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Happy Xmas! (Past Is Over) / handke’s weight of the world

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From Peter Handke’s The Weight of the World:

A fine thing: suddenly to forget about one’s history, one’s past, to stop feeling that one’s present happiness is endangered by what one used to be, as a child, as an adolescent, etc.

That is to say, forget the novelization of life. A special peril for literary types, those invested in the novel as a form, whose mental architecture has been rebuilt in the shape of that genre. So what instead?

Do one thing after another as lucidly as possible: smell the bread, smell the schnapps, fold the paper – therein lies salvation.

One thinks first concentration. But it’s not just that, or perhaps not that at all. The lucidity seems to come in fact from relaxation, the escape from a special sort of self-tied knot:

That woman was walking so elegantly, and now, all of a sudden her gait is slovenly, lewd, and vulgar; she’s visibly relieved

These are the opposite of Joyce’s epiphanies. Can you feel the tension in this one despite the tiny form? The turn in regard? The pivot in his consideration across the and now?

Massive changes are afoot chez AWP, and AWP is looking at books, such as Handke’s,  for advice on how to manage it. And I don’t mean the blog. You should hear the kitchen table conversations. Lord. Handke is coming with on the big trip, despite the fact there are Other Things To Do.

Written by adswithoutproducts

December 25, 2009 at 1:58 am

Posted in handke

7 Responses

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  1. Nicholas Dames’ “Amnesiac Selves” might be useful to you in this regard.


    December 26, 2009 at 5:54 am

  2. Great post. My experience has been that I did need to draw consequences from things. And that you have to be in the right situation to get the necessary heartbreaks. Waiting for that (and not knowing that you’re waiting for that) is the hell. At these points it’s impossible to say “Relax!” Half a Life by VS Naipaul is another good anti-novelising novel.

    And I still have big big resentments against how English is taught: as either a finishing school for future lawyers, or a beginning school for future resentwads.

    Rory O'Connor

    December 26, 2009 at 3:11 pm

  3. Thanks Rory…

    I think Handke’s book may be something of a model for future work on here, if I can pull it off.


    December 27, 2009 at 3:31 am

  4. I noticed that Ballard’s High-Rise has appeared for a second time in the reading list. Are you moving to one of Owen’s fabled tower blocks?


    December 29, 2009 at 7:56 am

  5. OT – but was it here people were tlking about McCormack’s ‘The Road’ – got it for Christmas thought it was shite.


    January 1, 2010 at 12:17 am

  6. DavidAA,

    Ooops. I have to sort out the reading list. Might be time to clear it out and start a new 2010 one. As far as I know, no tower block for me – but I have been living in high rise hotels for the last week here in the USA… Woke this morning to find a lobby full of sleeping, still-drunk, confused girls who’d been locked out of one room or another. Glad I skipped NYE. Sleep is more exotic than anything else for me right now.


    Yes, it might have been. There’s a search box down on the right. I have a strange relationship with that book – one that I suspect I’m over-reading and making flaws into impossibly interesting formal effects. (Have done that with that Ishiguro novel about clones too…) But I’m teaching it again soon and maybe will write up what I find interesting about it in the next couple of months so stay tuned.


    January 1, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    • About the formal effects – I was very much taken by that too. The first thirty pages or so MUST be aimed at nauseating the reader? I borrowed the book so I can’t quote and didn’t take notes, it was Christmas..!., but there were some laugh out loud bad sylistic riffs about which I had to assume there was something behind.
      But then again, the half remembered Wittgenstein you carry about grinded against this interpretation somehow.
      Have to say I devoured the book…the website have some interesting things to say about it in their archive…


      January 3, 2010 at 12:34 am

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