Handke's third novel, the first appearing in English, rests on an almost diagrammatically rigid symbolism. A former soccer goalie named Bloch is ""blocked"" and consequently exists in the psychic equivalent of a goaltender's cage -- always separate, always vigilant, the target simply by virtue of position. We are given to assume no relationship but the formal one between playing field and lived metaphor, however, and the writing itself is as experientially ""factual"" as might be imagined. In this respect Handke exceeds even the existentialist classics, by questioning the very processes of consciousness. For Bloch, even on first appearance, there are no obvious or reliable connections between words and their referents, causes and effects. There is barely even a visceral motive for his murder of a movie cashier, and when he then flees, checks the papers, etc., the purpose is lost in an agitated welter of details pointing up the infinite ambiguity of the immediate and the concrete. Bloch and the novel are lodged in a contradiction that is essentially linguistic: between language as the potential medium of relationship and words as barriers against the onslaught of reality. For Bloch there is no way out; but Handke can rise to the challenge of creating his character solely in the terms of Bloch's own reduced, intensified, and finally untenable viewpoint. He succeeds substantially, and unpleasantly.