A Slow, Inquiring Narration

This morning Open Letters Monthly published my REVIEW of Peter Handke’s The Moravian Night. It is one of the most difficult reviews I have ever written, difficult in part because I wanted to get at the important ideas and forms of what I think is a brilliant novel, in part because the translation blocks access to those ideas. See what you think.


About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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4 Responses to A Slow, Inquiring Narration

  1. roughghosts says:

    That is an exhaustive overview of Handke’s writings and an interesting review of this book. I am intrigued by your comments about the translation. I know from some of the Canadian (Quebec based) translators I know that reading and reviewing work that one is familiar with in the original is a challenge. And the Quebec literary community is small, it is difficult not to be exposed to a wide range of current releases at any given time.

    I was scheduled to review this book for Numero Cinq this month—not my choice, but last summer when I was booking reviews, very little was catching my attention and I was told “we were hoping you would write about the new Handke”. Coming out of writing a review of a book (Slovenian novel Panorama) that really excited me as a writer, I got about 30-40 pages into Moravian Night and decided I had neither the energy or the inclination to read it. Now I wonder how much the translation might have had to do with it.

    To be honest, I have was running into a little creative burn out at the time and ended up requesting a few months away from NC—the sort of critical reviews I write there are very draining—so at another time I might have warmed to this a little more.


    • Scott Abbott says:

      As you can tell from the review, I too was interested in how the translation might affect potential readers. It is not an easy novel to begin with, and to make it less accessible through a troubled translation is a crime.

      Liked by 1 person

      • roughghosts says:

        I felt badly about abandoning it, but at this age I feel no obligation to read a book that is not working for me. By the same token, I have just emerged from about 6 weeks of crushing dark depression, so I am not sure if that coloured my willingness to accept the premise (or to read and write to a looming deadline). It is a shame that the translation falls short though.


      • Scott Abbott says:

        I’m sorry about your dark days. Depression is a bottomless pit. Glad you have emerged. I would never review a book, like you say, that doesn’t work for me. Life is short and that simply would be a waste of time. You review so many more books than I do. And I love what you do with them.

        Liked by 1 person

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