Slow Homecoming

Slow Homecoming

Hardback

By (author) Peter Handke, Translated by R. Manheim

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  • Publisher: Methuen Publishing Ltd
  • Format: Hardback | 144 pages
  • Publication date: 7 February 1985
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0413471500
  • ISBN 13: 9780413471505

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Editorial reviews

From 1979-1981: three dense explorations of an alienated man's shifting relationship with the world outside (nature, art, people) his gnarled, benumbed soul. In "The Long Way Around," the longest piece by far, Handke's existential alterego is a European geologist named Sorger, who has spent the past few months in an indian village near the Arctic circle. He has a scientist-roommate; he has an Indian-woman lover. Yet "how was it that he could not see himself embracing anyone, but always alone?" instead, he looks for a sense of his own existence only in the bleakest, most abstract landscapes - sketching them, supplying himself, "by measurement and delimitation, with spaces which were hardly more than 'forms on paper' but which, for a short while at least, enabled him to construct himself and make himself invulnerable." But then, returning to his temporary home in a California university-town, Sorger feels his self-protective system of "places and spaces" collapsing. And he finds himself responding to women, children, the present - "the outside world had become a living dynamic space behind his forehead" - as he goes home to Europe at last. In "The Lesson of Mont Sainte-Victoire," however, the alienated man - now a first-person narrator, more Handke than Sorger - is again intensely wrapped up in a somewhat abstract system of perception: this time it's "colors and forms" - as the narrator explores the Provence mountain so often painted by Cezanne ("the teacher of mankind in the here and now"), finding beauty, evil, and "the moment of unspecified love without which there can be no justified writing." And only in the final "Child Story," which parallels Handke's non-fiction recollections in The Weight of the World (1984), does the alienated man truly turn to feelings about another person: his daughter, from birth to age ten, from primal bliss to complex interactions (they live in foreign Paris, the child's mother is mostly absent), from global consciousness to intimacy and back. ("Little by little, it became a certainty to him that the only history his kind of man could acknowledge was the history he saw in the lines of the sleeping child.") Thick meditations on familiar Handke themes, sometimes opaque and formal to the point of self-parody - but sporadically rewarding for readers attuned to esthetics and existentialism, or readers patient enough to feel the genuine book-length progression here. (Kirkus Reviews)