Peter Handke’s TO DURATION

Cannon Magazine / The Last Books, Amsterdam, has just announced that my translation of Peter Handke’s long poem To Duration will be published in December. 48 pages. Click HERE to pre-order the book.

And here a foretaste:

. . .

Duration cannot be relied on:

not even the pious

who attend mass daily,

not even the patient, the masters of waiting,

not even the loyal

who will always, steadfastly, be yours,

can be assured of its lifelong presence.

I know, perhaps,

that it becomes possible only

when I am able

to stay at my task

and to be vigilant at it,

attentive, unhurried,

presence of mind to the tips of my fingers.

And what is the task

that demands my persistence?

It will manifest itself

in affection for the living

– for one of them –

and in the awareness of an attachment

(even if only imagined).

This task, it is not large,

not special, not unusual, not superhuman,

not war, not a landing on the moon,

not discovery, not the work of a century,

not the scaling of a peak, not a kamikaze flight:

I share it with millions,

and with my neighbour as well as

with the dwellers at the ends of the earth

where, through a common task,

a world-centre arises identical

to my own.

Yes, this task from which, over the years, duration springs,

it is fundamentally inconspicuous,

not worth talking about

but worth holding on to through writing:

for it must be my main task.

It must be my true love.

And I must,

if the moments of duration are to spring from me

and give my stiff face a form

and insert a heart into my empty breast,

practice, year in and year out,


my love.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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2 Responses to Peter Handke’s TO DURATION

  1. flowerville says:

    this is really good to see. do you have any more handke translation projects going on at the moment or in the future?


  2. Scott Abbott says:

    nothing new at the moment. trying to get zarko’s and my second book out and reading the last proofs for wild rides, wildflowers and working on lyn’s and my book about barbed wire. but can’t stay away from handke for long.


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