This site and the various handke blogs

and the handke.scriptmania project  http://www.handke.scriptmania.com/favorite_links_1.html  
 presents academic scholarship, creative personal essays, book reviews, bibliographic materials,
primary texts etc. concerning the writings of Peter Handke.

Submissions (in Rich Text Format) may be sent to[ scriptoman AT lycos.com] in any language.


a few dozen

[1] http://handke--revista-of-reviews.blogspot.com/2010/05/index-page-for-handke-revista-of.html/

[3] http://handke--revista-of-reviews.blogspot.com/2010/05/kali-saltworks-which-has-not-been.html/






25] http://handke-yugo.blogspot.com/2010/05/roloff-summary-take-on-handkes.html/









the  American Scholar caused controversy about Handke, reviews, detailed of Coury/ Pilipp's THE WORKS OF PETER HANDKE, the psycho-biological monograph/ a note on Velica Hoca/ open letter to Robert Silvers + NYRB re: JS Marcus.. 
Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society
This LYNX will LEAP you to my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS:
"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]
"Siena me fe, disfescimi Maremma." [Dante]
"Ennui [Lange Weile] is the dreambird that
 hatches the egg of
[Walter Benjamin, the essay on Leskov.]

This site and the various handke blogs 
and the handke.scriptmania project

presents academic scholarship, creative personal essays, book reviews,
 bibliographic materials, primary text, etc. concerning the writings of Peter Handke.

Submissions (in Rich Text Format) may be sent to [scriptoman AT lycos.com] in any language.









=Part II=


The psycho-bio monograph

on Peter Handke


=II-A= 2

Résumé of Part I



New York 1971






Encounters, visits

correspondence, comentary



Yugoslav Manifest


Terminus = 87


NOTES 1-00=







Résumé of Part I


In Part One I sought to detail Handke’s psychological liabilities:


[a] his decade-long exposure – starting in 1944, at age two, in Berlin - to violent drunken primal scenes; with a plethora of sequaelae especially for someone diagnosed as autistically hypersensitive which he himself enumerates in his Essay on Tiredness; following on two years as the exclusive love child of a very beautiful young mother of the Slovenian minority in the Austrian province Carinthia; which, too, has its consequences;


[b] the likelihood that his life-long somewhat depressive state of mind is of anaclytic origins, absorbed while a depressed mother [dumped by the love of her life and then marrying his compadre German soldier as surrogate] carried her child to term;


[c] that Handke’s feeling that something dreadful had happened to him early in his life – that is, that he was traumatized - most likely is the result of the exposure, possibly coinciding with the experience of bombing attacks in Berlin, his birth having been entirely normal according to the midwife’s report;


[d] I emphasized Handke’s extreme hatred of his violent German stepfather, his early preference for his mother’s father, the Slovenian “Ote” Sivec, and Handke’s longing for his mother’s dead Slovenian brothers whose war time letters were a Sivec family heirloom, one of many impulses to become a writer and express a preference for Yugoslavia, as his land of peace; the advantage that accrued from that avunculate also in his passing through a Oedipal phase victorious and with kinder sides; his early turn in a Slovenian and Yugoslav direction; and aversion to matters German;


[e] his early retreat into reading; that is also into fantasy, imagination; an affinity for versions of denial;


[f] his luck, that of an unusually gifted child, in finding a priest to support his wish to attend a boarding school that offered a better education than the village of Griffen;


[g] his entering the boarding school for priests, Tanzenberg, where, however, he felt instantly lonely, and claimed that this was the first time he felt his life-long nausea at other bodies, one of many reasons for his general asociability; and which he left after four years over a principled disagreement; his then attending the regular public high school in Klagenfurt; his working in a packing material factory to earn his keep upon entering the University of Graz to study law, his plan being to acquire the customary sinecure of



talented culturers as a cultural attaché [what a joke it would have been on that service to have the socially so inept Handke prove the exception to all those diplomatically well trained attachés!] in the event his early dream to be a writer did not permit him to live as one without drudgery; his affiliation to the Graz and Austrian avant garde; his becoming professionally adept in writing for Austrian radio and - though playwriting had not been part of the original plan - quick success, writing very much to his generations concerns, as a playwright, success being more gradual, that having been his chief ambition, as a prose writer; his lack of inhibition at speaking publically and to exhibit himself; his publically insulting, his arrogance; the odd contradiction of someone saying that he was “the new Kafka” and doing so with a happy smile.


[h] I ventured the guess that one of the few benefits that accrued from the constant violent primal scene exposure, for a writer, was the acquisition of an early training in the dissociation so necessary for his discipline, for his work also as a self-healing artist; that and insomnia - Napoleon slept four hours a day, it is said, in fifteen minute increments, and I imagine drove his generals bananas; Handke has only driven several wives and live-in girlfriends and one child to despair; and upset the public, usually to good and useful effect; but has published about 65 + books by his 65th year, some of them as great as the victory at Austerlitz! One derivative related to the ability to dissociate would be Handke’s capacity for denial, especially powerful in someone as self-involved in his own identity [in Sorrow Beyond Dreams the metaphor for that is “pulling the covers over my head.”]


[i] the downside consequences of the exposure being the plethora of matters, including a large variety of nauseas, that made Handke angry – and tired - as an adolescent, enumerated in great detail in his Essay on Tiredness; as well as the root of Handke’s misogyny – so surprising in the writer of A Sorrow Beyond Dreams - too, can be traced to the decade long primal scene exposure, to the rage the love-child must have felt instantaneously upon what must also have been experienced as an abandonment, at age two, in Berlin, and still in evidence during his student days. Nonetheless we ought not to discount that Handke remained her favorite and the intimate complicity that existed between mother and child;


[j] that the example of physical violence, [and the great likelihood of his having been a victim of physical violence as a child himself] and the exposure to violent drunken primal scenes is also one [major] reason for the physical, not just the verbal, violence Handke has committed on occasion, but knowledge of which propensity drives Handke’s extraordinary and pathos drenched yearning for peace and for peaceful forms, for example, in seeking them in geological formation in Alaska [!!], or its expression in Nova’s epilogue in his most enitirely self-revealing work, Walk About the Villages, and is one major reason for his turn to lyrical nature description, a mania nearly, which a pastorally oriented reception to this kind of writing can easily mistake for being born of placidity;


[k] that Handke’s covering his eyes with a blanket during these primal scenes – also then symbolically – laid the groundwork for a future tendency in that direction, of scotomization, especially when it affects his identity, as say in - after initially not wanting the Serbian crimes to be true - finally having a surrogate, at the sight of Srebrenica, keep crying out “I don’t want to be a Serb” [not that anyone had asked Handke to be anything but what he was: a half Slovenian Yugo – Southern - Slav for whom, however, the idea of a confederated Yugoslavia, whose ground had become his “amour fou,” and for those madnesses: see Midsummer Night’s Dream… but I am ahead of myself… Also the wish, and then the learned ability, to transfigure, transfigure somewhat, make magical again – a wish in which the society in which he writes is complicit - and in the world such as it is, at least create works of sustained verbal beauty; to make one see the world anew [a didactic quality as well, pointing both to the nature of his super-ego and an identification with a priestly pastoral function]; as well as his unwillingness to represent violence directly on stage, but merely to suggest it, so that we may peek, as he did; in fascination and horror; Handke is not a writer of “make believes”, he creates experiences.


[m] that what Handke in his interview with Herbert Gamper calls his “autism” [autistic episodes], an unlikely self-diagnosis but pointing to curiosity, are for our purposes best understood as hyper sensitivity of each and all of his senses, “the eyes of an eagle,” “the nose of a beagle,” “the finicky taste of a feline;” “the skin of a porpoise,” “the ears of a bat,” and that even his occasional bouts of color blindness – for which he sought out, but failed to find – as of 1980 [Lesson of St. Victoire] - similar afflictions in his Sivec and Schönherr [his real father’s name] family, may be related to this fundamental [?] hyper sensitivity which at one time forced him to wear glasses to ameliorate what irritated his eyes even in well modulated circumstances; that over-stimulation of his senses, that excess, as well as a finely honed sense of beauty, another fate of the sons of beautiful mothers, accounts for the nauseas of just about everything that Handke once complained of and suffered – “nausea of the eyeballs” “wanting to turn my body inside out” being his two most extreme expression of those feelings - another derivative of the traumatic childhood exposure – but also for his preference for aesthetically satisfying experience; and of course the chief reason that he not only seeks out but creates works opposite that experience, in other words that both formally and in every other respect, including women, for his addiction to beauty; aside whatever inborn [?] gifts that will forever be a mystery, at least to me; e.g. there is no telling in this instance what genetic alterations occurred intra-utero; that the fastnesses of the etiology of autism going hand in hand with a brilliant mind are beyond our ken, that is if the diagnosis Handke received is at all useful except to indicate his extreme hyper sensitivity; although his habit of insulting might point to Monsieur Tourette being a kind of kissing cousin of his,a frequent companion of Señor Autism as he Kaspars his way through life discombulatedly!


[n] that even though he called himself the “new Kafka” and the work of his first five years [1965-70: [Die Hornissen, Der Hausierer; Radio Play One, quite a few of the poems in Innerworld, Kaspar, even Goalie] gives evidence of fear and trembling, what really distinguishes this work is it’s ultimate victory over fear – a victory it appears that had to be won, and demonstrated, over and over, to the point that he became a virtuoso at it;


[o] that he calms himself by writing; and since he is such a libidinal creature, the productivity is near endless [libido has an aggressive component too], a proof it seems the obverse of the original conversion theory of hysteria: here fear becomes productive: Handke becomes calm, his self is calm where every one else’s trembles; he becomes strong, that presumably he masturbated successfully during the primal scene [Kohut’s proposition], and thus will come out the victor [except in certain extreme circumstances, see anon].


[p] One reason that one/ that is “I” can even venture these speculations is because Handke has revealed himself so nearly entirely in his writing: there are not only the novels of his self, the publication of diaries and correspondence during his life time, in the fictions he uses versions of his self, personae, thinly veiled but focused masks, for his particular states of mind, mediums as it were, vehicles, artistic challenges solved. His self-presentation, if he can help it, is shown in the best possible light [i.e. nothing critical of him or his work appears is allowed to appear in any of the many publications about him that his publishers have done]; he poses multifariously like a movie star, as only an exhibitionist can, is hyper-sensitive about his image, both in writing about him and in being photographed; an exhibitionism which, to my thinking, is also of a compensatory competitive nature for the narcissistic psychological injury that the love child suffered from early childhood to early adolescence; the “wound that he writes out of” as he has his surrogate, a raggedy Parsifal of The Art of Asking, exclaim; aside whatever class consciousness and ascendance from the class of Keuschnig’s – he once regretted not belonging to any class - plays a part, and being better at the writing game than anyone else, and the pride that goes with staying at the world’s best hotels; but for which effort he would lack the strength had he not been a “love child” during his first two years; “wounded love child Peter Handke, “melancholy player” he called himself once, instead of Ted Dorpat’s “Wounded Monster” [an important psychoanalytic contribution to Hitler studies: it demonstrates the effect on Hitler’s blood lust and need to be in a continuous state of war from the post-traumatic stress at having been in the front line near continuously for five years and keeping bad company as Handke cannot be said to have since he keeps scarcely any company at all, except his own] whereas Handke’s two half-siblings, fathered by Handke’s stepfather Bruno Handke, born to the same unhappy mother, as of birth exposed to the violent drunken father, led rather sad unsuccessful lives, the half brother a petty criminal, now moribund; the sister dying early of cancer, despite what their older brother’s generosity afforded them;


[q] one major reason for the power, the experience that Handke’s texts and plays provide, perhaps even for the extraordinary dexterity in devising techniques and forms – modernist in that sense and very much of his time while salvaging the past – Goethe Stifter Eichendorf Grillparzer to remain in the German language realm, and so much more - be they of his plays or fictions - derives, I would venture, from the extreme need to communicate from the autistic position, to make contact, to effect and affect, not just from pure ambition and a well schooled talent and drive to exhibit his self: thus the quality of “letters in a bottle” of his texts, the attempt to communicate and in an original, a unique way – after all, that is what comes through most powerfully, that is what encounter with his work produces: states of mind; including the effect of putting the reader into a depressed state of mind but at the end of writing himself and the real reader out of it: thus if the physicians prescribed a Handke book instead of Zoloft or whatever medications prescribed by the billions per year to keep folks happy under madcap capitalism… how much better the world would be off. Thus his books as well as his plays need to be described first of all as the reader’s experience of them! And critiqued by the measure of how well he succeeds in this endeavor. And that is also a technically ascertainable question – for example, a work such as The Hour We Did Not Know Each Other [the summa of all his early theater work] takes its readers by the scalp of their syntax and never lets go until the very end; experiencing a performance of the play becomes paradisiacal in the sense that we see the world – and each other – refreshed, anew; with new eyes [the essence of the function of theater]; a series of especially autobiographical works – Nonsense + Happiness [1972-74]; A Moment of True Feeling [1974], Across [1984], The Afternoon of a Writer [1986] and One Dark Night I left My Silent House [1996] – are diminished by mystifications, chiefly their refusal to own up to unhappy-making women matters. Other works, that entirely focus on his self – such as Der Hausierer, The Repetition, My Year in the No-Man’-Bay, especially the trip novel/ film The Absence [which I recently found out Handke thinks of his modern retelling of Parsifal] and is devoid of irruptions of violence [except for the loudest tank in literature], the Del Gredos epic – are devoid of the problems that the novelist’s license to lie introduce. Facing the task of needing, initially, to describe the experiences that these works produce, criticism enters a different arena from the usual.


These then are some, most I think, of the psychological coordinates and parameters with which one can address Handke and his work: The sheer productivity – aside the early vision of seeing himself as a kind of 19th century author with a large and  varied oeuvre - is over-determined, too. Colleagues insist I need to mention Handke’s psychic bisexuality. I myself have never felt easy with this concept [literal-minded me keeps seeing something copulating in the brain!], but since Handke seems able to adapt women personae as a writer too, and identified so closely with his mother, there may be something to that suggestion. The Gruppe 47 folks in 1966 in Princeton said, “Oh, ein Mädchen,” Alan Ginsberg came up to Handke and me at the Pannah Grady party and asked me to translate his wish to fuck Handke [Yes back in 1966! in so many words. Pannah and her beatnik friends who smashed her Persian vases!] and drew a deadly blue eyed Prussian stare from this co-host, while Handke, his English must have been poor at the time, thinking the request was being made of me, evinced that memorable unselfconscious grin of the born again village sadist which the elephant memory affixed in its trunk; a matter that was not cleared up until 1980 where his grin, revealed as having been at my expense, and not, as I had assumed – that world of assumptions that has assumed rule over the world – at his own, then comes out looking, at least to me, that much uglier. Handke being insecure in the matter, over compensates there too, just look how “male” he then tries to appear in photographs subsequent to the early ones. However, best to my knowledge he has not gone Elephant or lion hunting…

The History or Story Behind My Site

 by Michael Roloff

"Das lässt sich alles vom autobiographischen aufrollen" …["That can all be regarded from an autobiographical perspective."] Handke to Herbert Gamper, Ich Lebe doch nur von den Zwischenrauemen. [But I derive my sustenance only from the inbetween, the thresholds."]

"Stay in the picture."

"As if everyone, all over the world, had his daily visually artistic task; the task of being an image for others." Peter Handke


Peter Handke is what Harold Bloom would call a "strong author," a contender for the laurel wreath, who brooks little competition among contemporaries ["how hot blooded writers are amongst each other."] and seeks to demolish the greats of the immediate past while wishing to assume the pantheon even during his life-time, an ambition in which, with his several dozen novels, a dozen or so great plays, diary publications and what not, 65 books altogether in 40 years of writing he has by and large succeeded.
  However, Handke is not just a hugely ambitious and productive author, it appears that he is condemned to write, he is not healthy when he does not, already in the early 70s he started filling notebooks upon notebooks, flashing his pen in the presence of acquaintances and friends, always cooking [proud of how "geil" - German word where the English "hot" fails to include the implication of "lewd" - his formulations are], and as he states above in the hugely revelatory book length interview with Herbert Gamper, he uses his self - various versions seen through personae lenses - as his chief material to affect his audience. Handke is also a powerfully driven, compensatory exhibitionist - perhaps authors need to be exhibitionists as much as visual artists in however sublimated a fashion - both in socially and culturally accepted forms [plays, novels, films, autobiographical accounts, published diaries of the most intimate kind]. And if one wants to put the matter in a nutshell: Handke exhibits his self by means of conveying and producing states of mind - via his projective innerworld outerworld innerworld procedure - and thus affects his audiences more powerfully but also in a very different manner than authors generally do. He may also be the most photographed author ever, also posing, see http://www.handke-photo.scriptmania.com/ 
As to the socially unaccepted manner of Handke's exhibitionism to produce a reaction: not to worry, dear voyeur, we shall get to that too. Handke says that he "writes out of his wound." The chief reason it is possible to approach Handke and his work also from a psychoanalytic perspective is because he has exhibited so much of himself and left such a rich trail of data.
Peter Handke was born on December 6, 1942 in Griffen/ Altenmarkt, in the province of Carinthia, Austria. According to the midwife's extant report [1] he was carried to term and born head first without birth complications, which does not prove that Handke's subjective birth experience - no matter that our skins are desensitized at birth and is nicely massaged as we pass through the birth canal - pace birth trauma notions - may not have been experienced as a trauma: I cannot prove a negative. Handke might be able to evince memories of that experience if he underwent an analysis and experienced a complete regression; but to the best of my knowledge the only time he consulted a therapeutician - apparently of the Catholic persuasion - was during his crisis years in Paris in the early 70s; not on the couch but en face [see the first and most revelatory of his diary publications the 1975 Weight of the World/ Das Gewicht der Welt: [2]; and the memory of a "first heart beat" as we find it cited in his great work of the imagination the play Walk About the Villages [1981/2] cannot be taken as evidence of a personal memory of an intra-uterine experience at the fetal age of four or five months. His midwife's report [3] thus neither confirms nor disavows Handke's future speculation that something dreadful had happened already at birth; many other dreadful matters were to happen to Peter Handke in the future, subsequent to the first two presumably wonderful years as his mother's love-child.  
Handke's mother, whose sometimes exceedingly unhappy life he memorialized in Sorrow Beyond Dreams/ Wunschloses Unglück [1971] [4] shortly after she committed suicide, aged 52, derives from a carpenter farmer clan by the name of Sivec, of the Slovenian minority in Carinthia, who fell for a member of the German army stationed in Griffen, Handke's actual father, a Herr Schönherr, a German Army company treasurer and bank employee from the Harz Mountain Region in Germany, who was married, and who ["carried to term"] must have fathered our genius out of wedlock in spring of 1942. Since the love of her life, the aforementioned Herr Schönherr, did not leave his wife to marry Maria, we can presume that she was in a depressed state of mind during her pregnancy; and that the incipient depression that Handke has frequently mentioned - and which, from my perspective makes him more realistic than he might be otherwise - may indeed be an instance of what is called anaclytic depression, a state of mind absorbed intra-uterine, as so much else, as we are still finding out; quite aside the love child relationship that continued to fuse Handke to her subsequently to the point of considerable identification: to the extent that he said once, exaggerating as he can when he speaks, about his mother, the protagonist of Sorrow Beyond Dreams: "What did I really know about her life? Moi mere, c'est moi." Approving eye contact, smiles, joy. A love child imbibing love, confidence, approval. A resource to have recourse to, however a resource which, as we will see, that can be severely shaken. [///]
Unable to marry Herr Schönherr, Maria Sivec, however, then  married a fellow suitor for her affections, a surrogate from the same German Army company stationed near Griffen, a Herr Hugo Handke, the future monster in his stepson's life and psyche, who provided both her and her offspring with a last name that has now become famous, whereas we might more accurately think of Handke, if such names are needed, as Peter or Pyotr Sivec-Schönherr-Handke which would also serve as a hint at a complicated cultural identity of someone who was to write, in 1968, the play of the fatherless generation, Kaspar {"I want to be someone like somebody else once was."}; or maybe as "the one and only ever Count auf und von und zu Griffen" as which he appears in certain photos.
At any event, by age two: a loving mother, perhaps overly loving, a doting stepfather … a rural environment… the immediate prospects are favorable, even during war time, even though the future "Keuschnig" - "Hoveler" Hardy would have called him - is living in just a Keusche…

One alternative that Handke has not imagined in all the various personae he has worn, tried out [5] as an author is what his life would have been like if he had had his grandfather as father from the beginning, no Hugo Handke to bring horror into his life… no Berlin from 1944 to 1948, no bombing attacks: He might have become a fairly well adjusted leader of the Slovenian minority, their pro se lawyer, a great one, a member of parliament; and not an obsessive writer. The mother's father, old man Sivec, the "Ote" as grandfathers were called in that region, would assume the father figure in H.P.'s intra-psychic world only in the mid-80s and be finally installed as such after impressive psychic labor ["labora verimus" - the quote at the beginning of "The Repetition" - in this instance too; not just in finally learning Slovenian well enough so as to be able to translated from it!]
 as we can read in Die Wiederholung [1986] The Repetition] Handke's 1980s rewriting of Sorrow Beyond Dreams [one of the chief sources for information about his early childhood]. This grandfather, notorious for fits of Zeus-like fury, during the 20s and 30s depressions repeatedly kept working his way out of near bankruptcy and during the 1921 plebiscite voted for the "Slavic option", that is for the first Yugoslav federation; and kept reaching under skirts until he died well into his 90s! 
 However it is war time in 1944 and Maria Sivec, who seems to have taken marriage seriously, joins her husband, Bruno Handke, who was wounded and is unfit to return to the front and works on the tramways in Berlin, apparently already with another woman. At that point, in Berlin, in 1944, if we are to believe the account Handke gives in S.B.D./ W.U., there ensued Handke's decade long exposure to violent drunken primal scenes and it is to this exposure to this decade long trauma that we might sensibly trace the plethora of symptoms that Handke evinces subsequently in his behavior, as they trickle out in his autobiographically colored writing and as he enumerates them in his Essay on Tiredness [Versuch Über die Müdigkeit, 1988][6], the various rages and angers that made him tired as a young man, the numerous intense nauseas that did not start to abate until the mid-seventies, the emotional difficulties he has in living with women, right: one would not assume that someone who wrote the so empathetic Sorrow Beyond Dreams might end up a misogynist: you wouldn't until you gave some thought to the rage the love child must have felt as it kept seeing its love object violated and not entirely unwillingly. The ill effects of witnessing such violent primal scenes has been well documented [7], yet I keep thinking of medieval customs and where they persist with entire extended clans and their beasts procreating in one space: not violently, not drunkenly would seem to be the needed caesura in my thinking; Handke's need to show male visitors out of his house - unless it be the visiting media through whom he can exhibit himself;

he used to take friends for walks through the forest; now he does not even do that any more; and his recourse to a compulsive need, the being condemned to write, to write himself not only out of poverty into wealth but also into health, in both of which endeavors, the once "I am the new Kafka" 
has succeeded to a considerable extent, capitalist wealth being easier to acquire and maintain than psychic equilibrium in the world and literary environs such as they are. Among the derivatives from this exposure that are conceivably useful to a writer, as opposed to being problematic for a regular life, I can find only three: [1] the ability to dissociate, conceivably trained already during that decade, which lent Handke a head start in that requirement for a writer of his kind - think Joyce's pointing to Rembrandt's painting of the woman "paring her fingernails"; [2] to put a blanket over his head as he did as a child might point in the direction of the incipient wish towards transfiguration; to not represent the bloody drama head on; to disavowal; to states of dissocation; and [3] insomnia - you can always write or become one of the best-read persons on this earth: I once witnessed Handke devour a long poem - it was the German translation of a long poem by the considerable Bulgarian poet Lubomir Levchev - if it was a milkshake through one draught on the straw; and then to be judged to be good. At that rate…. 

In 1948, shortly prior to the Russian sealing off transit to the West [Junes 24] and the inception of the famous "air bridge" to Berlin, Maria, Bruno and Peter Handke [and the younger half-brother?] cross the border from East Germany to the West, an event that appears to have left distinct memories of anxiety in Handke. Although Handke initially acknowledged Bruno Handke as his father, he evidently suffered from the relationship to this progressively more violent alcoholic; while his closeness to his mother's father, grandfather Sivec, provided some relief and future orientation. If we are to believe Handke it appears he withdrew into reading at an early age. On this photo, we see the future defender of the logos, nicely proud and throwing his chest out, protecting 
his two year old half-sister and four year old half-brother, dressed like an utterly Austro-German kid of the time, 1948-1950 I would guess. However, these two other children of Maria Sivec-Handke appear not to have been as welcomed as her first, and lived anything but illustrious lives. Peter Handke, it might be noted, for many years, mentioned that all his life he was haunted by the thought of suicide. 

Prior to moving to Berlin in 1944, Handke's grandfather Sivec, a farmer carpenter, who will play such a significant future role in our genius psyche, can be presumed to have doted on his first grandchild. The mother's two brothers, whose deaths during the war and whose wartime letters [which became a family heirloom] will also play a highly significant if not central role in the future writer's psyche and in his writing - as absences, longed for - were presumably already off to war, in Yugoslavia during which they both perished. 
Stepfather Handke, so it appears, was despised by the clan in Carinthia; hating him became child's play for the jealous love child, poor chap, not a bad-looking fellow at all who must have regretted his wager to win Maria's affection. Handke's later hatred of the stepfather is unique for its lack of ambivalence; the hatred of the stepfather also manifests itself in fairly unambivalent decade-long hatred of all things German. Later in life H.P. will admit that a bit of self-hatred probably plays into those sentiments! The real father, Herr Schönherr, when he appears in Handke's life to go on the customary father son trip on High School graduation - cited in S.B.D. - is looked down upon with Handke's then customary arrogance - whose defensive nature I assume requires littler elaboration; a treatment that decades later elicits regrets [8] Thus Handke's oedipal constellation - the mother's first-born and love-child, the mother's father the father figure, dead uncles; no relationship to the actual or the stepfather's family - Handke becomes a kind of specimen case for the fatherless generation, a generation that more than usually fashioned itself after their grandparents. I have come on no mention of the other grandparents in Handke's so autobiographical work, except that he took the trouble to find out that there was no incidence of temporary color-blindness, one of his afflictions, or color-blindness of any other kind, among any related family member [The Lesson of St. Victoire] 1980. I spent much time tracking down the phenomenon, but came to no conclusive finding; it might be a matter as simple as the expression "seeing black" and a derivative of Handke's rages. However, the first time I talked to Handke he was wearing sun glasses an in an environment that could not have been more generously and soothingly lighted and he said it was a matter of his eyes, so it may be a combination of factors, genetic inheritance, hysteria, anger combining to produce the liability which must be one reason he never learned to drive: the affliction would prevent him from getting a driver's license. 

Shortly after his birth, Peter Handke was baptized a Catholic. [For this, as so much else, see not only Sorrow Beyond Dreams + Adolf Haslinger's Jugend eines Schriftstellers]. During his "homecoming period" - from the years 1966 to 1979 in Germany and France - in 1979 Handke also resumed his relationship to the Catholic Church, especially to its sacred texts, that is until he left the Catholic for the Greek Orthodox persuasion subsequent to his unhappiness with the Pope's insufficient opposition to the bombing of Serbia during the 1994 Kosovo campaign during which Handke acquired no end of publicity and notoriety in expressing his preference for a continued Yugoslav Federation. Certain parts of the culmination of Handke's Homecoming Cycle [A Slow Homecoming, A Child's Story, The Lesson of St. Victoire] the play and dramatic poem Walk About the Villages is infused with Catholic imagery and feeling and in a manner that will touch all religious. His side as a possible country priest is expressed in the 1993 No-Man's-Bay in that the only actual person in that book who is also a side of the Handke's, and not just another elf of his self with all those elve in it, is his country priest friend from his early days in Carinthia.
The inception of exposure to those violent drunken primal scenes in Berlin that he mentions in SBD coincided with the bombing attacks, that were to provide the title of his first novel Die Hornissen. Certainly, bombers and being bombed played a role in baby Handke's life, as they did for longer stretches in my own, where they elicited a traumatic dream that turned into a screen memory of events that transpired at the time that British bombers started to attack Bremen in 1940.

A son/s long good-bye

About the writings of Peter Handke
(until Die Wiederholung, 1986)

Karl-Erik Tallmo

Only a few, if any, of those who attended the literary seminar at Princeton in 1966, probably believed in a literary future for this 23 year old Austrian newbie with a Beatles hair-cut, who had crossed the Atlantic to attack celebrities like Guenter Grass, Peter Weiss and Siegfried Lenz. Peter Handke/s talk about the =descriptive impotency= of literature seemed at the time to be merely a juvenile/s urge for attention.

Handke/s first novel, =Die Hornissen=, had been published that same year, and after the visit to Princeton, his play =Publikumsbeschimpfung= (=Offending the audience=, transl. Michael Roloff, London, 1971) was staged. Considering that this play belonged to the experimental scene, its success was tremendous. Handke had turned the communicative act of the stage ninety degrees, and all of a sudden, the actors were addressing the audience, they even commanded it and abused it. =These boards do not represent a world=, the actors say at the beginning of the piece. Everything at the theater is just what it seems to be, the stage floor, the curtain; nothing needs interpretation. The absense of a door does not mean that this is supposed to depict some sort of =lacking door problem=.

The early novels and plays all exploit this insight that language is actually the only reality literature truly may represent. Sometimes Handke combined texts in a concretist fashion, letting styles clash. For instance, he interlaced a law text with parenthetically inserted reactions from the audience - like when Lenin/s or Stalin/s speeches were published in the Soviet union: =thunderous applause=, =amused laughter= etc.

In =Die Hornissen=, a person keeps fragments of a novel stored in his memory. In such a way fiction is doubled and even self-revoking, since the reader constantly wonders what is the novel and what is the novel/s novel. In =Der Hausierer= from 1967, the plot of a detective story is first outlined and later followed, the result, again, being a narrative, voluntarily abstaining from suggestive power, instead generously exhibiting its own mechanisms.

In November of 1971, Peter Handke suffered a personal loss. Maria Handke, his 51 year old mother, committed suicide. In a short letter she explained that it was =inconceivable to go on living=. Only a few months later, Handkes grief after this blow resulted in a small book, =Wunschloses Unglueck= (=A sorrow beyond dreams: a life story=, transl. Ralph Manheim, New York, 1975). Handke shows us a both intimate and distant view of the emotional poverty that obviously prevailed in his family. Particularly his mother sustained an almost total lack of identity. The word =individual= was used as an invective only, to be =special= was to be odd.

Several critics were delighted to read a more tender, less abstract Handke, one who dared to include bluntly autobiographical material. In his book =Romane als Krankengeschichten= psychoanalyst Tilman Moser claims that Handke is fullfilling his symbiotic duty to his mother, a duty she at an early stage had delegated to him: he was to give her the identity she had lacked all of her life, posthumously through his writings. That is certainly a heavy burden for anyone to bear. In this book, it seems to me, Handke is showing us a well-embedded rage over this heritage of poverty, inhibition and unsolved problems that his mother left for him, but at the same time, there is an ambivalence, since this is the very conflict that makes him a writer. Thus, this duality is perpetually masked, now as defense of the literary aspect, now as defense of the memory of the dead.

There is an aggressive momentum already in the German title: =Wunschloses Unglueck= alludes not only to complete misfortune, but also to a misfortune leaving nothing to wish for. Wolfram Mauser is on to this track when he, also from a psychoanalytical standpoint, scrutinizes Handke/s work in =Der Deutschunterricht= 5/1982. He even maintains that the book in its entirety is a psychological defense - the narrator creates a person out of his collected frustrations and finally lets it stand in for his mother.

Handke used another technique for =Stunde der wahren Empfindung= 1975 (=A moment of true feeling=, transl. Ralph Manheim, New York, 1977). He walked the streets, taking notes on loose scraps, which became valuable puzzle pieces when he later sat down to render the scattered inner life of Gregor Keuschnig. Keuschnig belongs to the corps diplomatique of Austria in Paris, but after a dream, where he commits a murder, he looses his foothold and lets impulse take command and lead him all over the city. He experiences =the true feeling= alternately with an inexplicable emptiness and anger. Handke/s true feeling is, however, not at all kindered with the Joycean epiphany, which is an enhanced feeling for life. With Keuschnig it is but a fickle experience of being alive at all; out of a condition characterized by exclusion and unreality, suddenly a temporary contact with life is established, with both the inner and outer world, and particularly with the self, that connects those two poles.

Tilmann Moser thinks that Handke/s portrait of Keuschnig is a very precise clinical description of the borderline patient/s fluctuation between illusions of grandeur and an all-encompassing experience of void and worthlessness. To shape this special kind of sensibility, Handke nurtures a sort of urban superstition, similar to the magical thinking, typical of the borderline disorder; chance is charged with meaning, =secret understandings= occur all of a sudden aboard on buses etc.

=Langsame Heimkehr= 1979 (=Slow homecoming=, transl. Ralph Manheim, New York, 1985) marked the beginning of a new period in Handke/s writing. Now he lets nature represent mental states, with a consistency and almost religious solemnity that brings to mind Georg Buechner and his depiction of the vogesian mountain country in =Lenz=. The main character Sorger is a geologist but preoccupied with =the search for forms, their distinction and description, apart from the landscape /.../ where this often painful, in between enjoyable, activity was his profession=.

This is a good description of Handke/s own literary project, as he explains it in the interview book =Aber Ich lebe nur von dem Zwischenräumen=, published in 1987. Obviously, Handke now writes in a more and more intuitive way, he says the first sentence of the book took him three days to complete. This was, however, a necessary starting point for his account of the departure from Alaska, which was supposed to fill ten pages but grew to last for ninety. Sorger had to visit several places before he could return home. The plane had just descendend through the clouds covering Europe, when Handke suddenly realized that the book was finished.

Sometimes language is even more essential than time, in getting from one moment to another, and this goes for both Handke as author and for his characters. To =narrate= is an existential need. In several interviews Handke points out that he regards himself not as a storyteller but as reteller; the world consists of signs to write down. Many people say that you must read Handke with the eyes of a writer, but at the same time he claims that he writes like a reader.

Handke had the same sensitivity for his own text while he worked on =Die Wiederholung= 1986 (=Repetition=, transl. Ralph Manheim, New York, 1988). He thought of it as completed many times, but then decided to go on. The narrator, Filip Kobal, of Slovenian origin like Handke, grew up in a small village in Kärnten in the south of Austria. Here he remembers a journey he made in the early 60/s, when he was 20 years old and crossed the border to Yugoslavia in search for his brother, who had disappeared many years earlier.

Handke is fascinated by the _expression =being conspicuous by one/s absence=. In the Kobal family the brother gains a remarkable presence through his constantly awaited return. The disappeared brother is a void that Filip may fill with projections and expectations ad libitum. Every time he needs calm and strength, he evokes the inner image of his brother, and this happens frequently, since the misery of the Kobalian household is almost parodic; the father always angry and grumbling, the mother sick and the sister distracted.

One recognizes biographical data from earlier books, although certain facts have been altered (the brother, for instance, seems to be a portrait of Handke/s maternal uncle). Linguistically, Filip is split in his identification between his father/s German and his brother/s Slovenian. This probably also represents the ambivalence Handke feels himself, when it comes to the German language, which, in the words of George Steiner, =created, organized and exculpated Belsen=. Already the lack of a passive voice in Slovienian is something the young Kobal regards as hopeful for the future.

Kobal is also travelling the strange karst land of northern Yugoslavia, a world of subterranean torrents, caves and dripstones. The story almost loses its steerage-way at times here, and the reader/s patience is severely tried. This novel is not one of Handke/s best, although there are some very fascinating passages, e.g. the brother/s annotations about how to graft different brands of apple trees, or the account of the Slovenian dictionary, which almost turns into a philosophical tract, yet with an unusual poetry budding out of the very raw material of language.

Those mystical, implicit understandings appear in this book too. First there is a servant, whose unbroken attention and incessant care become subject to Filip/s adoration: =Once he stood in the night, in the unfurnished, empty room, stock still, gazing ahead, then he stepped forward, up to a remote niche, where he executed a small tender twist on the decanter, so that the entire house was filled with hospitality.=

At an outdoor party an unsuspecting girl arouses Filip/s admiration, and while the table cloth gets colored more and more deeply red by falling mulberries, he =marries= her in his fantasy, without one word being uttered.

=Slow homecoming= is the first novel where Handke addresses his main characters, he even sometimes turns to the narrative itself: =Oh story, /.../ grant us grace.= Sometimes Handke/s style is archaic, his intonation adopts to that of the fairy tale. This tendency is even more apparent in his next novel, =Die Abwesenheit=, 1987 (=Absence=, transl. Ralph Manheim, New York, 1990). Handke looks upon himself as a reteller. Maybe this could explain his urge towards pastiche.

Finally: The more glimpses you get from Handke/s own biography, the more you understand of the apparently empty and formalistic experiments in his early plays and poems. Maybe they depict the childs lack of a functioning language within an aggressive adult world that is permeated by ambiguous messages and humiliation. If you read for instance =Publikumsbeschimpfung= as a family drama, where the grown-ups command the children in the same way as the actors try to control even how the audience is breathing, then almost every line becomes unbearably ambiguous and upsetting.

Too bold as it may sound, I still would like to introduce an even more specific reading. Should it not be substantiated in Handke/s own biography, it is nevertheless an interesting angle that casts a different light on the bulk of Handke/s Ïuvre. Publikumsbeschimpfung= and several other works, or parts of works, need not be interpreted as just any family drama, but as precisely that scolding which children most likely are subject to after having witnessed the Freudian primal scene; their parents having sexual intercourse.

Try to read Handke/s books again with this in mind! Almost every closed room might be a bedroom, almost every enigma or unsolved problem could be connected with the mystery of one/s own conception, which happened during such a primal scene. The goalie, Bruno, Keuchnig, Sorger and all the others - surely they were all witnesses!

In retrospect Handke/s literary production through the years stand out as remarkably consistent, not to say persistent, and he spent the greater part of the 70/s and 80/s trying to define an independent role for his writing, outside of his dead mother/s jurisdiction.

Her short suicide note certainly resulted in a long literary good-bye for him.

(This is a slightly rewritten version of an article originally published in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet of Sept. 23rd 1988.)

Copyright Karl-Erik Tallmo, 1988, 1995.

Email Me!
mikerol at lycos com