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Crossing the Sierra de Gredos: A Novel Hardcover – Jul 10 2007

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Hardcover, Jul 10 2007
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (July 10 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281540
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,369,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In the atmospheric latest from Handke (The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, etc.), a nameless female banker in a nameless northern European city decides for obscure reasons to repeat a journey to Spain she took years before, and to commission a nameless author from La Mancha to write her biography. The journey provides a hopscotch structure for the drifting narrative, marked by fantastic events that may or may not be taking place and by speculative conversations with the dreamlike figures the woman meets. As she travels, the woman is stalked, possibly, by a half-brother whose name may or may not be Vladimir. When the woman arrives in La Mancha, she dictates the details of her life to the writer, with no particular regard for order or veracity. An intrusive narrative voice interjects with rhetorical questions, exclamations and rambling philosophical asides. Much time is spent either denying the truth of what's just been said or in defining events, people or objects through a series of overturning negations. Though beautiful in spots and sometimes witty, the novel is inconsistent and repetitive. For die-hard Handke fans, the appeal of this metafictional fable is in its playful surrender to chance. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“The artistry of Peter Handke's language may well be unsurpassed among contemporary writers in German. His prose is at once serpentine and spare, dreamlike and exacting. In his latest novel translated into English, Crossing the Sierra de Gredos, the Austrian author richly demonstrates his literary gifts, and the translator, Krishna Winston, sensitively renders the mesmerizing beauty of his style. In this book, as in much of Handke's previous work, the most stirring passages disclose the inherent strangeness of the world.” ―Ross Benjamin, Bookforum

“A complex quest for meaning . . . Yeats called it ‘the fascination of what's difficult.' Nobody writing today surpasses Peter Handke at trying to make sense of it all.” ―Kirkus

“Hanke's power of observation and his seemingly casual tone, in which every word bears indispensable weight, are as mesmerizing as ever . . . A Handke tale invites active reading, speculation rather than passive absorption . . . It is [his] loving gaze, honed by time and discipline that shows readers the way out again into the world's prolific and astonishing strangeness.” ―Kai Maristed, The New York Times Book Review on Peter Handke

“Numerous pleasures await the reader who delves into the fabric of Handke's prose . . . A subtle writer of unostentatious delicacy, Handke excels at fiction that, as it grows, coils around itself like wisteria . . . This is where the French New Novel might have gone if pushed.” ―Paul West, Washington Post Book World on Peter Handke

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Great Book - Extremely Poor Translation Nov. 23 2008
By Robbie Kendall - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a native English speaker who also speaks German, I read this book first in German and then attempted to read it in English. I could not; I was overwhelmed by the lousy translation. Handke has been mostly translated up to now by the finest translator from the German language into English, Ralph Manheim. This book has been mis-translated by someone else and is not worth a moment of your time. Wait for a correct interpretation.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Four stars for Cymbeline? Nov. 10 2007
By Bartolo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In reading and enjoying Handke's work I've been in good company: he's been shortlisted for a Nobel a few times (his politics may make that award an impossibility now) and Harold Bloom considered him one of the "writers of the century" in The Western Canon. True to his supposed avant-gardist status, his styles and forms have been Protean, but common threads in many (Weight of the World, My Year in the No-Man's Bay, On a Dark Night...), this one included, play up his remarkable powers of observation in nature, his subtle and meticulous identification of the connections between outer world and inner consciousness. His style in these has been a "seemingly casual tone, in which every word bears indispensible weight" (Kai Maristed) creating "..a kind of associative philosophical meditation that both maps and manifests the movements of mind." (Sven Bikerts)

I'm personally uncomfortable with the term avant-garde; I prefer to think the very best writers, from Joyce and Proust to the late Gilbert Sorrentino, are not only great craftsmen but formal innovators, re-inventing fiction and pressing language into service it simply hadn't performed before. Gauguin averred that if art isn't revolutionary, it's not art; whatever your definitions, literary art in its most vibrant forms needn't be further labeled. At any rate, Crossing the Sierra de Gredos is both typical, easily recognizable Handke and something new and full of surprises, recalling Chaucer and maybe Swift and Cervantes. Even paragraph by paragraph, there is a playful stylistic richness of invention. I was baffled by some passages, even extended passages--some seemingly satiric episodes escaped me entirely--but I was enraptured or delighted by others.

It is a testament to the power of this writer that, even though I have several books now waiting to be read that are surely excellent--short stories by Edward P. Jones, John Williams' Stoner, Solnit's Storming the Gates of Paradise, Seidel's Ooga-Booga, they all will probably be a step down from Handke.

So there may be some unevenness in Crossing the Sierra de Gredos, representing an attempt that's not fully successful, but Handke is Handke. Cymbeline can be regarded as inferior only in comparison with other Shakespeare plays, and Handke needn't be made to compete with himself. With apologies to the new translation of Pomuk's Black Book, even slightly-flawed Handke may be the best thing I read all year. So five stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Self-Absorbed and Friendless Feb. 16 2015
By James W. Fonseca - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A bit of a strange book, translated from the German. A friendless, self-absorbed woman, an internationally-known financial genius, takes a break by backpacking in central Spain’s mountain ranges. She is so well-known that she is recognized as she travels, sometimes by her “enemies.” She is so friendless that she seems disconnected from humanity. I’m reminded of the coldness of the woman in the East German novel The Distant Lover by Christoph Hein. There are only two people in her life that she cares about and she is out of touch with both. One is her daughter. While mother and daughter supposedly remain on good terms, the mother does not know where she is and she occasionally forgets her name! The only other significant person in her life is her brother, who is in a European prison for eco-terrorism acts. So she is effectively connected to no one. We learn absolutely nothing about the father of her child.

Our heroine has asked an author to write a biography of her and the book is mainly structured as a dialog between the main character and her would-be biographer. She has an unusual quirk in that “images” appear to her, particularly images of past places and events and that somehow these images “protect” her. There is little or no actual plot and in this sense the book reminds me of many other books such as Immortality by Milan Kundera: Crossing is not so much a novel as it is a framework for the author to offer a series of mini essays on consumerism, advertising, modern-day relations with neighbors, bus trips, technology, tourist villages, etc. There is fantasy and occasional surrealism. For example, on a bus trip, when it is time for the passengers to re-board, the bus driver’s child walks up to the main character and punches her in the stomach. In another scene, an acquaintance of hers shoots and kills her husband at dinner in a restaurant. Both of these incidents are just mentioned in passing and not referred to again. It’s hard to know what to make of all this. The essays are thoughtful but all-in-all the book is overly long and at times borders on being a chore to read.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Classic Handke Aug. 21 2007
By Robert Stengard-Olliges - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Once described as an author whose goal was to write in a completely different manner than his last book, Handke now produces a text that is typically, predictably unpredictable. A narrative set in timeless-modern-day, Handke crafts a medieval allegory of the pilgrim's journey of self-discovery. Long-time Handke readers will enjoy the twist and turns while readers new to Handke may want to consider an earlier text. Part Ulysses, part Canterbury Tales, all Handke. Not for the fainthearted reader. Enjoy!

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