to translator heaven. 
But then in the early 90s Roger writes Unseld that he has a problem called Handke -
no: Handke and Suhrkamp had a problem called Roger, and 
and he and I had a problem called Michael DiCapua, 
and had it not been for Bob Giroux he would have nixed that project too,
at its inception, as he did so many others. So you will understand how glad
it  made me to come on Christopher Lehmann-Haupt's quote from Bob at his obituary,
 who sure played it close to his banker's vest  when I was there, that the very
thought of Roger

Meanwhile, FSG failed to follow up the success of WEIGHT OF THE WORLD with
the successor volume, HISTORY OF PENCIL which would have alerted readers
and reviewers to the thought he gives his projects [especially WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES
in that instance, and how some matters are achanging]; and subsequent to 
No-Man-Bay FS+G has passed on what is a kind of extra chapter to it: Lucie in dem Wald mit den Dingsbums - "Lucy in the Woods
with the Thingamajigs" might be a fitting American title... which would also
work as a YA, Handke the cute on going mushrooming in the Chaville Forest.
As we know, Amurricans love cute!

Even more astonishing is that neither FSG nor anyone else has done
the Wenders/ Handke screenplay for
 Wings of Desire. It must be the best-
liked art film in this country! Just check with Google how many sites
are devoted to it. I have left the mark of my Handke sites at each. Usually
these devotees quote his poem 
When the Child was a Child, it exists on the web
in no end of translations, Italian being my favorite.

About  a year ago I had a brief e-mail exchange with Steve Wasserman...
who felt that I was all wet when I wondered why after Handke had appeared
in Avon and Collier fairly mass paperback editions he might not have been put
into the forever stepchild Noonday Books paperback line, and the plays at Hill and Wang,
  considering how well they had done. Steve really had no answer, and I am not surprised that he's part of some
"innelectual" property LLC meanwhile, and edits one book review a week for 
 How is it possible not to have made Noonday Books into a good paperback line in all these 50 + years, what
with all those Hesse books I brought Farrar, Straus as lead dogs?
During which time Suhrkamp must have established half a dozen!

I quite understand that there is nothing you can do about the human rights hyenas
ignorance in matters Balkan, I am hoping for a symposium on
how such all around agreement came about, ... "duh" I imagine will be the
result . I am going to approach  a former Senior Editor at FSG
who did a one of a kind stupid review of JOURNEY ACROSS THE RIVERS
for the L.A. Times Book Review. What is the difference in levels of ignorance
and inability to think reflectively and be halfway well informed and not run
in pret-at-porter mob of bien pensant between the "innelectual" sheep and tea partying Palinskies....
I was happy to note the other day that DON JUAN has worked its way up from # 260,000 
at Barnes and Nobel to 160,000, and perhaps writing to my 2,500 contacts
will goose the book up to 80,000 - how minuscule is the difference
in actual sales between those rankings? Thanks for the book by the way,
if I had received it sooner I would have written my 15 K words sooner,
as it is I have another 15 K words of commentary... nothing like a tad
of the erotic to get the aging word processor spinning.

I wish you all the best and if I don't hear back from you, as is my custom
in such instances, I will post this communication  at the handke-trivia blogspot,
for the record as it were, the record of an infamy.
 And best regards to the one acquaintance
we all have in common, the 
femme fatale Judith Thurman who actually could do a good
review of 
Don Juan.

 General Considerations:
A Self-Appellation that fits!
Division into periodicities would be easy in Handke’s case, and also appropriate,
but each period requires its own focus.
Rather and also, why not [also, chiefly] three intertwining foci on Handke’s three main avenues of communicating as playfully as he does, his three ways of playing?
[1] Narrative Prose
[2] Plays
[3] Essays
I am going to take a chance and have three central sections devoted to the development of the prose and plays and essay and thus obviate, or interlink what would otherwise be required in a chronological arrangement. But also provide on example of its near perfection.
 After all, Handke’s work is over-determined, that makes him challenging, and drives what he says through to real readers; and these sections would be of interest not only to readers but to writers and playwrights and also to philosophers of language.
Also, The Reader might afford the opportunity to translate certain texts not otherwise available.
Since The Reader, and each section of it, is  chronological, each of those sections might have excerpts from the contemporaneous spontaneous diary notations that Handke started to keep as of what I call the Paris crisis period of the early 70s, from WEIGHT OF THE WORLD, THE HISTORY OF THE PENCIL, MORNINGS AT THE ROCK WINDOW; YESTERDAY, ON MY WAY...
[texts in italics are not in English but exists in all major Romance languages]
On the aspect of Handke as "assayer"
as I think of his different kinds of essays – it isn’t just the “THREE ESSAYS” or DON JUAN but the play THE ART OF ASKING falls into it too,
John D'Agata is a natural to address if he is game, what with having picked a long text from Innerworld as an example of the “lost origins of the essay”, say Singular and Plural from Innerworld  [where I once demonstrated how by writing Handke conquers fear! now if that isn't something to have given the "new Kafka" a swollen head!]
I would put in a center fold of photos,
of Baby Handke and his mother Maria eyeing each other, of the young student holding a book, these are in Haslinger’s “Jugend eines Schriftstellers”
Then one of his with fist wife Libgart, the one where they are drinking beer, it catches his spirit of the time… of him in his workroom in Salzburg… there are hundreds to choose from…

Table of Content Rough  


An essay on the early work.
 The introduction to this section, or the general one, needs to dwell on how this Innerworld ./Outer World/ of the Innerworld phenomenon/ procedure [not that different from T.S. Elliot’s] grows yet remains an essential feature of Handke’s self based work, “Objective correlative”; and in general, on how Handke uses his self, self-states and experience as his own material while generalizing it. Masks, personae later in the novels, starting with Goalie.

a] When I was 15 [to be found in an early anthology by Eckehard Kronenberg, needs to be translated,  effervescent]

b] “Welcoming the Board of Directors…
The title story from the early virtuoso things in Begrüssung des Aufsichtsrats, it exists in an Austrian story collections.  
c] I am an Inhabitant of the Ivory Tower [one of the playful provocative essays of the period, might have been translated meanwhile]

d] Half a dozen texts from Innerworld

e] Radio-Play I ???[because it demonstrates how Handke plays with fear, and it disappears] and is in the then strict serial mode… and because it is not readily available as are the other early play texts. Or Self-Accusation.

f] at this point I would segue into the prose section with excerpts from:…
This would be the central section on the development of the prose. It needs to address the “personae” that Handke finds, Josef Bloch, Keuschnig, Sorger, Loser, Kobal, The Pharmacist, The Ex-Bankieress; The Ex-Author; and needs to have commentary, annotation, guidance from section to section…

There ought to be one section that focuses very closely on technical innovations...the way dream writing arises out of the control of deep syntax,  and what Edmond Caldwell calls "the Handke effect",  Handke’s use of filmic techniques…
A section from both Die Hornissen [The Hornets] and Der Hausierer [The Panhandler] which exist in the Romance languages, whose audience has been more receptive, especially Spain and Portugal. I translated a few pages of Hornets as part of an essay on Handke’s development as a prose writer. I was going to translate Panhandler until Handke told me that it contained a lot of quotes from U.S. “black mask” type detective and crime novels, and not from the originals! One section to illustrate both his phenomenological procedure and how fear is quelled while being toyed with.    
1] A section from Die Hornissen
2] from Der Hausierer [i.e. pure phenomenology]
3] The opening of Goalie as an example how
syntax can involve your state of mind in that
of a paranoid-schizophrenic...
4] the dream image section from Afternoon of the Writerwhere the writer is injured by the Salzburg
gossips and feels like a hit and run victim in a ditch…
5] “the king of slowness” The Repetition excerpt… to show how you are slowed down by reading a text
6] the dream syntax section and the section that Edmund Caldwell picked in One Dark Night I Left my Silent House where textual doubt is demonstrated most successfully.. From the same book, after the "Pharmacist" gets bumped on the head...
7] a section from The Hour we knew Nothing of each Other because the text takes you
by the scruff of your syntax and doesn't let
go until the end. A better translation than
the Honegger one, perhaps the one that was done for the performance at The National in London
two years ago???
8] Either the opening of Absence or of the 2007 novel Kali where the text is not only experienced as such but also as opera to adumbrate the reading experience...
9]  RE-MAGICKING THE WORLD: A section from Del Gredos
10] A page of so from the “Apache” section of Moravian Night where the underlying fury rumbles barely suppressed through the syntax… Faulknerian…

10]PROSE PURE: ecriture pure A few sections from Moravian Night  
11] LEFT-HANDED WOMAN in its entirety?
12] One of the pieces from Once More for Thucydides. As an example of pure lyric prose.

Problematics [1971-76]

Can one get away without the mistitled
Sorrow Beyond Dreams… and the need to annotate it from the perspective of imagining what life was like for Maria Sivec's firstborn under those circumstances? This section affords the opportunity for a good biographical essay.
Perhaps one of the progressively more
fugueing poems in Nonsense & Happiness
[but if there is a separate short section on Handke's poem???...] A section from Moment of True Feeling perhaps not the suicidal parts but the one of that famous Moment?
  This section would address itself to what I call Handke's Paris Crisis [1971-78] the lay-a-broad left high and dry both by his mom and his wife, and like many a lay-abroad before him... couldn't handle it, started to fugue, but wrote some first rate things about his then state of mind.  And didn't learn the lesson that you have to treat a woman right, or they will split no matter how famous or a great artist you are! Not many French saints about! Fewer and fewer by the year who want to live with a frigid Salamander who hits and bites!
The “Second Weaving” as it were, picking up
The Radio Play / Self-Accusation  and HOUR strands..
Needs an introductory essay, describing the early procedures and intentions, and the transition to and with an excerpt from VILLAGES, ART OF ASKING
Perhaps La Cuisine as something more playful and quite different???
Or his Becket play “Until the Day Parts us.”

The Home-Coming Period
Sections from History of the Pencil as the transitional
from Walk about the Villages
Opening Chapter of A Slow Homecoming, the Alaska section..

Needs an introduction, my choice is John D’Agata
“Assayings” as I call his approach
The strand [s] that are picked up… Innerworld… Art of Asking

A text from INNERWORLD,
On the Jukebox in its entirety
A Section from THE ART OF ASKING
A section from THE PLAY ABOUT THE FILM ABOUT THE WAR to show Handke’s indebtedness to the German tradition - Brecht, Kipphardt, Grass, Weiss – of critical drama, with Handke’s very own twist.
The Salzburg Period
.An Essay linking SORROW with THE REPETITION
And indicating the firming up of Handke’s identity with the installation of his Slovenian Grandfather as the father figure, on his closer identification with Slovenia, Yugoslavia, and their literatures

The Salzburg period 1979 to 1987, another 7 year stint, at which point we fled back to Paris, we'd gotten ourselves into trouble with a wench! who is haunting and hunting him even now as I write.  Erinyes like that exist!
No fury has hell...
 Linking up with the
The Repetition

As an example of the fellow's state
of mind The Afternoon of the Writer, which differs not that much from "Loser", the case, who differs as a “case” not that much from su suicidal Keuschnig the once again murderously minded,
in Across [Chinese des Schmerzens] 1984,

Chaville Paris II
1998 to the present

A section, which one [?] from
From Del Gredos: The five thousand words
on the destruction wrought by the hurricane that hit Northern France around 2000.

Perhaps: Lucy with the Thingamajigs”?

Handke the Traveler Walker?????
Sections on walking in Yugoslavia
From No-Man’s-Bay
Del Gredos
From the Diary volume Yesterday, on my way”


How does one deal with the Yugoslavia involvement? If at all here?
I think I mentioned initially that such a reader represents a wonderful opportunity to make up where his main US Publisher
Farrar, Straus has been remiss over the years.
The Cuckoos of Velica Hoca [2007] see this page devoted to it at handkeprose2.scriptmania site [link to all matters mentioned here
via the link below] Velica Hoca  is certainly by far the best focused text on that subject and demonstrates what a great reporter Handke can be
who normally showers obloquy on these critters.
Scott seems to fell that JOURNEY TO THE RIVERS is the most important text… I disagree, because at the very least it needs to be put in tandem with SUMMER’S REPRIEVE
[and I think all the Yugoslavia texts plus the
need to be published as one volume.
With an essay by Scott Abbot on Handke's involvement in Yugoslavia
where I only fault Handke for then copping out when it came to
being an "expert witness" for Milosevic at Scheveningen.
I myself have written a small book’s worth of pieces on the subject
and did so to make Handke’s engagement comprehensible to myself. That is how I work.
German reviewers meanwhile - Weinzierl, Kastberger, Detering
who come out of Germanistik - have become utterly deferential,
now that Handke is about to win the Nobel, has sold his notebooks
and manuscript for a total of about one million Euro to two institutions
 that buy that kind of stuff, keeps the company of princes of industry
and presidents....but Handke has always been his own best critic. The German
reviewer rabble is nearly as hideous as those here, and some of them have jobs
at major papers! Aren't merely occasional idiots but convey their
idiocy into print day and week in and out. Hubert Spiegel at the FAZ,
a couple of folks at Die Zeit. One fellow who usually has a cool head, Lothar
Struck has become prematurely Apfelmus over Moravian, in Glanz und Elend.
One of those on-line review organs that give you hope as there are increasing
numbers in all languages!!


A wonderful edition of Handke's complete poems
was published recently by Bartelsby in Madrid,
it contains all of Innerworld, all the long poems from
Nonsense and Happiness, the incidental poems
as they appear in the four published notebook volumes
and the wonderful, as yet untranslated into English,
Das Gedicht an die Dauer
["Poem to Lasting Things," as it might be called]


Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society

This LYNX will LEAP you to my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS

"Degustibus disputandum est." Theodor Wiesenthal Adorno
"May the foggy dew bediamondize your hoosprings + the fireplugof filiality reinsure your bunghole! {James  Joyce}
"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde." [von Alvensleben]
"Siena me fe, disfescimi Maremma." [Dante]
"Ennui [Lange Weile] is the dreambird that hatches the egg ofexperience." Walter Benjamin, the essay on Leskov.

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seattle, Washington, United States
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