"There was one time in my life when I experienced metamorphosis."
A novel that begins with a sentence like this and also features a main character named Gregor obviously has serious ambitions from the get-go. But readers of Austrian writer Peter Handke's previous fiction would expect nothing less. Handke, author of The Left-Handed Woman, Slow Homecoming, and Repetition was also responsible for co-writing German director Wim Wenders's magical exploration of fallen angels, Wings of Desire. In all of his work, plot and character are subsumed by concerns about language, meaning, and the process of reflection. My Year in the No-Man's-Bay is another example of Handke's personal obsessions and his unorthodox literary style. The plot, such as it is, features a middle-aged writer named Gregor K. (a nod to Kafka's famous protagonist in The Metamorphosis) who lives in a Paris suburb. Gregor sets out to write about the metamorphosis he himself experienced 20 years earlier from active artist--a molder of fiction--to passive chronicler of the world as he sees it. As he remembers his various love affairs, his failed marriage, his relationship with his children, he also struggles with the shape of the current novel he is working on. Not a book to be picked up casually, My Year in No-Man's-Bay is demanding, abstract, and so intensely introspective as to be occasionally claustrophobic. Still, readers interested in this kind of meta-fiction will no doubt find much to admire in Handke's novel.
From Publishers Weekly
"Almost fifty-six now, I still do not know myself," explains the brooding narrator of Austrian novelist/essayist Handke's (The Jukebox and Other Essays on Storytelling) sinuously beautiful latest novel, a meditation on two decades of a writer's life culminating in a solitary, sobering year of reckoning. Most recently, Handke wrote a highly subjective look at the turmoil in the former Yugoslavia (A Journey to Rivers); here, he returns to the often stiflingly solipsistic terrain familiar to his readers with an attempt (admittedly failed) at a "Germanic epic," a travel work about journeys of discovery. Finding the right place to live seems to be the major preoccupation of his narrator, an ex-lawyer who is fascinated by Roman law and the poetry of Friedrich H?lderlin. Ensconced on and off over two decades in a house in a back-bay suburb of Paris, he has "renounced a life of action," content now to act merely as an observer, keeping the "chronicler's distance." He records discreet stories of his friends, referred to only by their descriptive namesA"the singer," "the reader," "my son," etc.Ayet finds that in the end he himself is the most interesting character in his narrative. Deserted periodically by his elusive wife ("the woman from Catalonia") and distrusted by his son ("the child"), he spends the final year (1999) taking walks, picking mushrooms and composing a suitable narrative. Despite attaining moments of stylistic lucidity worthy of Montaigne, the narrator more often comes across as gloomy and hostile. Nonetheless, numerous trenchant moments of insight make this work intriguing and provocative. Winston's translation is impeccable.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.