A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING by Peter Handke

A MOMENT OF TRUE FEELING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Existential angst figured prominently in Handke's two previous translated novels (The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick; Short Letter, Long Farewell), but here it doesn't figure--it is the novel, and graduates of Sartre's Nausea will feel queasy with dÉjà vu. Gregor Keuschnig, Austria's press attachÉ in Paris, wakes from a dream in which he has murdered (and raped?) an old woman, and that dream means that now ""I shall only be pretending to live my usual life, and my new life will consist solely in pretending to live as usual."" Steaming with loathing for himself and everyone he sees (""But why was the man so tall? Disgusting to be so tall""), he goes through the day--paperwork, visit to his mistress, impromptu sex with a stranger, press conference--self-consciously wandering Paris streets, wondering why no one notices the obscene change in him, conscientiously pretending to be himself. At a dinner party that evening, prodded by a guest (""What are you trying to hide?""), he reveals his hidden ""MONSTROSITY"" by stripping, jumping on the guest's wife, smearing his own face with stew, and announcing to his wife: ""This afternoon at the embassy I made love on the floor to a girl whose name I didn't even know."" The next morning, Keuschnig's wife leaves him, he takes his four-year-old daughter to a playground, loses track of her, and suddenly--perhaps jarred by the real emotion that these disappearances provoke--he comes out of himself, finds that ""the usual sights took on a magical sparkle,"" and achieves a ""newly won balance."" There are indeed moments of true feeling and moments of fine, precise, ironic writing here, but this ultimately seems a slim exercise, with personal commitment (a quality so evident in Handke's memoir, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams) painstakingly filtered through a familiar experimental literary convention.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1977
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux