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Peter Handke: Die Stunde der wahren Empfindung (A Moment of True Feeling)

This novel came out of Handke’s residence in Paris in the seventies (it was written in 1974). It is the story of the somewhat irrational behavior of Georg Keuschnig, press attaché to the Austrian embassy in Paris. Keuschnig dreams that he has committed a murder and this dream propels him out of reality and into a realization that his life has been pointless. He suddenly feels himself cut off from everything that has been reality for him – his wife, Stefanie, and daughter, Agnes, his girlfriend, Beatrice, his apartment, his job, his whole environment. As in other Handke novels, the hero loses touch with his surroundings. He looks at the people and travels the streets but is unable to connect himself with them at all. They are different. He increasingly feels unable to connect with anyone – family, friends, colleagues. He feels he has to do something to prove he exists and commits a series of increasingly outrageous acts. For example, at a dinner party for a famous Austrian writer, he strips off, smears himself with the food and assaults a female guest but no-one seems to care. Finally, he is determined to kill himself and plans to do just that. But, just before doing so, he is “cured”, recognizing the people in the streets for the individuals that they are. But which is the moment of true feeling of the title – this recognition or the murder of the old woman in his dream?

Publishing history

First published in German 1975 by Suhrkamp
First English translation 1977 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux