Crossing the Sierra de Gredos: A Novel

Handke deconstructs the travels of a mysterious bank president
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In the village's one tienda he purchased a telephone card, and from the village's only phone booth he announced his arrival for the next morning in the riverport city even though he had half a day's journey to the nearest airport. And then the meeting in her penthouse office: "I will write your book.

For as long as I can remember, money has been one of the great mysteries to me. And now I want to get to the bottom of that mystery. And besides, I have always hoped for a commission like this: not a work but a product to deliver. An order. What kind of rhythms? But his face seemed hardly changed. Only his body was smaller than she had imagined, wizened, as if desiccated, prickly, like something blown in from the meseta.

At the same time, he immediately looked familiar, as only one villager can to another; familiar as one villager could be to anotherespecially in a different setting, whether in the nearest town, or, as happened more and more often, in a country where they were both strangers: for these days it seemed increasingly common for the inhabitants of villages and towns--these especially--to be scattered all over the world, less as tourists than as residents, working, married into the most faraway places, dragging the children they had had with Japanese natives or blacks down a side street in Osaka or Djibouti.

Yet the sense of familiarity did not persist. As the author stood there before her--he refused to have a seat--he soon became uncanny to her. Uncanny as only a person could be whom one had promptly wanted to take in one's arms, only to encounter an invisible wall of glass with the first step toward him. There was nothing in her realm--and her realm was wherever she happened to be--to which she paid closer attention than proper distance. But the distance this man preserved toward her and, as she later observed: not only toward her was a kind of affront. There were people who positioned themselves practically in your face, no matter what the conversation was about, as if for a film close-up.

He, on the other hand, for the duration of their discussion stayed at least one step farther back than was customary for people engaged in negotiations or conferring with each other; if she inadvertently stepped toward him in mid-sentence, he immediately backed away, acting all the while as if nothing had happened. People like this were boors, just as much as those who practically rubbed bellies with you. And at the same time: once he was standing there calmly, he seemed rooted in her office as if in his own soil farmers had long since ceased to stand that way , legs spread, hands on hips--the picture would have been complete if he had gone into a straddle, the way some soldiers marked their terrain.

And all the while he looked past her or gazed at the sky visible above her head through the skylight, or stared at her, or smiled suddenly, or once sighed deeply, or hummed a snatch of an unfamiliar song, or even remained so completely silent for a while that she, assuming that he was not understanding her language yet didn't they speak the same language? He struck her as peaceable and at the same time irritable, or vice versa. Too peaceable? Too irritable? Nonetheless she had eventually commissioned him to do the project.

That same morning the delivery agreement was signed and in force; she had drafted it quickly, and when it came to the final version, he was firm and alert, paying meticulous attention, with something to say about every sentence. She regained a degree of confidence in the author, different from the confidence she had felt at first sight, once she realized that his insistence on constantly enlarging the space between them originated in a sense of guilt. It made sense to her as soon as her instinct saw or smelled it--all the articles claimed that she was "a creature of instinct"--and when she unexpectedly saw and smelled in the man her own guilt; a great guilt; but off-limits so long as one kept one's distance.

And how was it with her? She protected herself in a different way. And as long as she was protected, there could be no mention of guilt; instead, she had a secret. And she was proud of her secret. She would defend that secret to the death. The author probably was the right man for the job. In the meantime, however--now that she had ventured into the story--it seemed as if her book still called for someone else, not a reporter specializing in banking but a third type. What was that question the author had asked?

Did she want the book to have a more spoken or literary style? For him the spoken aspect provided the foundation, or rather the subtext, and furthermore a counterexample. Literary style, on the other hand, was the essential additive to the story, its enrichment, the enrichment. Her predawn walk around the house, through the grounds, in the lingering moonlight. One of the increasingly frequent airplanes passing in front of the moon, its moonlit shadow twinkling across the lawn, so different from the shadows of planes or birds in sunlight; owl-like.

The countless tiny mounds thrown up by earthworms before the frost came, now frozen hard, an insult to her soles with every step. From the densely intertwined, frost-withered, and tangled ivy that covered the wall at the bottom of the garden, little brownish-blackish berries with a blue haze popped off and flew in an arc, having ripened only now, with the onset of winter; and from inside the hedge she heard a pecking, cracking, smacking.

Downstream the Isonzo flowed, where it was not yet murky from the cement works, over white pebbles that also formed the banks--the million dead forgotten no, not forgotten. Theblackbird--the earliest daytime bird? She paused. The coppersmiths' street in Cairo echoed with the sound of hammers on metal; smoke and clouds of metal filings eddied from the workshops, open to the street, and she saw and smelled the billows far more intensely and lastingly than on the day when she had passed through there, although at the time she had been all eyes and ears.

Such images came to her daily, especially in the morning hours. She lived off them, drawing from them her most powerful sense of being alive. They were not memories, either voluntary or involuntary; these images flashed before her too suddenly, like lightning or meteors, and refused to be slowed or brought to a halt, let alone captured. If you wanted to stop them and contemplate them at leisure, they had long since evaporated, and with such interference you would also destroy the lasting effect of the image, which had appeared for a fraction of a second, darted through you, and vanished just as abruptly.

What effect did the images have? They ennobled the day for her. They ratified the present for her.

Shop with confidence Crossing the Sierra de Gredos: A Novel (): Peter Handke, Krishna Winston: Books. Crossing the Sierra de Gredos: A Novel [Peter Handke, Krishna Winston] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. On the outskirts of a.

She lived off them, which also meant that she used them and made good use of them. She even employed them for her work; her ventures; her deals.

If she had an almost magical "legendary," as the articles put it ability to focus on the matter at hand, to display "supernatural presence of mind at the decisive moment," not only having all the facts and figures in her head but also dazzling her partner or counterpart in negotiations by serving them up as "a numerical witches' brew," she owed this talent to something she had not yet revealed to any interviewer--and what words would she have chosen?

Does this mean that the images were subject to her will after all, there to be summoned at will or as needed? They remained unpredictable. But over time she had discovered various methods of activating her "reserves. Yes, she had aligned her whole life, not merely her profession and her existence as a "queen of finance," to accommodate these shooting images. What fundamental attitudes and behaviors were especially productive in this regard? She, who by nature or by virtue of her profession?

Just as she lived off the formation of images in every sense, she also lived for it. And she did not deploy her reserves--"Never use this word again! A single image, mobilizing itself and her, was all she needed, and the day would acquire a peaceful aura. These images, although devoid of human beings and happenings, had to do with love, a love, a kind of love.


And they had penetrated her since childhood, some days fewer of them, some days whole swarms of these shooting stars--always taking the form of something she had actually experienced in passing--sometimes completely absent, a non-day. And she was convinced that this happened to everyone, to a greater or lesser extent. No doubt the specific image always belonged to the individual's personal world.

But the image itself, as an image, was universal. It transcended him, her, it. By virtue of the open and opening image, people belonged together. And the images did not impose anything, unlike every religion or doctrine of salvation. Except that as yet no one had managed to tell the story of these images properly? Had also not found this phenomenon as earthshaking as she had? Had also not found the courage?

She certainly had not? To tell the truth, she was not even all that shy or modest when it came to this topic so dear to her heart. Over the years she had often felt the urge to spread the word of her remarkable and memorable encounters with the shooting images, or image showers. Was it possible for a modern woman, not just a woman of the Middle Ages, to have a sense of calling?

The idea became more and more compelling: she had to reveal what she knew. And finally the message had appeared in glowing letters before her eyes: Now or never. The moment had come to tell the world! And, strange to say--as if this were part of her calling--it would soon be too late, not only for her but for the world at large.

Everywhere under the sun the images were dying out. She had to entrust herself to some author or other--not to lay out everything for him in minute detail, but to hint at this orthat and let him describe the problem as he saw fit. For she was convinced it was a problem, one of epochal proportions, decisive for the future, one that should at last be made productive, but above all a lovely one. And wasn't a lovely problem the ideal basis for an expedition, including a narrative journey like this one?

This urgent sense of a calling was new to her. Some commentators saw it as an outgrowth of her success, which for quite some time had been consistent, unsurpassable, and above all invulnerable: missionary zeal as a result of unequaled success coupled with invulnerability. Others, on the contrary, saw her proud, self-chosen solitude as the cause. And there were still others, for instance the author she finally commissioned to write the story, who suspected, or "had the inspiration," that her "quest" expressed a "terrible guilt"--he unintentionally turned the tables on her this way during their first conversation.

In point of fact, even though this was not the source of her specific guilt, she had already fooled many people by letting images play a part in her everyday and professional dealings. It was hardly ever done on purpose. The images never came on demand; if they came at all, it was involuntary. But whenever one of her images shot through her, as long as it was with her, she emitted a special radiance that instantly filled the room.

Those present when this happened could not help referring this radiance to themselves. In business situations they promptly felt as though she could see right through them, whereupon they surrendered all their ulterior motives and became putty in her hands; they followed wherever she led, essentially doing her bidding.

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That almost never redounded to their disadvantage: usually both parties benefited. The effect of the images was no illusion! On those rare occasions when things went badly, again both parties suffered. Thinking himself betrayed, the other party might then try to attack her physically in her business dealings she was never perceived as "a woman" ; when this occurred, the images would intervene in perhaps the most remarkable way of all: in the face of a threat--and more than once when a weapon was involved--an image would turn up, as unexpectedly as consistently, and each time only one, which, however, was so powerful that it projected a radiant shield between her and the attacker.

But in private life, according to the stories that made the rounds, the images inflicted quite a bit of harm, even destruction and devastation. In that realm the images could be mighty deceiving, so people said. The radiance or glow emanating from her, the woman, when they were in her, could be interpreted by the person who happened to be present only as benevolence--no, as commitment, compliance, surrender. Nothing brighter, more open, more naked than the face of this stranger, this woman who unexpectedly turned to me with this radiance brighter than any ordinary woman's smile.

Desire, love, compassion: all wrapped up in one.

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And then the recoil. Yet the radiance persisted. And that was what turned us deluded lovers into madmen or wimps, or both. And since violence was out of the question with her, that woman! Was in love with or passionate about only the mystery of that one image floating in from the void, each time filling her to the brim with presentness, crowning her once and for all--wasn't this what she wanted to be--the queen of the present moment?


And as aresult they remained devoid of meaning. Crossing the Sierra de Gredos Cover of the first edition. She: If not that, then what? Somewhere --"Where? If you are the sort of a reader that needs to have everything clear and explained, you are going to be very disappointed in this novel. The Moravian Night.

And could one blame those people, male or female, who, when at such moments she touched their hand, stroked their head, seized them by the forelock, nudged them with her hip, or even blew on them not merely breathed on them , when she acted so loving toward them, embodying promise, and then an instant later turned away or pushed them away, charged her with unfaithfulness and even worse? Love: that was something she did not want to hear about.

Likewise friendship. And that was how it had always been? On the other hand she wished and wanted her story and ours to be set in a transitional period--a transitional period when there were still, and once again, surprises. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now. Buy As Gift. Overview On the outskirts of a northwestern European riverport city lives a powerful woman banker, a public figure admired and hated in equal measure, who has decided to turn from the worlds of high finance and modern life to embark on a quest.

Krishna Winston is the Marcus L. Show More. Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches. Bless the Ashes. View Product.

Crossing the Sierra de Gredos: A Novel

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