of Maine

Peter Handke’s Slow Homecoming
May 1, 2009, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


The dried shore mud at his feet had broken up into a far-flung network of almost regular polygons (for the most part six-sided). As he examined the cracks, they began little by little to work on him, but instead of fragmenting him like the ground, they joined all his cells (a void that he hadn’t noticed until then) into a harmonious whole. Something that rose from the split surface of the earth struck his body and made it warm and heavy. Standing there motionless, looking out over the pattern, he saw himself as a receiver, not of news or a message, but of a twofold force received on the two levels of his head. On his forehead, he felt the bone disappearing, simply because he had no other thought than to expose this obstacle to the air; and the surface of his face from the eyes down seemed once again to acquire the characteristics of a face; human eyes and a human mouth, each for itself but not separated by consciousness; and he actually felt that his lowered lids had become receiving screens. His head bent lower and lower, yet the meaning was not despair but determination: “The decision rests with me.” Raising his eyes, he was prepared for anything; with every look, even into the void, he would have met other looks; indeed, he would have created them.

The murmuring of the stream – and once again the bushes were murmuring as gently as on the summer day when he arrived and gained his first intimation of the river landscape.

The man who rose from the ground was not ecstatic, only appeased. He no longer expected illuminations, only measure and duration. “My face an unfinished sketch – when will it be complete?” He could say that he enjoyed life, accepted death, and loved the world; and now he saw that, correspondingly, the river flowed more slowly, the clumps of grass shimmered, and the sun-warmed gasoline drums hummed. Beside him he saw a single yellow willow leaf on a flaming-red branch and knew that after his death, after the death of all mankind, he would appear in the depths of this countryside and give form to all the things on which his gaze now rested. The thought gave him a blissful feeling that raised him above the treetops; only his face remained behind, now a mask “representing happiness.” (And then there was even a kind of hope – disguised as a feeling that he knew something.)

pp 45-46