A succinct “Variety” type REVIEW OF MALTE HERWIG’S MEISTER DER DAEMMERUNG [Master of the Twilight] might read something like this:
“If you want to find out who Peter Handke is read his WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, it contains his every aspect, also all his dark sides, his murderousness, his sadism, his always being at the edge of running amok. If you are interested in Handke’s erotic life, read his marvelous DON JUAN [as told by himself] [! indeedee !
In respect of all that Malte
Herwig provides a good sense of the childhood of genius writer Handke and of the family constellation where every one including the hated stepfather was chipping in to afford this child who was recognized to be special as of his birth an excellent education. In that respect Herwig’s book is a good adjunct to what Handke himself has written about his childhood, how he terrorized the family with his practicing to write, in books such as Moravian Nights, Sorrow Beyond Dreams, Walk About the Villages, etc. Herwig has amassed a host of documentation, letters of all kinds, but failed so far to cross-reference them, even from Handke to his biological father, a Herr Schoenherr. What becomes clear from this material is that Handke from early on not only was longing for an understanding father, but felt both immensely entitled, was physically violent, to his siblings, gratuitously injurious to those closest to him, say, his first backer, a German teacher at the Tanzenberg Seminary, and to his biological father in calling him a “savings and loans” creature in Sorrow. It turns out that the details of Sorrow cannot be trusted, it contains inventions.
Subsequent to the sense of sufficiency with which one leaves Herwig’s account of the childhood the author’s account of the life, though appreciative of Handke’s ultra-high-sensitivity, becomes so sketchy one is better off reading Handke’s various published journals or accounts, such as A CHILD’S STORY and WEIGHT OF THE WORLD and his other published journals. Nothing on Berlin, on Princeton really, where Herwig has his facts wrong and incomplete, and nothing on the Handke, Kolleritch, Libgart Schwartz trip through the U.S. in Spring 1971 but some quotes about Handke’s state of mind from SHORT LETTER and that this book is an account of the unraveling of Handke’s marriage. It had already entirely unraveled in Berlin.
Herwig who seems to be in Handke’s bag does not even realize when Handke is lying in his now account of his famous beating of Colbin, which entirely contradicts what he wrote just a few years back about it in Moravian Night. Herwig’s account of Handke’s three year around and around the world trip consists in naming the cities Handke visited – no quotes from Gestern Unterwegs. As a matter, the heavily padded index and Apparat cites no end of matters Herwig never even consulted, say the so revelatory boolength interview with Gantscher Ich Leben doch nur von den Zwischenrauemen.
Herwig does not exist as a Germanist and does not respond especially to even a single Handke text, of which he occasionally provides cursory account, not one special or memorable special insight, as opposed to four long accounts of Handke’s difficulty in combining the intense devotion to his calling with a life with a woman. Herwig’s account of Handke’s involvement in the disintegration of the 2nd Federation of Yugoslavia, albeit failing to ask why Handke, with all his engagement, then did not respond to Milosevic’s call to appear as an expert witness in his behalf at De Hague, is sympathetic and convincing albeit failing to take heed of Handke the forever exhibitionist’s stake in that enterprise. Herwig, even with Handke’s account to his real father of states of extraordinary dissociation staring him in the face, remains resolutely obtuse in matters psychological. No mention of Tilman Moser’s work along that line, nor of mine. With all the close friends of Handke’s and some ex-lovers he interviews, he fails to interview Handke’s chief editors Raimund Fellinger and Peter Hamm. The book’s penultimate chapter is an account from numerous acquaintances and friends of Handke’s how he has “finished off” all of them at one time or the other. Nonetheless, it appears there is sufficient attraction and a darling side to the man for them not to tell him to bug off for good, I would agree with that with respect to the work.
Herwig’s is not an authorized biography, however he spent so much time with the author that he can be said, as we put it in the dear old USA “to have bought the cool aid” – in this case supped a little too much on Handke’s mushroom soup that is always bubbling at the witch master’s kitchen.
Here is a link to a detailed long review that already has about 25 of what will be a 75 review with amplifications in another few days:
and here to a collection of reviews of the book where the one from German radio and the one that appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine and the one in the Maerkische Zeitung strike me as most accurate.
MALTE HAS IS OWN FACEBOOK LINK TO READINGS AND THE LIKE HE IS GIVING:
Since you may not have the time to follow my conscientious elaborations, which I would prefer to write in the long periods which the reading of the king of slowness Handke’s THE REPETITION once induced, allow me to put some of my findings into summary fashion:
After Handke’s first performance at Princeton in 1966 and after the party that I and Jakov Lind and Pannah Grady gave for the Gruppe at Pannah’s splendid apartment in the Dakota I knew the following matters about Peter Handke:
1] That he was an exhibitionist, and not only for his first performance, but also because he announced to West German media from the Empire State building that he was “the new Kafka.” We recall the first announcing that he was “the first.”
2] That he was a potential revolutionary who had not deference for his elders, that he would break rules.
3] That here was a killer I noticed at the look that came over his face at the sight of a Max Frisch book lying on a display table as the assembled filed out of the hall. – Herwig’s book contains his own admissions along those line, unless you fail to notice as much from his texts.
4] That as someone dressed like the fifth Beatle he was someone with identity problems, “I want to be someone like someone else was once” – say Franz Kafka -
that he was possibly modish, a photo model. http://picasaweb.google.com/mikerol/HANDKE3ONLINE#
5] That he had eye problems that made him wear dark glasses even in well modulated lighting conditions. “Nausea of the eye balls.”
6] That he was a village sadist as my peripheral vision caught sight of the look on his face as Alan Ginsberg asked me to translate that he wanted to fuck Handke. Ginsberg insisting to repeat this demand then elicited the rare steel blue Prussian daggers to shoot out of me, and he backed off. I saw this dreadful self-advertizer only once more, at the end of my five year term at the PEN central committee. Ginsberg wore tie and suit, another clown.
7] Then reading Handke’s text it dawned on me that there was more to this man than what I had seen and experienced, playing around with translating the first play texts to see who might be the right translator for him they proved so delightful, both serious and playful, that I decided to do them myself – and the world has not been the same since, my world.
8] That Handke then became the most insulting person I have ever not kicked out of my house and life is due entirely to my always knowing that he was a genius.
9] That he could also be, especially at a remove, the most marvelous person I have ever met – was no doubt the biggest surprise of all, and which accounts, I expect, why his few loyal friends, whom he has all gratuitously injured over the years, have not told him to go jump in a lake.
10] That he would rape my girlfriend at the time and within a few weeks claim that he had not had any woman adventures – either points to his splitness, his ability to lie as Marie Colbin points out in her famous charge,
or to dissociation – on the other hand, the girlfriend the relationship with whom was ruined by this act, turned out to be a habitual liar, too.
11] That he threatened to abort a non-existence friendship when I fought, in a manner not to his liking, for what he said, at the time, was the best translation he had ever seen, of his greatest text, WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, finally struck the kind of chord within me that said: “You know kid, aren’t we lucky, if Libgart and I had eloped as I would have with your so insulted and neglected and needing dazzling wife in 1971, and if you and Judith had not, aren’t we lucky – your work would not have found an equally fine translator responder.”