A Moment of True Feeling Themes

Themes and Meanings (Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Handke’s A Moment of True Feeling is typical of his many novels and is closest in theme and style to his earlier The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. These works stand in close yet clearly fictionalized relation to the author’s biography. The starting point of the work is similar to that of his other narrative texts: A man experiences a shock or jolt to his consciousness and suddenly becomes aware of his estrangement from those around him. Like the character of Joseph Bloch in The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, Keuschnig seems schizophrenic. The random objects in his environment (a baby carriage or a peach pit lying on the street, for example) suggest messages or secret meanings to him. He is an individual in whom the daily routine of life has produced a deep sense of alienation and who is seeking a new significance for his existence, a revitalized sense of connection to the world around him. This is representative of the existential thrust of Handke’s texts.

The dream of murder that signals Keuschnig’s breakdown suggests the repressed or estranged dimension of his self, his antisocial and destructive feelings of violence. Such extreme experiences occur frequently in Handke’s writings. The fact that he must now acknowledge this aspect in himself means that he can no longer live in the manner he had in the past. He must now begin a quest to seek a new identity or, as Handke phrases it in the text, a new “system” of meaning in which he will make sense to himself. In order for Keuschnig to be able to experience reality again, his world must become “mysterious,” not routine and typical. In contrast to the author’s previous works, the journey in this novel begins to assume a quasi-mystical direction that becomes more pronounced in the later writings.

The mystical aspect is clear in the experience that Keuschnig has with the three “miraculous” objects in the park. This is the pivotal scene in the novel. What occurs is similar to a religious epiphany. Yet this is not a manifestation of the...

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