Thursday, April 1, 2010

A review of Peter Handke's DON JUAN [short version]

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[a link to a lot of reviews world wide] 

First Ian Brunskills tight review, then a few other short ones, also in Swedish, and someone found the parallel between Diderot and Handke and Port Royal and then my expansive commentary:

March 11, 2005
A week of women
Ian Brunskill

DON JUAN (ERZAHLT VON IHM SELBST). Peter Handke. 159pp. Frankfurt am Main:

Suhrkamp. 16.80euros. - 3 518 41636 7.

How do you retell a story that everyone takes as read? It is the kind
of challenge Peter Handke has set himself before, in four decades of
showing how lives may be constituted and constrained by the limits of
language and the conventions of literary form. With Don Juan (erzahlt
von ihm selbst) (Don Juan as told by himself) he goes further,
rendering almost unrecognizable a character whose tale has been told a
thousand times, and then proclaiming his own version as the only true
one. It is playfully and poetically done.

Despite the title, Handke's primary narrator is not Don Juan but the
unnamed landlord of an inn in the Ile-de-France near the ruins of the
convent of Port-Royal des Champs. The inn has long had no guests, the
garden furniture has been left to rot, but the landlord, out of habit,
still cooks for himself and fills his days with books. He reads ("What
a reader!") until he is nearly sick of reading: Racine and Pascal on
the Jansenism of his historical neighbours, the seventeenth-century
nuns of Port-Royal; but also Stendhal, Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, Garcia
Marquez, the adventures of Commissaire Maigret. One afternoon in May,
just when he has decided he can read no more, he sees Don Juan come
crashing into his world, head over heels through a gap in the garden
wall. It might, he admits, as well have been Gawain, or Lancelot, or
Parsifal's half-brother, or Prince Mishkin.

But it was Don Juan -"not 'a' Don Juan, no, him, Don Juan" -with a
leather clad couple on a motorbike in hot pursuit. Don Juan takes away
the need for books.

Over the days that follow, the landlord and his unexpected visitor
explore the site of the convent and the surrounding woods, visit an
atomic plant and the chateau of Rambouillet, sit in the garden in the
sun. In the evenings, the landlord cooks for Don Juan and, as they
eat, the famous guest, day by day for seven days, recounts for his
host ("and at the same time himself") his adventures of the previous

These adventures involve women, of course: a different woman each day,
in a different land. The first is the bride at a wedding in the
Caucasus, the next a young mother in a sandstorm in Syria. Subsequent
encounters take place in North Africa, Holland, Norway and a place
with no name, before Don Juan ends up where the story begins, in a
wood outside Paris, watching, and then fleeing, that leather-clad
motorcycling pair. Each episode is related a little more perfunctorily
than the last. There are no racy details. The women are all
"indescribably beautiful", so their beauty goes undescribed. Much
remains open or unexplained. What emerges, with great emotional
precision, is a picture of Don Juan.

It becomes clear to the landlord of the empty inn at Port-Royal that
Don Juan is not as he has been portrayed. The other Don Juans in 400
years of literature and art are all wrong, "even Moliere's; even
Mozart's". The real Don Juan, this Don Juan, is solitary, melancholy,
in mourning (it seems) for the loss of the person closest to him: his
wife perhaps, or his only child. He is attentive, engaging - and
fidelity personified.

What all this means is that his womanizing is driven by something
more, or less, than lust. The Commendatore consigned Mozart's Don
Giovanni to the flames with the words, "Ah tempo piu non v'e".
Handke's Don Juan has all the time in the world.

That is his torment. In some languages, he remarks, things that happen
quickly are said to happen "in no time at all". What he seeks, with
forlorn desperation, is a time when that figure of speech becomes
literally true. He finds it in time spent with women. But only, so to
speak, for a time.

Don Juan's week of women takes him out of time, bringing to his
restless existence a wholeness and security and grace. In turning that
week into a narrative he prolongs the consolation for another seven
days, preserving for a little longer his tranquillity and sense of
self. With the tale all told, ordinary time resumes: Don Juan becomes
clumsy, awkward, ill at ease. Anxiety returns, and recounting gives
way to counting, an obsessive numbering of hours and minutes as he
prepares to leave.

By then his servant has arrived, providing, in an earthy account of
his own amorous intrigues, a crass conventional counterpoint to the
rarefied intimacies of his master's more enigmatic tale. The women
from the past week have turned up too, camped at the gates, besieging
the inn. "It is time", Don Juan says.

But even in leaving, "he took his time".

In recent years, with his partisan running commentary on the Balkan
conflict, or the baggy philosophical picaresque of his novel Der
Bildverlust, Handke has made life hard for his admirers. Don Juan
(erzahlt von ihm selbst) marks a tightly written, richly allusive
return to what he does best: making sense of the ways we make sense of
the world.


 Who is the notorious lover of women? The author gives us an unexpected portrait that challenges the traditional ideas surrounding him.

January 31, 2010|By Natasha Randall
Don Juan
His Own Version: A Novel
Peter Handke
Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 112 pp., $22
Peter Handke isn't interested in damnation. He said as much in an interview published in the Drama Review in 1970: "Morality is the least of my concerns. . . . To me, morality in a society that -- however moral  its pose -- is hierarchically organized is simply a lie, an alibi for the inequalities that exist in society." And so "Don Juan: His Own Version" is a story without a moral. It is episodic and uncapped, a text that neither delivers nor allows judgment.
The legend of Don Juan may be one of the most retold stories in literature. More than 1,500 versions of the tale have been written since  the 17th century. The earliest known version was published in 1626, called "El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra" by the priest Tirso de Molina. As you might expect from a priest, Tirso's Don Juan was a villainous scoundrel sent to hell for his sins. Subsequent stories tend to damn Don Juan variously -- and to damn the women who succumbed to or partook in the seduction too. But Handke is defiant of these versions, and his Don Juan isn't corralled into any tidy deliverance.
The moral ambiguity of this retelling is evident from the very start. Don Juan comes hurtling over a fence into an innkeeper's garden in the first pages. He is fleeing a pair of pursuers, a couple on a motorbike, who have just caught him peeping at them as they made love in the forest. He is running so fast and hard that his panting can be heard by the lonely innkeeper minutes before his jump over the wall. The innkeeper and new arrival listen to the roar of the motorbike as it approaches and then watch as the couple gives a friendly wave on their way past. Were they in pursuit -- or did they just happen to be going that way?
Handke's Don Juan is unmistakably that same lover found in the other tales. But somewhere near the middle of the book, Handke delivers a clear summation of his character: "Don Juan was no seducer. He had never seduced a woman. . . . And conversely, Don Juan had never been seduced by a woman. . . . Don Juan's power emanated from his eyes . . . with his gaze -- and not with his looks, which were rather inconspicuous -- he unleashed the woman's desire. It was a gaze that took in more than her alone, and different things, a gaze that extended past her and let her be, and thus she knew it was directed at her, and appreciated her; an active gaze. . . . From Don Juan's eye on her and additionally on the space around her, this woman came to a realization of how alone she had been until then, and recognized that this moment would promptly put an end to that. . . . Becoming aware of loneliness -- the energy, pure and unconditional, of desire."
Handke's novel catches Don Juan in a respite. Having leapt over the wall, he stops his endless wandering for exactly a week, during which time he regales the innkeeper with a chronicle of the preceding week. He describes how he has trysted his way from the Caucasus to Norway via Africa. But, as the novel's title suggests, Don Juan is not the narrator of this book. The innkeeper, Don Juan's obedient listener, brings the story to the reader. He is kept narratively chaste by Don Juan, who forbids the asking of questions while he speaks. And the innkeeper is faithful, saying on the last page: "[F]rom what my Don Juan told me about himself I learned the following: those were all false Don Juans -- including Moliere's, including Mozart's."
Indeed, Handke's Don Juan story may just ruin the reading experience of other versions (which seem dreadfully didactic in comparison). Indeed, one suspects that this was Handke's intention -- to show them up with his clean, broad narration, which refuses to herd a reader toward conclusion. Handke's text is anti-reductive. His language is at once specific and ambiguous. Don Juan isn't treated here to the vagaries of typology; his nature is palpable but unfixed. As the innkeeper says, at the very end: "The rest of the story cannot be told, either by Don Juan or by me, or by anyone else. Don Juan's story can have no end, and that, on my word, is the definitive and true story of Don Juan."
Randall is a critic and the translator of "A Hero of Our Time" by Mikhail Lermontov and Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We."

"Don Juan ist ein anderer" Peter Handkes Don Juan (erzählt von ihm selbst) in der literarischen Tradition des Don Juan-Stoffes (2008)

The figure of Don Juan with its numerous variations and adaptations has been widely discussed in secondary literature. However, one of the most recent adaptations of the character, Peter Handke’s novel Don Juan (erzählt von ihm selbst) (2004) has up to now been neglected. This study tries to provide the first in-depth analysis of Handke’s book while specifically centering on the character of Don Juan himself. The examination strives to determine whether Don Juan, as portrayed by Handke, can still be understood as a real embodiment with roots in the literary tradition or whether the author simply evokes an identical name without establishing any real accordance. In order to evaluate this specific treatment of Don Juan, it is necessary to establish a theoretical framework which provides some insight into the recurrent features that constitute the theme itself. This context will be instituted by the means of identifying motifs and structures essential for understanding Don Juan’s place in world literature while relying on the definitions of the terms “Motiv” and “Stoff” as they were formulated by Elisabeth Frenzel. The analysis of Handke’s Don Juan (erzählt von ihm selbst) is structured into three parts. Handke’s treatment of traditional motifs forms the first part of this interpretation whereas an identification of thematic innovations serves as a second part. The analysis concludes with a contextualisation of typical Handke thematic preoccupations. These are inextricably incorporated into his treatment of the Don Juan motif and therefore absolutely necessary to provide a comprehensive evaluation of this work. The thesis affirms that Peter Handke’s Don Juan can be regarded as a convincing new interpretation of the traditional Don Juan character. The author manages to include all the relevant recurrent features that constitute the Don Juan theme but enhances them with iv innovations which reveal new aspects of the character. Some suggestions for further research, e. g. an in-depth intertextual analysis or a psychoanalytical approach conclude the thesis.

 trolling back and forth in the shelter of what was left of a high wall, against which the gusts of sand hissed. A week later, Don Juan described the iron reinforcement material poking out of the wall and the unearthly music the powerful wind made in the tangle of wire, rods, and pipes above their heads. The assault of air and grains of sand on the iron was intermittent, at least for a while. For moments at a time it would gain in strength, then ebb a bit, then rise to a new crescendo, then weaken to a whistling, then to a mere fanning, whereupon it would set in again, more violently than ever, and so on, without ever dying away and ceasing altogether. The wind set up a constant reverberation in the iron fretwork sticking up into the storm, and whereas nothing but a howling, roaring, and pounding, thoroughly monotonous, would have been heard if the air currents remained steady, instead a veritable melody took shape, something that was steady in an essentially different way. And it was a harmonic melody. True, its measures were all different in length. And between the highest and lowest notes steps would have had to be added to the scales at the top and bottom. But the transitions between almost inaudibly high and barely audible low notes, and the alternation between the shortest and longest measures, between loud and soft, did not occur abruptly or suddenly, by chance or at random, but rather harmoniously, and in time blended with the melody—in a number of languages the word for “time” was the same as for “measure”—the instrumental accompaniment being provided by the vibrating wire, the half-loosened iron rods drumming against each other, and especially by the system of pipes, open to the storm, which served as the leaders of the melody, so to speak, while the wire and rods created the rhythm. Don Juan hummed and sang the music to me, his voice scratchy at the beginning, then increasingly powerful, as he rose from his storytelling chair and with arms outstretched stalked up and down Port-Royal garden, and I, who for so long have not been sure of anything, was sure that if he had performed this piece of music in public, it would have conquered the globe as hardly any piece of music could.

At the time in question, I was cooking only for myself, for the time being, in my country inn near the ruins of Port-Royal-des-Champs, which in the seventeenth century was France’s most famous cloister, as well as its most infamous. . . . In May I pretty much gave up gardening in favor of simply watching how the vegetables I had planted or sown either thrived or withered. (Handke, p. 1–2). 

No matter what the weather, rain or shine, it’s my habit every evening at about five o’clock to take a walk around the Palais Royal. I’m the one you see dreaming on the bench in Argenson’s Alley, always alone. I talk to myself about politics, love, taste, or philosophy. I let my spirit roam at will, allowing it to follow the first idea, wise or foolish, which presents itself, just as we see our dissolute young men on Foy’s Walk following in the footsteps of a prostitute with a smiling face, an inviting air, and a turned-up nose, then leaving her for another, going after all of them and sticking to none. For me, my thoughts are my prostitutes. (Diderot)

Krönika/Per Svensson: Don Juans dumhet

Peter Handkes senast

översatta bok - den lilla romanen Don Juan (hans egen berättelse) är en i långa stycken underbar text, så vitt jag kan bedöma mycket fint tolkad till svenska av Marja Müllner. Handke skriver med en sinnlighet i detaljerna som ibland kan förleda en att tro att det inte finns något avstånd mellan tecken och värld. Handke är en av samtidens stora författare, mer förtjänt av ett nobelpris än rätt många som har fått det. Men just nu befinner han sig i centrum av en intensiv debatt i fransk och tysk press inte på grund av sina litterära kvaliteter, utan på grund av sina politiska dumheter. Länge har Handke av skäl svåra att förstå, eller kanske av skäl man helst inte vill förstå, odlat ett kitschigt svärmeri för serbisk heimat-sentimentalitet. I praktiken har han spelat rollen av förfinad försvarsadvokat för Slobodan Milosevic, den balkanske etnofascismens grå furste. I mars deltog Handke i begravningen av Milosevic i dennes hemstad i Serbien och höll ett kort tal om att inte veta sanningen - men istället känna och se och höra och minnas och fråga - som i ljuset av vad också Handke borde veta om Sarajevo och Srebrenica framstår som en obehagligt kokett promenad på stigar man trodde var igengrodda. Det har fått chefen för den franska nationalscenen Comédie Francaise, Marcel Bozonnet, att stoppa en planerad uppsättning av en Handke-pjäs. Rätt eller fel? Eftersom det i debatten används ord som "censur" kan det först finnas skäl att påminna om att ingen teaterchef, förläggare eller redaktör har någon skyldighet att sätta upp, ge ut eller trycka ett visst verk. Liberala samhällen bekänner sig till yttrandefrihet, inte till yttrandetvång. Å andra sidan bekänner sig liberala samhällen också till en idé om konstens egenvärde. Konst av hög kvalitet - egentligen en tautologi för dålig konst är ingen konst - behöver inte legitimeras av upphovsmannens förnuftiga åsikter och oklanderliga politiska handel och vandel. Det är därför vi kan fascineras av Wagners operor och låta oss uppslukas av Hamsuns romaner. Det är därför Bozonnets beslut är dubiöst, det luckrar upp en principiell boskillnad mellan värderingen av ett verk å ena sidan och värderingen av upphovsmannens åsikter och karaktärsegenskaper å andra sidan. Den boskillnaden är av viss vikt för att vidmakthålla intresset för teater, litteratur och musik.

Betydande konstnärer

är inte alltid kloka och oantastliga. Det finns åtskilliga verk man inte vill vara utan som skrivits av personer man inte skulle vilja ta i hand. Handke bör alltså spelas - men man ska samtidigt komma ihåg att om man accepterar att göra denna skillnad mellan verk och person så följer av det också att betydande konstnärer inte kan tilldelas eller åberopa några privilegier i den politiska debatten. Deras dumheter är lika korkade som andras. Det är möjligt att Peter Handke i politiken är sin egen Don Juan, både förförare och förförd. Men när han vallfärdar till Milosevic kista är han mest av allt en helt vanlig Leporello.


(short version)

“By the way, he told me later, if one refrained from looking directly at a thing and instead  just brushed it with a glance, the image could burn itself into one's retina in a way that no  purposeful observation or contemplation could."

What a marvelous book! An aging reclusive restaurateur, gripped by the blues, dreams of an orgy, of the return to “womantime” – the erotic connection to the world and time and being seemingly forever: “I want a Bird” the dream begins, elicited by a pornographic fantasy; promptly “a sparrow” alights on a hazel stick lance, “Ich will vögeln” it says in dream language, and there he is: Don Juan!  Through the “breach” in the wall.
There was a time that Handke belittled “magic realism” – from his customary envy I imagine – and here he is more magical than any of them in transposing his interiority, his libido, into a playful many layered… into a real motherfucker of a book, oh and what dark sides this imagined Don has. - And not one single reviewer in the English language knows how to read! Don’t burn books, burn reviewers, don’t even bother putting them on a stake! Handke’s subsequent novel, the 2006 Kali is even more ambitious and an equally magical opera film – not that I haven’t half a dozen minor quarrels with Don Juan, oh and isn’t it ever so unfortunate that the second novel after Don Juan, the 2008 Moravian Nights, isn’t as multi-dimensionally composed as the formally so perfect Don Juan, a book that Thomas Mann would have envied! What reading experiences Handke continues to provide!

Don Juan [as told by him to a narrator, a hermit restaurateur who thus tells us the story second hand, with some doubt thrown in about his ability to remember, or third hand if he is recounting the Don’s sidekick chauffeur’s story] was approximately Handke’s 100th work in German
when published in 2004 and is about the 35th to be translated into English in Handke’s near 50 year publishing career, superbly so by Krishna Winston I  say [1], not really all that many, one novel and a play a year, the occasional essay collection, a big book of diary excerpts per decade, scarcely a hero of labor, nicely industrious that’s all, no matter that he is condemned to write, medicine for his troubled soul, and Don Juan is best read [2] at the pace it was written, two or three pages, the writer’s writer 1000 words a day and resuming the next day re-reading what you had read the day previous and you will get more out of it:  promise! - Money & time back guarantee, yours truly! Handke has his very own kind of density that even Joyceans who can read Finnegan’s Wake at a fair pace can miss; he packs about thrice as much into his prose, thus some of his books are deceptively slight only in page and word count. The failure to pursue him more closely or read him better I think is due, now, not only to speed reading but to the apparent fluency, almost done nonchalantly, the ease of his narrative. Not just to reader’s inability to respond to metaphors and theatrical conventions on the page.                 From the very first, too, Handke has been a deceiver of the first order, and his audience, including the great majority of reviewers has fallen for his MacGuffins. Ah all that time spent deciphering Nabokov and Borges – and then those poor dears nonetheless come a cropper at a greater puzzle. {“Einen Jucks will er sich machen” is the name of a play by one of his great predecessor”, and “Don Juan” indeed is a MacGuffin of a very special sort, with some smaller MacGuffins tucked inside [throughout my extensive quoting I am putting certain words in read: you need to take those words at their word]:

“Don Juan’s coming on that May afternoon took the place of reading for me. It was more than a mere substitute. The very fact that it was “Don Juan,” instead of all those devilishly clever Jesuit padres from the seventeenth century, and also instead of a Lucien Leuwen and Raskolnikov, let us say, or a Mynheer Peeperkorn, a Señor Buendía, an Inspector Maigret, came as a breath of fresh air. At the same time, Don Juan’s arrival literally offered me the sense of a widening of my inner horizons, of bursting boundaries, that I usually experienced only from reading, from excited (and exciting), blissful reading. It could just as well have been Gawain, Lancelot, or Feirefiz, Parzival’s piebald half-brother — no, not him, after all! Or perhaps even Prince Mishkin. But it was Don Juan who came. And he was actually not altogether unlike those medieval heroes or vagabonds.”

is how Don Juan’s appearing in the garden is described, and if read slowly might set off jangle of alarm bells in anything but the usual literal-minded American or, I don’t know, F.D.J., reader: for this passage indicates that “Don Juan,” too, might be a bit of a McGuffin or Muffin with raisins two or three, it might as easily have been the sleepwalking Prince Mishkin idiot of whose behavior this Don Juan’s demeanor sometimes reminds you and affinity with which idiots Handke has duly noted throughout his oeuvre. Don Juan, a red herring, a piece of coyness dangled to engage the voyeur in us, the pornographer who will depart only half nourished unless the book triggers his or her imagination to sally forth as has Handke’s here, for this odd Don certainly behaves like an idiot in that film dream fantasy [why?], this quote is typical of several; also note the various film metaphors and scenes:

“In the meantime the couple continued to draw on their cigarettes, without appearing to be blinded at all by the sudden daylight; it was like a nocturnal scene in a film. They acted at first as if the third person were not even there...”

and the way he is portrayed: am I reading a dream here? Foreshortenings, Daliesque happenings within some realistically described setting. When he needs a servant, there he is, as in a dream, a fantasy, and the servant is a kind of split off part as Handke has been doing it since No-Man’s Bay, about the time he finally turned novelistic; the dark side of Don Juan. A “split-off” part may be revealing of one side of an author’s personality, but nothing conclusionary can be drawn from it about an author in his living complexity. Handke is, has evidently been a genius in finding various masks for particular tasks in his novelistic undertakings.

I don’t claim not to be victim of the coquettish artist. American reviewers, after all, from A to Z, and some high class German ones, have fallen for its McGuffins hook line and sinker. One way to read it is with negative capability, whenever it says “yes” reverse it into “no” and vice versa, dream time reversals are upon us.
Initially, audiences came to see “Public Insult” for the sensationalist series of chordlike insults at the end: but first had to suffer being made entirely self-conscious not just about being in the world but being in the theater and the author being always one step ahead of them with what he knew they were experiencing and addressing the so passive them. A “Surprise Symphony” of sorts, “He Wants to Make a Joke” as Nestroy’s play has it. Very Austrian if you like. Handke is at least as cunning at this point as Joyce. And he is very upfront about that and very upfront here.
From the very first, also, Peter Handke has provided particular kinds of experiences, either on stage or the page. Those are his chief play grounds. The games the “melancholy player” as he calls himself plays have language and experience rules, rules of time and space, formal rules, and one of their aspects is that they are projection screens in which the reader or playgoer discovers himself, suggestibles: “Quodlibet” – the name of a fundamental text of his – as you like it - will catch your conscience, the conscience of the audience king. As in a game of chess, these linguistic or phenomenological games, too, and now dream translations, have rules, of course rather deeper and more complicated ones, which can access various strata of your being. Don Juan is a three dimensional chess game dream in time and space. Meanwhile, Handke has become such a damn master that in Don Juan and in the subsequent novels Kali and especially in Moravian Night, that are not in English yet, he can riff like a stride jazz pianist, here he merely verges [in the Cueta section] since the formal rules underlying Don Juan’s composition are too strict to allow that kind of striding here, yet maintains the classical style [thus introducing another set of tensions] - he has written himself into a mode of classical freedom. And there you can live, that is read, when the world is too much with you. Reading as one kind of living. One thing, however, you cannot do and stay part of Handke’s formalist game, is apply a different set of rules to it. If you do so nonetheless, you become like the philistine Joel Agee in his NY Times review
and fail to get the game and then criticize it for something that it is not and ask for rhetoric that Handke is quite capable of furnishing at the right time and place [3]. Handke has had the entire register at his command since the 1981 writing of his richest and greatest work, Walk About the Villages. And to miss out on the sublte and sometimes not so subtle game that the 60+ Handke was playing like cool-hand Luke when he wrote the fairly unsettling Don Juan in the early years of this century is to miss a great deal, to buy into the MacGuffin. I mean, we all do in the end, life after all is a scam, but “play the game” as W.A.T.V has it. “Stay in the picture” – another piece of advice that Handke obeys far better than his other self-admonitions.  Here, in Don Juan, “Filthy McNasty” [a Horace Silver tune] is part of the game.

As of translating the early plays up to and including Ride Across Lake Constance I realized not just that Handke was a genius as an artist – here in Don Juan the genius  manifests itself in the ability to step by one -determined sentence – within the immense complexity of dream complexity of the conception, from one extraordinary step to another: another reason to slow down as you read - [otherwise Handke can be as daft and gauche as other autists] –  but that he was a musician: if you worked on these texts, and then with actors, I  realized that he seemed not only to employ musical serial principles in his composition, but that listening, experiencing availed you access to the music of the spheres; sometimes in the apparently disjointed fashion of the texts of Innerworld, straightforwardly so in Self-Accusation or My Foot my Tutor or The Hour we knew Nothing of Each Other, the latter being a play without words experiencing which play of endless whirl of images cleans your clock; [here there is whirling too, progressively more, in Don Juan, in the background, which occasionally comes to the fore]. Hour’s text takes your by the scruff of you syntax and won’t release you until the end. It’s quite something to read it in German. And it is good to see and realize the control our master exercises, here as well of course. He can put that control to a lot of different purposes! Our master carpenter can!  
    Dissertations have demonstrated my apprehension meanwhile. Synchronicity, consonance, dissonance, formal perfection, turning himself into a piece of sculpted marble appears to matter more to Handke than anything else, and the game Handke has played since the early days have only become more complex and deeper. And for a while became seriously subjective. He was also able, early on, to conquer anxiety by writing, that is the kind of feat that gave the now ex-“I-am-the-new Kafka” Handke a seriously swollen head, see:
for my reading of his anxiety-overcoming poem Singular and Plural [The Turk.] Libido makes Handke anxious, the bastard writes and he is calm: thus libido, woman-time is what is adored more than anything else here, is the “sun god”!
   Handke, being autistic, uses his self as his own material for his imaginative creations, personae, screens, exhibits himself; the use of acknowledged autobiography roots for his work is nearly transfigured as it is re-arranged in this his version of being a would-be Don Juan as he ages [but yields little of that kind of autobiographical interest in this instance compared to an extremely autobiographical novel such as Moravian]. Reading certain Handke works can induce states of mind, depression – Weight of the World ­– which then lifts towards the end; utter joy towards the end of the “Berg und Tal Fahrt” of Crossing the Sierra del Gredos – at least the writer loves writing more than he can love anything, including women it appears. In Don Juan a certain merriment prevails above a basic B-minor ground tone, the sorrow to which “Don Juan” refers with such frequency.
Handke started off as a kind of American writer, the plain style, a reporting style, very phenomenological, but Thucydides is one of his ancestors, too, that can be deceptive. Meanwhile he has all of Flaubert’s and Goethe’s and Stifter’s and then some arrows in his quiver! Watch out! This is a book to be on the alert! Don’t be caught napping.

The 2004 Don Juan [His Version] claims to be a story told by “Don Juan” - talking in the third person! about himself, thus generalizing his personae into a “one”, into an “all Don Juan” - to the nameless hermit restaurateur, monk of sorts who has now written down Don Juan’s account. A double breakage, a “three cornered hat” of sorts: sounds more complicated than it is in this instance, but is a requisite for objectification and distancing in the narrative. It’s difficult to tell, purposely so unless you pay close attention, whether Don Juan’s story is but the narrator restaurateur’s extended fantasy wish-fulfillment turned into an artful telegram film, merely the restaurateur’s reverie. Merely! Don Juan with respect to this kind of doubling around corners is like Handke’s rather awkward first novel, Die Hornissen [The Hornets-1965], the only way it appears in which, for Handke, actuality can be transmitted, created onto his page stage is in this manner.
Don Juan bursts onto the scene at the very time that he, the narrator restaurateur, is in an especially down mood, his coach house, the yard are a shambles, he no longer looks after his gardens or orchards, he, a life long reader and cook, has stopped cooking and reading, the crows are raging as only angry crows can – we are in a more complicated yet still in the world of “The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld” of reflected projections, of moods, states of mind.
“He had taken a few steps backwards and thus created a magnetic field, to which the young woman yielded without hesitation, as if it were the obvious thing to do. Worth noting perhaps, that when actions did occur in his narrative, Don Juan merely reported them quickly, whereas when it came to inner state and complications, he repeatedly gave himself plenty of time. [48]

And here from the end where Don Juan is disintegrating:

89-90 “For Don Juan the landscape remained an interior in motion, no different from my house with its walled gardens. To look at him, one would have thought he was imprisoned under a thick glass dome. At every step he bumped into a tree, stumbled off the path into the wetland along the Rhondon, swiped at a mosquito, which was actually a wild dove flapping overhead. The time crunch he had blundered into also made him lose his sense of distance and space.”

Must Don Juan come hurtling through a breach in the wall, well yes: fantasy breaks through, and with a hazelnut stick that quivers like a lance [as in “Wings of Desire”!] and has a sparrow alight on it at once. [In dream syntax language this means: Ich will voegeln! – In British lingo: “I want a bird!” In American, “I want to fuck”! I want to be young again as when the lance first was tossed! - What a wonderful way for fantasy time to ensue!

“Don Juan came hurtling head over heels onto my property. He had been preceded by a sort of spear, or lance, that whizzed through the air in an arc and dug itself into the earth right at my feet. The cat, which was lying next to that spot on the grass, blinked a few times, then went right back to sleep, and a sparrow — what other bird could have pulled this off? — landed on the still quivering shaft, which then continued to quiver. In actuality the lance was just a hazel branch, slightly pointed at the tip, such as you could cut for yourself anywhere in the forests around Port-Royal.”

All kinds of correction are made, displacements, transfigurations if you like, as they are made in a dream: lance is taken back and made into harmless hazelnut stick. Handke may have objected to Freud putting God as a super-ego inside us, however he has been a careful reader of the Interpretation of dreams for decades, and what great use he has made it for enlarging the repertoire of communication between writer and reader.

I suppose Don Juan could have appeared slowly, it might have dawned on the restaurateur only gradually that he needed and wanted to get laid once more, but that would have been indicator for the kind of big novel Handke did not write in this instance. We have something more adroit here, a kind of jeweled music box. – As I am writing this, my numerous crow friends in Seattle are engaged in the March mating game, which not only entails a lot of carrying about of twigs, but gargling chases and dive-bombing of competitors, and the poplars have begun to rustle and their cotton will drift all over the place soon after Ascension day and I will think of this book that is placed during the poplar cotton drifting time all over the world, spring time  – in other words, Don Juan’s irruption into the aging restaurateurs life at that particular moment is fortuitous, adventitious and more than welcome; the “Dean’s Last Spring” Saul Bellows might have called it. Our restaurateur, thus, is  no longer the youngest of fellows, he might be Philip Roth writing about the wages of old age and wondering whether a threesome with one girl wearing a green dildo would turn him on, and wouldn’t it be nice to have another erotic adventure, or maybe a whole series of them, the angel the longer the better is upon him! And what a time at least to revisit all our one-night stands! “Womantime”! Eros as THE connection to the world.

A whole series of idiotic adventures! That is the conceit. Subsequent to Don Juan’s appearance on the scene of the fantasist’s mind, or as of the very beginning, the only thing that is seriously interesting is how well the artificer will bring his conceit off and how well he will differentiate and how well he will describe, memorialize his neighborhood. Since it is the restaurateur’s self-directed fantasy, and not a dream, and cut like a film, it is a chancy game the writer plays, a very much high wire act [?] from one sentence, from one turn of the fantasy to the next as he merely “brushes” that calamity the erotic pornographic utterly obscene heart of the world, magma; it is a superb demonstration of the art of pure narration – something that Handke, after all, came to rather gradually. But since it is a self-directed fantasy, the restaurateur directs it, creates it, this is very much of a snake biting its own tail, it is solipsistic, and all of Handke’s technical innovations are driven I would say by the urge to make contact, to break out of this isolating solipsism, of which he is aware to an extreme degree, but Don Juan it is not a dream that arises from a navel, we can comment on the individual steps. Some of the claims that the restaurateur dreamer film maker self-amuser allows Don Juan to make are more than questionable: is he putting us on?    

“The rest of the story cannot be told, either by Don Juan or by me, or by anyone else. Don Juan’s story can have no end, and that, on my word, is the definitive and true story of Don Juan.”

are the novella’s last words. Oh sure! I love you for kidding me this way, Cool Hand Luke!
Don Juan’s setting, the monkish restaurateur’s abode, the coach house and garden of the abbey of Port Royal – Google Earth will take you there! –  is but a morning’s walk from No-Man’s Bay Chaville; its narrator host – “la vida est sueno” - to whom Don Juan tells his dream tale of 7 women in 7 days at 7 places [a million women in a million days! Womantime all the time is the melancholy wish! In 7 days God created heaven and hell], is but a re-incarnation, albeit a tad kindlier, than the inhospitable! restaurateur of No-Man’s-Bay, that split-off part of the so inhospitable Handke who cooks the world’s best word salad but is as picky with his guests as he is with each salad leaf, and so keeps going broke and needs to move further and deeper into the forest – a figure worthy of Musil’s General Sturm von Bordwehr in Man Without Qualities who has ideas march up one side to be cancelled out by the ideas on the other; or other such wonderful quintessential K.u.K. absurdities. That restaurateur is but a split-off part off Peter Handke who now does not even suffer his closest friends at home prior to taking them mushrooming, but will serve a delicious meal to interviewers, even to a Croatian Ustasha TV team, through whom the writer of the Afternoon of a Writer can address the world and display himself, an exhibitionism whose best and most attractive product would seem to be his work – certainly not his idiotically self-righteous press statements, ad hominem attacks.
In generously generalized fashion this drive expresses, projects itself, this way: “As if everyone, all over the world, had his daily visually artistic task; the task of being an image for others.” Well, Handke’s changing image, changing mode of dress, of the most photographed author ever, male or female, certainly is for me an image to catch in their whirl that also whirls through Don Juan; for about twenty years now I have been writing and thinking about his whelming oeuvre. And because he is a moving target I am never bored… as he refuses to bore himself by never writing the same thing twice, thus the bane of the motleyest of crews, reviewers who couldn’t get a job as para-legals or reporters of any kind. A test ought to be instituted for them! Handke at most explores a certain formal set of problems to its rigorous end, as he has here. Form is the cruelest law of them all! April a cake walk!

In my early teens in school in Germany all you needed to get a fairy tale out of me was give me a place name, say Devil’s Hill, and in an hour you would have it. The following hour, the teacher made me read it to the class, they seemed awed, and I myself was impressed by what had written itself out of me who had absorbed his father’s virgin fairy tale collection, oodles of sagas. Had I remained in that fairly homogenous farming community and not fled that German nightmare land, I might have become a writer of fairy tales. Meanwhile, Walter Benjamin’s “Essay on Leskov,” where he describes the kind of time it takes for these tales to be spun in the dream mine of sufficient time, has become one of my favorites. Those fairy tales seem to arise naturally - or so we say who can identify artificial creations like Handke’s or Nabokov’s; they can be passed on, be made more amenable to the folk, molded until they fit the experience of a tribe’s life. These fairy tales certainly contain, in every sort of way, lots of truths, often most unpleasant ones; as they do here as well. If like mine at the young age they arise out of the same navel whence dreams, the dream mine, we know that at some point we cease to be able to penetrate their origins. Quite horrendous ones at that, say about nearby “Devil’s Moor.” Although whether then contemporary German history was consumable by the dream work, I wonder. Günter Grass, early on, had the right access. And I think that was what Adorno meant with his “Poetry has become impossible after Auschwitz” – the incommensurable. There have been quite a few other incommensurables since.

A fairy tale fabulous quality started to introduce itself into the fine line of Handke’s then late 80s otherwise quite realistic complicated narrative strategies with the 1987 screenplay film novel THE ABSENCE, I have the opening on line at:
Some ordinary folk go off to wander about in Absence, who then join. Absence is written in such a way that it can be experienced as a film, a rather eerie experience once you allow yourself to become aware of that aspect; later, Handke would say that Absence was his Parsifal; a theme that already became noticeable in the 1986 The Repetition, the idea for Absence may of course have occurred to him in a dream, that is while his unconscious was undistracted and could focus on an idea and go on working, but Absence is an utterly modern product, and the procedure Handke employs are unimaginable in an age that did not have film – no matter that films play on what Bertram Lewin called the dream screen. Fairy tale elements are very prominent, say,  in the plays HOUR, ART OF ASKING, but  fairy tale elements also insinuate themselves into his first really big novel, the big 1993 No-Man’s-Bay six stranded carpet, set 10 years in the future, the Germanies are meant to be engaged in civil war, the first appearance of an Arab theme in Handke’s writing; it appears that in that fairy tale saga fashion Handke can apprehend the world mytho-poeically, Handke’s kind of epic drama, make some sense of it, in fairy tale form, grim sagas; and very self-consciously in a kind of extra chapter he then wrote for No-Man’s-Bay, for his second daughter, Laocadie, Lucie in dem Wald mit den Dingsbums 1994 [Lucie in the Woods with the Thingamajigs] a delightful but noticeably artificial and - compared to Don Juan - scarcely as successful a piece about one of Handke’s favorite items, activities, as it is that or the restaurateur in Don Juan: mushrooming, and what a shame that Farrar, Straus or another publisher has not made it available at least as a YA book. I find Handke rather cute there! Americans love cute! In Don Juan the reader cannot miss the intrusion of whirling items and people, the repeated re-appearance, not just of “the most beautiful woman in the world” but of other people and objects, as they flutter along with Don Juan from one place to the next the world as a whirling stage; although, as compared to the whirl of Hour’s images, this whirl did not induce catharsis, although it succeeds in making me more aware and attentive at each re-reading of Don Juan.

Now on to one other of the stepping stones of the fantasy  - I analyzed the initial “bird on hazelnut branch” above - some of the claims that the “Restaurateur” has this “Don Juan” make, in the restaurateur’s “fantasy” that I would question, that I find problematic, or where I would have suggested taking a different tack: after all, this roundelay will round off just as well no matter a few changes - form rules - and the basic form is perfectly executed as I will show: That is the only thing that is a foregone conclusion, at stake. As of midway, the screw will be tightened.
Must Don Juan see a couple in flagrante before he alights in the restaurateur’s mind [?], that being the only kind of turn-on risqué piquancy that all reviewer-readers have evidently lusted for, preferably with the spice of guilt. And been disappointed, and unaware that Handke wrote the ever so chaste Left-Handed Woman [at a time that he was trying to cure himself of all the troubles his womanizing had brought upon him then and later] while yet visiting no end of porn houses, which pornhouse experience has at least made for a few really good lines in his work. And wanted the music to the film he directed of that book - at the same place it was set, overlooking the gently rolling hills of Paris, the house he was living in at that time, to be a super ironic, distancing song, preferably by Randy Newman [“Short People”], just as now I can hear Professor Longhair groaning one of his strange half discordant growls in accompaniment to the great aria that Handke gives to Don Juan’s chauffeur at the end  – another way that Handke has developed of doing his recits –  the alter ego whoremonger side of Don Juan who loves them the uglier the better [no hint whether these women are beautiful ugly, I have met beautiful ugly, and seen Handke nearly throw up at two people whose character turned out to be as ugly as they were physically, names upon request, gladly; and why doesn’t he have the formulation “beautiful ugly” here? After all, Jeanne Mareau with whom he fought mano a mano can be said to be beautiful ugly, certainly not a standard beauty. It can no longer be beyond his aesthetic judging by this book!], the occasional reversal of the master slave relationship is another subtle or not so confessional of “the restaurateur’s” erotic tastes! Rough trade, the abysm.

”…woman and death. Whenever I went to you, I was
Prepared to meet my death. In fact you came hurtling toward me as if to kill me. The danger of suffocation came afterward. The imprint of your cheek on the window, which I haven’t wiped off to this day […] Breathing in your smell made me sing, and when I sing it really means something. And once you were lying there, you lay there, and lay, ha! only a woman can lie that way, and lie, and lie, and between you and me lay your child and pressed its damp diaper into my face all night long [……] Ah, but how seeing your buttocks passing still fills me with hope, with joie de vivre. […] As you were grabbing my predecessor’s crotch, you cast your first glance at me over your shoulder. You want to see me dead, woman, so you can mourn me. […] Your wonderful unavoidability. Go ahead and croak. And tomorrow is Pentecost.” [p.95-96]

However, our Chauffeur has his weak side, as one would not could not ascribe to even as sorrowful and different incarnation that Handke presents:

“This time, however, his [the chauffeur’s]  attitude revealed a third element, an air of abasement, and the revulsion was merely feigned, the devotion on the other hand was slavish. It is also clear that she was not the one sitting next to him but that he, the man, was sitting next to her – at her side, merely tolerated, someone she was allowing to keep her company for a while.” 70-71

Let us look at the first moment the Chauffeur is described devouring a woman! And contradicting himself, wonderfully for a change - Handke the contradictor, although highly ambiguous, and playing no end of games, yet Handke is entirely up front in his Don Juan - a few lines later dwells eyes hungry on his man servant:

"By the way, he told me later, if one refrained from looking directly at a thing and instead just brushed it with a glance, the image could burn itself into one's retina in a way that no purposeful observation or contemplation could… Be that as it may: what he took in of his servant's new lover was only her striking ugliness or disfigurement, caused by acne, chickenpox, or leprosy scars, and along with that a shamelessly blissful smile, while her lover, whose bite marks or scratches from the previous days seemed to have heeled over night, puffed calmly on his cigarette while constantly plucking at the girl's hair, breasts, and, most insistently, her overly long and of course crooked nose, with a facial expression in which fury and pleasure, tenderness and disgust, satiety and hunger, yearning and guilt, were inextricably blended (the latter had nothing to do with his master's appearing on the scene).

So much for a "brushing" glance! Although, as I indicated by putting the same quote at the top, the book as painting also has that particular ephemeral comet’s tail quality to it. Something else to watch out for, dear Reader! Although I imagine Don Juan, if the restaurateur had interrogated him on the matter, would be Jesuitical and claim the he had seen matters in such detail only because he had brushed his eyes past the scene, had only glancingly fathomed those contradictory expressions - there he would have me of course, since Handke is equipped with the eyes of eagle, the ear of a bat, the finicky taste bud of my feline, and nose of my best bird dog! I at least cannot argue with his powers of observation – interpretation and understanding of phenomena, however, are quite another matter, and have been all along.

The restaurateur has an obscene fantasy, has an erection, and wants to fuck, that is the dream syntax at the sight [induced fantasy] of the couple in flagrente: If Don Juan being chased rushes into the yard, being pursued is certainly good and sufficient cause in a fantasy, but it might be just be one woman who pursues Don Juan, perhaps the one real Erinye in his life? [At the end, all the women of the previous seven days, and more, at first surround the abbey and screech – I would have had them screeching wailing the way Arab women do – before realizing how lucky they were to have been with at least one Don Juan!? And seeming friendly – definitely wishfulfilment time!] And the Erinye, of course, does appear, as she must in every Handke book, here as Juanita!

“And she told Don Juan that it was not a thirst for revenge but a passion for revenge. This passion manifested itself, in conjunction with her sexual passion by the way, in the moment of copulating with any many, and was promptly satisfied. She wanted him out of her. She did not give the man the satisfaction of witnessing her rapture.” 72

... or a husband or brother in pursuit would have sufficed. But no: a Unisex couple clad in black leather on a motor bike – not a dirt bike although they then pursue cross country style, perhaps straight out of Orfé or a Godard film is what he decided to use, the arranger of fantasies.
In flagrante, the woman is grinding herself to orgasm atop the man’s cock; that is the fantasy, not his face; a rather lonely nearly masturbatory action, hard work, the restaurateur is masturbating, and obscuring the fact a bit, it’s a dream reversal. Handke has been writing dream syntax since The Afternoon of a Writer where the “writer” injured by the Salzburg street gossip feels like a hit and run victim in a ditch, chiffres; he writes in dream syntax after the Pharmacist is hit over the head in One Dark Night I left my Silent House and thus extends our novelistic ability to communicate; nothing obscure about the procedure; and all you need to is read the imagery and let if affect you; and instead of some cliché you have an image that derives from the interior, Shakespeare would have applauded, here we find an asshole like J.S. Marcus in the NYRB as calling it “more of Handke’s dream writing”, someone who can neither write nor think nor read or respond except as a hired assassin. Here, in Don Juan, the motor bike couple appears to have mistaken Don Juan for a voyeur; anyway so he thinks; but then [conveniently?] don’t recognize him at the Abbey? - hardly the kind of spot your can talk yourself out of unless you are a cop. Doubt is nicely introduced at a lot of moments, and thus instigates the reader’s imagination, ought to anyhow so that he/she can play along. The reader can speculate, begin to think, or not. If the couple had mistaken Don Juan for a cop and had fled - that, too, would be the end of the dream, of the fantasy. They don’t seem to recognize him, perhaps aren’t even angry, had merely been curious: if he hadn’t run they might have asked him to join them for a threesome and Philip Roth and Co. would have been delighted? Again, too many novelistic complications ensue; would interrupt the narrative drive. - Don Juan devotes himself exclusively to the woman, the bi-sexual man is furious, or not. Again: novelistic complications. Absolutely within the realm of fantasy at the very least. As it is, the scene is just lewd enough to be a tease, and that is all. A threesome going wrong in the sense that Don Juan only wanted to possess the woman would be cause enough for a chase, but would introduce a host of complications at a moment that we do not want them. Each of the crucial moments in this fistful of a book needs to be, can be examined in similar fashion. Handke is the film fantasy maker here! Each step the writer takes in such an undertaking – a host of choices with precipices on all sides. Over-determination – how do you write over-determininately as every dream image is? That is the problem facing the writer here. That is what I meant with density, unobtrusive complexity. And Handke goes about his business as lucidly as possible. Yet the book could have stood a bit of the self-interrogatory of the Essay on Tiredness!      

Why is Don Juan always fleeing the women he has just been with? And even in a dream! Ah, but there we have a question that is not all that well answered in the book, aside that the book, formally, necessitates brief encounters. There are a lot of Juanitas of all kinds besides the one that is encountered here, and the only one who is described at length? 
     If we know Handke’s work as far back as the 1971 Short Letter Long Farwell we can see the protagonists - self-acknowledged if imaginatively transformed aspects of the author to have auto-biographical roots - always fleeing women. Fleeing so as to write in Handke’s case, not to have the writing interfered with, since early adolescence.  The danger that women pose and the horror that Handke visited on some of them becomes very much the major subject of the 2007 Moravian Night, with a sense of some reconciliation to a life-long partner, the return to the second wife, who too, had split from “Don Juan”, the cold salamander! As had the first! In the case of the restaurateur who is reclusive but horny – even in his dream there is only one instance of a one whole day and night merging [see anon], a kind of culmination – but his dream lacks the wish for a permanent arrangement. The mere idea seems to choke him. After all, this particular Don Juan as he is imagined with utter selfishness but friendliness, as Handke can also be the friendliest of persons, in a dream is not someone who is seeking revenge on women, his matings are near instantaneous, as they can also be outside dreams, he is not the seducer, seduced himself by beauty, by always “the most beautiful woman in the world.” They find him, they “smell an available man across seven hills” as the Chauffeur has it. But since it’s a dream, might that might not be a pasha’s wish? A terrorist’s dream wish of the 13 messy virgins that he gets in Muslim heaven!? He does not need to compete or seduce a single of these women, doesn’t rape a friend’s girlfriend, and still thinks he has a friend – no, this is a series of easy dream rendezvous. Yet the fear of being suffocated by them persists into the dream! Is he the Boston strangler? Morality does not come into play. This is a book by the same writer who wrote Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick where a woman is strangled at the spur of rage, of irritation.

By the time Don Juan reaches his third way station, Cueta – Tbilisi, Damascus are the first two - he also encounters Juanita – who once she realizes whom she is trying to seduce flees in horror. Really? A Juanita who is afraid, that kind of man-eater, and of a Don Juan in a mating mood? Will she really refuse the challenge, the promise of the ultimate twosome, run away from the time of her time? The emasculator, not a French woman for sure who know how to give themselves so wonderfully to men, so as to ensnare them into permanence, here a man eater who lives to revenge herself on men, as she is portrayed.

“She had always - even as a child (?) yes, perhaps even as a child - wanted to get back at the opposite sex. There was no basis for this desire for revenge, not the slightest. She had not been raped by her father or her grandfather or an uncle, nor had she been cheated or jilted by a lover. Very early in life it had been enough if some boy had looked at her in a certain way, not even on purpose, merely in passing - and from the beginning it was almost impossible not to notice her - and immediately she would react with the thought: That's it. Revenge.[ ...] The boy would be lured into an ambush, then allowed liberties that made him completely vulnerable, and, finally, as if nothing had happened (and in fact nothing had happened, nothing at all; it had been for show, a dance of the seven veils), sent packing or made to "walk the plank", if possible in front of an audience, a male audience if possible, one member of which, thinking he was the new favorite, would become the next victim [...] robbed by her of all their illusions and banished from the world of childhood, would never find their way into a proper man's world, either, now she wanted to emasculate the grown men who became involved with her day after day and were promptly sent packing [...] Now she noticed Don Juan, and it was different... She recognized him and recoiled. Recoiled as though from an apparition? As from the apparition."[71-2]

Not the man eaters I have met who when it was “man time” saw every telephone as a penis! And some even want a penis at once after giving birth!  Again: too many complications would ensue, it could not be left at one night – thus we merely “brush” the suggestion in a novella [“All our embraces” Handke once wrote, and: “All you can write these days is they embraced.”] - special as all of them are, that is the most special of special at the very least weekends. Do you want to be stuck on such a weekend in Cueta of all places? I am made quite happy Handke choosing real rat holes for his encounters. Tbilisi, Damascus, Cueta, a Norwegian fiord, dreary Dutch dike country… not especially exotic or modish, nothing for the Auntie’s style section for sure. Handke cannot have Juan and Juanita mate in a quickie, it has to be more than a one night stand - it takes at least one long holiday weekend - after they are through with each other you scrape them off the floor. Don Juan’s sidekick chauffeur with whom he occasionally exchanges the master slave role, the split off dark side of the erotic - the fellow who revels in women the uglier the better, who grovels, is a slave to them, becomes Juanita’s victim and the Don then puts him back into halfway decent shape, salve on the rug burns and bites and scratches! – Don Juan, a true romantic if only for the moment, quite properly finds each the most beautiful one ever [they are, and perhaps the man too to the women] and then claims that he was “not seduced” [Give me a break fellow, what is more seductive than beauty? How have you seduced your audience, but with your very unique Aesthetik?] - would have been good for that, and nurse the wounded back into walking condition. Handke merely wants to “brush” reality, a hint, allusions suffices, very lucid dream metaphoric, but as in this Juanita instance – although the text is bereft of a true earth mother!!!??? Is it really??? – Thus some of the fantasist’s gambits are just a tad rickety. What IF he had interrogated himself or Don Juan the way he does in the Essay on Tiredness? Yet the encounters are all different,

“Not that there was no variation. A variation played a part every time, though perhaps just a slight one, a tiny little one. A variation enabled the commandment to be fulfilled and at the same time became part of the game.” [59]

Amd here is the final variant, a culmination, a magma event, to use W.A.T.V.’s formulation:

85 “Seven days later, when Don Juan told me about the day of namelessness, actually stuttering and stammering in confusion, he did not even know, in regard to himself and the woman, who remained a stranger to the end, which of them had said what, which of them had done what. (And they had stayed together for almost the whole day and for the whole night, a deviation from the week’s pattern.)”

 it is never the same, each encounter differs from the other.

“‘Otherwise they were all inconspicuous, as if without qualities, becoming beautiful only
after their eyes were opened and they finally allowed themselves to be seen, and then they became indescribably beautiful.” [59]

True enough! What beloved looks ugly to her lover? Let’s go ask the Chaffeur!

“He was sure that she would turn up there, without his having to pace off the route beforehand by walking backward...”[60]

What is that backward about? memory recapitulating, a film running backwards??? Dream reversals? Another MacGuffin or Miskhin idiocy? A way to get the reader to think, one of Handke’s ways of being a Brechtian about reading texts?

"In a further instance of repetition, the outward conditions that brought the women together with Don Juan represented each time a kind of threshold. The role of the fishbone in the Caucasian village was represented in Damascus by the sandstorm. In Cueta it was perhaps… [60]

"He had to wait for the woman to turn up. The rule was that he could not flee, not at this moment. Besides, she would track him down, here as elsewhere. At this hour there was no evading this woman." [61]

 And how and why does this Don Juan escape? Again I ask.

"What had just taken place between them [the mere glance of the first encounter - m.r.]  could not be all there was. As far as she was concerned, her time was not up, not in the slightest, would  never be up. And thus he, Don  Juan, discovered that he had to get away from her instantly - not that he wanted to flee, in fact he resisted the idea - but he had no choice. [54]

"Don Juan was almost dizzyingly dexterous, he managed to carry on completely contradictory actions with both hands and arms, the sort of thing that had almost always brought me to the brink of despair in my profession, and not only there." 88-9]

Ah to be a Don Juan if only in a dream! Don Juan as an Indian love goddess!

Handke learned to write, not just from Wittgenstein but from the refined differentiation of Roman legal texts that meted out different punishments for kinds of offenses, differentiation that persists in current legal codes. [see No-Man’s-Bay] - 7 days, seven women, each a bit different, the experiences never quite the same, in 7 days God created the world, what more is there to say? Each the most beautiful one ever, is a nice way to be brushed by the comet’s tail, isn’t it? Especially if the chauffeur has at least 7 of the ugliest? Has any baby ever shut its eyes in horror at the first sight of a truly ugly mother? It must have happened, but it certainly did not to Peter Handke who had a marvelously beautiful mother; ah if they only knew the fates their true beauty bestows on their son! “Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?”
At the point where Juanita shows up, however, the book manifests its one glaring flaw, its missing dimension, that began to dawn on me at the very moment it became clear that “Don Juan” is merely a recreation of the “restaurateur’s” once womanizing – oh wow how many women he has known, what many different kinds, and I am reminded of a statement from one of Handke’s diaries that he “could easily imagine living an entirely louche life.” Nothing wrong with that, especially if you then make sure the women are satisfied. But it helps to have money and have a Maybach and a Chaffeur, who occasionally is allowed time off, or maybe climb into the back seat, too.

"And to go well meant that both their bodies took leave of one another secretly, from afar, their entire bodies.  These two bodies had enjoyed each other, purely and simply, and now felt pleasure again in the secret leave-taking, even more purely, if possible. " [76]

Here it appears that most of the women want more, that they want it to last, a Juanita of course does not, nor do a lot of other women, nor the forever fleeing Don Juan, “the forever fleeting Don Juan” this is. A one night stand man if ever there was one this Don is, at least in his dreams, and this is a wishfulfilment if ever there was one. Perchance to dream! Indeed. At least! If nothing else. - The flaw is that if a Don Juan arrives in my life, as he once did, the very Don Juan who arrives in No-Man’s-Bay “with the same woman,” and he tells me his amorous adventures, I engage him in interlocutions, and if I am an analyst, as I then already was, I can see why that poor howling hound-dog at mansard windows howls to be let in, only to break another heart, a Don Juan to exact some form of revenge, if only on himself. Not that Handke’s Don Juan resembles the Don Juan of No-Man’s-Bay who comes “with the same woman” in that book: that would be the author of a truly heartbreaking Don Juan novel The Plague of Siena who is a real Don Juan seducer whose shtick is “nobody has ever loved me” and who then really leaves a lot of heartbreak in his wake! Can he not handle being loved?  And amusing company he is too, until those born to defend women take offense…
I would, as I did, do some interlocuting if the Don arrived at my door step, or even if he were just a dimension in my own psyche, a dream of mine, the sexually needy one, I would interrogate myself, as I have about heartaches engaged in and avoided. That flaw is a big flaw even in a book designed to be a jewel and narratively it certainly is, it is a flaw in its essayistic dimension, and in the theatrical one too. It shows the degree of self-involvement of the salamander, and self-servingly so, its solipsistic quality, while giving a great performance once again. Thus a very large ¿ hovers around the book: why is the restaurateur so solitary?  Nothing but the ghosts of the Jansenist nuns about, animals for friends, one other visitor in the past half year, a religious, why condemned to be a monk? What is the askesis about? Can’t afford a sexy kitchen maid? Too old for them to stop by for a quickie? No Portuguese cleaning ladies for the mess?
If Handke had also indicated that the restaurateur loved writing as much as he himself does and the restaurateur does reading, evidently does more than he loves a woman, that question would be answered, somewhat; but – and - that occasionally “a bush will not do the trick” and you need a different kind of bush, matters might have been less mysterious. But the mystery goes deeper and requires further unraveling. I touched on it when I mentioned how Handke takes even his closest friends for instant walks.

On entering the Tanzenberg Seminary for priests at age 12, so Handke has said, for the first time he felt nauseated by other bodies. Taking friends for walks, instantly outside is the work-around for his autistic problem, and he is in many ways as friendly, there is as much friendliness in him as there is mention of friendliness in this Don Juan tale [a lot] the so easily nausea prone, the one so in need of beauty. That issue has made for greater problems than normal for a possessed writer in living with wives, two have left him, as one does a frigid salamander who has E.S.P. type empathy at six thousand miles.                     
Don Juan’s first, closely spun, third opens as though you were entering a novel, you acquire a detailed even casual sense of his surround as he explores it on walks also with his sudden guest his double a different alter ego? beautifully integrated, and we have a filigreed sense of Port Royal and surround, the Abbey still stands, the coachhouse and garden may be an invention:

“In the hill forests around Port-Royal the edible chestnuts had just come into bloom, and the cream-colored strings of blossoms hung down among the dark oaks like crowns of foam atop waves, seething on all sides in the area surrounding the ruins, and from the silent surf rose, at the very top, back on the Île-de-France plateau, the pale red roof of the former cloister stables of Port-Royal, a roof with a tile landscape more beautiful and strange and yet dreamily familiar, as part of a barely discovered planet, than anything I had seen before, and the swallows swooping above it into the last sunlight moved twice as fast, as if propelled by the light.”

   And though you may have only quickest if intense glances of 6 of the 7 women and progressively briefer descriptions of the 7 places where Don Juan meets them in dream film fantasy fairy tale time: The filigreed detailed description of Port Royal surround at the beginning and the last third of the novel when womantime has ceased and Don Juan is doddering like an old man: that description is whole and complete. A good draughtsman could draw it for you, a Dutch landscape artist do even better, and then the fine details. The restaurateur has salvaged “a piece of blue sky,” a place, “where the last dramas occur.” [W.A.T.V.] Mother nature is his earth mother, and he walks upon her, and…
    As a full length novel, instead of this concentrate, Don Juan could easily be the length of No-Man’s-Bay – 7 women 7 places, all over the damn world, Don Juan could be quite a picaresque, couldn’t it what if Handke’s descriptive powers were brought to bear not just on places but on the beautiful women he has known [3].  Handke, who keeps getting better, with respect to nature descriptions does an even better job here than he did in what I at the time thought were the best 5 K words I had read in nearly 70 years of reading contemporary prose, the description of the wreckage wrought by the tormento tropical that savaged northern France around 2000 early on in Crossing the Sierra Del Gredos. Don Juan begins in that fashion, and even the first way station that the Don recounts to his host, Tbilisi, Georgia, the piedmont there, is described with such attention to detail, without getting caught in the underbrush of them:

“As they drove, the two men had the sun at their backs more and more, and the landscape ahead, rising gently toward the mountains appeared in a relief of a clarity usually seen only in models, made for instance, of papier maché. Yet there was nothing papery, nothing hollow here: everything looked compacted weighty, intermingled, as if inextricably; clay with marl with rock outcroppings with taproots with basket roots, sulfur yellow with brick red with salt gray with coal black. The sandy stretches, too, neither soft nor loose but packed firmly as mortar and baked hard… Likewise there was not a cloud of dust to be seen, even though for long stretches the ground had hardly any vegetation (the apparent sandscape lying there as naked as white dunes)… The piedmont or balcony presented itself as seductive, uniting all the senses, only to be revealed as literally repellent and inaccessible. It beckoned as if magnetically toward its interior, but then turned out to have no interior. Upon arriving in this region a week earlier, Don Juan was reminded of the Badlands in South Dakota where a system of broad, deep fissures in a vast expanse of sedimentary formations – each fissure distinct from the others – suggested a valley stretching for many miles yet without exception led nowhere, or merely to naked, scarred valleys of clay, or to the ends of washed out gorges that had been bone-dry for millennia. [34-5]

And then we come upon a bride at a wedding in a Caucasian village:

  By the end of this day at the latest, an epoch in his life would come to an end [...] Farewell, clay yellow and marl red. Take care, labiate bloom blossoms and ant trails. Goodbye forever, tufts of wool caught on the pasture fences.
    Conjuring up that epoch no longer worked. The new era, the womantime, had him in its thrall.

“Woman time, finger tip time,” Handke is missing my favorite Henry Green’s comment to the question what he liked most: “To eat hot buttered toast with cunty fingers.” - At that point in the book, a real reader who hasn’t paid the close attention he ought to have [and not a single U.S. reviewer has – [5] at the inception of “fantasy time” - will scratch his head: isn’t Don Juan who first needs to have a leave-taking from his beloved nature before he engages the woman whose glance has set him aflame, behaving just like the restaurateur? Yes, even while imagining to be a Don Juan, and in a dream, dreamdeep, he still has to have that relationship to nature. To poplar cotton! And doesn’t Don Juan even when he is a creature supposedly separate from the restaurateur, behave just as familiarly with his best friends, the animals, as the restaurateur, and what has happened to the hedgehog that sips the milk you put out for it overnight, Herr Handke, in so many other books? I have grown fond of that hedge hog. Don Juan is Handke’s Celestial Omnibus except that it celebrates, one aspect of it does, the pleasures that bodies can give each other. As earthy as the plucked mushrooms. The first rate and interesting Germanist Hermann Detering, whose first book was on the obvious bi-sexual impulses behind the work of a number of famous German writers [4] for his review see:
delights in Handke’s DON JUAN because he sees in this a continuation of the tradition of German Romanticism, Tieck, Schlegel, etc. I wonder if any of these were really as earthbound as Handke, no “Blaue Blume” for the restaurateur I don’t think. No dark side chauffeur for them, a black dahlia type of fellow, in German Romanticism that Professor Detering alludes to. However, I have noticed over the past five years, especially since Handke’s notebooks were acquired for a total of about one million Euros by two institutions that service and exploit such paper, that Germanic studies and many others forgive  Handke his Balkan exploits [in which I meanwhile delight – it took a while - but for his typical failure to then not to appear, not at the Milosevic funeral, but at his trial as an “expert witness” at Scheveningen] and other far less pleasant matters, because, after all, he’s the only real living classic of world literature, a once in a 100 year author, that they have. THE specialist in Don Juan studies, Barbara Potthast at "Glossen" 
and also at my prose2 site
feels that Handke has not provided an addition to her field. She is quite right, he had no intention of the kind. Handke’s sorrowful Don Juan, the fly-by-night one night stand sorrower is his very own version, and as a Don Juan exists entirely, now, in fantasy, memory. His is not a work of scholarship. The restaurateur after all does not live in an abbey because he is a louche. He is merely a monk with unmonkish fantasies! His thoughts also dwell on Jansenist nuns; condemned for insisting that there was compassion aside God’s! The restaurateur is learned! But not so much in the history of the various ways that Don Juan has appeared.   There is a hitch, there, and the Restaurateur merely brushes it, but you have to pay equal attention to the sage brush brushing your window at night… as a hammer? The reviewers who are paid to read and report and render an opinion evidently do not even know how to read; or experience anything when they do; or don’t know how to report their experiences. [5]

The piedmont north of Tbilisi, after its initial attraction, is found to resemble the badlands of the Dakotas; that if in fact our author had not let the Don say that the rest of the landscapes could be subsumed under that “badlands” category, Don Juan would have been huge, just imagine what an author with Handke’s descriptive powers could have done with Damascus, Cueta, a Norwegian fjord, the Dutch landfill dike system – the spot of Don Juan’s last love venture is not even named! He is said to have approached the abbey from the north – a French or Belgian milkmaid, perhaps even my beloved goat Chiquita, or my Burro Durango? That would have been the Don Juan from No-Man’s Bay who will sleep with anything warm. It must have hurt just a tad to forego those possibilities of describing, memorializing, salvaging the landscapes for the sake of the formalist dance?
 As of, say midway, Don Juan begins to contract - the whirling dervishes of Damascus are the clue as to what the novella performs formally,

57 “Impossible to imagine anything calmer than these dervishes whirling themselves around and for moments almost invisible, or anything more inward focused.”

then becomes - its figure -  a spinning top, the faster is spins the more closely the extremities come to the body, is wound tighter and tighter, contracts, while the eye of the storm becomes more powerful and still; and then, after the Don has told his tales that week, there is a  dénouement, during which the spinning top begins to wobble, Don Juan begins to disintegrate as he stops telling the stories, as the “womantime” [the being erotically connected to the world, also through telling!] begins to fade… and clock time begins to take over. The dreariness of the every day same old same old. The grave is nearing: compare this way of handling this theme with Philip Roth’s way of doing it.
 In other words, Handke is very much a writer’s and real reader’s writer whose claim to lasting importance for me lies in the technical matters that his numerous prose and stage innovations provide to other artists to make contact with their audiences [which I have enumerated in several other recent assayings].

Now that I have given sufficient indication of who the restaurateur is and of his state of mind and situation, who is this dream figment Don Juan whom Handke has recount adventures to his narrator in the hovelish Port Royal, and for whom he uses a the quote “Ci son’io tu no sapari,” ‘from del Ponte’s libretto to the Mozart opera. He appears to run a lot, and walk backwards, that is he is frequently pursued, his coy behavior during his one day or one night stands, some only consummated, as they indeed can be, via eye contact, could be said to be fairly idiotic, is he maybe really Prince Mishkin or Feirefaz? or maybe he has a problem about attachment. Well, the historical Don Juan was a seducer, his was the promise of a Latin Lover, sensuous, this sorrowful Don Juan is pretty much of a slam bam thank you rapist isn’t he? No wonder the women are so furious! False promises! In every which way. And he is regretful that is has to be that way! He can’t help it. Facts are facts, that’s the way it is, even dreams have their realistic dimension.
 It is said that women are attracted to the Don because of his aura of sorrow, it is said to be the sorrow of an orphan, or someone whose heart was broken.

56: “What she did not know, and also did not need to know, was that the availability as well as the carefreeness that Don Juan beamed in her direction derived largely from persisting sorrow.”

I would say, that this carefreeness - we can see it on certain photos of Handke with then wife Libgart in the 60s - is as the ability of sad clowns to be funny, a kind of defense, a dismissal of one’s own better bitter knowledge: the way laughter and crying can be nearly the same thing at moments of catastrophe!

“What drove him was nothing but his inconsolability and his sorrow. To transport his sorrow to the world and transmit it to the world. Don Juan lived off his sorrow as a source of strength. It was bigger than he was and transcended him. Armored in it, so to speak, and not merely so to speak, he knew that although he was not immortal he was invulnerable. Sorrow was something that made him impetuous, and, in an opposite and equal reaction (or rather, action by action), completely permeable and open to whatever might happen, while at the same time invisible when necessary. His sorrow furnished provisions for his journey. It nourished him in every respect. As a result he had no major needs. Such needs did not even rear their heads… His sorrowing, fundamental rather than episodic, was an activity. He had never seduced a woman. He had certainly run into some who had accused him of doing so. But these women had either been lying or no longer knew what they were thinking, and had actually intended to express something altogether different. And conversely, Don Juan had never been seduced by a woman. Perhaps now and then he had let one of these would-be seductresses have their way, or whatever it was, only to make it clear to her, in the twinkling of an eye, that there was no seduction involved and that he, the man, was neither the seducee nor the opposite. He had a kind of power. But his power was of a different sort… And at the same time he hauled his sorrow from one station to the next; his inconsolability. In this fashion a plan gradually took shape, without any effort on his part. He saw himself peacefully engaged in flight his fleeing was peace itself; only in fleeing did he become so calm. Uneasiness seized hold of Don Juan again only at the next way station and the encounter with the woman approached." [68]

"By then the two of them, the man and the woman were lying behind the stretch of wall and listening. In the midst of all this Don Juan's heart was almost breaking with sorrow. But precisely this restored his strength. It allowed a person to transcend himself. The sorrow made one leave the personal behind. And its presence worked wonders.[63]

That is one hell of a lot on sorrow and all its contradictions, isn’t it? It sure begs to be questioned, its so fundamental nature. Sorrow carries a lot of weight here. Sorrow as an attraction would seem to imply that women’s as well as men’s motherly rather than their whatever libidinal heat ought to come into play [?] or ought to [?] and that they offer of their bodies are meant to console in that transaction – but I noticed no mention of that kind of reciprocity in the text. –  Don Juan is said to awaken the awareness of infinite loneliness in them – ipso, they cannot decline the offer of not being lonely - not be thrown into throes of passion; unite, not be a half. But “sorrow” certainly distinguishes this also otherwise normally libidinally obsessed pleasure hound seducer who may be pursuing any number of other agendas, from most Don Juans, doesn’t it. An obsessional sorrowerer. Sorrow, awareness of infinite loneliness. This is the puzzle, sorrow, loneliness in Peter Handke’s version of Don Juan – yup, that restaurateur sure is lonely in the garden of the abbey at Port Royal! Might he be projecting “loneliness” into others in his phantasied pursuit, his restless sorrow? Sure if there are projection screens, dreams are best at it.

"Being on the move was simultaneously a kind of constant arriving, and similarly, when he arrived, he thought of himself as still on the move. And he felt protected by this womantime, exempt from counting. As long as it was in effect… Womantime meant again and again: one had time. Was in time. In accord with time. Time kept striking a chord in one....[79]  

Sorrow as an activity that animates this particular Don Juan who is an aspect in the imagination of the restaurateur, perhaps the best explanation that the hermit has for that strain in himself… Perhaps Handke absorbed his mother’s sorrow intra-uterine, a speculation one can make on the basis of the book that is called Wunschloses Unglück in German and Sorrow Beyond Dreams in English, neither of which turns out to have been Handke’s own chosen title. We can only speculate upon being offered the explanation that Don Juan is near preternaturally sorrowful, we have to take him at his word – in the case of Handke I know why the son of the woman about whom he wrote Sorrow Beyond Dreams was born with a melancholy streak, or think I do. Technically, it is called “anaclytic depression.”  As we can deduce from Sorrow Beyond Dreams his mother must have been sorrowing for the loss of her child’s father who would not marry her, but had given her her love child… Factotum Hans derides his mogul master Quitt’s sorrow in the play They Are Dying Out, because, after all, he has his wealth to protect him; “Sing sorrow” it says over and over  in the loving irony that characterizes Walk About the Villages, and indeed at that moment, sorrowing is most appropriate, and the loving irony in a way makes it more powerful. I have to think further upon sorrow as an “animating factor” – sorrow at having to leave whereas he would much rather stay because he knows that he needs to be by himself [no matter the many reasons there might be for that] would be comprehensible; but are there sorrowful goodbyes, here?
Or this might also be  a lie in this instance, an excuse for Don Juan’s i.e. the restaurateur’s lack of self-understanding, or yet another MacGuffin, dust in the eyes of the reader – no! After all: sorrow usually makes you inactive, passive. Here supposedly the very opposite happens. In Don Juan, despite everything I have said so far, a seemingly merriness prevails during the recounting of the Don’s seven day adventure… but it plays on a B-minor ground. Is sorrow some kind of excuse? My puzzlement is non-conclusionary, but it is a very big puzzle indeed in this case. A very big B-minor chord is struck.
Perhaps once consoled our Don Juan is a sprightly seducer? Perhaps his manly confidence needs some sprucing up? Constantly? The general truth of the matter is that the hussies are the seductresses, it is their fathers, brother, husband, or their delegates, who tell them to restrain their impulses. Don Juan, our restaurateur lives for one week in “womantime,” forever, perhaps he was a Five Star chef in Paris at one time, and the groupies threw themselves at him? He might be sorrowing that loss? Yes, that would be comprehensible.
Women are first of all property for the sake of reproduction; the great majority is made happier once they have a child. Freud’s formula penis child continues to hold for the great majority, they and their husbands are happy breeders, just live in Seattle for a while to have that fact mind-numbingly driven home.
     No this is not the Don Juan of Old, not the Valentino of women’s dreams. Don Juan’s first encounter here, at a wedding, began at a wedding, if there are occasions for all around frolicking and general heat weddings it is, everyone seems to want to get married, or remarried. However, in this instance our Don Juan hooks up with the bride, definitely a no no if ever there was a dangerous no no if ever there was one. And he claims it is she whose eyes engaged his:

“Don Juan told me how startled he was to find the bride looking at him. It was not a come-on, just a widening of the eyes. Such beautiful eyes, and without any effort she made the most beautiful eyes at him with those beautiful eyes. And Don Juan's startled response was by no means as alarmed. It was a quiet awakening after sleep lasting many years, or, precisely, being in a daze. Quiet: because of the constant murmur of his interior monologue suddenly ceased. His forehead seemed to open up. Yet at first he still felt racked by confusion. His mind made up, he rose from his seat and then strode - toward her? - out of the hall [my emphasis m.r. [...] There was no going back. For Don Juan avoidance was out of the question: he had to take on this unknown woman; it was his "duty" [...]

All right that too can happen, it would not be the first promiscuous bride, but what is she really up to, does she want to tease or test her bridegroom, or is Don Juan the one last fling, does she loose her head at the moment, Don Juan is not asked questions of that kind, and he does not tell. It is a visual consummation, and she is infuriated at it remaining that and nothing else. Is this Don Juan a tease, a coquette? What is that look in his eyes that responds to her beautiful eyes one wants to ask, what does it promise, that the broken promise of something unearthly or the greatest pleasure then elicits the vengeance of an Erinye. Hordes of them? Each encounter differs from the other, less and less is described, of a book of 25,000 k words, of a 100 pages, maybe a tenth actually are devoted to descriptions of the get-togethers; also of the chauffeurs couplings which Handke relishes to describe to the extent that though he has just written that he merely brushes existence as I mentioned initially, he then does anything but merely brush.

One other dimension of Don Juan, aside the novelistic narrative dream film fantasy creation is the essayistic. This is Handke’s way of writing an essay, of doing his kind of “assaying,” circing about a topic. At about the time that Handke ended his seven year Salzburg period in 1986, he published a short volume of diary excerpts entitled Fantasien der Wiederholung where he announced that he would strike out in yet another direction, as the so easily bored, including by his own past work, has in several others since, about 7 altogether. He had written the following works during that Salzburg period: Lesson of St. Victoire [1979]; A Child’s Story [1980]; Walk about the Villages [1981/2]; Die Geschichte des Bleistifts [the successor volume to Weight of the World] [1980]; Across [Chinese des Schmerzens] 1984; The Repetition 1986; The Art of Asking [a play]; Absence; The Afternoon of a Writer [1987]; he had made on film, with Maria Colbin of a Natalie Sarraute novel. And supplied part of the screenplay for Wings of Desire.
The first product of this new venture was his “Essay on Tiredness” which is part of the U.S. collection entitled THREE ESSAYS [the other two being the “Essay on the Jukebox” and the “Essay on the Day that Went Well” as I translate the basically untranslatable “geglückte Tag” – no its not his “lucky day” at the races, its not his “gelungene [successful] Tag” day on which you managed/ elided not have disaster strike you, I think it is a day on which you glimpsed the curve of beauty; and that time stood still. No need for happy pills of any kind. And time stands still.      These three “assayings” as I prefer to call the German Versuche in this instance, probe different subjects, yet can indeed be usefully regarded as three different aspect of Handke’s problematics, they connect; different as they are from each other, each relates to Handke in a different way and in a different place and to each other. A self-triangulation of sorts.                    “Tiredness” explores not only that subject but also the Spanish town of Lineares, which evidently from the sense and description Handke conveys did not tire him in the least. “Jukebox” explores the town of Soria, to which the “ex-writer” of his latest, the 2008 Moravian Night, returns for a thorough visit, with the town poet, and for a hilarious “congress on noise”; that is, Soria made a lasting impression, and he was not done with it: our author is looking for an object of his youth there around 1990, the escape/ safety hole/ shelter for the young Handke during a period of his youth that he was apparently enraged by so many matters that he was frequently tired and nauseated: the Juke box serves as the totem of the reminder of what emanated out of it: Beatles happiness I suppose, von Morrison,  Dylan, lots of great American shit.  
Compared to the two subsequent pieces in three essays and to Don Juan “Tiredness” is a rather awkward piece of work. Handke employs a not terribly convincing Socratic self-interrogatory mode to cite all the matters, it’s a list, that made him angry when he was young and counter-poses matters that did not and which no longer do now. In brief, the mere sign for hay produced nausea then, at the writing of his “Essay on Tiredness,” he can’t wait to dive into the next haystack. If you are a fairly well trained research analyst as I have become, you begin to slaver at the mouth when a subject presents you with such a rich meal of symptoms and sequaelae to a decade long exposure to a violent primal scene! Home run after home run! The wound out of which Handke writes, but which also makes him as dark as Dostoyevsky in some ways.
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?

You see the sequelae of something that would eventually express itself in the great line “nausea of the eyeballs,” indeed the appropriate healthy disgust on the part of the sense of sight at so much man-made and propagated ugliness [I twice saw Handke nearly throw up at physically ugly people, whose character resembled their physiognomies… thus: Only those who are beautiful in their ugliness, those exist, too, and I have met several of those. And I miss that differentiation here – beautiful ugly, it exists, also in toads.        
In Soria, which like Lineares the color-challenged unlicensed forever walker or bus passenger and amasser of bus expedition observation Handke wanders not just the outskirts of town around looking for the one remaining old juke box that has not yet been replaced by something sleeker. And this wandering while seeking makes for what I find is a wonderful way of proceeding; it has a great structure, too; that has made for at least one great thesis paper that I have on line at the first of the two handkeprose.scriptmania and the handkescholar.scriptmania sites.[6]. Inbetween, Handke drops in a few essayistic observations well integrated. Handke becomes the wanderer walker and you can walk with him, and walking calms you down, thoughts collect. I have mentioned that the one matter that is complete in the instance of Don Juan  is his description of Port Royal region: of that you have a far better sense than of any of the women except of Erinye Juanita! If Handke were merely a painter – the painterly element began to be introduced in the novel Across [1984] those three “assayings” and Don Juan would be regarded as medium sized paintings of an especially valuable kind in any collection. John D’Agate took one of the poems from Innerworld and put it into his five pound anthology The Lost Origins of the Essay, pointing me who had translated that book to take another look at them from that perspective. Don Juan thus can be regarded as a counter-intuitive essay on the the matter that more than vengeance and war make the world go round.         
By the time we get to the 1991 “The Day that went Well” Handke has this way of assaying down pat and he gives in, as far as I am concerned, to excess virtuoso demonstration: look Mom, no hand, AND on one foot I am crossing the tight rope at 100 meters above the cathedral plaza!

Although formally perfect – opening center and denouement balance perfectly  - Handke’s Don Juan thus is a truly ambiguous think piece, that if you read it at the rate of a couple of pages a day at which it was written will be far less mind-numbing than the “modern love” pieces in the Style Section of the New York Times or its mind-numbing Op-ed page.
In the mid-70s, I think between writing A Moment of True Feeling and Left-Handed Woman, Handke wrote me that he “now could do everything” [meaning in writing]. Since I had ample proof of his formalist and activist formalist genius, I was not in the least troubled by such grandiosity, but couldn't have imagined for the life of me what form it would take; the kind of statement coming from that kind of guy certainly sticks your memory. After Left-Handed Woman I had ample sense that the work would take a mythic direction, there had been hints of that already in Short Letter Long Farwell. Still, the first two chapters of A Slow Homecoming [the novel part of the US Edition] took my breath away, probably especially since I had spent nine months in Alaska once. That he would then write Walk about the Villages and take recourse to Euripides and Goethe's alternating discourse came as one of the great welcome surprises in my life, and showed in many passages when it was needed that he could avail himself of veritably Shakespearean rhetoric. Thus, Mr. Agee, if you want some grand language, there you will find. I see no need for anything along it in this version of Don Juan.


[1] The first pages of the original German and Krishna Winston’s translations can be found – by mid-April at the lates - and commented upon in the long version of this piece at:
And I will also put them on the site devoted to Handke and translating:

[2] as is all his work - but increasingly more so now that he has become a narrator’s narrator, and no longer relies as exclusively on phenomenological and serial and grammatical procedures, or what were termed avant-gardistic then, as he did at the beginning.

[3] Handke and women is quite a subject, about which I know all I need to know since I’ve known about half a dozen women who have known him and talked about the experience. But I will reserve discussion of that by no means pleasant topic to a review of the next novel to be published in the U.S., Moravian Night where it is more fitting since it is unequivocally autobiographical.  

[4] You find all American and one adequate TLS review and a number of fine German ones at the two pages devoted to Don Juan

The first to appear, as is usually the case, is a Publisher’s Weekly pre-review, done by an utter idiot in this instance; utterly frustrated by all that Handkean razz-ma-tazz where she evidently had longed for some large dollops of sex. Then came a pretty good single paragraph from the fellow at Booklist who, however, has Don Juan and his chauffeur traveling by ox-cart; I will buy him a pair of reading glasses. The first full length review in the U.S. was by Joel Agee, whose work I addressed a bit here but also at length in the long version of this piece at, yes this is the short version, believe it or not, but I could write a ten page annotation to each of Handke’s 100 pages! When Joel Agee writes "For all its engaging and delicate ruminations, and despite its bold, humorous claim to be “the definitive and true story of Don Juan,” the book left me wanting to hear again Mozart’s treatment of the same theme. That music has everything Handke’s prose lacks: brio, verve, declarative intensity, a vast range of emotion and, last but not least, brilliant, joyful virility."  Agee suffers from adjectivitis, a much more serious ailment than conjunctities because it will not respond to anti-biotics.   The comparisons he makes are just as inapt and inept. Nor is he a careful reader, look at all the important matters he misses, he has fallen for the McGuffin, poor Agee still looks to be that most awful of dreadful combinations, a literal-minded American culture vulture who once belonged to the F.D.J.,  he misses why “Don Juan” becomes a “one” – it is stated clearly on page 34.
     As the aforegoing makes clear, I happen to delight in the formal dance Handke performs here, it is as good if not better and lighter and deeper than what he does in his THREE ESSAYS [on Tiredness, the Juke Box, and The Day that Went Well. And if you read what I write about Handke - even though his backer and once translator - I have no compunctions about criticizing him when I feel he can be criticized within his own terms, and am better at a very difficult task than any  German or American reviewer. I have no axes to grind, am not beholden to cultural or educational institutions, I’m the “Gnat in the navel of Germanistik and Psychoanalysis” [a.k.a. Franz Kalb, or is it Kilb?] occasionally I send one of Handke’s spears back at him, that is all!

Agee was followed by an absolute atrocity in Bookforum, which evidently has gone to the dogs, by a deputy editor of some other online rag, Faster Times, who finds Handke’s version of Don Juan as revisionist as his view of Milosevics. I wouldn’t let that fellow do more than carry out the garbage. There followed a quite perceptive review by Ted Vitale at Three Percent.  Nonetheless, he misses a few essential features. Don Juan is but a state of mind, a wishfulfilment into which the restaurateur, who is but a figure out of NO-MAN’S BAY, falls at a moment that he is especially bereft, a moment, it is a dream, a fantasy, and it is so magical in jumping from place to place as a dream or a cut film can be. WOMANTIME is the significant term here that is missed, this is no archetype. Vitale also avoids mention of Don Juan’s sidekick, the chauffeur, who only loves ugly women and whose sex life would seem to be a good deal grosser; also that the book celebrates as the great pop song had it “what’s love got to do with it” – bodies enjoying each other’s sexuality. It is as earthy as the mushrooms the restaurateur fancies. Formally, the book combines the novelistic, film, dream and the essayistic; the figure that organizes it spatially and narratively are the whirling dervishes. The faster they whirl the calmer the center as the book narrows down and then, once WOMANTIME is over and the TELLING is over, it unravels as does Don Juan back in ordinary counting time. The book is about the eros of writing and loving that more than anything else, and is its own demonstration. It is one of Handke’s finest and subtlest works, it asks to be read sentence by sentence, at about the pace at which it was written, 1000 words a day, and touches the very dark heart of the world: or rather, as it says: “brushes is” – and wishes that by merely brushing it represents more accurately. And isn’t it odd that although a certain merriment prevails, is basic mode is rater B-minor, melancholy.
Handke has been drawing so many horrendous reviewers, Neil Gordon, in the NY Times Book Review, head of a writing program and is the literary editor of the Boston Review, wrote himself into infamy for $ 1000, and cannot read! That fraud Lee Siegel, again the NY Times Book Review, Ferguson and some other now retired idiot at the NY Times, dunces, square isn’t the word; Kai Maristead stand out as that singularity who understood Handke and wrote about it for Auntie; not to mention J.L. Marcus whom the miserable Robert Silvers delegated to wield a hatchet when Handke did not follow the party line on Yugoslavia… Real criticism or reception of Handke’s work has long since ceased, never really started in this bloody country except in the academy. For a roundup of the Handke reception:
a decimation of the J.S. Marcus atrocity point by point allowed me to crystallize a lot of very specific thoughts. It is quite long, and I can send the document to you if you don’t want to read it online.
[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/ on Kali, open letter to Robert Silvers + NYRB re: JS Marcus.


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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