What is my difficulty with Peter Handke? Why does his prose resist me? Am I merely tired? I am often frustratingly tired, it's true. But, is it something else? Some manner in the telling? No: surely I must just be tired. But I have begun Repetition three times. Three times I have learned about Kobal's arrival in Jesenice in Yugoslavia. Three times I have encountered the details of his departure from his family, from his school. It is perhaps appropriate that I must repeat these steps, in a novel titled Repetition. Though that is likely too obvious a thing to say about it, too casual or glib a rationalization. My first pass, a few months ago, I made it 93 pages in. It's not quite right to say boredom set in, but perhaps exhaustion. That attempt was a struggle--the words resisted me, I was unable to to attend to them. I struggled to retain details, to follow the account. And yet it seems to me that Handke's style is not difficult, that I should not be having this problem.
What is my problem? For in this kind of failure, I do not hesitate to locate the problem with me. I desire absolute awakeness and a hermetically sealed, perfectly quiet room. I went to the library to read, in search of general silence, away from the temptations of my house (internet, music, food, cats). Failure. I decide to read something else.
In truth, I had a similar problem with Across. I was halfway through that short novel when something happened in the story, something important, something I missed. I'd felt as if I'd drifted to that point, skipping along the surface of the words, but feeling, still, as if I was in the presence of something real, yet something that was eluding me. I began again. I did better. I noticed things. But again the important event happened, and again I somehow skipped past it without attending to it. I cycled back through those pages a few more times before moving on. I eventually read through to the end and was able to write about my experience here.
In that writing, I focused on the word "threshold". Maybe this starting and failing and re-starting and cycling back is what I need in order to read Handke's fiction. The threshold I must cross as a reader.
Or maybe I simply need more sleep.