Academic journal article German Quarterly

Lebenskunst im Alltag. Analyse der Werke von Peter Handke, Thomas Bernhard und Brigitte Kronauer

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Lebenskunst im Alltag. Analyse der Werke von Peter Handke, Thomas Bernhard und Brigitte Kronauer

Article excerpt

Barth, Markus. Lebenskunst im Alltag. Analyse der Werke von Peter Handke, Thomas Bernhard and Brigitte Kronauer Wiesbaden: Deutscher Universitats-Verlag, 1998. xv + 376 pp. DM 84.00. One emerges from this excellent analysis of the oeuvres of Peter Handke, Thomas Bernhard and Brigitte Kronauer with greater understanding of and appreciation for the three authors. Markus Barth's book is a celebration of reading, especially close and re-reading, because these three writers are-each in his or her unique way-difficult and demanding. Barth's own narrative talents, his elegant style, enhance the breadth and depth of erudition that distinguish this text. Operating under the premise that literary interpretation today demands an "interdisziplinare[n] Ansatz" (3), he brings to bear not only knowledge of classical languages and philosophy, of contemporary German and French literary and sociological theory, but also of theology, and familiarity with intellectualhistorical as well as secondary sources. Scholarly thoroughness, sensitive insights, and especially disciplined structuring characterize Lebenskunst im Alltag, Barth's 1994 slightly (vii) revised dissertation (Tiibingen, 1997).

Barth begins (I. Hauptteil) by laying the socio-historical and cultural-philosophical foundation of the two title-concepts: the aesthetic of "Alltag" and the idea of "Lebenskunst." Methodologically he proceeds by establishing a series of related motifs, which he then applies to the works of the three authors in question: the dialectic between Alltag and Sonntag, between Askese and Ekstase; the contrast between the Benedictine (structured) and Franciscan (peregrine) models for existence (both exemplifying the "Utopie des Ewigen Sonntags" [19]). The Leitmotifs are ambivalence, Leichtigkeit, sovereignty and irony Foucault's philosophy of Lebensform in Wilhelm Schmid's (1991) interpretation forms the basis for Barth's "gegenwartsbezogenes Kapitel zu einer weiter zu schreibenden Geschichte der Lebenskunst" (25), which is his book's project in relation to "drei exemplarische Autoren" (46).

The organizational principle of the book's second Hauptteil, "Literarische Einzelanalysen," is the "Grad der Annaherung an die [manchmal verdeckte religiose] Dimension [...]. Bei Handke ist es die Frage nach einer Mystik des Alltaglichen, bei Bernhard die Frage nach Souveranitat and Stellvertretung, bei Kronauer schliejllich nach dem Blick and Antlitz des `Anderen"' (51). Barth's discussion of religion in relation to Handke is somewhat overextended, since this author's literary Lebenskunst is more a matter of form than content: "Handkes [... ] ist die existenzasthetische Funktionalisierung religioser Formen, um den Al.tag zu intensivieren" (143). Nevertheless, Barth argues convincingly for the concept of "Gehen" (symbolized by Francis of Assisi) in Handke's writing from the earliest to the most recent polemics (1997) and against canonical verdicts by high priests of criticism. …

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