Cloud Syntax

Die Obstdiebin / The Fruit Thief

Novel by Peter Handke

I’ve been reading this novel slowly, a few pages a day, hungry for the complex syntax and Handke’s phenomenological observations. Today I came to the sentence below, complex enough that I had to read it several times to understand how the words fit into the grammatical structure. I smiled when I figured it out and thought I would translate it. My translation, for various reasons, is less precisely complex.

Der Jahreszeit, der hochsommerlichen, entsprachen am ehesten, in der Stunde jetzt vor dem Sonnenuntergang, mit dem das Land als ganzes gelb färbenden Licht, die paar wie gedünten hohen Wolkenfelder und dahinter das allumspannende Blau des Himmels, auf den ersten Blick noch zart und vertraut, im Aufschauen aber immer unbekannter anmutend, dabei an etwas erinnernd, nur daß die Erinnerung dann ausblieb und einen, mich, uns im Stich ließ, wie auch dieser blaue Himmel einen zunehmend im Stich ließ, beunruhigender als gleichwelches Drohen.

Befitting the season—high summer—in the hour now before sundown, with yellow light tinting the entire countryside, several dune-like high cloudbanks and behind them the infinite blue of the sky, on first sight tender and familiar, but looking upward increasingly unfamiliar, reminiscent of something, but the memory failed to materialize and left one, me, us bereft, as this blue sky also left one increasingly forsaken, more unsettling than any threat.

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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4 Responses to Cloud Syntax

  1. alex caldiero says:

    is the fruit thief a man or a woman?


    • Scott Abbott says:

      the narrator is a man traveling north from Paris on a local train. the fruit thief is a woman, as is apparent in the German: Die Obstdiebin


      • alex caldiero says:

        and also in the spanish translation which i may buy tho it’s pricey. so this is a work not yet translated into english? is anyone working on an english translation? by the way there is also an Italian translation but again 18 buck for postage is a drag. … i ll respond to handke s wonderful linguistics another time.


      • Scott Abbott says:

        right, no english translation yet, although Seagull Books may have one in the works


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