The fear haunting the nameless writer in Peter Handke’s new novel is the fear of losing contact with language and of not being able to go on with either his work or his life. After a morning at this desk-where, for him, a sentence put to paper is an even and the surest connection to the world-he ventures out for a walk.
The writer’s afternoon odyssey takes him from the centre of the unnamed European city to its outskirts, to a peripheral region comparable to the fringe of dreams of the frontiers of language. He is alternately relieved to be out in the world, where the first snow is falling and the early-December light is variously reflected, and vexed: in effect, on trial. What is the business of the writer? Is there any such business in this century? Who can claim to be an artist and to have made a place for himself in the world? But on this day the writer also has an appointment with one of his translators. An older man, he was once himself a writer, and today is a happy precisely because he is no longer, one. A translator, he says, has the certainty that he is needed.
Both lyrical and philosophical, The Afternoon of a Writer is storytelling about the problem of storytelling. “Carry on,” the writer urges himself as he finally prepares for bed. “Portray. Transmit. Continue to work the most ephemeral of materials, my breath; be its craftsman.”
I found this rather boring and hard to read, it was better when I was in complete silence as it was so descriptive that you can build the image of who he is and where he is and what he is doing and feeling in your head
Too slow and not much happening unless you like compiling a very detailed picture in your head which is hard to do at home with 2 kids hanging around or at work with noisy truck drivers yapping in your ear.
If you want a short read it’s good for that being only 86 pages long, nice even chapters so you can read a little before putting the book down. If you like a book to be exciting this probably isn’t the one for you.
I’d rate it 2.5 out of 5