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The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (original 1970; edition 2007)

by Peter Handke

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440None23,687 (3.05)21
Member:roblong
Title:The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick
Authors:Peter Handke
Info:Farrar Straus Giroux (2007), Edition: Tra, Paperback, 133 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:Fiction, Austrian Fiction

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The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick by Peter Handke (1970)

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English (8)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This slim book seems to draw readymade comparisons to Camus’s L’Étranger, which I think is a very poor way to approach Handke’s novella. While both texts deal with a man in an existential crisis and while there are murders, the similarities end there. Camus is concerned with the dissolution of a specific kind of French masculine identity; Handke’s subject matter here is analogous, but this is a text very rooted in Austrian anxieties in the late-1960s.

If anything, The Goalie... should draw comparisons to Kafka. Handke’s use of time, disorientation, the limits of language and discourse, and also the uncanny sense of reality mirroring dreams (and vice versa) are much more indebted to Kafka than to Camus.

Bloch is a difficult character to follow, and Handke enjoys confusing the reader to mimic Bloch’s own mental state. Some of the scenes are bafflingly nonsensical, while others play on puns and linguistic turns of phrases in unique ways. Here’s a short example of the latter:

“Gradually, when he said something now, he himself reappeared in what he said. The landlady asked him to stay for lunch. Bloch, who had planned to stay at her place anyway, refused.”

This is much more of a Kafkaesque refusal. An example of how lost in language Bloch is, but juxtaposed against a legalese in which he cannot share (thus emphasizing his isolation):

“The policemen, who made the usual remarks, nevertheless seemed to mean something entirely different by them; at least they purposely mispronounced phrases like ‘got to remember’ and ‘take off’ as ‘goats you remember’ and ‘take-off’ and, just as purposely, let their tongues slide over others, saying ‘whitewash?’ instead of ‘why watch?’ and ‘closed, or’ instead of ‘close door.’ ”

There’s something almost Lacanian in Handke’s playful and yet deranged handling of language and alienation in this witty and puzzling book. ( )
1 vote proustitute | Mar 31, 2013 |
Un ancien gardien de but se croit licencié de l'entreprise où il travaille et il quitte tout. Son errance finit par se transformer en vraie fuite après qu'il a étranglé une caissière de cinéma. Il va se livrer à de gratuites et dangereuses extravagances, jusqu'au jour où il assiste à un match de football au cours duquel le gardien de but réussit à arrêter un penalty : sa peur va alors être jugulée. Cet itinéraire intérieur, aux fausses allures de roman policier, permet à Peter Handke de démontrer sa maîtrise.
  PierreYvesMERCIER | Feb 19, 2012 |
This review contains spoilers.

In this novel, “The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick,” Peter Handke puts on full display the self-conscious experimentation for which he has become so well-known over the last four decades. This is Handke’s third novel (originally published in Germany in 1970), and his first to be translated into English in 1972. Because of its length – only 130 pages – I would suggest this as a good starting place for those who think they might be interested in the voice of Handke’s early fiction.

While the plot is perhaps not the most important aspect of the book, a précis is appropriate. Bloch, a construction worker, is laid off in the first sentence of the book. In a kind of heightened euphoria, Bloch checks into a hotel with only a suitcase, occasionally leaving to visit the cinema. He notices a young woman there, and spends the night with her. For some reason, or perhaps for no reason at all, Bloch murders her in her apartment. Emotion, motive, and fury are all completely excised from the tone of the novel, even in relation to this act. The reader never learns if Bloch is exhilarated or ashamed or scared of being caught. Shortly afterwards, he leaves for a small town on the Austrian border where still more events occur that should faze him, but they never seem to. The last few pages shed light on the meaning of the title is a way that is simply too good to divulge here.

Handke uses some brilliant social critique, especially on the subjects of consumerism and the meaningless of small talk shared with strangers. At one point, he is sitting in a café with two young women. “We buy all our dressed ready-made,” one tells him. “We do each other’s hair.” “In the summer it’s usually getting light by the time we finally get home.” “I prefer the slow dances.” “On the trip home we don’t joke around as much anymore, then we forget about talking.” Handke deftly communicates the crushing smallness of people. Another time, Bloch compulsively asks what everything is worth, including the furniture in his hotel room, as if fascinated and compelled by the idea that money could be the sole metric of worth. To borrow the argot of Tonnies, a sense of decadence – the fall from a traditional Gemeinschaft to a post-industrial Gesellschaft suffuses the novel, wherein old ways of communicating, emoting, and going about our day-to-day lives have been radically reconfigured. While I don’t read German, I have the feeling that the translator, Michael Roloff, had a big part in achieving these effects, too.

The most engaging part of the novel, at least for me, was its experimental style. Of course, depending on personal preferences, some might find it the most frustrating. Handke writes in flat, declarative, staccato sentences, which has the odd effect of spreading Bloch’s emotional numbness to even the reader. The novel focuses in on language to show its strengths, but also its glaring flaws. You get the feeling that Handke has quarried the words for his novella over a period of months or years, never with the naïve assumption that they could ever be ready-made tools for our passive use. In doing so, he issues forth a thoroughly invigorating critique of language and language use. It was akin to reading Wittgenstein, had he written fiction.

All in all, it was not a wholly unpleasurable experience, even if it was more experimental than most fiction that I do read. However, I appreciated this novel more than I enjoyed it. Handke certainly does bring a lot to the table as far as questioning what fiction does, how it’s performed, and what it can do for us. If you like your fiction to delve into these questions, you might find this highly enjoyable. If not, and you haven’t read anything by him, you may want to read this anyway: it’s short, and Handke has often been called one of the greatest living writers in the German language. ( )
  kant1066 | Oct 14, 2011 |
This short novel, the first of Peter Handke's novels to be published in English, tells the story of Joseph Bloch, a soccer goalie turned construction worker, who in the opening scene, under the belief that he has been fired, leaves the job site in Vienna where he has been working and embarks upon a rambling and apparently senseless journey into Austria's border region. The reader views Bloch's actions and shares his perceptions through the prism of a narrative perspective that filters out all emotional responses. Indeed, Bloch seems incapable of empathy and spends his time observing and interacting with others, but at a surreal distance. At an early point in his wanderings he befriends a young ticket seller at a cinema, spends the night with her, and then for no reason strangles her. His disengagement enables him to simply pick up his journey where he left off. The narrative that Handke weaves is dreamlike, puzzling, but undeniably absorbing. Bloch's tenuous grip on reality gives the story a creepy immediacy and seems to critique modern society with its suggestion that experience is fragmented and distorted by language. This important novel brought one of the foremost German-language writers of the post-war era to the attention of English-language readers. Anyone interested in 20th-century narrative fiction must read this book. ( )
  icolford | Aug 2, 2011 |
Seltsam, aber gut geschrieben: Bloch war mal ein bekannter Torwart. Eines Tages glaubt er, die Fabrik, in der er arbeitet, hätte ihn fristlos entlassen. Daraufhin streunt er wie ein Vagabund durch Wien. Doch alles scheint irgendwie rätselhaft, laut und außer Kontrolle geraten. Bloch nimmt sich ein Hotelzimmer. Er trifft den einen oder anderen Bekannten und zieht durch Kneipen. Nach der ersten Nacht erwürgt er seine neue Frauenbekanntschaft. Bloch verschlägt es daraufhin in einen Wald, wo er sich ein Zimmer in einem Gasthof nimmt und mit den Bewohnern des Dorfes in Kontakt kommt. Durch Zufall erfährt er, dass die Polizei ihm auf der Spur ist. Er erlebt zunehmend Wirres und scheint seinen eigenen Fall aufklären zu wollen. In der Schlussszene sieht er einen Torwart, der einen Elfmeter hält, weil er sich einfach nicht bewegt.

Ich kann zu dieser Erzählung nur ein paar Eindrücke wiedergeben. Da wäre zuerst Handkes Sprache, die mich in ihrer Satzkonstruktion und Wortwahl mehr an die 1920er-Jahre, teilweise sogar an Kleist erinnert, als an eine Erzählung von 1970. Dann bekommt der Leser wenig Einblick in das Innenleben des Helden und so bleiben dessen Motive völlig im Dunkeln. Dabei trägt der Er-Erzähler nicht viel bei die Hirngespinste des Helden zu erklären. Erzähltechnisch jedoch hat das Buch einiges zu bieten, viele Vorgänge werden sehr indirekt und subtil beschrieben und die vielen kleinen beschriebenen Dinge schaffen eine interessante Athmosphäre. Inhaltlich dachte ich an ein wenig Dostojewskis Schuld und Sühne. Mit Fußball hat das Ganze letztendlich nur sehr bedingt zu tun, dafür dürften Germanisten ihre Freude daran haben, vieles in die Erzählung hineinzuinterpretieren. Ich hätte es nicht unbedingt lesen müssen.
2 vote r1hard | Nov 22, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Handkeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bussink, GerritTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta I Gel, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"The men are shouting much too much," Bloch said. "A good game goes very quietly."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374531064, Paperback)

The first of Peter Handke's novels to be published  in English, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a true modern classic that "portrays the…breakdown of a murderer in ways that recall Camus's The Stranger"  (Richard Locke, The New York Times). The self-destruction of a soccer goalie turned construction worker who wanders aimlessly around a stifling Austrian border town after pursuing and then murdering, almost unthinkingly, a female movie cashier is mirrored by his use of direct, sometimes fractured prose that conveys "at its best a seamless blend of lyricism and horror seen in the runes of a disintegrating world" (Bill Marx, Boston Sunday Globe).

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:22 -0400)

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