cover image Don Juan: His Own Version

Don Juan: His Own Version

Peter Handke, , trans. from the German by Krishna Winston. . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22 (101pp) ISBN 978-0-374-14231-5

Don Juan catapults over a garden wall and into the life of an anonymous narrator in this short, frustrating novel. Over the course of a week, the narrator, a lonely French innkeeper, listens to Don Juan relate the adventures that culminate with his arrival at the inn. In the preceding seven days, Don has traveled from Tbilisi to Damascus, Norway, Holland and then to “the last country, completely nameless” before making his way to the French inn. The reason for his travels is never made clear, nor is his motivation for relating his story to the innkeeper. This sense of mysterious imbalance is compounded by the narrator's recounting of Don Juan's tales, which often deal with seductions and couplings either offstage or with clinical swiftness. The pointedly dry story about a character famous as a connoisseur of pleasures holds interest as a concept, but the novel's entertainment value is quickly buried under a pile of unanswered questions, and the endless deferring of literal and figurative climaxes feels almost like punishment. (Feb.)