Peter Handke Does Beckett

Peter Handke~Austria

For the dark, gloom-ridden person was, perhaps is me, me, the woman here.  My act now? No, in my night I never needed to act.  You, you’re the master actor, world champion at broad-daylight acting.  No one can compete with you in that, no one, never.  But I can be your audience.  ‘I can put up with being ignored,’ another woman once said to another man.  Accordingly I join you in my signless night, stammer vaguely to myself and at the same time I feel the urge to sing my stammering, the refrain to the song you’re humming of the shadow creeping down our mountains, of the azure sky growing dull, of the noise ebbing from the countryside around us, of our sleep in the coming peace.  And I’m singing my stammered echo now, singing my joyful anger as a treble clef, just as you’re singing your serene lack of illusion.  I wonder if that adds up to a duet?

Heads up, actresses, use Till Day Do You Part or A Question of Light as a monologue source.  Fashioned as a female response to the woman referred to in Beckett’s one-act  play, Krapp’s Last Tape, this is Peter Handke doing what he does so well.  His ability to distill emotion fits perfectly for the ups and downs of this monologue.  I haven’t read Krapp’s Last Tape or ever seen it, but from other Beckett works I have read,  I see the similarity in their incisive voice and use of language. 

To provide a brief synopsis, Beckett’s play is about a sixty-nine year old man who, every year on his birthday, tapes his reflections and events of the previous year.  This birthday he is listening to a tape of himself thirty years ago and thus unravels the complexity of this character.  Handke echoes this monologue structure in that he begins with an angry woman and ends with the woman realizing that perhaps her and Krapp are simpatico, are really lovers until the end. 

There are so many great passages in this monologue which is only thirty-two pages long, it would difficult to choose the highlights.  They are all highlights.  And speaking of simpatico, Mike Mitchell has been translating Handke for such a long time that there is not one misstep in capturing Handke’s prose and character.  Seagull Books publishes this piece and chose to include the German and French version following the translation which I always think is interesting whether I understand that language or not.

Till Day Do You Part or A Question of Light
is a great riff on Beckett that just so happened to turn out brilliantly.  It would be really intriguing to see these pieces performed together.  Even though I haven’t reviewed any Handke, I am a huge fan and this is a perfect treat for any fan.  Beckett lovers will surely not be disappointed either.  Handke embodies the voice of a woman and I can’t help but be impressed by that.  This monologue deserves an audience.

Till Day Do You Part or A Question of Light

By Peter Handke
Translated by Mike Mitchell
Seagull Books

Hardcover, 103 pp.
ISBN: 9781906497736

Other Handke Titles:

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