Friday, April 29, 2016


Our modern Classic writes a play that, dramatically, is modernistically innovative yet I feel his grandfather might have found enjoyable, a somewhat disconcerting experience and realization.

I’ve now spent quite a few weeks with Peter Handke’s exuberant DIE UNSCHULDIGEN & ICH AM LANDSTRASSEN RAND/ THE NOT SO INNOCENT INNOCENTS & THE BIG THEATRICAL ME BY THE COUNTRY ROAD as one might title an American version, and I can only say, with any certainty, that it has been, will continue to be an extraordinary READING EXPERIENCE. If Handke took as much trouble to direct the readers of his prose texts to what he wanted them to see and feel as he does in INNOCENTS he would be a far more popular author. The low-comedy Shakesopearean side of him is even entertaining, not a quality to be found often in is work – stretches of THEY ARE DYING OUT come to mind, the fairy tale about picking mushrooms & his second daughter Lucie im wald mit den dingsda - von peter handke (Lucie in the Woods with the Thingamajigs) is cute, another Handke quality that manifests itself comparatively rarely.  I come up with a lot of very brief examples, Handke, after all, can be as witty as any whippoorwill.

What kind of experience it would be if the whole nearly 40 k text of INNOCENTS were put on, however brilliantly, as perspicuous as the text, is beyond current imaginative capacities. For all, the piece’s ultimate effect might be one of great stillness, after the word avalanches, the now far more sophisticated (than in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES) alternating discourse, that idiots continue to call monologues, with lots of other stuff going on inbetween.
Was ist notig zur Vogelschau?
ICH: Der Gefiederblick!
DIE UNBEKANNTE Ja, der Blick fuer ailes, was fluegge ist. Der Faecherblick. Der Saumeblick. Der Windweilenblick. Und das Gefiederherz.
Und die gefiederte Seele! Der Blick fur das, was noch nie abgehoben
hat, aber jetzt, jetzt! Zu mir wie ~ den andern: Und jetzt -

INNOCENT IS built in dualities – “dialectically” friend Scott Abbott would say. The # 2 rules the roost from the gitgo. The “I” that invents the entire fantasy by no means out of whole but very real cloth, splits AT ONCE into a NARRATIVE & DRAMATIC “I”. The “I” itself has a DOUBLE who is one of the GROUP OF INNOCENTS (who however, does not split – that would be once too much!). Handke’s admission - if you read the piece auto-biographically as one can up to a to the point of realizing that he’s having fun -  that he’s just as much a normal sheeple as the entire INNOCENT bunch - a point that, dramatically I would say the DOUBLE is the least effective part of the piece if mounted. Reading what Handke does with this notion of the DOUBLE becomes more interesting, because more subtle; mounted I think it, the subtleties called for, would merely distract and mystify, to no good purpose that I can see so far. – Unless other unsettling elements are meant to amount and…

After translating his THE BEAUTIFUL DAYS OF ARANJUEZ last year, with Scott, and realizing how well conceived and executed within his own terms are his VOYAGE BY DUGOUT, STILL STORM & ART OF ASKING I trust Handke as carpenter of his structures, the DOUBLE - necessary as it is within the balanced context of the INNOCENT’S who are derided

micht mit euch Experten,
Probs, Spezialisten, euch unschuldigen Schurken, euch Unschuldsluzifern - heillt »Luzifer« nicht »Lichtbringer«? -,euch unschuldigen Durch-einander-bringern, euch unschuldig
Belauerern, euch unschuldig Rache Ubenden, je unschuldiger, desto fuerchterlicher, nicht mit euch - Heiden, heillosen, heillosen, heillosen. Wo ihr Unschuldigen auftretet, bleiben alle Augen trocken. 1ch weiss: 1hr seid nicht schuld daran, dass ihr so ueberwaltigend, so erdrueckend, so erstickend viele seid.
Aber kannt ihr nicht ein wenig, ein klein wenig lichter unterwegs sein. 0 lichte Weite! Ah, wie mehrheiten-muede ich bin. Nicht lebens-, mehrheitsmude. Keine argere Muedigkeit, keine lahmendere. Stimmt: Niemand von euch sinnt auf Bases - ihr seid nur da, da, und wieder da. Tatlich werdet ihr, ohne taetlich zu werden, Gewalt-herrscher ohne Herrschertum

Guten Glaubens? Na ja. Aber jedenfalls luegt ihr nicht, ihr Unschuldigen. Wuerdet ihr doch lugen, nicht besser - nein, schoener! Ihr luegt nicht, denn ihr koennt nicht luegen. Schade.
Aber ihr sagt auch nicht die Wahrheit. Ihr redet und redet, und manchmal denke ich: Mag sein, kann sein, oder sogar: Stimmt! Doch letzten Endes ist in dem, was ihr redet,

 Then belittling and making fun of the “I” -that has its fun with them – which doubling is  THE MOST IMPORTANT DIALECTICAL MOVEMENT OF THEM ALL – while the DOUBLE OF THE “I”  is least effectively realized, nearly superfluous within the exchanges of critiques, at least as it stands now.

Other twosomes are the diametrically opposed women, the CAPO’s WOMAN & THE UNNKNOWN WOMAN. Each of these major player has substantial arias and they, too, balance off, and I think that the entire piece balances off - a gradual incline and a gradual decline with a host of dramatic irruptions along both ways – but lacking the kind of conflict, irreconcilable or whatever, that lurks in back of the arrangement and threatens to break out as it did in THEY ARE DYING OUT.
 The “I” berates, belittles, derides THE INNONCENT & two INNOCENTS deride berate the “I” in turn, and turn in quite a bill of particulars.
Ja doch, der Mann da ist das Letzte. Ein Volksfeind. Ein Sozialfall,
und noch dazu einer, der, fuer sich ganz allein, ais Ingroup
auftritt. Ein Fall fuer die Zwangsjacke. Einer, der das
Sagen haben will, und wieder ganz allein. Mein ist das Reich,
und die Kraft, und die Herrlichkeit, in Ewigkeit, amen. Mein ist die Welt, mein ist die Landstraeee. Ein Animist: betet den Wind an, und im Atem des Nachbarn riecht er den Hollenschwefel.
Ein perverser Liebender: liebt das Grillenzirpen und hasst die Kinderstimmen. - Aber ist das auch wahr? Nicht, dass ihr luegt, Leute. Ihr seid Wort fuer Wort guten Glaubens, und zeitweise sogar guten Willens - kein Mensch kann ja allezeit guten Willen zeigen, nicht einmal ein Gott.

Moreover, during one of his monologue the “I” inadvertently chokes the UNKNOWN WOMAN and, if one wanted to read these amusing attacks, reproofs of the “I” autobiographically one would have to say that aside the near murder of the girl, the bill of particular is a lot of small change. If like me who has written a psychoanalytic monograph on our man and knows of the gratuitous cruelties and insults he committed during younger years one could convict him of a variety of major crimes – but the play is not a Confiteor, and not a  Penance. & I would turn toward understanding (my preference), the coin of the realm of psycho-analysis, instead of the Dostoyevskian blame and self-berating game, that is at work here when matters are serious and not just lighthearted derision of Handke’s preference for nature. – After all, Handke has made fun of himself before, as far back at least as WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, of the kind of holy terror he was as a spoiled and favored child and as returning prodigal son poet. In the 2007 MORAVIAN NIGHT he calls himself a “cold salamander” and a “mommy’s child” – fair enough I suppose, I myself am interested in the  psychological complications that arose out of having a far-away father, a nearby brutal stepfather who initially was regarded as a real father until the realization sat in that the monster could not possibly be, and of being the mother Maria Sivec’s surrogate extra love child – Handke recently manifested some awareness of being perhaps having been showered with too much of a good thing, even intra-uterine. However, here in INNOCENTS Handke is not conducting a trial of the deficiencies of the monkey known as “homo sapiens” or of them as PSEUDO-INNOCENTS or of his own faults: he is creating a PROJECTION SCREEN where these matters can be entertained: lightly, amusingly, playfully. Nor is Handke interested in articulating these psychological oedipal complications except in the terse manner of “Wonderful to be fatherless!” Really? Well, you can find Hermann Lenz & Goethe to help you out of the predicament of a vacuum.

I am not leching to translate the piece, what a task it will be to get the tone right! but if I did I’d be tempted to adapt it to American and individual city’s purpose, and would be far more cutting about matters American than anything in Handke’s gattling gun - and he said as much in an interview: you can’t just keep bashing away. It’s a fantasia after all, the poet conducts a trial and error fantasy as he day dreams by the road… “I want to save a piece of blue sky,” it says in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES one of the serious themes that governs INNOCENTS which contains lots of echoes from pieces past for those familiar with his work, especially of the all-important WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES.

My initial dipstick testing  impression is confirmed: The play becomes linguistically more adventurous as he proceeds with lyrical riffs such as this:
Die einen Vogel fliegen so, die andern so, jeder Vogel fliegt anders. Und jeder Falter faltert anders. - Starker Durchzug der Regenpfeifer im September. Anfang Oktober wurde bei
Kilometerstein neunzehn ein laut rufender Rauhfussbussard beobachtet. In derselben Nacht deutliche Zunahme von Graubruststrandlaufern. Mitte Oktober zog uber der zerfallenen
Bruckenwaage eine maennliche Steppenweihe im Nachsommerkleid verspaetet durch. Tags darauf rastete ein weibliches Austernfischerexemplar auf dem Reststuck der urspruenglichen Pflasterung, gefolgt eine Woche spater voneiner Doppelschnepfe und einem Ohrenlerchenparchen im Schlichtkleid, dann einem Wanderfalken im Jugend-kleid. Anfang November sass eine Dreizehenmowe an der Abzweigung

And an amazing Hoelderlineque outburst:
Es weht mich an. Herbst und Epos. Epischer Schritt und Herbstmorgenwind,
ein Hauch in dem und dem dramatischen Moment, ein Anhauch. Epischer Schritt und Rohren des Mississippi und Gluckern des Viehweidenbachs oder auch bloss Federnder Landstrasse unter den Solen, Knirschen des alten Sands

Handke had I think an amazing amount of fun while writing the piece also in a quite Shakespearean low humor vein:
Wie erfuellt du bist von all dem Nichts und wieder Nichts auf und an der Landstrasse. Wie aber haeltst du's mit unsereinem? Nichts als Grillen, Libellen, Schachtelhalme, Zucht-wiesel, Zuchtbrennessel, Zucht-loewenzahn, wilde Kresse, wilde Apfel, wilder Spargel, Wildsauerampfer, Wildreis, Wildsaue. 0 Wildnis. Kann es nicht sein, dass deine Grille mit ihrem Zirpen sagen will: »1ch toete dich!«, und das die Woelfe heulen und der Tiger knurrt aus Liebeskummer oder aus Verlassenheit? Und dass die Kater so keifen und die Elstern so kreischen, weil sie einen Ansprechpartner suchen? Und dass die Eulen so schon still durch den  Nachthimmel kurven, weil sie gleich ihre Eulenkrallen in einen Hasen schlagen werden? -

With so many other wonderful translated Handke plays yet awaiting English language premieres I doubt that we shall see INNOCENT on its stages. How many great German plays find their ways onto English language stage per annum??


  1. the whole project looks interesting. i'll look forward to reading it after i read the play itself. if i live that long!

  2. well,there is an addition on the main charactes to come. its a bitch of a play to get a complete handle on, it keops shfiting under my hand. but i will definitely stoop once done with some notes on the CAPO/ HAUPTLING & his MOLL & DIE UNBEKANNTE. X MR


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