A short, powerful new novel by one of the greatest writers in the German languageOn a Dark Night I Left My Silent House is Peter Handke's evocative, moving, often fantastic, novel about one man's conflict with himself and his journey toward resolution. During one night shift, an unnamed, middle-aged pharmacist in Taxham, an isolated suburb of Salzburg, tells his story to a narrator. The pharmacist is known and well-respected, but lonely and estranged from his wife. He feels most comfortable wandering about in nature, collecting and eating hallucinogenic mushrooms. One day he receives a blow to the head that leaves him unable to speak, and the narrative is transformed from ironic description into a collection of sensual impressions, observations and reflections. The pharmacist, who is now called the driver, sets out on a quest, travelling into the Alps with two companions--a former Olympic skiing champion and a formerly famous poet--where he is beaten and later stalked by a woman. He drives through a tunnel and has a premonition of death, then finds himself in a surreal, foreign land. In a final series of bizarre, cathartic events, the driver regains his speech and is taken back to his pharmacy--back to his former life, but forever changed. A powerful, poetic exploration of language, longing and dislocation in the human experience, On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House reveals Handke at his magical best.
From Amazon: "Recent German unification is [. . .] likened to the inner development of one of its bureaucrats in this [allegorical] novel of Berlin after reunification. [. . .] Theo Wuttke, known as "Fonty" because he's obsessed with famous German novelist Theodor Fontane, is a former war correspondent now on his uppers as an elderly file courier in a government agency of the former German Democratic Republic. Blessed with an encyclopedic memory, Fonty often recites poems from different languages, to his co-workers' secret derision. Weary of life at the agency, he tries to escape Donce to Scotland, another time to Great Britain but a spy named Ludwig Hoftaller, himself an incarnation of a 19th-century figure and often called Fonty's "day-and-night-shadow," always finds him. Hoftaller's motivation is never made clear: perhaps fear that Fonty will leak German state secrets, perhaps loneliness, perhaps both. The past keeps impinging on the present; Hoftaller knows truths about marital infidelities in Fonty's past that keep Fonty from rebelling too forcefully. The two old men wander the streets of Berlin, each struggling with WWII guilt, as both of them had connections to Hitler's regime. [. . . ] Fonty does manage to escape eventually, his victory that of a profoundly human figure who embodies both the bitterness and the sweetness of an era's passing."
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