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 Don Juan, Peter Handke offers his take on the famous seducer. Don Juan's story—"his own version"—is filtered through the consciousness of an anonymous narrator, a failed innkeeper and chef, into whose solitude Don Juan bursts one day. On each day of the week that follows, Don Juan describes the adventures he experienced on that same day a week earlier. The adventures are erotic, but Handke's Don Juan is more pursued than pursuer. What makes his accounts riveting are the remarkable evocations of places and people, and the nature of his narration. This is, above all, a book about storytelling and its ability to burst the ordinary boundaries of time and space.
In this brief and wry volume, Handke conjures images and depicts the subtleties of human interaction with an unforgettable vividness. Along the way, he offers a sharp commentary on many features of contemporary life.
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.
In his "Essay on Tiredness," Handke transforms an everyday experience--often precipitated by boredom--into a fascinating exploration of the world of slow motion, differentiating degrees of fatigue, the types of weariness, its rejuvenating effects, as well as its erotic, cultural, and political implications.
The title essay is Handke's attempt to understand the significance of the jukebox, a quest which leads him, while on a trip in Spain, into the literature of the jukebox, the history of the music box, and memories of the Beatles' music, in turn elucidating various stages of his own life.
And in his "Essay on the Successful Day," for which there is no prescription, Handke invents a picture of tranquility, using a self-portrait by Hogarth as his point of departure to describe a state of being at peace.
Playful, reflective, insightful, and entertaining, The Jukebox and Other Essays on Storytelling constitutes a literary triptych that redefines the art of the essay and challenges the form of the short story, confirming Peter Handke's stature as "one of the most original and provocative of contemporary writers" (Lawrence Graver, The New York Times Book Review).