Slow homecoming by Peter Handke
Original title – Langsame Heimkehr
Translator – Ralph Manheim
Source – Library book
I was so surprised when I looked back and saw I hadn’t review a single novel by Peter Handke in the time I have been running the blog, although he was a writer i read a lot years ago before his more controversal years when he support certain leaders in the Balkan war. I first came across him when he wrote the script for Wings or Desire the Wim Wenders film with whom he has worked with over a number of film and after which I saw I read a number of his books in the early 1990’s . Handke is a name that has crept up the Nobel betting also in recent years. The time to revisit him after twenty years maybe was now so this library collection of three novellas seemed a great place to start.
Sorger had outlived several of those who had become close to him; he had ceased to long for anything, but often felt a selfless love of existence and at times a need for salvation so palpable that it weighted on his eyelids. Capable of a tranquil harmony, a serve strength that could transfer itself to other, yet easily wounded by the power of facts.
The opening lines of the first of the three novellas The long way round .
The book is in three sections they were originally published separately but later brought together as the same character is in all three books The first extract is from the first book The long way round we meet Valentin Sorger he is in the distant Alaska and as the title of the collection suggest we see Sorger who longs to be back home in Europe working his wat slowly across America strangely I was reminded of the Wenders film Alice in the cities and it turns out that Wenders had used Handke fiction as part of the inspiration for this film, also about a German speaker working his way home like Sorger in the book.
Mont sainte-Victoire is not the highest mountain in Provence, but it is said to be the steepest. It does not consist of a single peak but of a Long chain, the crest of which describes a relatively straight line at an almost constant altitude of a thousand meters above sea level. It looks like a sheer peak only when seen from the valley of Aix, situated half a day walk almost due westward .
The view of a mountain in Provence that Cezanne painted many times over his painting career.
I have include one of Cezanne’s many pictures of the mountain that makes up the second part of the three novellas that make up this book as we see Sorger taking short walks in the region and thinking about places and images as he does it.
The child was now more than three years old. Thus far, she had played alone almost exclusively, turned inward in quiet contentment, unlike the gloomily self-absorbed adult. But in the course of time ( and specifically of the seasons) both had made themselves at home in community on the wooded slope, and the adult was sick of vistors who with their falsely sympathetic or ironically citified remarks about the house and its location.
The third novella is about a father and his daughter
The third book although not called or even mentioned as Sorger follows a man who has moved to a small mountain town in what one must assume is Austria is a man returned to his roots after many years away from the country. Partly based on Handke on life.
I enjoyed this book it has a lot of what a love in my favourite books that is Longing and a wanting to return home in this case not to a place so much as to a feeling of a places. I imagine what Handke has done in these books is captured that feeling that is best decribed in the Portugeese word Saudade, that longing to return to a homeland now gone or even the german term Heimat these three books collected together see a man struugle with coming home then what it is about a place that appeals using Cezanne obsession with Mont Sainte-victoire . then the final end when home what it means to be home and not feel back at home.
Have you read Handke ?