Wednesday, September 12, 2012




I came to Seattle in the Summer of 94, to check on some relatives, and check out the City. To see what the theater was like I got a job at a weekly that catered to the physically disable and that afforded two tickets. The populace applauded the sets that were so much more fabulous than their own abodes, giggled at every joke, and hopped up and down. Very enthusiastic, veddy uncritical. It was going to be a rough road to hoe. Meanwhile I have come to appreciate the pleasant sides of provinciality, none of them having to do with the arts here, and how provinciality reproduces itself, not something I had envisioned ever putting my mind to.

My then agent and former colleague Robert Lantz put me in touch with Dan Sullivan who then ran the Seattle Rep. I never met Dan but he put me in touch with his assistant, Kurt Beattie, and Kurt and I hit it off for a long while, and – as someone who had played the lead in Handke’s KASPAR Kurt clued me in on what and who had done Handke here, starting in the early 70s, entirely at the M. Burke Walker founded, but now, 1994, bankrupt EMPTY SPACE THEATER. There was even a very bright critic part of the group, Roger Downey, who, however, as I, who had collaborated on all the early Heiner Mueller translations with Carl Weber, who had also done the Handke premieres in New York in the 70s, had misrepresented himself to the holder of the Mueller Copyrights as having exclusive translation rights to Mueller’s QUARTETT, certainly one of the great postwar German texts in that field, as is Handke’s HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER. So I realized that there might be a problem down the road working with this very bright critic, this sasquatch who then giggles so surprisingly,  with whom I actually could talk on a serious level about Handke, Mueller, Kroetz, whom he had translated, coming in where I had left off, and sure enough there was, among others on the occasion of Roger getting a diabetes attack at the prospect of being on stage together with Carl Weber at a Heiner Mueller Memorial I had organized.
    At any event, Roger, Kurt, Burke were all gung-ho at my proposal to do a Handke festival in Seattle under the aegis of the UW. My friends at the Austrian cultural services even managed to find the kind of money you needed to get such a venture off the ground. I started with the moon, but the final proposal and the available funds sort of got us one quarter there. I had done Handke festivals, at Smith, under Leonard Berkmann’s aegis, and at Benningtn, it had been fun at all times. I recall Roger’s call one morning if he could direct PUBLIC INSULT as I now call OFFENDING THE AUDIENCE, and take it to the bigger theaters. “Have at it!” It turned out that though EMPTY SPACE had done KASPAR and RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE, they had not done Handke’s first famous play – the director had fallen ill. All seemed well and on the go until one day I had a call from Richard Gray, the chair of the German department, which had been kind enough to give me visiting scholar status, that Sarah Nash Gates, the head of the theater department, who I had thought was on the team, mentioned that they had no interest in my Handke project. My mistake, I ought to have called it the Sarah Nash Gates Handke festival. Nothing along the line got done if not initiated by her. A wiser politician than I would have double-checked how she went about matters. Meanwhile Steve Pearson, now the head of theater at the University of South Carolina, had done a very fine production of HOUR, the students in the Drama Schools graduate acting program, many were and ctd. very talented. I called Gates to see what could be done. The problem seemed to be that there was no one at the Drama School who was agreeable to her to inter-face with me, who actually would have loved to get the ball rolling and then stayed back and let it roll, for one because I had another life time’s worth of work to do, as I do still, and my income would be from royalties from performances of my translations! The absolutely first rate director M Burke Walker was being let go as a directing teacher, a Kerry Skalsky whom I had befriended and who taught stage fighting, was too young. Later I also received an unusually nasty letter from Nash Gates, gratuitous, who seemed under the impression that I wanted her job! But that was that and the money would never come back to the U. of Washington, that was for sure.
   Kurt after a variety of other assistant artistic director positions had inherited ACT, on the verge of its bankruptcy, but the Handke he has wanted to do there all these years have never materialized. I once spentpeter-handke-plays-in-english two week checking out all the translations of MOTHER COURAGE, Kurt was “just dying” to do a Seattle premiere. But nothing has happened on that score either. With Kurt I approached Rick White at Cornish, around the year 2000, to see whether they might be interested in doing Handke’s then as yet untranslated VOYAGE BY DUGOUT, they had a great space for a play that asked for it at that time. But Rick White, who too had been part of the original Handke fan club at THE EMPTY SPACE, never got back to me, he was delayed forever giving away money from the Arts Fund to projects no one ever hears of. Thinking I might translate the play I checked with my department whether any of the grad or other students wanted to learn something about translating in the process. No one was interested, as a matter of fact, although the U.W. Washington Library keeps acquring  all of Handke's books, they go unopened, not checked out for years, ditto for the whelming secondary literature. A few years later when it looked I might get to do an adaptation of MOTHER COURAGE for Kurt Beattie, indeed there were several people who wanted to work with me. It may be a German literature department, but literature is not what they are really interested in.

 I was planning to do at least a rehearsed reading of Handke’s WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, in front of a scrim with its two major images projected on it, the construction site and the cemetery wall with peace cypress behind. But I did not manage to raise the money, and my attempt to hold a group of fine voiced performers together proved impossible. I contacted John Kazanian at Theater for the New City, certainly a first rate director of one person performance pieces, to read VILLAGES there, I had done this once at Beyond Baroque, and still have the energy for that four hour feat. It appears he actually may have read it since he e-mailed me that he had and ordered it, but I have not the faintest what if any his reaction was. He has not replied to several queries. To remain unaffected by such a great piece…
 When Nash Gates had bowed out, Kurt Beattie and I approached Arne Zaslove,  still of the Bathhouse Theater then, whether we could do a reading of VILLAGES there. Zaslove lost the Bathhouse for committing the hubris of grandeur, but when I checked ten years later, he still had not read it, thus winning the most unenviable prize, which, if you forgot your Mamet, is a set of steak knives. Not too long ago I checked with Hal Ryder, another Cornish theater teach, whether he was interested in reading as an m.s. the now published [PAJ, 2012] VOYAGE BY DUGOUT. He was too busy! He and Skalsky, who briefly resurfaced there, were on their way to Yemen, they did return, unharmed by Al Queda of the Arabian peninsula. And there is a writer who has at least a quarter of old Will in him and all these non-entities who will fortunately leave no trace in theater history are not interested.
   Meanwhile, I have kissed Seattle in that respect, gave a couple of lectures, one most pleasurably for Burke Walker at the Drama School, but with the Handke Project’s drama side on line have a collection of writings on his plays and his theater which I am just now putting into order, and probably not with too much else to write on that score. Michael Roloff, 2012

Monday, July 9, 2012


Andrew Wood of the Uranium Madhouse A Theater
in San Francisco has just done the first translation of


scott abbott & I just translated Handke'S 
for Zejlko Dukic and for Theater Y in Chicago
who will premiere our playing version
in April 2015

 Theater Y's
English Language World Premiere
of Peter Handke's
directed by Zejlko Dukich 
by Michael Roloff
with Scott Abbott

see our comments

In the event you have forgotten about Peter Handke
                                         whose work I introduced into this country around 1970, 
KASPAR winning an Obie in 1973

translated by Michael Roloff
The Complete Plays
Volume I

I wanted to alert you that the following major plays have been translated and are avaible for premieres:

VOYAGE BY DUGOUT The Play about the Film About the War
[Scott Abbott, translator]

Commentary by yours truly


Till the Day Do Us Part
[two characters, preferably done in tandem with Krapp's Last Tape]
Swallow/ University of Chicago Press

photo album
Gitta Honegger Translator
Yale University Press

Michael Roloff translator
Ariadne Press

contains two essays on translating Handke, one of them on

Note that Handke won this year's Muehlheim Theater Prize

 and the play under the title
 Storm Still
Bookmark and Share

Distributed for Seagull Books

Translated by Martin Chalmers
112 pages | 5 1/2 x 7 3/4
Peter Handke, a giant of Austrian literature, has produced decades of fiction, poetry, and drama informed by some of the most tumultuous events in modern history. But even as these events shaped his work, the presence of his mother—a woman whose life spanned the Weimar Republic, both world wars, and the postwar consumer economy—loomed even larger.

In Storm Still, Handke’s most recent work, he returns to the land of his birth, the Austrian province of Carinthia. There on the Jaunfeld, the plain at the center of Austria’s Slovenian settlement, the dead and the living of a family meet and talk. Composed as a series of monologues, Storm Still chronicles both the battle of the Slovene minority against Nazism and their love of the land. Presenting a panorama that extends back to the author’s bitter roots in the region, Storm Still blends penetrating prose and poetic drama to explore Handke’s personal history, taking up themes from his earlier books and revisiting some of their characters. In this book, the times of conflict and peace, war and pre-war, and even the seasons themselves shift and overlap. And the fate of an orchard comes to stand for the fate of a people.

“Numerous pleasures await the reader who delves into the fabric of Handke’s prose. . . A subtle writer of unostentatious delicacy, Peter Handke excels at fiction that, as it grows, coils around itself like wisteria. . . This is where the French New Novel might have gone if pushed.”—Paul West, Washington Post Book World

translated by Michael Roloff with Scott Abbott
is receiving its World English Language Premiere
at Theater Y in Chicago
under the direction of 
Zeljko Dukich
in April 2015  Theater Y
Zejlko Dukich 

Spuren der Verirrten/ Traces of the Lost
will be done as a Philip Glass opera
later this year in Austria.

"Davis Britta" <>, 
for Right and Permission

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Extended Comments
One or Two I.E.D.s


Peter Handke’s


The Play about the Film about the War


 An attempt at a description of a text that, nearly 15 years after completion, finally exists in American in Scott Abbott’s first rate translation,
and I say first rate since I looked it over for Scott
 and of my half dozen suggestions I am proud in having succeeded in persuading
 our “professor” to take the plunge
 and call the wild woman
 by her rightful American name:
“The Bear Skin Woman!”
And not “Peltchick”!
There in the deepest darkest Balkans!
Riding the heavy-duty oak or is it Beech -wood dugout canoe
the foaming green mountain streams!
Down the Drina up the Sava! A bit of rest in the Morava!
Flushed by the Danube
 into the Black Sea!


The conception for VOYAGE BY DUGOUT is more than ingenious: aesthetically it could not be more honest or open:

Two directors,
 a John Ford and a Bunuel type, have a provisional screenplay acted out for them by a cast that itself consists of local actors. Playfully they assume various roles:
chronicler, historian, mad woodsman, genuine madman, internationals who themselves are militarists as well as journalists –
The “play” [and it certainly plays and plays around] concerns “a film”: an international consortium has hired the two great directors to do the ultimate 27th or 28th film about
“the war”, one previous film pops up, keeps popping up the way that calls for mercy and help do from one catastrophic war to the other, featuring some kids, a donkey, and wounded dog with a red cross bandage.
Just like Midsummer’s Night Dream.

  However, the film, is also only incidentally about Yugoslavia. The play, in as much as it is within the post WW II German tradition of socially concerned epic and documentary theater
is also a model!

[Our two directors,
old leches since their days in the crib, it goes without saying, instantly assent to the Bearskin Woman  - as they cannot be said to do to many of the other questionable critters that show up here.]
"The Cast" in its entirety - doublings and triplings of roles and impersonations galore, masks and no masks, masks off and on –

JOHN O’HARA, American film director
LUIS MACHADO, Spanish film director
AN ANNOUNCER [the stage manager as it were]
THREE INTERNATIONALS – as military enforcers as well as journalists, alternately, on MOUNTAINBIKS (two men, one woman)
A POET (from another film, with CHILDREN, DOG, and DONKEY)
A PHILANTHROPIST (international, silent)
A PRESIDENT or WINNER (silhouette)
presents the possible scenes for the film to the Two Directors:
One, an American, John O'Hara, appears to be modeled on what whiffs Handke has got of the modus operandi and being of John Huston or John Ford.
Two, Machado, his Spanish counterpart, is modeled more closely on the author himself and his own experiences directing in Spain, his surrogate Yugoslavia, but also bears some resemblance to Bunuel [these resemblances are not entirely insignificant; and "film  director" is of course a kind of iconic archetype - and they josh around, a bit self-consciously as celebrities can.  The John Ford type wants to do the exteriors, the Bunuel type does the surrealistic innerworld.
   The directors help move the piece along; that is, the presentation of what might be included in the film, discussions of who might be its main character; occasionally comment trenchantly on the art of presentation.
   "O'HARA: That'll do. No commentaries. My films have no commentaries.
   MACHADO: And my films take nothing for granted. "
   The use of twin directors harks back to Handke's then most recent play Preparations for Immortality for the purpose of playing with two  sides of the same Juan coin, but at least on my so far reading are not as diametrically opposed as they might be, nor need to be in this instance...
A third director of sorts, a bit more pushy,
The Announcer [a stand-in-in for "the author" who has fled!], a kind of stage manager, also moves the piece forward, and in fact has a kind of authorial control over what is meant to be shown to the directors ["and now I am going to present the two historians."] but can also impersonate other characters, e.g. turns into one of the locals who witnessed the war, presents the speech of a would-be president at one point, and so, as in so many fortunate instances in the piece, is not locked into a securely identifiable character-role…
How usefully and artistically Handke exploits the economic need to double and triple up roles is something playwrights might take note off.
Focusing just on how these three "Movers" weave the material together, one notices that Handke's forte as a creator of flying carpets, he our master weaver and cuckoo from Griffen, is very much intact, except for a long stretch in Act II of what I regards as unstitchable cast iron…

Since Handke writes his plays, being too rarely performed, also as Lese Dramen [dramas to be read,] some of the dissertation length speeches are fine in filling in a reader, but need to be condensed for performance. These do not to seem have daunted Scott as you read in his  comments. However, in as much as they reference the disintegration of Yugoslavia they need surrogate text if the play is to be used as a model in other such events.

As Abbott notes in an introduction that he had to keep to a too-few 1000 words, DUGOUT can be situated within the tradition of  Brecht’s epic theater – I would say most notably for being a model that can be altered to adjust to events similar in their confusion and lack of perspicuity as the disintegration of Yugoslavia was but to - pace Roger Cohen - those who designated one tribe and the Big Bad Wolf of Progaravic as a culprit who personally set fire to each homestead that burned there among the Benneton ads in the NY Times Magazine! – But: The Sudan anyone? Is there an African in the house? Syria? Not just Brecht, but Kipphardt, Peter Weiss, Guenter Grass and Hochhut’s work in that tradition come to mind. Handke, of course, provides his very own twist, a very vitalistic one.

In other words, I find DUGOUT to be sufficiently elastic in conception to be adaptable. All you need find is one major atrocity, and there invariably is, and the one atrocity photo that invades the unconscious of the viewing masses. - Not only adaptable do I find DUGOUT, but if performed in need of editing to be made suitable for a performance – and not only because an English-speaking audience can’t be expected to be intimately familiar with the history of Yugoslavia [no need really, the references are fashioned in such a way as to be prehensible by anyone with a whiff of knowledge of war, besides they aren’t familiar even with their own history!] or the audiences ever more gnattish attention spans. –

 Handke’s major plays have been what are called “Lese Dramen,” since his personally richest and most powerfully poetic play, the 1982 WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES [Ariadne Press], plays to be read – since performance, as the author knows, will be at best far and inbetween and in most case, but for the wordless 1992 HOUR WE KNEW OF EACH OTHER – never in ye old U.S. of A.   The last and most recent of Handke’s major plays, FOREVER STORM, too, addresses history, the 2011 IMMER NOCH STURM, which was presented as both play and novel on publication in 2010, and premiered successfully in 2011 and - surpris surpris - became immediately so well loved as to be succeeded by two further Inzenierungen.  [1] Links to considerable material about that play which Scott Abbott and I assembled. [2- theatrical background]

I at least feel happy to report that I could not be happier by the way that the author handles the introduction of the themes of the war,  neighborliness,  history… in feathering these [propeller! not goose down fashion] the way the Two Directors, the Announcer, the Forest Madman, The Chronicler and Historian toss the balls back and forth during the first third of the play… even some of the longer speeches do not prove tiresome, there, at any event not upon several readings…  cut  no  doubt though they, too, will need to be for performances
in the dear old attention span of gnats U.S. of A.

Subsequent to the laying out of the mis-en-scene, the Tourist Guide has the first long introductory speech that turns into a somewhat persiflage of the kind of borscht about civilization that tourists might have their brain cells deadened with and not just in the Balkans, which somehow or other includes the Serbians and whoever else in the Greek City State Athens tradition via a grand extended notion of the region, but which the Tourist Guide himself truncates with some nice utterly cynical "Chinga su Madre" type remarks.
The Forest Madman –  by far the most interesting character and based on a famous German legal case of a Serbian who was tried and convicted in Germany according to current! German military law for failing to stop an atrocity in Yugoslavia [and at whose marriage in prison Handke was best man! A stellar deed by a man who has done his share of dastardly ones! More about him and “denial” anon] - now begins to intrude with some fairly short comments, especially his "fuck the neighbors refrain", making his "primal sounds", the first notes as it were of what will become the piece's most complex melody… but gradually turns into the piece's main character, as the Two Directors discover him to be, becomes the most multi-faceted because he has acquired - by accident more than design - more historical brambles than any of the others: he appeared on International T.V. as one bad guy among others [he's got touches of the paranoid/schizophrenic Bloch the Goalie who resurfaced in W.A.T.V. as one of the three worker-clowns], was arrested as the innocent by-stander, served five years in a German jail, where he lost all sense of guilt, returns to live in the region, but instead of being feted as a hero, is 86ed because he won't admit his guilt… is regarded as mad… his only real relationship appears to be with the forest… at the end is brow-beaten by "The Bearskin Woman" as one might to call "Die Fellfrau" in American [who doubles as the "Beauty Queen]… and if one regards this telescoping of the Forest Madman's qualities from a filmic perspective, this is not only some kind of yet other genius notion, but potentially represents the "Mother Courage" of the piece… though its kaleidoscopic layout of course has nothing of the sort in mind…
And as “fate” would have it:
At about the time that Scott’s translation was finally published in 2012
Who would approach
And seek
 to befriend me on facebook.
Why not? He seemed to be a Thechnik, someone who favors Yugoslavia’s royal lineage
And a believer in the Serbian Orthodox church. What’s not to like? I have far odder f.b. friends than that among old friends, schoolmates, scholars –
 Informing Scott of this interesting new friend I then find out who he is, and I find it just a bit spooky, but give Novo the links to a play where he now exists in English!

By the time of the appearance of the
Three Internationals on page 56 [German Edition], nearly halfway through the play, a lot of matters have been put on display: the Historian has despaired of history, half-comically so, the Beauty Queen has appeared and The Directors feel that she deserves a bigger part than the script envisioned for her; the Historian has sought to demolish the Chronicler's heroic version of the origins of his tribe,

 "Your first king was a thief of swine, his opponent a horse thief. The horse-thief killed the thief of swine and became king."

The Chronicler has given a fine account of having been in the war himself, having donned a mask,

"and I was the one who took a mother and child and poured cement over them while they were alive and stood the group as a memorial at the way cross. And someone whose teeth I had just bashed in I showed to a group of International  Observers with the remark that he was just coming from picking strawberries."…

 "Neighbors have turned into phantoms, the most peaceful turned into murderers." 

In short, we have a fine mordant and earthy sense of the [a] war-time past… and the Forest Madman, too, has recounted part of his crazy making story within the general to and fro.

The Internationals
[who appear on mountain bikes] do not know where they are any more, now that it is peace they recall the land only from wartime, but they have their paranoid memories... The first long speech by # 3, confesses that he never really knew where he was even then, that he hated the damned land from the moment he set foot in  it, could only get along with his translator guide, but whom he had to import from outside since he couldn't trust the native viewpoint; hates these people especially because they re-invented war "they are victims but not innocent ones", he hates them so much he wants to throw an atom bomb on all these warriors and be done with them… which is why he doesn't really want to know where he is… But after a couple of pages of this sort of thing their self-immolating self-representations, for my taste, especially the self-derisiveness with the alphabet acronym soup [KFOR type stuff], become so excessively pointed as to be a caricature of the author's own hatred of them, in speeches that present them to be mad hunters of war criminals,  judges  with  utterly  closed  minds, self-righteous reporters… for The Internationals, too, transform into or are interchangeable  with  representatives of the International News Organizations…
Theatrically, this entire second act - News folk + Internationals - within the three act play without pauses, is a remake of a section from  Handke's They Are Dying Out. Extremely eery for me its translator to find for one instance that a  speech from this 1973/4 text has been lifted rhythm for rhythm beat for beat with new but not better wine in the vessel, and though I have some considerable admiration for the "Johann Sebastian Handke" side of my man, the pulling of this organ stop hints at something of a rush job or an act of vanity in thinking that a particularly successful aria ought to be used twice, but perhaps Handke with all the different melodies he sings has only one real attack aria in him, it is used once more, in more modified form in the big mixed bag – some of his greatest writing, some ugly lying, a lot of tour de force moments - of a 2008 novel MORAWIAN NIGHT.
    Also, Handke has been feeding off W.A.T.V. for nigh on 20 years now, in various plays, also in the fable No-Man’s-Bay, and here too at moments… Handke "the pro" as his own cannibal! The way the "Internationals" are then kissed off, too, is an exact duplicate of how business tycoon Quitt punctures the businessmen. Handke's hatred of the UN type forces and of reporters which exerted itself mutely ["dumpfe Wut"] through the two texts that he wrote upon his 1995/6 trips to Serbia, simply makes for some bad writing here, and what I consider a hugely missed opportunity in driving the nail of the truth of the cannibalistic self-reinforcing cultural industrial news cycle home. [Only in this instance, see below, am I in some agreement with J.S. Marcus incredibly stupid take on this play and on the rest of Handke in his notorious piece in the New York Review [see my  detailed decimation of this idiot who hasn’t a poetic hair on his body at the handke-discussion blog spot
and at:

The overly long "International" stretch cited just now also contains some kind  of  tortured, basically incomprehensible account of something like the Srebrenice massacre, on which Handke had a more accurate take in Summer Sequel/ Reprise [Ein Sommerlicher Nachtrag 1994] where it elicited a fearful wish not to be a Serbian [no matter that no one had asked him to be! and that he was only half-Slovenian Austrian national and half German with a German actual father and stepfather, [see # 3] whatever kind of mongrel that is!]. Taken together with the here perpetrated notion that "history" is a falsifier - in the sense that a photo that elicits the memory of a German concentration camp, ought not to be confused with something along those lines [a notion put into the mouth of the International Historian and reiterated by a "total madman" [who is merely a slightly more mad chap than the Forest Madman, a "split-off part" of him] and of the
The Greek Reporter] - the play, which I think starts off as a comparatively even-handed attempt to entertain an understanding of the Yugoslavian catastrophe,  turns into something too confusing to make heads or tails off for an audience [although that may be the point!]   

 After all: in many ways a director could even do the play from the point of view, suade the piece in the direction of the INTERNATIONALS being right in their assessment, and that would be true to Handke’s subsequently expressed opinion, in a Radio Interview with his daughter Amina, that no matter what conviction an artist may have as citizen, as an artist he must remain objective.
If one approaches the play as a “model”, the atrocity would be made generic, for just about any war has a major atrocity that develops out of the confusion and fury of the action – and which is then argued about. Some are clear-cut, e.g. the My Lai massacre as an act of utter frustration on the part of a troop that ought not to have been there in the first place. Screbrenice appears to have been the culmination of internecine warfare, taking a very drastic course, final solution, final shock-treatment type course. Photos and news accounts have been used for propaganda purposes at least since the U.S. Civil War, yet they never appear to lose their effectiveness.

Just as the story of the Forest Madman derives from Handke’s personal involvement, so does the story of the photo of the concentration camp, a photo misused for propaganda purposes, a dispute in which Handke’s friend Thomas Deichmann and his magazine Novo became deeply involved, and ultimately won a British defamation lawsuit. A more Brechtian cooler approach that used such an instance of misuse in Brechtian fable fashion, would make I think a more effective drama.
A TOTAL MADMAN appears, he might as easily be the Forest Madman, who accuses the Internationals of being the ones who set off the bombs, the poison in the bomb… and that their images and voices on television have produced a monster child… and goes into a kind of total denial reversal "the corpses from the massacre came from the mortuary… the national library burnt of itself…" and claims to have  become a mass murderer because his impulse to help was thwarted…  “like  mother's milk gone sour…” which is a very interesting though odd idea indeed… and with considerable psychological truth on its side [though it is he of course who needs the help which he claims to have wanted to provide to others - not that there is any evidence to corroborate the claim, at least in this instance; though someone here might consider, examine the mechanism of frustration as being part of that equation. However, the theme of the milk of human kindness going sour, or poisonous, is one of the deepest themes coursing through the play, and on that score Handke personally cannot be faulted.
The Internationals claim that they own the language for the war, and with the appearance of "The Greek" [a reporter who hasn't toed the international party news line] there ensues a confrontation about the manner of news-gathering and representation that is first rate and makes up for some of the preceding: the Greek takes detours, recounts how he hit on a village full of city refugees, who had nothing left but their outrage, "the vanguard of the still and once again unknown people - of an aboriginally hopeless but therefore that more brightly continuing humanity that is walking its way through the night and wastes of time." [  shades of similar sentiments from W.A.T.V. and some of Handke's fine observations, say the way he sees passengers on buses in No-Man’s-Bay]

The Greek Reporter:
You appear in the name of goodness, yet you have never left behind the least goodness in this country. Helpers? You’ve never helped yet. There is a kind of indifference more helpful than your humanitarian gesticulating. Your right hand caresses some like Mother Teresa while your left hand raises the sword of a criminal court against the others. Puny devils of goodness. Humanitarian hyenas. Aloof and formal in the face of suffering – you officious and public humanitarians. Mars corporations masquerading as guardians of human rights. You claim to be humanitarian sheriffs – and the humanitarian sheriffs in the westerns, isn’t it true, Mr. O’Hara, were usually incompetent or secretly corrupt. They were the villains.
O’HARA: Aren’t those prejudices, my son?

MACHADO: Let him express his prejudices, John. Prejudices make good film plots.

GREEK: The war has made the people from here bad, worse than they are. You carpetbaggers have become bad with the war, like you really are. Deaf and blind – unfortunately, not speechless, not speechless at all.

THIRD: Medieval rhetoric.

GREEK: Those who wield sentences as bludgeons have the power. In earlier despotic regimes, that was the politicians. Now it is you. And while the small peoples here fought for scraps of earth, you conquered the whole world. In word and image the despotic lords over reality, you power rangers. Internationals? Extraterrestrials. International court? Universal stingrays.

FIRST: You’re not imagining an about face? We have to continue the way we began. We are now prisoners of our initial opinion. We must continue more vigorously, more shrilly, and above all in a monotone – monotone – monotone. That’s the way it is. That’s the state of affairs. It’s true: We’re sick of what we do, so sick of it. And we’re sick of each other. But what can we do? Should we suddenly say: The other ones, the ones not from here, are also guilty? Guilty in a different way? Impossible! That’s not the point. We must continue as we began, in full voice and if necessary with empty hearts. That’s the way it is. That’s the way it has to be. We are the language.

The First International [now transformed into the "New York Review" reporter Mark Winner – George Packer! - Pulitzer Prize], claiming to always have reported "both sides of the story" talks quotes reads a piece which I imagine is meant to refer to the Srebrenice massacre, in an interesting expressionist mish-mash of German and American… a piece whose language resembles the kind of topsy-turvy of a massacre… There is a further persiflage put into an I.T.'s mouth now claiming to be a reporter for The New Yorker – Lawrence Wechsler- … but, as we say in Amurrican, by this time these poor stooges are "over the top", they are like massacred paper tigers… Brecht did it better in Arturo Ui the author will hate to hear! Yet a mish-mash section there needs to be if the piece is used in model-like fashion. Each of these accounts, the way news accounts appear and enter the mind, becomes a mish mash there. The use of Packer and Wechsler texts here is one other instance of a rush job as the deadline for the premiere approached. [4]
"The Greek" confesses to his being filled with hatred "against known and unknown. And since the hatred against a known quantity cannot be poured out, it must be directed against unknown. And more and more is made unknown today especially by means of the everyday revelation and information. And therefore the hatred against unknown literally grinds away in us." [again shades of W.A.T.V. not that that takes anything
away from the truth value of the observation of the prevailing world-wide psychosis.]
THE INTERNATIONALS thereupon have a nearly Brechtian little dance:
"You won't change it. That's the way it is. That's the situation.
   That's the way the world is. That's the market. That's the price...
   We are the market. We are the world. We write history. And history
   requires guilt, culprits, retribution..."
-- which gruesome chain the entire play, all of Handke's best endeavors since W.A.T.V., have indicated the heartfelt wish to put a stop to…
A series of long speeches is given to
The Greek, who basically  espouses views in words similar to those that Peter Handke has  written over the past twenty years: "A mankind in a state of whetted appetite to be a discoverer, not underway into the forced performance called entitled 'history' but into [he stops a second'] -- inbetween time..." He envisions "hopelessly quiet masses of people on the central plazas, who no longer are intent on storming parliament”… and to the International Reporters he says: "For a decade now you've been pissing your ready-made piss on the invariably same trees. All these marvelous Dinarian woods are stinking to the high moon from your piss,"  truths of these observation being shared by this commentator.

The newsmen are given ample space to reply, but I will not try to summarize the to-and-fro but to say that the points scored by both sides are lost in what strikes me as an overkill of verbiage, Geschwätzigkeit is the fine German word for this, and most unusual logorrhea in the instance of our usually so laconic author. And not state of the art in media analysis I might add.
     The play even manages to "work in" some typical Handke stuff about "sacred rage" and puts it into the mouth of the I.T.s, as well as the frequent charge against Handke, especially again then – around 1999 -  that "he has flipped out" - and in that fashion, I suppose, the play imagines that it inculcates itself against such very charges, a variation on the tactic of tactical concession, but taken well before entering the malaria infested territory of public discourse...
The IT.'s claim that they have nothing but good intentions is met by The Greek's response:
"There is an indifference that is more helpful than your blabbering about being humane, as the right hand pets some of us like Mother Teresa, and the left hand swings the sword of the tribunal against others. Little devils of goodness. Humanity hyenas. There is no one  less open to suffering than you official humanitarians. Mars bodies that appear as the protectors of human rights… The people here have become as evil as they are not. And the war has made you tourists as evil as you are. [the verbal casting resembles W.A.T.V.'s "the brown pistol holder is not but the blue sky is."]
The Greek calls for an absence of all reporting, of all media intrusion.. for a ten year period… but how would Handke stand not  being in the news for that long? Not being photographed?
The upshot is that
the I.T.s resolve that their view cannot be changed, they are unalterably locked into their language, and that they are the language. And the bitter truth of that can be seen in all the U.S. wars since and current preparations for more of the same.
There is a nice moment, after
the directors have inquired of The Greek what it might be that he sees beyond the apparently self-evident, and he replies "The wind," and laughs and all the others laugh, too. And then the Greek has one last speech in which he attacks the notion that photos speak in the sense that the photos of Yugoslav camps, by  being reminiscent of German concentration camps, spoke falsely, or only seemed to speak. [a notion to similar effect was broached by The Historian already early on in the play and we have reached the nub of the rub of atrocities, and guilt, and historical memories which  Handke,  in the instance of Serbia has had such a hard time stomaching,  - and which I comment on at greater length in some of my  footnotes. [3]
    By page 100, after approximately 40 pages devoted to the I.T.'s in their various guises, much of it in a shrill tone, and much unGoethlike derisiveness, that already seeped into the interchanges between The Historian and The Chronicler in the first 60 pages, after a nice side-stepping transition, we come to the section devoted to the Forest Madman and the Beauty Queen/Bearskin Woman during which the F.M. and B.M. rediscover love and the simple things in life, in  part a la the kind of lovely simple interchanges, indirect discourse, that we find at the  end of W.A.T.V.
     The F.M. recounts his prison days in Germany and how he lost his sense of guilt.
"Peace, peace here means: the heart is bleeding." And turns into a kind of complete mourner and only seeks the great pure life of mourning; and recounts his life in the forest, rhapsodizes about the taste of raspberries, and then

I made my first notes for DUGOUT in 1999, to get a grasp of the play, also so as to try to persuade a director in Seattle to work on it.  
Fat chance, here in Seattle,
the guy, Richard White at Corning
was too busy giving away arts money! Money that never produces sees that sprout further than King County.
Corning had a fine venue to mount what in Handke’s play is set in a war-damaged once resort hotel, entitled Acapulco.
“Hotel California,” though, would not do as the accompanying music for
Handke’s most ascerbic play. The one stringed ancient Balkan string instrument an the mouth organ are it.

Lucky me, I would have had another translation on the six month belt and be even poorer but for that experience. I’ve sent Scott’s translation to a lot of theater folks, no takers so far. And even if my translation had been as good as Scott’s P.A.J. would not have published it, for they welched on a signed contract for W.A.T.V. in the mid-80s, an act with a lot of consequences which Handke knows all about.
Sometimes, after you work your way through the town of Truth and Consequences up the Rio Grande, there comes Elephant Butte with Rudolf Guiliani doing the cheering as…

In some stretches – now that I have reread the play and in translation one more time, you sense Handke’s amok anger throbbing through,
 as it does, I think, most powerfully and successfully in the great “Apache” section of the, forthcoming in English in 2013 novel, “Moravian Night
[although there is also the somewhat minor formalist piece Subday Blues where Road Rage is incrementally sliced ever finer…]
a bus-driver listening to that song on the way to the Kosovo
with a load of Serbians to visit a grave site.

The scaffolding is brilliantly set; as it is also physically in the huge foyer of a ruined hotel ACAPULCO which itself is situated in a valley inside deepest darkest SERBIA; a somewhat surrealistic fairy tale setting which, not so incidentally, develops out of and within the dramatic & visual vocabulary that Handke began to stake out starting in 1981 with WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, elaborated in the receding horizon line of The Art of Asking, brought into intense whirling focus on the plaza of the 1992 HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER [the belatedly completed Summa of all his early work], and  elaborated yet further in his next to last play, PREPARATIONS FOR IMMORTALITY, but which achievement the l’il old u.s. of a. here has taken little note of, so-called “contemporary theaters” and all, family fun and fare. Nor Richard Schechner’s TDR any longer.  The very conception - two major directors - the grand hotel - are, characteristically strong Handke strokes.
     The play-space Handke has created for himself [and us] in these works for the stage [and in a different fashion in his prose work, a  matter I won't go into  since I have done so at length in pieces in the novels at the various Handke sites] allows for the existence of "another world", for that hovering just a touch above the floor, it is a space that allows for the freedom of serious matters to be gently [or less so in this instance] entertained by the mind and heart - for the  main actors to represent, externalize themselves through spoken texts - not act out through naturalistic mimicry, or present in other versions of what is known as epic theater, "action" is always "offstage," in the imagination, something referred to, no blood is spilled on Handke’s stage, the only thing that is real in Handke’s “as if world,” is the playing, which thus becomes as it were far realer than any naturalism ever can. In that Handke has remained true to himself since his beginnings.
     In the instance of Dugout, the presentation and discussion of possible scenes from a prospectus allows for some real efficiency, juggling, etc. and I recall becoming aware of Handke’s collage method about 20 years ago when I analyzed the screenplay for Wings of Desire. Compared to some of Handke's other 80s through 90s plays [whose formal completion, rounding out, overwhelms, consummates their collage quality] D.C.'s handling of the collage method allows for a lot of breathing room - at times. This is my feeling: but translating and directing Handke's work can make for some amazing discoveries

Dugout’s  supposedly ten years after the fact  [then, at its premiere in 1999, this “after the fact” would have made for a look back from the perspective of the year 2009]  is Handke’s plus quam perfect procedure as we also start finding it in his novels as of the 1992 NO MAN’S BAY, to the 2007 MORAWIAN NIGHT, more or less “fairy tales”, meant to hover in indefinite futures, so as to relieve the writer as he is writing and us of too perfect-glue adhesion to the naturalistic. The “as if” made into a real experienceable as if is the fine ambiguous line, the Zwischenraum/ Inbetween Space on which Handke continues to work as a formalist composer, as he has since the start, and since, be it novel or play, the work imposes its own time and presence upon being experienced, Handke’s pretense that the matter be set in the future, I find to be a tic, a tic that puzzles, a fly that buzzes and that I shoo away. Here we experience a provisional screenplay enacted to two directors, certainly a most ingenious idea if you wish to reach provisional judgment, hold judgment in abeyance, as certainly is Handke’s wish, leave matters open for discussion in the moral forum of the theater.
With that as your basic concept, the table has been cleared, it is up to the playwright what matters he wants to address. I myself would have addressed geo-political monstrosities of all kinds, the two-faced manner in which Richard Holbrooke/ Galbraith proceeded, the U.S. arming of the worst S.O.B. of the lot, the “wrong man at the wrong time at the wrong place” as Franco Tjudman of Croatia is known, the sending of Mujahedim to help out Izetbegovich, the ravages wrought by economic warfare – in other words, matters that address the question of underlying causes why a series of tribes, sometimes intimately related, fell upon each other – neighbor upon neighbor - to the extent that this must have been a terror that does not leave these people’s bones for generations – and I say this because in my fifteen years in Seattle I have run into about half a dozen survivors, and it must be because I am as European as I am American that I spot them on the bus, and try to talk to them. One even “lived”, that is holed up for several years, in the prairie preserve near where I live, big-boned ox of a fellow, I wake with the birds and so did he, carrying his bedroll to the same coffee shop, just to wash up, couldn’t buy him a cup of coffee, where are you from? “From here, Seattle” in the heaviest Slavic brogue! To see such powerful big men frightened to death years after the event – at least I have not seen it anywhere else. Perhaps it was that neighbors suddenly slaughtering neighbors that did it, and Handke is great on the atavistic!
Handke, as compared to my infinite interest in the monstrosities that the geological monsters can perpetrate, takes a far more intimate and personal tack, and focuses, as he did in his Justice for Serbia on the  role of the media and language.
And on the fate of one particular fellow.


 Par ejamplo, "The Historian and The Chronicler" laying out their different tacks on the matter at hand:
   HISTORIAN: Yes, isn't that what you wanted: to be by yourselves, each one for himself, as you are now, alone with your plum tree whose crown has been blown off, your pig and lamb walking on three legs, and the neighbor's rusty tractor now yours.
FOREST MADMAN: If you say "neighbor" one more time, I'll cut your throat.
CHRONICLER: All this business about living together peacefully for centuries on end was only invented by some of the warlords here, meant for the tourists from the foreign capitals, a sales pitch for the politics of war. Harmony between this guy and that guy over there? An idea grabbed out of thin air, built on sand.
HISTORIAN: Why not build on sand? Can't such a construction sometimes stand more firmly than any other? And why not grab the idea of belonging to each other out of the air? Where else do you grab it from but from there.
And a historian says that? A scholar?
ANNOUNCER: [leafing around his grab-bag of notes]: At this point the author is already hinting at the future statesman and visionary…
   ...anyhow into a more multifaceted, poetic philosophical realm, fastened down to the very earthy though it is, too, on occasion with very  hands-on peasant language, than the author's own public engagement in matters Yugoslavian might make one expect; that is, the play is a delightful, mordantly funny, extraordinarily graceful, juggling act… for long stretches anyway.
 According to Handke’s and the play’s suggestion "Ungleichzeitgemässigkeit" [a disjunction in contemporaneities] represents one of the determinants for the occurrence of the war [Jürgen Habermas might jabber about "second world".] and neighbors became strangers to each other even before the onset of the carnage.
   These differences in development [or, if you like, perversion] make for the kind of surrealism that is one of the delights in the play:
   E.g. forest people confront "Internationals" on mountain bikes; "natural" people go mad, so that at the play's more poetic moments we have the impression we might go off into a world of The Tempest; and a feeling that has been growing in me, that the time for verse in serious drama is again upon us, is only reinforced at this and many other moments, but I find only one contemporary German playwright engaging in it successfully, not Handke so far.
The war in this piece is meant to be receding into the kind of fabled past that all such wars have had no choice but to while they are very keenly still with us, as they are in this piece. Dugout plays on that edge I would say... threshold if you like... between forgetting and keen awareness: after all, it's is the 29th film for which this screenplay has been prepared of which they are doing a run-through… and in one of its fine mordant comic relief scenes, there appear the stars from the previous internationally acclaimed "masterwork": A POET with CHILDREN, a Dog and a Donkey, like some Faulknerian / Shakespearean comic relief character; the dog has a bloody wrap around its wounded belly, or is it the children, they are a team that raises funds for UNRA, he's the poster child and the poster dog and donkey in person as it were… some characters only appear "dimly": as seen as silhouettes through semi-opaque windows… the silhouette play is creeping into the artistic proceedings… if my grand idiot savant isn't always state of the art! He also adds stage directions calling for SOFT FOCUS! I would say that within a few pages we are also in some respects in a kind of madhouse of the Vienna woods, visually all this is spectacular.


D.C. is prefaced by three significant quotes:
 1] from Ivo Andric, who ponderously addresses what we call the wages of self-righteousness, the fact that a wounded judge can be especially vicious [a notion that the play's author in his own controversial public statements might well have heeded!], the potential Robespierre in so many... and one that could not be more true, intra-psychically! The archaic super-ego. The question of "justice" pervades the play. "I want to go to justice" is a Walk About the Villages quote [as is "Everyone is in the right."] the former of which, however, cannot be said to address the fact [or the  series of facts] of the rational irreconcilability of ethnic, religious and rurally rooted land ownership, identity demands and demands for vengeance, in a landscape whose economic basis is disappearing under their feet… or the by and large question of a vacuum that arose in Yugoslavia/ [FILL IN THE BLANK] when the ‘center would not hold’ for a host of reasons, though the play does bring to the fore the question of how neighbors from one day to the other can become murderous, looting enemies during the implosion… to which in this country our periodic riots during "exceptional situations" provide the same kind of incendiary answers… more on justice anon.
2] A Goethe quote that indicates what kind of piece we may expect: "Poetischer Vortrag", where Vortrag ought not to be translated as "lecture" as much as "presentation," a poetic showing, not entirely devoid of the didactic... but, here surrealistically Volksst
ückhaft [rooted in the Austrian tradition of popular rural plays],  mordant, highly theatrical presentation, illustration… Goethe with a Viennese, graceful Horvarthian touch… a fine prospect… and which in the proper kind of forum might actually make for a fine post-play discussion.
One way of getting a purchase on the play, of situating it, might be to think of how some other 20th century German playwrights have approached similar subjects. Certainly Dugout does not entirely lack all qualities of Peter Weiss' Oratorio The Investigation, a Heinar Kipphardt probably would approach the same material much along the lines of a docu-drama a la The Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer; a Hochhut with his penchant for focusing on leaders might have an interesting time with that approach: Clinton - Handke of all people called him a “Schmutzfink” - at the time of the Kosovo war, Milosevic, Holbrooke, Galbraith, Margaret Albright suddenly remembering her Jewish ancestry as Frau Koerbel and trying to use it as an extenuating circumstance, Isobetgevic, Tjudmann locked-up in a fore-room to hell? Hochhut would most likely condemn each and every one of them, including the leader of the Kosovo Albanians to the gallows. Günter Grass’ The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising comes closest to Handke’s way of proceeding rehearsal like. Heiner Mueller [or Brecht] would no doubt bring qualities just as biting to the subject as Handke, but would have had their own poetic takes on this material, the Brecht of the Post-WW-II Ensemble would have constructed, delineated, worked out with his collaborators a fine fable for the story of the hapless victim of new German military justice visited on an innocent by-stander who failed to intervene; which no doubt would have been very different from Handke since they would not have enjoyed, if that is the word, the same close and madly intimate and contentious affiliation to the former Yugoslavia as has Handke, who with his kind of Goethean Vortrag, though not exactly trying to take some idiot Olympian perspective, succeeds in trying to dis-engage himself a little from the kind of attack-dog close-quarter infighting wounded love-child fit he so very publically threw as his beloved “9th Land,” the imaginary land of peace, started to disintegrate – in Dugout those familiar with the public controversy will note that Handke, sober pencil in hand, is grimly skeptical of the two different united Yugoslavia’s viability that existed during two stretches of the 20th century, and actually also decimates someone who engages as he himself did. However, some matters do get a lot more personal. After the premiere Handke had his daughter Amina interview him on Austrian T.V., affording him the opportunity to insist on the play’s objectivity – I imagine as compared to some of his own views; and I would say that that is the case, the play cannot be tied to some of his public comments or, but emotionally, even to his series of travelogue and other writing on the subject, except perhaps in the one instance of conflating texts by George Packer of the NYRB and Larwence Wechsler for the otherwise superb section of journalistic mishmash that all the war reportages then amount to. There are better examples than to use the work of educatable intelligent journalists for that purpose. And this is the only instance where I share the otherwise abomination of a review the play received from J.L. Marcus in the NYRB with its knives out for anyone who failed to blame the Serbs. How fundamentally stupid and literal-minded this no doubt the lowest Marcus in that family of enviable intellectuals shows himself to be is when he berates Handke and the play for the Bearskin Woman’s line “what war?” – as though Handke were denying it! - [the query in its context means: it will be forgotten once we ride the DUGOUT CANOE again, as all such wars eventually subside in memory – who, after all, in Europe still has the 30 and 100 and Napoleonic wars ever-present in their minds but their historians? Certainly not in the manner in which WW II is ever present to Handke or me, or the Yugoslav disintegration for him. From one generation of war babies to another as it were!.-  Yes how abominable stupid can you get – well if it is the case of flaunting Wilsonian moral superiority it appears to a very deep degree.

3] As per the third quote "Da selo sa selom pase" [a village wants to graze with another] from King Dusan's Codicils # 72,[???!!!*] indicates the devoutly to be wished for trotting peacefully alongside of each other of the occasionally vicious dogs, and for which idea the play towards the end has as its metaphor that DUGOUT CANOE that however can unfold like the petals of a flower, or anyhow unfold into several umbrella parts… with the assistance of an absolutely Baroque Deus ex Machina, and is a transposition of a steadfast peace angel magic notion of Handke's throughout the works of the past 20 years, and for which he has found a variety of representation throughout this period… especially in the plays; the author who has three near epileptic fits a day, and prays so much for peace since he knows of his own propensity for violence.

[* so it is claimed - whereas this might as easily be some kind Handkean joke, a la the Oracle of Dordona’s "stay in the picture" that prefaces Hour, where Handke is quoting from his own W.A.T.V.! and acknowledging his own competitiveness for the lime light, if you see a green apparition in the night sky, that would be him!];
…but lacks a possible 4th quote, say from Freud's Why War, or one of Freud’s other communications to Einstein, explaining why human beings can so enjoy killing each other; or some 5th about what mad dogs human beings can turn into during the course of hundreds of years of being fucked over and fucking each other over in a balkanized world… Peter Brook's "The Icky Icks" comes to mind! and then stake their wishes on notions of ethnic togetherness.

The Bearskin Woman  gets her sequence, during which The Announcer informs The Directors that according to the script her ignorance, in this case of the war of which she has no recollection, gives her a certain
strength, and strongly, dictatorially if you like, with lots of hefty and funny new cuss words for those who don't see things her way, she tells the tale of our title object the Dugout, it preceded the Romans, occasionally is buried but resurfaces, and I imagine is meant to represent the spirit of the Balkans the way it courses everywhere through brook and dale… Where is it to be found: "At the threshold between sleeping and waking. In the deepest dark. In the middle of winter..."
 "Semi-sleep therapy; semi-sleep spas as the future of the country?" asks The Announcer.
"But isn't everyone alone in a state of semi-sleep?"
Bearskin: "No, you ignoramus: at this edge there still exists a We as nowhere else anymore."
She directs everyone, since the D.C. barely holds one person, to form a kind of super Dugout., which they do, a flag  or feather is put in front, the concretized mirage takes off, and a  kind of United Nations flagship - our author's Deus ex Machina - descends from the ceiling as the sonorous sound from the Art of Asking or the Journey to the Sonorous Land begins to fill the room.
   While descending the machine opens multicolored steel fingers that interject between the bodies that have formed the huge Dugout, and pushes them gently apart. A literal illustration of the author's wish for  both  separation  and  individuation without the chain of  retribution, as ordered by our Lord Peter Handke out of a the theatrical heavens! The machine ascends. Film light is cut, leaving behind the Two Directors and The Announcer.
The Two Directors don't know what to make of what they've been shown, call for a translator, new simultaneous translators, the opposite of the inquisition, translators as pure understanding, and decide not to make the film. O'HARA feels that he knows as little as he did at the beginning, but the chief reason he doesn't want to make the film is because it is still to early to make the film, or what they've been shown requires a different rhythm. Too much pain. He doesn't like tragedies. And MACHADO doesn't want to make it because, as a director of social works, he finds that there is no society left here, and echoes some of the author's [then] recent statements in that there is enough guilt to go around for everyone, guilty ones sitting in judgment of other guilty ones, things have become too thuggish for him. [Directing the play in  the United States I would here use a photo of that stupendously tongue-died moron our "National Security Advisor" Berger – 1990]. As a matter of fact, he won't make any more films at all. The world is too mad for him.
But not mad as in antiquity or in a Shakespearean sense," says O'HARA  and inveighs against the three great demythifications, disenchantments that lack counter enchantments: that an individual's life-time counts as nothing as measured against eternal time; the
second, that the planet Earth is lost in space,; and now the third, that we humans are entirely the wrong ones for each other, that man is every man's wolf... the dragon's seed of history has sprouted… it is the time after the last days' of humankind…
I apologize for the length of these notes. It is my feeling that despite their length they convey too little of the complexity and of what is really interesting in the play.
      MICHAEL ROLOFF, AUGUST 1999, SEATTLE [revised December 2009, July 2012 “Still Seattle.”]

 1]  It ought to be noted that D.C. was written before the onset of the 1999 carnage in Kosovo and the massive “vacation trips” that the Kosovars and also many Metanoya Serbians, especially the children, will be able to look back upon one of these days as the most interesting and adventurous memories of their lives, as proving to them once again the uncertainties and insecurities that are part and parcel of existence; but, subsequent to Handke's several  texts  on  matters  Yugoslavian,  which involved him in serious intellectual controversies in Europe, and to which his most complex response to date actually is Dugout. [Subsequently Handke wrote several other text that pertain to Yugoslavia, Unter Traenen Fragend – 2001] Rund um das Tribunal [2004], Die Tablas des Damiel, and the extraordinarily fine piece of intimate reporting on the Serbian village enclave in Kosovo The Cuckooks of Velica Hoca [see
And for a long piece with quotes] and of course got himself into his kind of picture pickle by appearing at the Milosevic funeral – the wages of being an exhibitionist, now that’s “staying in the picture!” kid is all I can say to that.
     I myself, initially, when I became of Handke’s take opposite to most of the media’s on the dissolution of Yugoslavia, took a waiting position. First of all, I found his exhibitionism suspect, as I had since his appearance at Princeton in 1966, but I had insufficient information to make any judgement. Equally suspect was the instant unanimity in blaming the Serbians. See my pieces and a summary one in German on all this at the
I’m still furious at him for taking at least a year out of my life in trying to unravel all that. Yet, ultimately, I agree that it is a matter to be proud of, as Handke cannot be said to be of quite a few matters aside his work.

     The play received its Austrian premiere at the Burg Theater under the direction of Klaus Peymann about the time of the end of the Kosovo war, best as I've been able to ascertain with great deference to the text [whatever that might mean, but apparently lacking any cuts] at which point wife # 2, who had been taken along on the first famous trek that resulted in Voyage to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia – 1994, and who noted as Handke notes in Justice his propensity for denial, had split with one of the actors, the second wife to leave our salamander cold lay-a-broad, but not such a bad deal since Handke already had for a main squeeze a Serbian girl; but Handke himself, by the premiere of the play, since he fervently opposed the actions of NATO, had become something of a battleground and very public one person performance act himself. 
Whether the author will want to rewrite the play in light of a far  more violent confrontation and its by no means obvious consequences is something I have no knowledge of, but would doubt, since I think the NATO actions only reinforced his feelings and views of these
matters, as in that respect that it did mine.
 What German reviews I have seen provide little idea of the play, many simply dismiss it entirely in terms of their aversion to  the author's political engagement, some allow that it provides a more complicated view of the matter than their blindness can find in the other texts.
 When I read these reviews I am then not all that unhappy to be in Seattle with its cast of drudges  who would at least take the trouble to try to describe what they had seen, and exercise a civility which at other times can be such a huge amorphous and phlegmatic drag.

These speeches by the "Internationals" and "Media" are meant to be ironically self-immolating I suppose, but come across as shallow [comparatively speaking so especially] a few touches of that sort of thing will do, especially to a world audience that is not entirely unsavvy about its being propagandized. And having delved at great length into Handke's Slavic Connection and into his various text pertaining to the Yugoslav war, and followed the current controversy, I know whereof I speak when I describe Handke's public attacks on the  media as those of a madly sputtering livid attack dog. Usually, pencil in hand, Handke calms down sufficiently so as to differentiate  and lighten up; here, for my taste, during one long stretch, insufficiently so, and all I care about here is the play.
But I also think it is unfair to dragoon friends and directors into one's own obsessed need at denial... Anyhow, the fact that there at the very least are/were a lot of murderous Serbs around appears to be  totally  unacceptable to a nerve in Mr. Handke. It gives him conniptions. As though if that were the case the entire house of cards, his identity would disintegrate. Also the entire play's drift to eliminate all feelings of guilt! A part of me empathizes with him,  I am reminded of the moments in A Child's Story when some women  friends have talked to him about his relationship to his daughter using therapeutic terms, and he calls their words "dog language." A  similar kind of resistance, refusal at acknowledgment is at work here [or a lot of other instances I could cite]. Whereas A.C.S. however, is an extraordinarily honest account, of a relationship, the willful distortion of history here, no matter that The Chronicler, in his  role as "a native" tells of being a participant in the killings, does  damage to the play. Although this state of affairs could not be more interesting psychologically, the point at which it begins to intrude  into the play, exert itself on the text, the lovely scheme of the Vortrag, [poetic presentation] at least for my taste, becomes a little too skewed, not that I am someone who longs for our Gray Lady the N.Y. Times "Some Good Some Bad" attitude to life, not that that even-handed attitude can be said to have prevailed either among the majority of its by and large  ignorant [or, worse, de-ethnizising] reporters or even more ignorant editorial writers. About all of which I am carrying on at too great a  length myself. The beginning of D.C.. in its even-handedness is like the even-handed beginning of the Justice for Serbia, which then disappears as Handke is enraged by the media and UNFOR or whatever these Martians are called.

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[2- Theatrical Background]
Handke said recently, somewhat ruefully, that he wished his plays might be done more in the “boulevard” style [now that he’s becoming a frigging Austrian national treasure who may have a postage stamp during his life time]. However, if anyone has written the ultimate inversion of a “boulevard” piece it would be Handke with The Ride Across Lake Constance and Hour which also always “plays” so well everywhere, also as dance theater, because, after all, it lacks all those words that people are so sick of hearing. They Are Dying Out [1973] is a boulevard piece too, and continues the verbal gymnastics as leftist jargon put into the mouths of young business folk; it has some great stretches, but ultimately is top heavy, or badly weighted what with the monopolist who puts his big self into play and beats them all, and then can only beat his head to smithereens on the rock of nothingness.

Occasionally - after WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, the greatest and richest work that Handke has written and off which he continues to feed even in his 2007 novel MORAVIAN NIGHT - Handke’s formalist drum runs dry [e.g. in stretches of Preparations for Immortality] and he sounds like Philip Glass. Not so in Dugout. And it is one of the great shames, one of the many major crimes committed through omission and utter cowardice that no one in all of the huge u.s. of a. has done his most important play that also plays, THE ART OF ASKING - VILLAGES after all is done better as a recital, the way Elliot’s plays were done at one time. ART OF ASKING became embroiled, in France, at the Comedie Francaise, in Handke’s attendance at the funeral of the big bad wolf of Prograrevic.

Scott also notes the precedent of Lessing’s Nathan the Wise for this kind of play, and for all that someone who read Brecht and Lukacs instead of attending Professor Allewyn’s class in 1957 at the FU, the tradition of socially concerned plays that require communal attendance extends as far back as the German Baroque. As the aforementioned writers all added their own twist to socially relevant political drama, Handke adds his own: and it is a playful hybrid between docu-drama and the poetic.  - It is that coarse canoe dugout of a Serbian oak and coursing down a mountain stream with foaming green water! If you survive the course, the Bear Skin Woman awaits and succors you!

Initially, at the time of the 60’s Sprechstücke Handke disavowed Brecht, eventually conceding that he had learned from him. We note Handke’s understanding of power, master slave relationships, as early as his first play without words, MY FOOT MY TUTOR, not that you need Brecht for that. The relationship between factotum Hans and Monopolist Quitt in 1973/4 THEY ARE DYING OUT bears considerable resemblance to that between Big Time Farmer Puntila and his servant Matti - but, it is not for matters of that kind that there exists a relationship between Brecht’s and Handke’s theater: Handke, after all, with THE RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE and THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING OF EACH OTHER manages to complete Brecht’s project of non-Aristotelian drama and cleans out our clocks, without the catharsis involved in blood and guts and awe [only for the author’s genius!]; and you see afresh and feel all cleaned out. –  Perhaps going to see some Disney monstrosity does the same trick to the nervous system in need of discharge. The neurologists will tell us one day soon. The Oedipus dramas after all can be regarded as the initiation of western science of psychology. Shakespeare certainly is one other. However, Handke with the procedures employed in the two cited plays – LAKE CONSTANCE, HOUR - is working within/on the threshold between enchantment and enlightenment, perhaps {?} the most profound of this threshholder’s, this Zwitter’s thresholds??? [“I live entirely from my Thresholds” is the translated title of a book length interview that Handke held in the late 80s with Herbert Gantscher]. DUGOUT has this sort of clock-cleaning thing going on far more incidentally, in the background, revolving, and it has some real clots, too. With its collage and scenic shift procedures, at the opening there is a revenant of Heinrich George “am I dreaming, am I asleep just waking up” when director John O’Hara is trying to come out from under the jetlag and seeking to orient himself.  Discontinuous contemporaneities here as well.

3] Packer/Wechsler. As noted above, I think to use texts of these two respectable American journalists for what I call the “Mish-Mash” section is not only not the way to go, but unjust, since benighted “Internationals” as they cannot help but be, one grants them the respect of doing better on closer acquaintance. My candidate are Roger Cohen’s texts of the time. As also mentioned in the second footnote, Handke’s The Cuckoos of Velica Hoca then, after all those travelogues with the laconic comments, is an exemplay piece of intimate reporting and of a kind that might set the standards higher than they are in the U.S. if writers of that ability could be trained.
4] To P.A.J’s “welching” on an agreed-upon contract after a year during which I thought I had put that project, Walk About the Villages, to bed, and had left the so distracting city and extracted myself from its sybaritic down-town life style, I responded with as tough a letter I could manage, and copies to  P.E.N., because P.A.J., even though they felt they could welch wanted some other piece of work of mine and I wanted to make certain that nothing of the kind would ever transpire – the one principal who is no longer with P.A.J, Gautum Dasgupta, also was someone I myself at one time, as publisher of Urizen Books, had given work to, cc also to Handke.
    In the mid-80s I was not someone you wanted to fool with, nor threaten. Handke’s response was that to write such a letter was something “that could not be done TO HIM!” and he threatened abrogation of a friendship. As far as I was concerned, Peter Handke had abrogate whatever possibilities for personal friendship existed with certain actions in 1975 and 1976,  I realized the man lived in a delusion when we three all met at the Algonquin for tea one afternoon. 
The upshot of all this was that [1] Handke turned to Ralph Mannheim to do a second translation of thetext, which Handke, in  my translation, had called the “best he had ever seen,” and which was eventually published by Ariadne Press, an outfit that never sends review copies even to Publisher’s Weekly or Library Journal, and [2] that I was free to be even-handed and also critical of Handke texts, and eventually write a great length about him and his work, including a psychoanalytic monograph. [3] That Handke memorialized my sending him postcards from various hamlets all over the Chihuahua desert that I and my new wench loved our way through during the year 1985-8, prior to the blow-up.
 When Alfred Kolleritch once published a critical piece about Handke in Manuskripte he, too, our Pasha also threatened that he would never get another Handke text if he persisted, as we find out in Malter Herwig’s Handke biography Meister der Daemmerung
It appears it was a bit of a shock for Don Cuckoo from Griffen to find out that he had been a known quantity for a decade, and but for this act of dastardliness he might have had a happier time in NY while writing and coming acropper on the novel section of what is called A Slow Homecoming in American, since, though I worked late hours, I also did some downtown clubbing during those so musical years. Thus, though there are occasional instances when I am quite critical of Handke’s work, that is when I feel that he is not living up to his own standard of wanting to be judged within his own terms, I cannot be said to feel ambivalent about it, as I do about the person, who can also be a sweetheart of a darling and generous, as his ex Marie Colbin testifies as well, no matter that she blew him out of the water as well about at the time of the premiere of Voyage by Dugout. Marie and I considered getting married at one time, we thought we’d never get bored telling each other Handke stories!
5] Here a note from Scott’s diary:Several hours ago NATO and the Yugoslav Parliament came to some kind of agreement ending the bombing after 78 days. And, I'm just back from the world premiere of Peter's "The Play of the Film of the War," directed by Claus Peymann. I’ve never attended the world premiere of a play of this magnitude; and I’ve seldom been this moved, this challenged, by a work of art. Peter has filmmakers John Ford and Luis Buñuel in a Serbian town ten years after the war trying to decide how to make a film of the war. Characters who appear before the directors tell conflicting and complex stories as the play feels its way to questions about war and its aftermath. The really bad guys of the play, three "Internationals" who know all the answers, who dictate all the terms, who can think only in absolutes, appear on the stage as follows: "Three mountain bike riders, preceded by the sound of squealing brakes, burst through the swinging door, covered with mud clear up to their helmets. They race through the hall, between tables and chairs, perilously close to the people sitting there. 'Where are we?' the First International asks. 'Don't know,' the second answers. 'Not a clue,' the third says."American and European moralists, functionaries with no hint of self-irony or humor, absolutists who run the world because of their economic power – these sorry excuses for human beings were depicted this evening as mountainbike riders. Žarko, I said, Don’t you ever tell Peter I ride a mountain bike. No, he whispered, I’d never do that. Rich with thoughts, savory with sentences, the voyage by dugout was also a riot of comic action in Peymann’s staging. It was over before I even realized it was underway. The play drew on several incidents from our trip, including when Peter put his coat around the shoulders of the OSCE woman in Višegrad. The long sentences and long speeches of the play felt like well structured seriousness. The play trusted the audience to pay attention, and rewarded those who did with intellectual and aesthetic depth. But the play is playful too, and Peymann's direction brought that out impishly. The juxtaposition reminded me of the scene near the end of "Wings of Desire" where Peter's long and reflective sentences are being spoken against the sounds and rock staging of Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds.
After the performance, flushed with enthusiasm and insight, I told Peter how well he had integrated that real event into an imaginative play. “Dr. Scott,” he chided. “Always the professor.”

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