cover image Crossing the Sierra de Gredos

Crossing the Sierra de Gredos

Peter Handke, , trans. from the German by Krishna Winston. . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26 (472pp) ISBN 978-0-374-28154-0

In the atmospheric latest from Handke (The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick , etc.), a nameless female banker in a nameless northern European city decides for obscure reasons to repeat a journey to Spain she took years before, and to commission a nameless author from La Mancha to write her biography. The journey provides a hopscotch structure for the drifting narrative, marked by fantastic events that may or may not be taking place and by speculative conversations with the dreamlike figures the woman meets. As she travels, the woman is stalked, possibly, by a half-brother whose name may or may not be Vladimir. When the woman arrives in La Mancha, she dictates the details of her life to the writer, with no particular regard for order or veracity. An intrusive narrative voice interjects with rhetorical questions, exclamations and rambling philosophical asides. Much time is spent either denying the truth of what's just been said or in defining events, people or objects through a series of overturning negations. Though beautiful in spots and sometimes witty, the novel is inconsistent and repetitive. For die-hard Handke fans, the appeal of this metafictional fable is in its playful surrender to chance. (July)