This volume of Handke's plays includes two full-length and four shorter plays by the young Austrian playwright. The first of the full-length plays, The Ride Across Lake Constance, is one of Handke's best-known works. It deals directly with one of Handke's favorite themes: the realities of theater itself, independent of the offstage world, and the way language (dialogue) and objects (props) operate in the skewed world of the stage.
Therein it anticipates They Are Dying Out, Handke's most recent full-length play, which is also in this volume. In some ways more conventional than many of Handke's plays, They Are Dying Out presents one of his most fascinating protagonists, Quitt, a businessman who first induces a group of colleagues to set up a monopoly and then torpedoes the scheme.
The four short plays that round out the book--Prophecy, Calling for Help, Quodlibet, and My Foot My Tutor--were written between 1966 and 1969, before The Ride Across Lake Constance (1971), and show Handke moving from the experimental mode of his early work toward the richness and complexity that have marked him as the most important dramatist since Becket; they bear witness to the truth of Richard Gilman's observation that "in Handke's theater, language, exposed, assaulted, wrestled with, driven to limits, and pursued still further, begins to take on, like the color returning to the cheeks of a nearly hanged man, the signs of a strange and unexpected resurrection."
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 30, 1976
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Excerpt from The Ride Across Lake Constance and Other Plays by Peter Handke
Where to begin? Everything is out of joint and totters. The air quivers with comparisons. No word is better than the other, the earth booms with metaphors ...
Four speakers ( A, B, C, D)
The flies will die like flies.
The ruttish dogs will snuffle like ruttish dogs.
The pig on the spit will scream like a pig on the spit.
The bull will roar like a bull.
The statue will stand like a statue.
The chickens will scurry like chickens.
The madman will run like a madman.
The lunatic will howl like a lunatic.
The mangy dog will roam like a mangy dog.
The vulture will circle like a vulture.
The aspen leaves will quiver like aspen leaves.
The grass will quiver like grass.
The house of cards will tumble like a house of cards.
The bombs will strike like bombs.
The ripe fruit will fall from the trees like ripe fruit.
The water on the hot stone will hiss like water on a hot stone.
Those who are doomed to die will stand like those who are doomed to die.
The stuck pig will bleed like a stuck pig.
The average person will behave like an average person.
The bastard will behave like a bastard.
The man of honor will behave like a man of honor.
The opera hero will behave like an opera hero.
The stepchild will be treated like a stepchild.
The miracle worker will be awaited like a miracle worker.
The freak will be stared at like a freak.
The Messiah will be longed for like the Messiah.
The milch cow will be exploited like a milch cow.
The lepers will be shunned like lepers.
Hell will be hated like hell.
The shroud will be spread out like a shroud.
The mad dog will be shot like a mad dog.
The fool will prattle like a fool.
The parrot will prattle like a parrot.
The roaches will scurry from the light like roaches.
The snow in May will vanish like the snow in May.
The child will be happy like a child.
The miracle will happen like a miracle.
The corpse in the pool will swell up like a corpse in a pool.
The thunderclap will be like a thunderclap.
The trooper will swear like a trooper.
The frog will leap like a frog.
Lightning will flash like lightning.
The thief will sneak off like a thief.
The horse will eat like a horse.
The school child will hide like a school child.
The splash in the water will be like a splash in the water.
The slap in the face will be like a slap in the face.
The viper will strike like a viper.
The wounded horses will rear up like wounded horses.
The jockey will be alert like a jockey.
The huskies will howl like huskies.
The Jew will haggle like a Jew.
The fish will wriggle on the hook like a fish on a hook.
The open wound will fester like an open wound.
The virgin will put on airs like a virgin.
The choirboy will walk like a choirboy.
The sailor will walk like a sailor.
The Spaniard will walk like a Spaniard.
Gary Cooper will walk like Gary Cooper.
Donald Duck will walk like Donald Duck.
The wet poodle will stand there like a wet poodle.
The poor sinner will stand there like a poor sinner.
The cow will stand before the new barn door like a cow before a new barn door.
The rooster on the dungheap will stand like a rooster on a dungheap.
The felled tree will crash like a felled tree.
The maniac will fight like a maniac.
The cat will slink around the hot soup like a cat around hot soup.
The dogs will hide from the thunderstorm like dogs hiding from a thunderstorm.
The roaring lion will stalk about like a roaring lion.
The wildfire will spread like wildfire.
The hyenas will howl like hyenas.
The nightwatchman will yawn like a nightwatchman.
The conspirators will whisper like conspirators.
The reeds in the wind will rustle like reeds in the wind.
The ostrich will bury its head in the sand like an ostrich.
The grass widow will tremble like a grass widow.
The rat will sleep like a rat.
The dog will die like a dog.
The shoe will fit like a shoe on a foot.
The plague will spread like the plague.
The rose will smell like a rose.
The swarm of bees will buzz like a swarm of bees.
Your shadow will follow you like a shadow.
The tomb will be silent like a tomb.
The monument will stand like a monument.
A man will rise up like a man.
The cliff will stand in the surf like a cliff in the surf.
The cloudburst will approach like a cloudburst.
The ants will bite like ants.
The tidal wave will swell like a tidal wave.
The flock of frightened sheep will scatter like a flock of frightened sheep.
The sand will run through your fingers like sand.
In the theater you will feel like a theatergoer.
One egg will resemble another as one egg another.
A scream will issue from the mouth of the crowd as out of one mouth.
The organ pipes will stand like organ pipes.
The trumpets of the Last Judgment will ring out like the trumpets of the Last Judgment.
The revelation will be like a revelation.
The mole will tunnel through the lawn like a mole.
The voice from another world will sound like a voice from another world.
The avalanche will hurtle like an avalanche.
Those who have lost their senses will behave like people who have lost their senses.
The prophet will make faces like a prophet.
The angels will speak as with angels' tongues.
The moth will flutter to the light like a moth to the light.
The barn door will be open like a barn door.
The scales will fall from your eyes like scales falling from your eyes.
The foreign body will be spewed out like a foreign body.
The rats will leave the sinking ship like rats leaving a sinking ship.
God will step before mankind like God.
The bear will sleep like a bear.
The wall will stand like a wall.
The cornfield will rustle like a cornfield.
After the rain the mushrooms will mushroom like mushrooms after the rain.
The nutshell will rock on the water like a nutshell on the water.
The migratory birds will flock like migratory birds.
Those who walk on a cloud will walk as if on a cloud.
Those who are struck by thunder will be like thunderstruck people.
Those who are in seventh heaven will feel as if they were in seventh heaven.
Those stung by a scorpion will leap up like those who are stung by a scorpion.
Ebb and flood will alternate like ebb and flood.
The fish in the water will flit about like fish in the water.
Water and fire will be compatible like water and fire.
Day and night will be as different as day and night.
You will live in clover like someone living in clover.
The dream will seem to you like a dream.
Eternity will seem to you like an eternity.
But the fish in the sea shall be plentiful like fish in the sea.
But the sand at the shore shall be plentiful like sand at the shore.
But the stars in the heavens shall be plentiful like stars in the heavens.
But the people on earth shall be plentiful like people on earth.
And the rabbits will multiply like rabbits.
And the germs will multiply like germs.
And the poor will multiply like the poor.
And a man like you and me will be a man like you and me.
Daily bread will be needed like daily bread.
Blood will be red like blood.
The wind will be swift like wind.
Poison will be yellow like poison.
Molasses will be sticky like molasses.
The fool will be gentle like a fool.
Life will be complex like life.
The sieve will be holey like a sieve.
The ultimate things will be unutterable like ultimate things.
The razor's edge will be sharp like a razor's edge.
The universe will be infinite like a universe.
The picky eater will be skinny like a picky eater.
The barrel will be round like a barrel.
The nigger will be uppity like a nigger.
The father will be to the son as father to son.
The ride in the jalopy will be bumpy like a ride in a jalopy.
The Pope will be infallible like the Pope.
The novel will be fantastic like a novel.
The movie will be unreal like a movie.
The needle in the haystack will be hard to find like a needle in a haystack.
The night will be silent like the night.
Sin will be black like sin.
The soul will be inexhaustible like the soul.
The well will be deep like a well.
The sponge will be wet like a sponge.
The poet will be dreamy like a poet.
The others will be entirely like the others.
Death will be inevitable like death.
The morrow will be inevitable like the morrow.
The amen in the prayer will be inevitable like the amen in the prayer.
Something will be as inevitable as only something can be inevitable.
The peacock will be proud like a peacock.
And the transformed will feel like those transformed.
And those who are turned into pillars of salt will stand there like ones turned into pillars of salt.
And those who are struck by lightning will fall like ones struck by lightning.
And the spellbound will listen like spellbound people.
And the paralyzed will stand like paralyzed people.
And the beckoned will come like beckoned people.
And the lame will stand like lame people.
And those struck by thunder will stand there like thunderstruck people.
And the sleeping will walk like sleepwalkers.
And those who have been called but not chosen will stand there like ones called but not chosen.
And the substitutes will feel like substitutes.
And the people by the mirror will look at themselves like people in front of the mirror.
And the newborn will feel like the newborn.
And the beaten will feel like beaten people.
And those who have been swallowed up by the earth will be like ones swallowed up by the earth.
The reality will become reality.
The truth will become truth.
The ice will freeze like ice.
The ends will stand on end.
The bottom will plunge to the bottom.
Nothingness will become nothing.
The ashes will turn to ashes.
The air will turn to air.
The dust will turn to dust.
The weasel will be weasel-faced.
C The feather will be feather-light.
B Acid will be acid-fast. A Chalk will be chalk-white. D Butter will be butter-soft. C Lightning will be lightning-fast. B The hair will be a hairsbreadth thin. A Death will be deadly dull. D The dead will be deathly pale. C The dying will feel deathly ill. B Pitch will be pitch-black. A The heart will be heartsick. D The skin will be skin-deep. C The bloodsucker will be bloodthirsty.
B The threads will be threadbare. A The stone will be stone-hard. ABCD Every day will be like every other.