Generously translated and sent by Paul Buchholz.
ZEIT: Do you like American writers?HANDKE: Not the recent ones. I’m always thinking again: how wonderful literature would be without all these period-, family- and society-novels. [Theodor] Fontane could maybe still do that, but today it’s a form of sagging culture. I translated Walker Percy, The Last Gentlemen and The Moviegoer, that is a great author. And I love Thomas Wolfe, his novel Look Homeward, Angel. These books have something lyrical, that is absolutely a part of them. With Jonathan Franzen for instance it doesn’t appear at all. He follows a knitting pattern, a scheme. Philip Roth is in the end only a master of ceremonies. But reading is an adventure. In a book, also in a society novel, its seeking movement has to be there in the language. There is no epic literature without a lyrical element. But that has completely disappeared from American literature. There have to be outbreaks, a controlled letting-oneself-go, not this recipe-like writing. Something has to emit from the author, whether that comes from his being lost or from his pain. When, with an author, one only sees the making–to avoid the word Mache [style]–that’s not enough.
I sat down on the edge of the bathtub, disconcerted because I had started talking to myself for the first time since I was a child. By talking rather loudly to himself, the child had provided himself with a companion. But here, where I had decided for once to observe rather than participate, I was at a loss to see why I was doing it. I began to giggle and finally, in a fit of exuberance, punched myself in the head so hard that I almost toppled into the bathtub.