My year in No Man’s Bay
Peter Handke seems to have fallen out of time. A singer from earlier days, lonely and misunderstood, who strikes his song here and sings in a low voice.
Nevertheless, people listen to him. Maybe because in the short breaks, in his breathing and waiting, one sees a long forgotten world, a world of legends and myths, which has more to give us than all the dozen novels of the last years together.
I loved Handke even before I knew his books.
The trigger was a film about his life on the outskirts of Paris, his walking, his aimless wandering through the woods and lonely days.
I saw a man who was beautiful. Not beautiful on the face, not a picture of a beautiful man, and maybe he doesn’t even have a beautiful soul. But I saw a man who was beautiful in his truthfulness.
Even then he seemed to me like a man from another time. Like an old bard, upright and truthful, who was innocently torn from his world and caught in our time of noise and madness.
There was one part in particular that made me sit up and take notice and accompany him for years to come.
Handke told about his school days, how he was sent away from home to the city and he spoke about his pain at that time. And how he literally became speechless.
And as he talked, anger overcame him. Not only about what was done to him, but also about the words he’d heard a thousand times since: “It will have been good for something.”
Then time stopped for me. For I heard something that I did not know that it was allowed to be said, worse still, that I did not know that it was allowed to be thought at all.
As if from the bottom of my heart Handke came out: “No, it wasn’t good for anything. It wasn’t fucking good for anything.”
Something broke inside me.
I realized the world was very different from what I thought it was. For the first time I saw a human being who did not deny his pains, who strove not to forget them and as a result of this he crucified himself day after day anew.
I saw a human being who stood upright in spite of everything and spat his pain into his face.
And the world suddenly sounded to me again.
When I later picked up his books, I was disappointed. There was nothing of the man I loved so much, nothing of the aimless wandering through the forest, nothing of the fairy tales and the legends, nothing of the pain and grief of his days.
Nothing even of the scent of words that had so touched me.
They were just books that bored me, lifeless stories without sound.
But I didn’t lose my love. Perhaps I already sensed that everything in life takes its time and sometimes you have to wait. And so I found moments of silence for myself alone, small windows through which I looked into other worlds.
In the conversation of two lovers, on the bank of a river, when the rapid water flowed over stones, in the rustle of the wind in an old birch tree.
In the silver wood of an old bench, which stood lonely on a hill, and where I could rest
And I waited.
And eventually I found the book that showed me the hand I loved. The singer I’d been looking for and missing for years.
I know books are a mirror to our souls, a place where we hope to find something. But isn’t that what artists are for? To show us a world that we long for and that is more beautiful than ours?
And this book is really beautiful. In it Handke becomes the master of legends, the blind (and therefore seeing?) singer of our time.
It is a book full of moments of silence, a book full of beauty, full of stories in which time seems to stand still and one looks through it into another world long believed forgotten.
For example, when he speaks of himself, of his failure, and that he does not know himself, although he will soon be fifty-six years old.
And then suddenly he writes: “And at the same time the Atlantic wind just hit the wet winter grass in front of my garden room.”
This is not only beautiful, this is not just an old poet’s trick, but it is like a flash of light in an otherwise dark night.
“My Year in Nobody’s Bay” is a book to read, sentence by sentence, like a message from another world.