Short Letter, Long Farewell
by Peter Handke, introduction by Greil Marcus, translated from the German by Ralph Manheim
Short Letter, Long Farewell is one the most inventive and exhilarating of the great Peter Handke’s novels. Full of seedy noir atmospherics and boasting an air of generalized delirium, the book starts by introducing us to a nameless young German who has just arrived in America, where he hopes to get over the collapse of his marriage. No sooner has he arrived, however, than he discovers that his ex-wife is pursuing him. He flees, she follows, and soon the couple is running circles around each other across the length of America—from Philadelphia to St. Louis to the Arizona desert, and from Portland, Oregon, to L.A. Is it love or vengeance that they want from each other? Everything’s spectacularly unclear in a book that is travelogue, suspense story, domestic comedy, and Western showdown, with a totally unexpected Hollywood twist at the end. Above all, Short Letter, Long Farewell is a love letter to America, its landscapes and popular culture, the invitation and the threat of its newness and wildness and emptiness, with the promise of a new life—or the corpse of an old one—lying just around the corner.
The novel is full of vivid snapshots of American characters and scenes, and the idiosyncratic mixture of narrative, interior monologue, natural description and cultural themes and clichés is a brilliant concoction.
— Richard Locke, The New York Times Book Review
This is a postmodernism in its most exciting and challenging form, a work of literature that makes the redefinition of reality and of fiction a possibility.
Handke's self-portrait of the artist [leaves] us with doubts that can only be induced by the work of a totally serious major artist.
— Malcolm Bradbury, The New York Times Book Review
A leading literary figure in the first generation of Germans to grow up after the war...He is a man of real intellectual power and sometimes visionary insight. His fingers are never far from the pulse...
— The Washington Post