a fearless work of intense integration, a continuous curve over infinite sums of personal and national history, the poem felt to me written with the urgency of the refugee in flight — but sculpted methodically, like a life-sentenced prisoner painstakingly making his case.
“the science of fiction” (p. 107).
what does it mean for the accented speaker to write non-accented english?
…especially, in the case of this book, which is not a narrative of “passing” (though, yes, one of immigration), where there is a smooth and awesomely fluent bricolage of multiple languages (accented english, the queen’s english, mandarin, political commentary, advertising language, bank language, ping pong tournament chatroom language, and certainly not least: physics and number theory language) into one unified language: the language of the poem
–which, in this case (“the world is everything that is the bookcase” is one of many lovely embedded puns), is a long-breath lyric of defiance and alienation and apologia.
from the rigid, exacting sentences of logic propositions and mathematical proofs, the poet makes confession and agony. how does he do it?
“…this rain never ends this ride has not and will never have an arrival this storm is in the room is the room this room is the black body radiating omnidirectionally at such a temperature that the maximum emission is at the wavelength of yellow this yellow room overlooks and pours into the moaning moat of the capital to find the Gaussian curvature of white heads of the decapitated geese the Green’s function and the false projection of the moon” (p. 130).
i don’t know how it is done, but at one point the poet does reveal his ambition:
“I have been secretly investigating the technical viability of and devising methodologies for, in the true literal sense of poetics, direct writing, which is maskless, therefore mask-related-error-free, sequential thus slow in throughput, and targeting only application-specific readers, who are numbered and whose reading patterns behave too erratically to justify the expense of mask production” (p.61).
and do a search for “wang” in this pdf for the uncommon poet bio
get it from a local library or buy from SPD
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here’s how handke describes the leavetaking from his father of a young man about to go off on a long tramp for the summer:
With sagging knees, dangling arms, and gout-gnarled fingers, which at that moment impersonated furious clenched fists, the frail, aging man, much smaller than I, stood by the wayside Cross and shouted at me: ‘All right, go to the dogs like your brother, like our whole family! None of us has ever amounted to anything, and you won’t either. You won’t even get to be a good gambler like me.’ Yet, just then, he had embraced me for the first time in my life…
easily categorized as a bildungsroman–but what is formed is various: a young man on a long searching summer, a family mutilated by war, or even a whole continent–europe–which exists as a flux of languages and landscapes and only intermittently succeeds in being a unified concept.
handke’s REPETITION is murky–and great. the language, while beautiful and careful, attempts deep or multiple refractions–symbols or resonances that are extended and embroidered and almost lost metaphors.
it’s strange and almost tediously complex to describe this book’s instinctive method. handke, for example, writes a long and devastating description of the brother’s orchard, before and after ruin–and you are swept away by, included in, the care and detail of an orchard farmer’s plans as well as the following relentless organic destruction of them, all the while aware of some underlying and alluded-to familial and national heartbreak.
the middle section’s entire plot is not unfairly summarized thus: a guy reads a foreign language dictionary. and handke makes this story, no joke, mesmerizing.
in an admittedly reductive and probably dumb way i began thinking, while reading this, that handke is the bridge between bernhard and sebald. that the monolithic and misanthropic monologue of bernhard, which eventually becomes the sad and careful and even sweet obsession with the lost swirls of history that is sebald, has to go through the step of handke–a rich but darkly-glassed casting about for comprehension of fundamentals like existence and identity.
pretty rad book.
buy used or get it at a library.
[learned here that REPETITION is a re-do of Handke’s first novel THE HORNETS (Die Horniseen, 1966), which is a text Handke’s stated he “wanted to re-write some day.”]
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