Peter Handke – Der Große Fall

by Daniel Hartley

I’m reading Peter Handke’s new book, Der Große Fall. It’s ‘about’ (except, of course, that it isn’t…but it is) the wanderings of an actor who doesn’t want to act any more, but who nonetheless ends up acting. Beyond that (or rather not ‘beyond’, since it is the beyond, or lack thereof, which is in question), it’s a fictional discoursing upon fictionality and its (im)possibility in a world without Revelation. The following sentence, which borders on the self-parodic, captures it nicely: “To him it had become, as they say, second nature, or was that nature tout court?” I’ve never read Handke before, though I’ve read a fair bit about him. The book is living up to my expectations. I’ve decided to translate this short passage to give an idea of what it’s like:

He [the actor] belonged to those who never especially prepared for anything, and that was true even beyond his profession. Confronted with a part, he sooner intensified his idleness, sought out distractions, let it come as it came, let it happen. In that respect perhaps he did prepare himself.

It’s full of those little reflexive shocks, where the coextension of fiction and world suddenly raises itself to consciousness; or, rather, where consciousness itself is suddenly grasped as the ungraspable seam which divides and unites them.