Does it matter what story Handke tells? Crossing the Sierra des Gredos has familiar elements - a walk to an airport (Across), the protagonist's enemies (Repetition, and all the others), the salvific power of the image (No-Man's Bay) ... but does it matter? There are books you read for the power of telling, rather than what is told, as though this power were a wave that gathered everything up and brought it back to you; as though that wave was already gathering itself there behind you, there years ago, in the German original (published in 2002), in the other books by Handke it recalls (the first published in 1966) - as that wave that began as the universe began and that retakes it all now, giving everything again.
That voice, that power of narrative: how is it that Handke sets his stories into the order of things, into the movement of stars or the arms of galaxies, in the great wheeling of the milky way as it trails stars through our night sky? There's a kind of patience to his telling. The strength of patience, the strength of time as it turns the seasons. As though the book had found Eliot's 'still point of the turning world' - that pole around which everything revolves.
How hard it is to explain! And what's the point! Read! Be read! The still point of time is looking for you. The power of telling wants to install itself at the still point of your life. What does it mean to read thus? To be read? To be the black hole at the centre of a galaxy, and around which it turns in its entirety?
I'm familiar with everything in Handke's book; he's told it before. A character almost at the same as the others. A traveller, a contemplator, a searcher for images. With enemies like his other characters. Who converses with a narrator like the chemist of One Dark Night ... who breaks from an old life like The Left-Handed Woman (the photograph above, at the top of this page bears this title). The same, the same and that is where Handke waits for us, at the still point from which the same is turning. In the kingdom of reccurrence.