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On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House Hardcover – November 8, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Handke's stringent style of postmodern storytelling remains uncompromisingly austere in his latest novel, in which an unnamed protagonist goes on a directionless odyssey. Alienated from his wife and children, a middle-aged pharmacist with a preternatural sense of smell lives quietly in the parochial, suburbanized Austrian village of Taxham. His life revolves around mushroom gathering until a mysterious blow to the head renders him mute and sends him out into a progressively surrealDand often perilousDworld. With his protagonist's muteness keeping psychology at a distance, Handke (My Year in the No-Man's Bay, etc.) slips in and out of naturalism, satire, fable and allegory, strewing the book with fragments of fine writing as he follows the pharmacist across a dislocated European landscape. To add an extra dimension of self-consciousness to the chronicle, the pharmacist is relating his story retrospectively to an off-page narrator in one of the book's many instances of obstructed communication and hesitant introspection. For a time the pharmacist (who becomes known only as "the driver") is accompanied by two characters who hover between satiric and symbolic roles: a poet who has stopped writing and a former Olympic athlete. They encounter a series of menacing strangersDincluding a widow prone to fits of violenceDas well as figures from their pasts, but the pharmacist must complete his journey alone on a metaphysically windy steppe somewhere (perhaps) in Spain, where rules of space and time do not seem to apply. While there is a resolution, or at least an ending to the protagonist's enigmatic journey, Handke once again writes for a select audience that values impression over objective reality. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A small-town pharmacist with a penchant for wild mushrooms--some hallucinatory, some not--embarks on a summer road trip to Spain with two casual companions, a poet and a former Olympic champion, and on his return relates his adventure to the novel's true narrator, charging him with the task of writing it down as a story. So goes Handke's dreamy metafiction in which the narrative voice easily moves back and forth between the pharmacist and the original narrator. The pharmacist loses his voice along the way, is beaten by a woman whom he later seeks, and ends up wandering the steppe in a sort of prose-poem messianic hallucination. (In the epilogue, the narrator and the pharmacist debate whether steppe is the proper word to use in a story set in Europe, and because it is used throughout, one assumes the pharmacist got his way.) At times the narrative feels a little strained, yet it remains compelling enough throughout, with various little twists that take one in a different direction or bring the story back from a place it should not go. Frank Caso
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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I enjoy this style of writing though it is not for everyone. I will certainly seek out other work by him.
The main character is a very lonesome type of individual and the
mushroom fetish is perfect to compliment his personality.
The landscaping and dreamscaping is super as well as the interplay between the travelling characters. Needless to say this is probably a novel that few people are familiar with but I for one am glad to have happened upon such a gifted writer. Translation from German makes it even better.