A Moment of True Feeling stands in the tradition of modern existential literature. Handke is well aware of this, and it is no mere coincidence that the first name of the novel’s character is Gregor. The association is to one of the most famous alienated figures in modern literature: Gregor Samsa in Franz Kafka’s novella Die Verwandlung (1915; The Metamorphosis, 1936). In both stories, a dream signals the awakening of the figure’s true self, and both characters undergo transformations in which their estranged consciousnesses are revealed. Kafka’s story presents this theme in a more grotesque and dreamlike style. Handke’s theme also links his novel with other major existential writings of the twentieth century, such as Rainer Maria Rilke’s Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (1910; The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1930, 1958), Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausee (1938; Nausea, 1949), and Albert Camus’s L’Etranger (1942; The Stranger, 1946). The novels of the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard also treat the same issues developed in Handke’s texts. All these existential writers view art as a mode of momentary transcendence for estranged consciousness.
What distinguishes Handke from the writers cited above is his awareness of the semiotic processes that condition the perception of “reality.” The ideas and theories of structuralism and semiology inform...
(The entire section is 332 words.)
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