cover image The Moravian Night

The Moravian Night

Peter Handke, trans. from the German by Krishna Winston. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-21255-1

The Moravian Night is the name of a boat moored on the Morava River, where a gathering takes place in which a writer tells friends the story of a journey he once took through Europe. The book’s journey appears to begin in Kosovo. The somewhat unreliable narrator tells his friends of “following the example of the rivers,” meandering through Spain, Portugal, and Handke’s native Austria, before circling back to the Balkans, which no longer exist the way the storyteller once knew them. He encounters a varied cast of characters. Few places are named, nor does the reader ever know precisely where the narrator is, on land or in the mind, recollecting, philosophizing, dreaming. Further muddling the narrative are the friends the narrator has gathered, who sometimes take up or interrupt the story with their own version of things during the long dark night. At the center is a woman, on the boat and in the story, a mysterious figure lurking, serving, talking, perhaps even orchestrating. In this story where memory and reality battle, Handke (The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick) once again showcases his valuable insight and imagination. (Dec.)