Peter Handke

“Once the writer was at the deathbed of a fellow writer. What interested his dying colleague more than anything else was what was being said in the cultural section of the newspapers. Did these battles of opinion take his mind off his illness by infuriating him or making him laugh? Did they put him in mind of an eternal repetition, preferable after all to what was in store for him? There was more to it than that. Even in his hopeless situation, far-removed as he was from the editorial offices, he was their prisoner; more than his nearest and dearest, the critics and editors were the object of his dreams; and in the intervals when he was free from pain, he would ask, since by then he was incapable of reading, what one publication or another had said about some new book. The intrigues, and the almost pleasurable fury they aroused in the sufferer - who saw through them - brought a kind of world, a certain permanence into the sickroom, and the man at his bedside understood his vituperating or silently nodding friend as well as if it had been his own self lying there. But later, when the end was near and the dying man still insisted on having opinions read out to him from the latest batch of newspapers, the witness vowed that he would never let things come to such a pass with him as they had with his image and likeness. Never again would he involve himself in this circuit of classifications and judgments, the substance of which was almost exclusively the playing off of one writer or school against another. Over the years since then, he had derived pride and satisfaction from staying on the outside and carrying on by his own strength rather than at the expense of rivals. The mere thought of returning to the circuit or to any of the persistently warring cliques made him feel physically ill. Of course, he would never get entirely away from them, for even today, so long after his vow, he suddenly caught sight of a word that he at first mistook for his name. But today at least he was glad - as he would not have been years ago - to have been mistaken. Lulled in security, he leafed through the local section and succeeded in giving his mind to every single news item.”


Peter Handke, The Afternoon of a Writer
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The Afternoon of a Writer The Afternoon of a Writer by Peter Handke
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