Mysteriously summoned to a houseboat on the Morava River, a few friends, associates, and collaborators of an old writer listen as he tells a story that will last until dawn: the tale of the once well-known writer’s recent odyssey across Europe. As his story unfolds, it visits places that represent stages of the narrator’s and the continent’s past, many now lost or irrecoverably changed through war, death, and the subtler erosions of time. His wanderings take him from the Balkans to Spain, Germany, and Austria, from a congress of experts on noise sickness to a clandestine international gathering of jew’s-harp virtuosos. His story and its telling are haunted by a beautiful stranger, a woman who has a preternatural hold over the writer and appears sometimes as a demon, sometimes as the longed-for destination of his travels.
Powerfully alive, honest, and at times deliciously satirical, The Moravian Night explores the mind and memory of an aging writer, tracking the anxieties, angers, fears, and pleasures of a life inseparable from the recent history of Central Europe. In crystalline prose, Peter Handke traces and interrogates his own thoughts and perceptions while endowing the world with a mythic dimension. As Jeffrey Eugenides writes, “Handke’s sharp eye is always finding a strange beauty amid this colorless world.” The Moravian Night is at once an elegy for the lost and forgotten and a novel of self-examination and uneasy discovery, from one of world literature’s great voices.
On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House is Peter Handke's evocative, moving, often fantastic, novel about one man's conflict with himself and his journey toward resolution. During one night shift, an unnamed, middle-aged pharmacist in Taxham, an isolated suburb of Salzburg, tells his story to a narrator. The pharmacist is known and well-respected, but lonely and estranged from his wife. He feels most comfortable wandering about in nature, collecting and eating hallucinogenic mushrooms. One day he receives a blow to the head that leaves him unable to speak, and the narrative is transformed from ironic description into a collection of sensual impressions, observations and reflections. The pharmacist, who is now called the driver, sets out on a quest, travelling into the Alps with two companions--a former Olympic skiing champion and a formerly famous poet--where he is beaten and later stalked by a woman. He drives through a tunnel and has a premonition of death, then finds himself in a surreal, foreign land. In a final series of bizarre, cathartic events, the driver regains his speech and is taken back to his pharmacy--back to his former life, but forever changed. A powerful, poetic exploration of language, longing and dislocation in the human experience, On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House reveals Handke at his magical best.
In Offending the Audience and Self-Accusation, one-character "speak-ins," Handke further explores the relationship between public performance and personal identity, forcing us to reconsider our sense of who we are and what we know.
As the novel proceeds, however, it gradually becomes clear that Judith is pursuing him, not vice versa--pursuing with the intent to kill. He spends a day in New York, then goes on to Philadelphia, where he joins an old flame and her daughter. The trio drives to St. Louis, still shadowed by Judith; partly to escape her (and partly to face her), the narrator strikes out west on his own, to Tucson, where he is robbed by Judith's agents, then up to the Oregon coast, where a roadside showdown takes place and a gunshot echoes over the Pacific.
"I seem to have been born for horror and fear," Handke's narrator confesses.
As the narrator and Judith maneuver toward their coastal rendezvous, his life itself may depend on whether he has achieved enough--in the flesh and in the mind--to confront the pistol trembling in her hand.