Sunday, January 21, 2018


This is/ will be a running occasional sometimes daily commentary on, initially, my first reading of Peter Handke's 2017 epic DIE OBSTDIEBIN / THE FRUIT THIEF 

i am reading it very slowly. a few pages at the time. and making comments quite disconnected as i go along
you are most welcome to add yours if you so like!
or i can create a page of your own for you

depending when i get up = with the birds 5 am or to bed - around 9 - before i start to write or once i am done . and as compared to DIE WIEDERHOLUNG or NIEMANDSBUCH even SIERRA DEL GREDOS i think reading it incrementally is appropriate in this instance.... at once is far too much to assimilate... many paragraphs are veritable lessons in paragraphing and writing! as an overall narrative those who complain that handke sure is taking his time in getting going have a point but it is a boring one since that is not why one / i read handke ... its several books in one . however, what  
writes here "Diese Diskrepanz zwischen epischen Genresignalen und den alltäglichen Erzählinhalten verweist darauf, dass Cervantes’ Don Quijote als intertextueller Bezugspunkt eine mindestens ebenso große Rolle spielt wie Wolfram von Eschenbachs Texte. Die „Obstdiebin“ erscheint so als eine Ritterin der traurigen Gestalt im Frankreich der Gegenwart, die in den Details der Orte, durch die sie wandert, jederzeit ein „längstvergangenes“ Zeitalter wiedererkennen will und sich begeistert auf die „Mühlenbackbrote“ der letzten verbliebenen Mühle im Ort Chars stürzt, um dort den Geschmack vergangener Zeiten aufzunehmen. Im Unterschied zu Cervantes’ Urmodell des modernen Romans ist die Diskrepanz zwischen dem epischen Willen des Protagonisten zum Abenteuer und dem prosaischen Mangel an Gelegenheit dazu bei Handke jedoch nur selten komisch ausgestaltet – am ehesten noch im ersten Drittel des Romans, der selbstironisch die Figur des alternden Erzählers einführt. Die Geschichte der Obstdiebin lädt vielmehr dazu ein, die Protagonistin auf der Suche nach Orten der „Unzeit“ zu begleiten. Benötigt wird dabei freilich eine Leserin respektive ein Leser, die oder der sich auf das Genrespiel des Textes geduldig einlassen und die damit verbundene Verlangsamung des Erzählens aushalten kann."
this does not interest me at all and strikes me as purely academic in the bad sense of that word.

as to connection it is important to become very careful once this alexia actually appears about a fourth of the book in. handke takes possession of cergy-pontoise ... there's a rohmer film buries in the book as well.. again not the sort of thing that interests me... so far none of the geniale grammatical ingenuity that transposes between dream or film and text. x michael r

Ab Seite 228  - als Alexia in dem in Clergy-Pointoise versteckten uebergegeblieben Dorf Courtdimance in ein Haus in dem eine Trauerandacht statfinded – bis 232 schreibt Handke so zart und leise wie ich noch niemals einmal Prosa gelssen habe. Vermeer!

OBSTDIEBIN reminds me that Handke has meanwhile become a Germano-Austrian-Slovenian-FRENCH author! and that his new native land – where he has lived for a quarter century and written two plays in French - will perhaps appreciate how he manages to assiduously take possession of the Vexin plateau and the Picardie and its individual towns such as that agglomeration Cergy-Pointoise. Odd that he feels he needs to construct an upper class bourgeois background for Alexia the fruit thief, if i needed an alter ego i would have just left her as the hippie girls she really seams to be, like Handke the flaneur in girlish garb-----------
 Alexia resembles the LEFT-HANDED WOMAN  - LHW from now on – in doing all kinds of left-handed odd things, like Handke’s favorite walking backwards, if only a few steps, prior to setting out on a hike. In other respects what is odd is to find her in a kind of ‘normal’ family situation, with an amazingly solicitous dad, and for a mom, the Bankieress of SIERRA DEL GREDOS – matters of that kind make me wonder about Handke the genius cogitating and then coming up with something perfectly ordinary.

However, section by section – though the book has a continuous overall narrative – it is broken up into self-contained sections of differing lengths – each of which is entirely perfect in and of itself – I don’t want to say gemlike because the perfection lacks that kind of self-conscious polish. Perfectly executed objective classical prose.

OBSTDIEBIN which was #1 on the SWR bestseller list for a while - this is the equivalnt of the NY Times Book Review list - is now down to # 8. Still amazing for an extremely enjoyable but demanding book.

For those who know Handke’s work ALEXIA, THE FRUIT THIEF/ Filcher will bear resemblance to his “LEFT-HANDED WOMAN”. Like LHW, Alexia is what Object Relations Theory  calls a “part object” – more than just a projection of the self, an either suffering [LHW] or as in Alexia’s instance a ‘happy go  lucky’ wishfulfilment aspect whom I can see Handke’s ability for make believe, his fantasy keeping him company as he visits his house in the Picardie – the happy part of Herr Handke – the unhappy part can be read in DER GROSSE FALL the book preceding FRUIT THIEF and that  SEAGULL PRESS is publishing as THE GREAT FALL

this Spring and a wonderful and very different book it is , but that it too involves walking and trundling in this case from a suburp to Paris

A further instance of Handke taking a part of himself and turning it into a living object, a person transpires in MY YEAR IN THE NO=MAN’S=BAY where he has a restaurateur open a restaurant  in the woods that makes the words most delicious word salad but too few folks come by and he goes broke as he moves deeper into the forest.  What surprised me initially about Hnndke the person that here was someone who had allegedly grown up pisspot poor who insisted on putting up in the best hotels and restaurants..

One mattter that this admirer of Handke's NO-MAN'BAY

noticed at once was that FRUIT THIEF , written a decade or so later, shows a far greater and detailed familiarity with the neighborhood in which he resides. 

Another matter that might be noted at once is that the "fruit thief" Alexis the third time that Handke in his prose impersonates a woman - the first being LEFT-HANDED woman of the mid 1970s, then in more complicated, split fashion, the "Bankieress" of CROSSING THE SIERRA DEL GREDOS, and now Handke has invented a surrogate in order to explore the Picardie, someone else to go on a trip with, who is said to be the Bankieress's daughter -= the least significant signifier, although true enough in the sense that both are Ausgeburten of Handke's imagination which in this fashion frees itself from needing to tie what he observers and speculate ad invents to his own person, or the 'I' of a narrator. Since the "fruit thief' is said to have just returned from Northern Russia makes me wonder whether Handke spent time at its rivers recently ... its the first time that i ran across this mention. Handke is of coure a world traveler but Alaska and Japan are more usual reference point.

More needs to be said I expect about Handke's use of female personae - and I will. Moreover, doing so also hints at the source of his creativity, the male-female polarity, bi-sexual alement.

The fruit thief itself, a certain Alexia is reported to first appear to the narrators as fragments of a phantasm, is reported to be a kind of decade-long occasionally irrupting phantasm, yet gradually materializes and is also connected in novelistic fashion with the Bankieress of SIEERA DEL GREDOS  as her daughter, whom I do not recall at all there. Then in FRUIT-THIEF she is reported to have just returned from Northern Russia, and her name is given in Russian - if these details confuse you as they have me just a tad, rest assured once the narrator starts reporting her actions, these details are of little matter. However, I have a hunch that she is the kind of McGuffin and traveling companion in the imagination that one can make up to keep one company as a child and then develop further as one's imagination falls in love with itself, and she takes on shape and form and detail. She is said to have a father, now an old bloke, who lives in Paris in Montparnasse and the whores are ancient wher he walks - it is an odd detail for our once Don Juan to mention in connection. This man is a most devoted father, as utterly empathetic as I found the author not to be to his first daughter - but haven't we all changed an in some respects for the better. The mother bankieress is supposedly nuts about the Picardie and the daughter sets out to find her - I don't quite see why Mr. Handke to detail an expedition into the Picardie where he and his wife own a second home needs to invent an honest to goodness family saga... not that there isnt some absolutely amazing writing and instructional prose after an initial few pages where the  book went flat for me as the family saga ensues. I am thinking in particular pagews 148-152 that is starts with the mention if Isac 'Babel, too, having been in the Vexin, the plateau which extends into the Picardie.

Alexia makes her first actual appearance on the train to the Picardie, as someone, a kind of bag woman who has stowed herself and her stuff under stairway in what appears to be a twin level train,  like St. Alexius,  which is an old joke, perhaps just Handke’s, that he resuscitates some pages later when her recounts her time in Russia, wasn't Alexius in one of the texts of INNERWORLD that I translated these many decades ago? But at first here is  then said not to be she, but when the train inexplicably is halted for a long while clambers out she turns out to be Alexia  for real, do we have reason to doubt the narrator, is that part of the game that is being played, not really as of page 125 anyhow. No matter the writer's precise description of her as bag lady or the way she walks across the fields she strikes me as a McGuffin, not at all essential to Handke's fascinating writing  - of a train trip for the first time instead of the usual bus. I sense no human connection to her on the part of the writer, no need for her, thus McGuffin 

perhaps this is what Handke means when he says he likes the medieval sagas that have, say, a woman who cuts off both her hands to make herself unattractive to the layabroads,. That is ‘improbable occurrence, magic, surrealism, foreshortening - Handke is such a marvelous writer it makes nearly no difference what he is writing about. Each sentence is a pearl, each paragraph a treasure instruction in how to write. Alexia does not seem to be someone so far with whom the aging writer is about to have an affair and whom he will seduce or who will roll into Don Juan's bed of her own accord. She is a curio for a trip into the country, a divertissement so far.


Starting I would say with the story LONG HOMECOMING through the 80s ACROSS (Chinese des Schmerzens) and AFTERNOON OF A WRITER you can notice Handke introducing and taking command of a painterly quality; what becomes noticeably prominent in FRUIT THIEF ia a graphic delineating quality that strikes me as new, and the sciences in some of these paragraph length sections act like lines in a drawing , I keep being amazed at the challenges that Handke sets for himself and succeed in. Take a look at Handke's drawing in his Notebooks. I have a link to them on one of these sites and will put it in on Saturday.


About a fourth into the book ALEXIA has appeared  materialized and intriguingly so. However, Handke now provides her with a family and family story.  Her mother is said to be the BANKIERESS from Sierra del Gredos and she has a dad who lives in Paris and is too old for the whores in  Pigalle to take an interest in him or he in them… and the writing turns flat before it picks up again with a wonderfully playful advice that her dad gives to Alexia for her tramping ways - this four page speech reminds of Handke the dramatist and how playful he can be when he wants to.  - One question that arises foe me is whether and to what degree this epic subscribes to Handke's statement that he is a "realist" - FRUIT THIEF rather strikes me as a mix of fine grained realism at the beginning and with respect to Alexia's invention as a form of fabulism that sheds no light on this category.  
 Our man is not a writer of family sagas – well since he envisions his epic being a kind of saga perhaps he can dispense with all psychology and state “Alexia lovee both her parents and particulary her youngr brother” without formulating any of the usual differentiation equivocation of feelings that we expect to be mentioned ina relationships. – as an aficionado I can see no good reason for bothering to flesh out her background since her interest is as a companion tramp for our  tramp narroto as he explores the landscape of the Picardie… .. it will be interesting to read H.s rationale for doing so aside possibly , once he decided on an overall saga form that includes a lot of biographical material to then obey the old formal saga laws…

it is not that Alexia does not like mushrooms, but there is an extremely detailed scene in cergy-pontoise - a city agglomeration of recent years -  where she finds just about any green you might want in a salad plus a melon growing wild in this by and large brand new city - that being one of the points that these natural items exert themselves in the smallest of niches ditto for bats that she presumes require some kind of old hole to exist and there are no old holes in this brand new city - thus my comment about champignons which of some kind will grow in any mold and the wind will transport the spores. its a very nice long scene and handle has a good time describing the city along the way. "i want to preserve a piece of blue sky" as it says in UEBER DIE DOERFER. A genuine conservative! 

mo feb 12 18

One of several matters that are very odd about this book is that Handke affixes certain young girl qualities to Alexia – a liking for Eminmen; and her having once been in Detroit like Handke, yet no boyfriend, so far, or so far ex while allegedly having roamed all over the world and being the daughter of very haute parents!

I am not altogether certain that these kinds of discrepancies between an allegel mediaeval type von Eschenbach tale and actual actuality realism can be or are overcome by a narrator who simply asserts “that's the way it is… or “meant to be “ or the great variety of the like formulaic imprecations or the accommodations of stylized monologue into a text that often shows handke the dramatist.  Not that anyone but the strict formalist in me is bothered as I plough on on the search for owls in Cergy-Pointoise



Alexia continues to be a most  peculiar daughter of an upper middle class family as she supposedly is in search of her mother in the Picardie and has  a dream while she gets a good nite’s sleep in a real bed in a house in mourning.

The narrator keeps asserting that she’s “really been around” , a true vagrant by some of the descriptions, she supposedly attended one semester at the new university in Clergy-Pointoise!  She likes Eminem – no mention of girl or boyfriends! – or why she left home to become a vagrant , a vagrant of vagrants who seems to live a vegetable Paleo diet!

– I mean kids still leave home during and after high school or college and wander the world – but they do that within a context of their generation.  Now she has a dream of having a child,  a couple of pages of this and we are told that this dream has been dreamt for generations  if not forever.  Indeed,  it has it is the usual dream of girls in the early years of puberty – in Mexico we have “quinze anos” and lots of Mexican girls get pregnant then without givng  much if any thought tp marriage – thei want a kid that badly – in rural Mexico that is where kids, even adults, instantly put a protective hand in front of their genitals when they are frightened! All very natural!  My point is that any normal teenager -Alexia seems to be in her early twenties – knows what that dreams is = that she wants or misses having a kid.  My point is also that Handke in electing to have his experience of an expedition to the Picardie, and elaborating on his fear that the new will totally extirpate the old – first mention in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES -
 told via a Personae., a mask, creates some unnecessary problems for himself – doesn’t he ask his own 2nd daughter Laocadie what life is like in her generation? The way he has Alexia’s father give her several pages of advise is a wonderfully funny also persiflage of that  kind of paternalism.  Handke may live to asocially to create any kind of social novel, I recall his saying when he left Salzburg that he could have written a book like Doderer’s STRUDELHOFSTIEGE – no doubt,  he was living within a social context and had sufficient context.  He may also be regarded as a French writer now, and the French certainly will once they get to read him on their Vexin plateau/ Picardie Clergy-Pointoise, and he has written  two plays in French.

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MICHAEL ROLOFF Member 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


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