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by Peter Handke & translated by Krishna Winston

Pub Date: July 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-374-28154-0
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A complex quest for meaning enriches and encumbers this novel, originally published in Europe in 2000, from the prolific Austrian novelist, playwright and essayist.

Handke’s innovative plays and meditative novels (On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House, 2000, etc.) have made him a perennial Nobel candidate, even as his books have increasingly shifted their emphases from characterization and narrative to loquacious introspection. This newest fiction shows him at his best and worst. Its protagonist, an unnamed woman who has achieved great success as a banker in an unspecified European country, recapitulates a journey made years earlier by traveling through the eponymous mountain range (in Spain) to meet the famous author she has commissioned to write her biography. At every way station, she encounters dispiriting evidence of the commercialized, distinctly unromantic, unheroic world from which she desires escape. It’s not accidental that the biographer-to-be hails from La Mancha. Nor is it surprising that every bit of information she imparts to him is repeatedly qualified, questioned or contradicted—by the man from La Mancha’s questions and by the interruptions of a hectoring narrative voice. The result is a work that embraces a disciplined attempt to acknowledge and celebrate the matter of everyday life (before it vanishes forever?), and a species of literate wool-gathering which seems to confirm Handke’s frequently reiterated assertion that all that exists is grist for the artist’s mill. Embracing and transcending the limits of individual perceptions of objective reality: It’s the dilemma into—and out of which—Handke’s cerebral worrywarts persistently write themselves.

Yeats called it “the fascination of what’s difficult.” Nobody writing today surpasses Peter Handke at trying to make sense of it all.