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

by Peter Handke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7191824,380 (3.14)54
The first of Peter Handke's novels to be published in English,The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kickis a true modern classic that "portrays the...breakdown of a murderer in ways that recall Camus'sThe 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).… (more)
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» See also 54 mentions

English (13)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I liked very much to book, I believe it's one of his best novels. His hero Bloch, an ex goalkeeper, jobless and divorced is walking at the streets of Vienna without any intention. Everything around is hostile and threatens him, even the words are hiding something evil and harmful. The objects around him are in deterioration, rotten or dead. Dead flies are everywhere even under the pillow, the dead butterflies at the castle, the dead boy in the water. It's a dying world, who doesn't accept him full of unreasonable violence . Bloch is wildly beat or attracts to people. Only at the cinema is escaping for a while from this sick environment reminding Kafka's novels. At the pick of this odyssey he kills the cashier of the cinema he uses to go, a young woman and escape at a village near the borders, but there he learns that there are minefields at the borders preventing people to cross them and everyday from the papers he is learning that the police is approaching him. Finally in this hostile world only art and beauty could offer some tranquility (cinema, paintings at the church). The translation in Greek from Alexandros Issaris is excellent, a very good book. ( )
  dimi777 | Jan 3, 2020 |
I honestly expected this to be 133 pages of a goalie stressing out about a penalty kick. It was not that.

Instead, we have a goalie-turned-construction-worker. He has murdered a woman. And now we get 133 pages of his analyzing everything he is doing and everyone else is doing and even what things are doing, as he leaves town and wonders if he will be caught. Despite the fact that he seems to either have some sort of social anxiety or more likely a more serious issue, no one around him behaves as though he is acting unusual. Despite the fact he is in some random town and is just hanging around with the residents. And when I say "analyzing" I mean "wonders why he picked something up and what others will think and does that umbrella being there mean something" analyzing. I found it tiring to read, but also unsettling and somewhat creepy. I didn't really like it, but I understand why others might. ( )
  Dreesie | Nov 13, 2018 |
A strange little book.
It almost feels like the main character has ADHD: the story goes from one action into the bext, from one scene into anothet, from one thought into the next. Relentless. The book is not big, only around 100 pages, but still it was quite something to read, without chapters.

Hadn't it been on the 1001-list and had it contained more pages, I probably would have abandoned it. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Jul 22, 2018 |
The novella Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter seems to be the most famous of Handke's early works, and it is one of those great titles that sticks in your mind whether or not you've actually read it. A bit like The loneliness of the long-distance runner and Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum: titles that seem to be micro-stories in their own right. But it's also probably the main reason why I hadn't read anything by Handke. On the strength of this one title, I had him mentally filed away as someone who writes about football, a subject that interests me about as much as watching paint dry.

It turns out that this is actually an elegant little philosophical investigation into the problem of language and meaning, with echoes of classic existentialist texts like L'étranger. The central character, Bloch, experiences a kind of disconnection in which the relationship of objects to words, of words to abstract meanings, of events and statements to each other, are all destabilised and put into question. Football does come into the story at a couple of points, most crucially in the closing scene, but it isn't really a football story. There's a lot of insistence on the detail of ordinary things: what the world looks like when you're a little bit disconnected from it, and Handke maintains a very flat, undemonstrative style, in which apparently minor things, like a coin falling out of a pocket, are treated with as much weight as extreme acts of violence. I think I would find this pretentious in a longer book, but in a short novella like this I found it an interestingly different way of looking at things. It obviously wasn't Handke's main aim to create a historical snapshot of life in a small community in southern Austria at the end of the sixties, but reading the book 45 years on, the degree of observation of everyday things that comes out of the peculiar narrative style is also very interesting from that point of view. ( )
2 vote thorold | Oct 13, 2014 |
Kafka's Trial begins with the protagonist's arrest and Camus's The Stranger with the death of the protagonist's mother; both events that the reader can trust with certainty.

Handke begins with the protagonist interpreting the actions of his fellow workers to mean he was fired and as a result, abandoning his employment. The protagonist's belief in his discharge motivates all of the novel but it is not at all clear that his interpretation was correct.

It's almost like a bizarre reversal of Bukowski's (later written) Post Office beginning that it all started as a mistake.

There are so many other good and insightful reviews of what follows; how it relates to post-war Europe and Austria in particular, the linguistic theories of the time and deconstructionism, that I am not going to re-write them but suggest that anyone interested in this novel look at those reviews.

Never forget that it begins with what may be a mistaken interpretation of other's actions. It examines the position, importance and meaning of persons disconnected. ( )
1 vote DinoReader | Aug 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Handke, Peterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bussink, GerritTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta I Gel, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janus, PetrTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ohlbaum, IsoldePhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roloff, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolf, EberhardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dem Monteur Josef Bloch, der früher ein bekannter Tormann gewesen war, wurde, als er sich am Vormittag zur Arbeit meldete, mitgeteilt, daß er entlassen sei.
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"The men are shouting much too much," Bloch said. "A good game goes very quietly."
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The first of Peter Handke's novels to be published in English,The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kickis a true modern classic that "portrays the...breakdown of a murderer in ways that recall Camus'sThe 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).

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