cover image Afternoon of a Writer

Afternoon of a Writer

Peter Handke. Farrar Straus Giroux, $14.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-374-10207-4

This deceptively simple, yet highly challenging and original novella reaffirms Handke's preeminence on the international literary scene. One December afternoon in an unidentified German city, the nameless narrator, a writer, takes a walk and reflects on the perilous presumption of his vocation and his terror at the tenuousness of his contact with inspiration. Each word is a lifeline, conjuring up the world and magically reformulating it. But at the same time, the writer and his text strain at the limits of language and understanding. Believing that the writer is dispossessed in 20th-century culture, the narrator is thrown back upon himself to confront the nullity of his discourse; his youthful faith in his calling has collapsed into disenchantment and fear that by withdrawing from society to write, he has de-legitimized his voice. Yet the narrator concludes with the affirmation to ``continue to work the most ephemeral of materials, my breath,'' without aid or concealment of literature's tired props, thus reassuring Handke's admirers that the author will continue to tax and thrill them with his Mallarmean opacities. (Aug.)