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The first of Peter Handke's novels to be published in English, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a true modern classic that "portrays the breakdown of a murderer in ways that recall Camus's The Stranger" (Richard Locke, The New York Times). The self-destruction of a soccer goalie turned construction worker who wanders aimlessly around a stifling Austrian borde The first of Peter Handke's novels to be published in English, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a true modern classic that "portrays the breakdown of a murderer in ways that recall Camus's The Stranger" (Richard Locke, The New York Times). The self-destruction of a soccer goalie turned construction worker who wanders aimlessly around a stifling Austrian border town after pursuing and then murdering, almost unthinkingly, a female movie cashier is mirrored by his use of direct, sometimes fractured prose that conveys "at its best a seamless blend of lyricism and horror seen in the runes of a disintegrating world" (Bill Marx, Boston Sunday Globe).


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The first of Peter Handke's novels to be published in English, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a true modern classic that "portrays the breakdown of a murderer in ways that recall Camus's The Stranger" (Richard Locke, The New York Times). The self-destruction of a soccer goalie turned construction worker who wanders aimlessly around a stifling Austrian borde The first of Peter Handke's novels to be published in English, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a true modern classic that "portrays the breakdown of a murderer in ways that recall Camus's The Stranger" (Richard Locke, The New York Times). The self-destruction of a soccer goalie turned construction worker who wanders aimlessly around a stifling Austrian border town after pursuing and then murdering, almost unthinkingly, a female movie cashier is mirrored by his use of direct, sometimes fractured prose that conveys "at its best a seamless blend of lyricism and horror seen in the runes of a disintegrating world" (Bill Marx, Boston Sunday Globe).

30 review for The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    The Reader's Anxiety At The Nobel Announcement! Why? Honestly, I don't even know where to start. The Swedish Academy announces about a month or so ago that they are trying to correct their former eurocentrism and male centrism - by choosing another male, white, European writer of questionable dignity and out-of-date ideas on national identity politics? Is that supposed to be the change? I have better hopes of the female European that was simultaneously awarded the 2018 prize, but I can't really se The Reader's Anxiety At The Nobel Announcement! Why? Honestly, I don't even know where to start. The Swedish Academy announces about a month or so ago that they are trying to correct their former eurocentrism and male centrism - by choosing another male, white, European writer of questionable dignity and out-of-date ideas on national identity politics? Is that supposed to be the change? I have better hopes of the female European that was simultaneously awarded the 2018 prize, but I can't really see how this double choice is matching the idea of moving away from a Eurocentric worldview. And DON'T give me the incredibly stupid argument that aesthetic value is the guideline for the Academy, for there are so, so many authors out there that are AT LEAST as aesthetically valuable as this old school author, and they would fit the Nobel idea of being beneficial to mankind in a much more adequate way than the Austrian who held a speech at a mass murderer's funeral out of nostalgia for his own national roots... It is insulting to all African, Asian and American writers to claim that Europeans are picked because they are representing Literature with a capital letter best! That being said, he is a quite good writer. That's something to be sure!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    There are books that are both beyond parody and beyond criticism, and this is one of them. In the case of parody, I considered writing one but realized that the results would look exactly like the book itself, which would serve little purpose other than to hold a mirror to it, when merely quoting extended passages from it (which I won't do) would give the review reader a taste of the style and content along with showing the inherent difficulty of parodying same. The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty There are books that are both beyond parody and beyond criticism, and this is one of them. In the case of parody, I considered writing one but realized that the results would look exactly like the book itself, which would serve little purpose other than to hold a mirror to it, when merely quoting extended passages from it (which I won't do) would give the review reader a taste of the style and content along with showing the inherent difficulty of parodying same. The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is Handke's most famous novel, and in it he distills to an even finer minimalism the angst of Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Knut Hamsun's Hunger. The book has no plot other than to get inside the head of a murderer on the run as he flounders about in a ratty Austrian border town. All the while I read it I couldn't help but think I might be liking this more if Graham Greene had written it with his sly and humorous ironic touches, lending more than merely confounding ennui to the condition of exile. But Handke is a glum Austrian and the results are sterile and clinical and fairly humorless. The protagonist of the piece (related in the third person, not the first) is a Mr. Bloch, who was once a soccer goalie and a construction worker. We never are told why he was cast away from either of these avocations, nor are we provided any motivation for the killing that sets him further adrift. We don't really need to know, I suppose; this is a book about modern ennui, and the pleasure to be had in the reading of it--for lack of a better word--is in the evocation of Bloch's claustrophobic inner world and the way he relates his observations of the world around him to that strange inner place. The detailing of Bloch's perceived universe is penny plain, neither truly vivid nor obscure. It's an odd balance between the extremes of Henry James and Hemingway. And it can't be wholly said to be stream-of-consciousness either (in the Joycean sense) because too many of Bloch's inner thoughts have been left out by the omniscient narrator. We're never quite certain, but suspect Bloch may have a bit of amnesia. Or is simply in denial. Or a tad schizo. That said, I can't say I was enamored of the book, but I can see why it has its admirers. I saw Wim Wender's 1972 film adaptation about 20 years ago, so my memory of that is a bit vague. I seem to remember the goalie's anxiety being more explicitly depicted in the film as an actual incident in Bloch's life. That is, he is shown failing to deflect a shot on the goal. In the book, there is no such incident depicted (if it did happen, we are not told of it). The only time a goalie's plight is mentioned the goalie succeeds. That might be considered a spoiler, but really it's not--it does not alter the so-called plot one bit. One never really gets the sense that Bloch is hiding out or caring whether or not he is captured for his crime. It is all an absurd universe, and the point is underlined by the fact that the police are combing the area of the Austrian border town not for him but for a missing local child and his possible killer. Bloch, an oddly oblivious stranger in town, ironically never seems to draw anyone's attention. Most of the book details Bloch as he arises from bed, watches TV, has bizarre conversations and encounters with the denizens of the inn, drinks and listens to the conversations in a tavern, attends and falls asleep at the movies, tries to pick up girls in the street, walks around the town, kicks a dead weasel, and so on. Oftentimes we get hints of his disordered brain: his tendency to overdefine phenomena around him or to try to find karmic relations between unrelated things. Every once in awhile, you stumble across a cool sentence such as, "He was talking with the postmistress...in a murmur that sounded to Bloch like those passages in foreign films that are left untranslated because they are supposed to be incomprehensible anyway." It's a sentence that probably well sums up the experience of reading this book. ([email protected], with slight amendments in 2016)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    First 80 pages: hated every word. (Steps outside and smokes a joint) Last 50 pages: greatest book ever written. Take from that what you will—

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I wanted to re-read this book as soon as I finished it. I loved the movement of the whole thing and how it sat in my mind. I couldn't put it into any kind of category or reduce it. After some pacing and deliberation, I stole this book from the Notre Dame library; they wouldn't let me get a library card and I really wanted to read it. The security guard wasn't at his post. I avoided the exit sensor gates by going out through the entrance. You couldn't open the entrance doors from the inside, so I I wanted to re-read this book as soon as I finished it. I loved the movement of the whole thing and how it sat in my mind. I couldn't put it into any kind of category or reduce it. After some pacing and deliberation, I stole this book from the Notre Dame library; they wouldn't let me get a library card and I really wanted to read it. The security guard wasn't at his post. I avoided the exit sensor gates by going out through the entrance. You couldn't open the entrance doors from the inside, so I had to wait for someone to come in and catch the door. My heart was beating like a madman. It was fun. I returned the book a couple months later (after I'd re-read it).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    What a strange and unsettling book! I have never heard of Handke before but was immediately struck by chords of Kafka and Hesse. The atmosphere of this story reeks with anxiety and a nervous, ominous tension that never lets up. Early in the book the protagonist (view spoiler)[murders a woman (hide spoiler)] . He spends the remainder of the time wandering aimlessly, overwhelmed with weird compulsions and distorted observations, slowly but surely losing his grip on reality. This book is one long, dar What a strange and unsettling book! I have never heard of Handke before but was immediately struck by chords of Kafka and Hesse. The atmosphere of this story reeks with anxiety and a nervous, ominous tension that never lets up. Early in the book the protagonist (view spoiler)[murders a woman (hide spoiler)] . He spends the remainder of the time wandering aimlessly, overwhelmed with weird compulsions and distorted observations, slowly but surely losing his grip on reality. This book is one long, dark, brooding nightmare filled with images of cold and grey and dusk. Muffled crowds of people in smoky taverns, strangers on the street, skewed vision, a rapid decent into madness. It was a delightfully unusual read. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3CHi_...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    The reader's anxiety at trying to get through this! Two-thirds of the way in I happily kicked it into touch. Shouldn't even be mentioned in the same vein as Camus's The Stranger. That was a masterpiece. This is not far from being a train wreck of a novel. Won't put me off reading Handke again though, as it can't get as bad as this again surely? Some of his other stuff has been pretty good, so there is still hope the next time I read him. The reader's anxiety at trying to get through this! Two-thirds of the way in I happily kicked it into touch. Shouldn't even be mentioned in the same vein as Camus's The Stranger. That was a masterpiece. This is not far from being a train wreck of a novel. Won't put me off reading Handke again though, as it can't get as bad as this again surely? Some of his other stuff has been pretty good, so there is still hope the next time I read him.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Proustitute (on hiatus)

    This slim book seems to draw readymade comparisons to Camus's L'Étranger, which I think is a very poor way to approach Handke's novella. While both texts deal with a man in an existential crisis and while there are murders, the similarities end there. Camus is concerned with the dissolution of a specific kind of French masculine identity; Handke's subject matter here is analogous, but this is a text very rooted in Austrian anxieties in the late-1960s. If anything, The Goalie... should draw compar This slim book seems to draw readymade comparisons to Camus's L'Étranger, which I think is a very poor way to approach Handke's novella. While both texts deal with a man in an existential crisis and while there are murders, the similarities end there. Camus is concerned with the dissolution of a specific kind of French masculine identity; Handke's subject matter here is analogous, but this is a text very rooted in Austrian anxieties in the late-1960s. If anything, The Goalie... should draw comparisons to Kafka. Handke's use of time, disorientation, the limits of language and discourse, and also the uncanny sense of reality mirroring dreams (and vice versa) are much more indebted to Kafka than to Camus. Bloch is a difficult character to follow, and Handke enjoys confusing the reader to mimic Bloch's own mental state. Some of the scenes are bafflingly nonsensical, while others play on puns and linguistic turns of phrases in unique ways. Here's a short example of the latter: "Gradually, when he said something now, he himself reappeared in what he said. The landlady asked him to stay for lunch. Bloch, who had planned to stay at her place anyway, refused." This is much more of a Kafkaesque refusal. An example of how lost in language Bloch is, but juxtaposed against a legalese in which he cannot share (thus emphasizing his isolation): "The policemen, who made the usual remarks, nevertheless seemed to mean something entirely different by them; at least they purposely mispronounced phrases like 'got to remember' and 'take off' as 'goats you remember' and 'take-off' and, just as purposely, let their tongues slide over others, saying 'whitewash?' instead of 'why watch?' and 'closed, or' instead of 'close door.'" There's something almost Lacanian in Handke's playful and yet deranged handling of language and alienation in this witty and puzzling book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Pogan

    I've read at least one book of all of the Nobel winners and many of them I've read most of the books they wrote but this is one writer that I will stick with just the one book. I'm completely unimpressed and if I didn't know better I would have thought it was written by a twelve year old. It is written in a very minimalist style with little variation and drones on in the same subdued monotone regardless of the situation, including descriptions of a murder and fights the protagonist was involved I've read at least one book of all of the Nobel winners and many of them I've read most of the books they wrote but this is one writer that I will stick with just the one book. I'm completely unimpressed and if I didn't know better I would have thought it was written by a twelve year old. It is written in a very minimalist style with little variation and drones on in the same subdued monotone regardless of the situation, including descriptions of a murder and fights the protagonist was involved in. When I saw Handke had won the Nobel and was described as avant-garde I was a little leery but I wanted to read something from him. I just was hoping he wouldn't be as bad as he turned out to be.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Balu

    Um, what did I just read? This was weird, like a mix of Kafka, and Hemingway. And Delillo, totally, just worse. No particular plot, straightforward writing, hmm... I don't know if I would give it 3 or 4 stars - I really expected more from Handke. Anyway, I will read something else from him, before I judge :) (my first Handke novel) Final rating: 3.5 stars. Um, what did I just read? This was weird, like a mix of Kafka, and Hemingway. And Delillo, totally, just worse. No particular plot, straightforward writing, hmm... I don't know if I would give it 3 or 4 stars - I really expected more from Handke. Anyway, I will read something else from him, before I judge :) (my first Handke novel) Final rating: 3.5 stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jörg

    While sitting in a café and reading this, the waitress asked me if this is a book about football. I quickly tried to find the least embarrassing answer: reading about football or reading about a man losing his grip on reality. I went for the lukewarm option and said that it's hard to explain in a few words. I have a problem with this book. It's not enjoyable to read, it's not a topic I'm interested in. I don't even want to talk about what I'm reading there. I merely read it as it was on my shelf While sitting in a café and reading this, the waitress asked me if this is a book about football. I quickly tried to find the least embarrassing answer: reading about football or reading about a man losing his grip on reality. I went for the lukewarm option and said that it's hard to explain in a few words. I have a problem with this book. It's not enjoyable to read, it's not a topic I'm interested in. I don't even want to talk about what I'm reading there. I merely read it as it was on my shelf as part of a series of books I bought and it was short. To its defense, it's well-written and as disconcerting as it is, it seems to capture the essence of what it sets out to do: a man losing his mind. Trying to keep in touch with his environment but barely being able to do so by focusing on details as unimportant as they might be. What does this have to do with the fear of the goalie before the penalty kick? Ordinarily, every sane person focuses on the main thing, the ball. In this extraordinary moment, both involved parties shift the focus away from the ball, focusing on the opponent's movements. Is insanity simply a shift of perception?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Goalie is a manic noir, a Touch of Evil in the Austrian hinterland, it is breathless and yet sober—we follow a former footballer as he’s sacked from his construction job and begins a peripatetic towards meaning, though the layers fall away and language becomes so much dust. A curt wind arrives to scatter, motivation is just another accessory, the reptilian protagonist isn’t fleeing as much as refining. A local missing child reveals another fissure but the goalkeeper much like the reader can’t pa Goalie is a manic noir, a Touch of Evil in the Austrian hinterland, it is breathless and yet sober—we follow a former footballer as he’s sacked from his construction job and begins a peripatetic towards meaning, though the layers fall away and language becomes so much dust. A curt wind arrives to scatter, motivation is just another accessory, the reptilian protagonist isn’t fleeing as much as refining. A local missing child reveals another fissure but the goalkeeper much like the reader can’t pause for either ceremony or contemplation. This story will end. I read this on a flight from Frankfurt to Belgrade. I was sitting next to an asshole. He made an elderly guy change seats. Justice sometimes appears to be a rhetorical device, a philosophical ideal to balance the scales.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Lire, c'est penible. Assister a une representation, c'est un veritable calvaire. While I was at university in the mid-1970s I went to see a performance of this play at a small 50 seat theatre in the bohemian quarter of town. Such an intimate venue offers the possibility of a very powerful dramatic experience. The negative aspect of this is that it becomes impossible to walk out because the actor has made eye contact with you on several occasions. Honestly if I had to do it all over again, I would Lire, c'est penible. Assister a une representation, c'est un veritable calvaire. While I was at university in the mid-1970s I went to see a performance of this play at a small 50 seat theatre in the bohemian quarter of town. Such an intimate venue offers the possibility of a very powerful dramatic experience. The negative aspect of this is that it becomes impossible to walk out because the actor has made eye contact with you on several occasions. Honestly if I had to do it all over again, I would go to Guantanamo Bay for a month. This play whose central character is a murder of defenceless women made me feel very uncomfortable. I am unhappy to see how Don Jose stalks and kill Carmen. However I know at least that the authorities have him cornered. I can be quite sure that after the final curtain goes down Don Jose will be first hanged for the murder of Carmen and then shot by a firing squad for having deserted the army. Handke's hero however is going to go scot free. Worse the playwright seems to be telling me that things have ended as they should. I invite anyone reading this to explain to me why I should not feel comfortable with this very disturbing work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    A short, frantic novel about the rougher edges, The Goalie's Anxiety is appropriately named... not that there's much to do about football, except in a couple of critical scenes, but there is a lot of anxiety. A lot of comparisons are made to The Stranger. After all, there is the same sort of existential dread, predicated on a senseless murder, featuring a luckless loser, but a better comparison for me in tone would be Antonioni's Blow-Up. It also features a senseless murder, but takes place on t A short, frantic novel about the rougher edges, The Goalie's Anxiety is appropriately named... not that there's much to do about football, except in a couple of critical scenes, but there is a lot of anxiety. A lot of comparisons are made to The Stranger. After all, there is the same sort of existential dread, predicated on a senseless murder, featuring a luckless loser, but a better comparison for me in tone would be Antonioni's Blow-Up. It also features a senseless murder, but takes place on the fringes of an urban society in a smoke-filled milieu, and likewise ends up with a fairly absurd sporting event.

  14. 5 out of 5

    George

    3.5 stars. An intriguing, vivid, original, memorable novella about the week in the self destruction of Bloch, a soccer goalie turned construction worker. Bloch’s life has become absurd and pointless. I found the sparse, fractured prose helped in propelling this short story forward. Whilst not a totally satisfying or enjoyable read, I liked the originality in the storytelling. The author, Peter Handke, an Austrian, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2019.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Duke

    Boring. Nothing happens. And I'm becoming tired of the murder of random women as a plot device (I say this as I read American Psycho concurrently) in all these novels by men when nothing actually comes of it. It's just murder without consequence, and, even though it only really takes up a paragraph of nondescription here except for Bloch's choking of his victim who I don't believe is ever named, it feels gratuitous in a novel in which absolutely nothing happens except for some word games. Boring. Nothing happens. And I'm becoming tired of the murder of random women as a plot device (I say this as I read American Psycho concurrently) in all these novels by men when nothing actually comes of it. It's just murder without consequence, and, even though it only really takes up a paragraph of nondescription here except for Bloch's choking of his victim who I don't believe is ever named, it feels gratuitous in a novel in which absolutely nothing happens except for some word games.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    i have to admit, when i started reading this, my first thought was: "oh god, this shit again???" because really, on the face of it, does the world really need yet another kill-somebody-go-crazy book? or even a go-crazy-kill-somebody book? didn't we have enough with the stranger and ten THOUSAND different noirs-- including every book jim thompson ever wrote? and really, i felt pretty much the same at the end. storywise, every single jim thompson book is better than this, and every single jim thomp i have to admit, when i started reading this, my first thought was: "oh god, this shit again???" because really, on the face of it, does the world really need yet another kill-somebody-go-crazy book? or even a go-crazy-kill-somebody book? didn't we have enough with the stranger and ten THOUSAND different noirs-- including every book jim thompson ever wrote? and really, i felt pretty much the same at the end. storywise, every single jim thompson book is better than this, and every single jim thompson character is more interesting, and every single jim thompson scene hits harder and is more convincing in terms of psychosis. BUT! the writing in this book is brilliant. so many marvelous (and marvelously funny) ideas and sections and paragraphs and sentences (and pictograms!?!). i think in general, this is actually more of a comedy about a guy going crazy than anything else. i mean, it's all just so funny (and true-- peter handke has been there, that's for sure). i could quote pretty much any page, they're all equally brilliant. but this, for some reason, really pleased me: In a stationary store Bloch bought a tourist map of the region and had it well wrapped. He also bought a pencil; the pencil he asked to have put in a paper bag. With the rolled-up map in his hand, he walked on; he felt more harmless now than before, when his hands had been empty. Outside the town, at a spot where he had a full view of the area, he sat down on a bench and, using the pencil, compared the details on the map with the items in the landscape in front of him. Key to the symbols: these circles mean a deciduous forest, those triangles a coniferous one, and when you looked up from the map, you were astonished that it was true. Over there, the terrain had to be swampy; over there, there had to be a wayside shrine; over there, there had to be a railroad crossing. If you walked along this dirt road, you had to cross a bridge here, then had to walk up a steep incline, where, since somebody might be waiting on top, you had to turn off the path and run across this field, had to run toward this forest-- luckily, a coniferous forest-- but someone might possibly come at you out of the forest, so that you had to double back and then run down this slope toward this farmhouse, had to run past this shed, then run along this brook, had to leap over it at this spot because a jeep might come at you here, then zigzag across this field, slip through the hedge onto the street where a truck was just going by, which you could stop and then you were safe. Bloch stopped short. "If it's a question of murder, your mind jumps from one thing to another," he had heard someone say in a movie.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Henry Martin

    I received this book as a gift, and, prior to reading it, I've never heard of Peter Handke or this work. This is to say that I did not know what to expect. While the cover is not particularly interesting, the strong title grabbed my attention. Also, the front cover blurb mentions Camus's The Stranger. I'm intrigued. Personally, I did not find much in a way of similarity between this work and Camus's work. I did find a little Kafka, a little Hamsun, a little Leppin...but I was rather surprised by I received this book as a gift, and, prior to reading it, I've never heard of Peter Handke or this work. This is to say that I did not know what to expect. While the cover is not particularly interesting, the strong title grabbed my attention. Also, the front cover blurb mentions Camus's The Stranger. I'm intrigued. Personally, I did not find much in a way of similarity between this work and Camus's work. I did find a little Kafka, a little Hamsun, a little Leppin...but I was rather surprised by what I did not find: a novel. This book, to me, is a deconstruction of a novel, a breakdown of rules, plots, relevancy, timelines, and everything else we expect to find in a novel. What is left is a vague beginning, a vague end, and a wild shivaree (minus the newlyweds) in between the two. Filled with fragmented stream-of-consciousness, the writing jumps from the protagonist (Boch) to any of the characters he encounters and back without pause, clear separation, or warning. At times thoughts can be confused with speech (and vice versa), as Boch moves about from setting to setting, always nonchalant yet deeply affected, bothered by unimportant details while left cold by not only his troublesome downfall but also any tragedies he comes across. The book deals (supposedly) with the breakdown of a murderer. In my opinion, Boch started spiraling downward way before the book begins, and the murder plays a rather small, insignificant role. The story here is the breakdown of a man numbed by society - a man with a past he cannot touch, without any future he can imagine, living in the moment. While the psychological breakdown is not as good as, say Walker Winslow's If a Man be Mad, this book is definitely going to stick with me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    An expelled goalie murders a woman randomly, walks around anxiously observing random observations and... that is all about it. Camus' Stranger was a book in its own league and so I won't compare this to it. What is more, Camus' Stranger wasn't this dumb. In Sartre's Nausea too, the protagonist was a white middle-aged European man but that man too was struggling with intuitive observations. Clezio's 'The Interrogation' is yet another book and one that seems to most resemble this one most - of a n An expelled goalie murders a woman randomly, walks around anxiously observing random observations and... that is all about it. Camus' Stranger was a book in its own league and so I won't compare this to it. What is more, Camus' Stranger wasn't this dumb. In Sartre's Nausea too, the protagonist was a white middle-aged European man but that man too was struggling with intuitive observations. Clezio's 'The Interrogation' is yet another book and one that seems to most resemble this one most - of a narration bothered by too many observations. My point is White European men and later-Nobel-laureates writing about white men seeing things too clearly wasn't exactly revolutionary at the time of writing the book. All three books by Peter Handke I have read seem to achieve a no more than a superficial resemblance to greatness without having anything much to say and do.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Platon Cristina

    I really tried to read it, but... it is just unreadable. It's boring and bland. No more Handke for me. I really tried to read it, but... it is just unreadable. It's boring and bland. No more Handke for me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    I read this for the #ReadingEurope2021 challenge because my adopted team for the Euros, North Macedonia, lost to Austria in the opening game. (Thanks, Lynxes. Let's do better tomorrow against Ukraine.) The result when one's team loses in this challenge is that one has to read something associated with the victorious country. Handke is Austrian. This has been described as reminiscent of Albert Camus's The Stranger. Yes, it is absurdist, and yes, it incorporates a pointless murder. But here's my ti I read this for the #ReadingEurope2021 challenge because my adopted team for the Euros, North Macedonia, lost to Austria in the opening game. (Thanks, Lynxes. Let's do better tomorrow against Ukraine.) The result when one's team loses in this challenge is that one has to read something associated with the victorious country. Handke is Austrian. This has been described as reminiscent of Albert Camus's The Stranger. Yes, it is absurdist, and yes, it incorporates a pointless murder. But here's my tip for you: skip this and read the Camus. Not only is Handke a Bosnian Genocide denier and a Milosevic apologist, but he wrote a really dumb book masquerading as something avant-garde and profound. And it has virtually nothing to do with football. That's a straight red card.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Swakkhar

    Slow and dark! I thought to finish this small book in a quick sitting, it made me to go with its pace.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pavel Nedelcu

    An unconventional analysis of the human character and the constant quest for a social identity. The inner crisis of the Kafkian protagonist Bloch is not only describing an early case of schizophrenia, but is also related to a need to understand what his own place in a society in which he used to serve as a soccer goalkeeper has, in the meantime, become. A radical, conscious choice is that of becoming a murderer; and this not for the mere pleasure of killing (or at least not physically), but as a An unconventional analysis of the human character and the constant quest for a social identity. The inner crisis of the Kafkian protagonist Bloch is not only describing an early case of schizophrenia, but is also related to a need to understand what his own place in a society in which he used to serve as a soccer goalkeeper has, in the meantime, become. A radical, conscious choice is that of becoming a murderer; and this not for the mere pleasure of killing (or at least not physically), but as a step in the process of re-definition of the self. Another fundamental element of Bloch's crisis is language. The social language, he realizes, is full of misunderstandings, of incomplete and insignificant expressions. Even the author's style reflects the deep crisis of the protagonist. His sentences might be seen as cinematic images representing only what is to be seen and heard, and very rarely what one might think. Certainly, an original book, written with the full awareness of what it represents: at times, even at the expense of a pleasant reading.

  23. 4 out of 5

    John Hatley

    An interesting book with a tricky, somewhat difficult-to-follow style. I may have to read it again with much more concentration to understand it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dimitris

    Two very generous stars. This was nothing, practically zero literary merit of any kind...

  25. 4 out of 5

    William Adams

    Cryptic is the word that best describes this novella. A man bumps around an Austrian village for 120 pages and nothing happens. He eats, drinks, smokes, reads newspapers, and then it ends. So what is the point? The book's main achievement is to show a story that describes the details of life as lived, and no more. It avoids interpretation, theory, romance, philosophy, emotion, and literary style. It is just pure description. And yet this is not an exercise in "objectivism" where everything is an Cryptic is the word that best describes this novella. A man bumps around an Austrian village for 120 pages and nothing happens. He eats, drinks, smokes, reads newspapers, and then it ends. So what is the point? The book's main achievement is to show a story that describes the details of life as lived, and no more. It avoids interpretation, theory, romance, philosophy, emotion, and literary style. It is just pure description. And yet this is not an exercise in "objectivism" where everything is an object seen from the outside, as it would be in a technical manual. This is a deeply psychological story. Although the narrator is third-person, it is "close," so we are inside the mind of the protagonist most of the time. Here are the opening two lines: "When Joseph Bloch, a construction worker who had once been a well-known soccer goalie, reported for work that morning, he was told that he was fired. At least that was how he interpreted the fact that no one except the foreman looked up from his coffee break when he appeared at the door of the construction shack." The first line is almost purely objective. It introduces the main character, gives his backstory, sets the time and place. The last phrase (the heart of the sentence) is in the passive voice, creating emotional distance between the narrator and the character, cueing us in to the prevailing tone. That first sentence does a lot of work but the second is a U-turn, marked by the qualifier, "at least." Now we are suddenly inside the head of Bloch, seeing the world from his point of view, and we immediately notice he is a disturbed person. He assumed he was fired because no one looked at him? That's nuts, and we know we're in for a ride. That's masterful writing and we are not surprised that the author has won a Nobel Prize. Digging deeper, we notice that Bloch is a construction worker. What did he construct? Buildings, presumably, edifices, monuments like novels and their vast, complex stories. If the author is also in the "construction" business, erecting stories on frameworks of ideas, then the first sentence tells us that the present novel will not be that. The construction-worker is fired, so you can forget about an elaborately-constructed story. We have a mini-autobiography embedded in the opening. We learn that the author formerly wrote traditional stories with dramatic, emotional endings, because Bloch used to be a goalie. But now, as the title of the novel itself tells us, the author is very uncomfortable with that model. He has left the world of traditional story-construction. Why? Maybe because nobody paid much attention to his earlier books. At least, that's why Bloch assumed he was fired – nobody looked at him. Not to over-analyze, but I think the writing is fantastic in this novella. The pattern of the opening, objective-subjective, is repeated throughout, to dizzying effect. "Bloch did not answer. She replied to his silence by bunching up the dirty towel—or rather, Bloch assumed that her bunching up of the towel was a response to his silence." (p. 43) Bloch is not even willing to say for sure what motives he reads in other people. He just assumes, based on the evidence of the senses, just as the narrator will not assert any motivation for Bloch. You have to infer. Like the protagonist in Camus' "L'Etranger," Bloch might kill a man on a beach for no reason. He is a person with a mind, but he is very much dissociated from the world he lives in. If you're looking for car chases and squishy relationships, you won't find them here. This is challenging experimental fiction with a lot to offer anyone who takes it seriously. Handke, Peter (1970). The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. New York: Farrar, Strause and Giroux, 133 pp.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Knar

    Contains spoils, spoilage, spoilers. Well, this book deserves a second read. Or, rather, I deserve to allow myself a second read. But, until then: The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a brisk novella, one that briskly breaks apart in a rather fractal-like fashion. The cookie, if you will, crumbles into self-similar little crumblettes, which, while varying in size and texture, involve similar fixations and interrogate similar concerns. What does it mean to act in way x? If a man acts in wa Contains spoils, spoilage, spoilers. Well, this book deserves a second read. Or, rather, I deserve to allow myself a second read. But, until then: The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a brisk novella, one that briskly breaks apart in a rather fractal-like fashion. The cookie, if you will, crumbles into self-similar little crumblettes, which, while varying in size and texture, involve similar fixations and interrogate similar concerns. What does it mean to act in way x? If a man acts in way x, does that mean that he is of person type X? If not, why not, and what engineers this diversion? If, for instance, once commits act y and act y happens to be the act of murder, does that make person Y a murderer? Is it or is it not so simple? This novella is, in a lot of ways, about different economies. It presses on the question of how equivalences are established and extended in the world, ultimately asking just how much of that work is done by language. Distress over pronouns ("which her?"), an obsessive interest in the prices of things, and the presence/absence of things like mirrors and photo IDs all involve mastication on value systems (item P is worth p dollars; however, the bank does not know the exchange for dollars of type e and so does object P actually have an attached value? How do things like charity donation boxes fit into understandings of value and exchange? What if She = Person called by name X and yet "she" also appears in photo ID Y; or, say, a certain he loses his mirror and dies shortly thereafter, what then? etc). Even sound values receive some emphasis -- Bloch obsessively attempts to identify and catalog sounds throughout the novella and is almost always mistaken -- some sounds resemble other sounds, almost to the degree of interchangeability. There is never a direct correspondence between one thing another. Repeated attempts are made to produce equivalences between things and these attempts are always met with failure. SO -- perhaps Bloch who commits action x, which happens to be the act of murder, may, in fact, not be a murderer. Magnificent! I could say more but my hands are lonely and insist on holding my tongue. So, instead, I send you off to read it for yourself. Can language exonerate Josef Bloch? (What can't language do?!)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kimbofo

    Austrian writer Peter Handke’s The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick was first published in 1970. According to the blurb on the back of my 2007 reprint, it caused quite a stir in Europe and the United States at the time, because of its “innovative use of language and its searing portrait of a troubled man in an equally troubled society”. It came to my attention after I read a rather wonderful interview with MJ Hyland in which she named it as one of her influences. I love Hyland’s work (you can Austrian writer Peter Handke’s The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick was first published in 1970. According to the blurb on the back of my 2007 reprint, it caused quite a stir in Europe and the United States at the time, because of its “innovative use of language and its searing portrait of a troubled man in an equally troubled society”. It came to my attention after I read a rather wonderful interview with MJ Hyland in which she named it as one of her influences. I love Hyland’s work (you can read all my reviews of her novels here) and this book sounded like something I’d like, so I promptly ordered a copy online. Fittingly, it arrived just in time for German Literature Month, which runs throughout November, and was an “interesting” palette cleanser after reading a steady stream of Canadian fiction for my Shadow Giller obligations. The story is a simple one (though it’s astonishingly told): Joseph Bloch is a once-famous soccer goalkeeper (the “goalie” of the title), who has just lost his job on a construction site. With nothing to occupy his days and no friends of whom to speak, he fills in time by going to the cinema, where he develops a “thing” for the cashier, whom he later murders, almost by accident and without thinking of the consequences. He flees to a village on the Austrian border, where he re-establishes contact with an old girlfriend, who runs a public house. By coincidence the neighbourhood is filled with police, all on the hunt for a missing boy. Bloch’s days are mostly filled wandering around aimlessly, observing the search efforts from afar; his evenings drinking in the pub. Nothing much happens. But it’s not so much the actual things that Joseph does, but what goes on in his head that makes this novella such an intriguing read. Surprisingly, given it’s written in the third person, we get an alarming view of Bloch’s mental state and his subsequent decent into a kind of madness. In many ways it’s like Bloch is watching a movie with the sound turned down too low. He has problems with his memory — he often gets a feeling of deja vu, as if it takes his mind a few seconds to catch up with his actions — and constantly mishears things or is woken up by noises that don’t actually exist. To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Deva Nandan

    This is my first Handke and I am surprisingly impressed: surprisingly because for a boy who lives on staple diets of Gabriel García Márquez's canny lyricism, Fyodor Dostoevsky's philosophically lengthy uncertainties, and Virginia Woolf's beautiful meanderings, Handke might not be a first choice. But I chanced upon this title in a Malayalam short story titled Higuita by noted author NS Madhavan, where this phrase plays an integral part in the construction of the story. Goalie's Anxiety is not a n This is my first Handke and I am surprisingly impressed: surprisingly because for a boy who lives on staple diets of Gabriel García Márquez's canny lyricism, Fyodor Dostoevsky's philosophically lengthy uncertainties, and Virginia Woolf's beautiful meanderings, Handke might not be a first choice. But I chanced upon this title in a Malayalam short story titled Higuita by noted author NS Madhavan, where this phrase plays an integral part in the construction of the story. Goalie's Anxiety is not a novel that a soccer fan would read from the title. It is a highly charged story of a soccer goalie turned construction worker on the verge of a breakdown, or rather a disintegration set off by a chain of events resulting in the murder of a woman. Here, the protagonist (talked about in the third person) seems hardly in control of the things, people and events that he finds himself in and with. He is casually reckless, and Handke does a brilliant character sketch in this short novel through his spontaneous, yet structured language, flowing in and out in a stop-start manner so as to capture the inner world of the novel's anti-hero Mr. Bloch. Bloch is deceptively modern and common even, all the while leading us to think of him as a separate species. He is the fractured modern man who is drifting into 'nowheres' of splendor, all the while waiting for the world to catch up with him. Handke goes almost stream of consciousness-like to make his protagonist talk in third person, although not completely. He uses these inner wanderings thoroughly situated within the person of Bloch to broach upon a few (seemingly) universals as well, although there are no certainties or universals in Bloch's world: only a few marvelously captured pointlessnesses. I loved the novel for its phrases, which sometimes took off like comet trails and even while stopping abruptly, keeping the glow. I liked the everydayness of Bloch, his absolute ordinariness and even tedium, which finds soulfully indifferent echoes in Handke's peculiar prose. To sum up, I liked the way in which the novel constructs a world with the bare minimum, and keeps the reader invested in it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    At times this felt irritating, with its obsessive flat narration of events, but the book grew on me more and more as it progressed over its very short length. Handke reads like a postmodern version of Hemingway and the novel has some echoes of Camus' The Stranger with its apparently senseless murder. It becomes really interesting as the protagonist, Bloch, starts to become more and more estranged from the world around him: he loses control over language, misinterprets gestures and can't count fr At times this felt irritating, with its obsessive flat narration of events, but the book grew on me more and more as it progressed over its very short length. Handke reads like a postmodern version of Hemingway and the novel has some echoes of Camus' The Stranger with its apparently senseless murder. It becomes really interesting as the protagonist, Bloch, starts to become more and more estranged from the world around him: he loses control over language, misinterprets gestures and can't count from the number one. At one point language breaks down into pictographic symbols and at various points the narration trails off into an ellipsis. For some reason it made me think a lot of Godard's À bout de souffle.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    A deconstructionists wet dream. It's all about how we make meaning, cause and effect, the purpose of language, and all that shit that was big-doin's in the '70s and early '80s when this book was published. So it's all pretty experimental stuff. Which is why the story is of secondary importance...if that. 15 years ago when I was in grad school this book would have excited me, but now it just has a lame story. I could spend some time with it, trying to get to the bottom of Handke's point, but I ju A deconstructionists wet dream. It's all about how we make meaning, cause and effect, the purpose of language, and all that shit that was big-doin's in the '70s and early '80s when this book was published. So it's all pretty experimental stuff. Which is why the story is of secondary importance...if that. 15 years ago when I was in grad school this book would have excited me, but now it just has a lame story. I could spend some time with it, trying to get to the bottom of Handke's point, but I just don't care that much anymore.

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