While not nearly as stultifying as last year's A Moment of True Feeling, this tiny book still finds Handke assuming a voice of semi-existentialist catatonia, his austerely cadenced prose (impeccably translated) exquisite but unmoored and affect-less. ""The woman"" (Marianne to her friends, not to the narrator) welcomes her husband home from a business trip with the announcement of an ""illumination"": she has seen that he will someday leave her, so she orders him to leave her now. ""Go away, Bruno."" Bruno goes away (he stays with Marianne's best friend), and Marianne is alone with her small son. Alone--to go to the supermarket. To sit in a rocking chair. To work on translations from the French. To push her typewriter on the floor. To throttle the child. To cry. To shrug. Bruno comes by but is always sent away. Likewise Marianne's amorous publisher. ""Everything seems so banal with people around."" She meets an actor. They have a conversation. ""What month is it anyway?""/ ""February.""/ ""And what continent are we living on?""/ ""On one among several."" Finally, all those banal people--including also a chauffeur and a salesgirl--gather for a veritable orgy of meaningful exchanges and gestures. But Marianne remains alone. In her rocking chair. Finis. A reader who vigorously brings his or her own full flesh-and-blood experience of aloneness to this book may find some poetic equivalents; Handke, so artfully oblique, may be the most ungenerous gifted writer around.