Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Across is a representative example of Handke’s many novels. Loser is caught up in the midst of an existential crisis and must come to terms with the meaning of his life. He is a man on the “threshold” of a new existence. His quest is a search for authenticity. Like the crying infant he hears one night, he is in the process of being reborn to a new self. Nearly every Handke narrative begins on this existential note.

Loser’s work with archaeology indicates his search for roots, his quest to return to an authentic beginning that will lend his life significance. That Loser teaches ancient languages (Greek and Latin) suggests his attempt to return to the foundations of Western culture, to the early myths through which man explained the events that shaped his life. In this sense, Loser is like Homer’s Odysseus, a wanderer on a quest homeward, or like Sophocles’ Orestes, an outcast from society, plagued with guilt and longing to be relieved of his curse. It is an archaeology of the psyche that Loser ultimately practices. He longs for new “myths” that will give his existence meaning.

The work of the Latin poet Vergil is mentioned in the text, particularly his bucolic landscape verse (the Georgics). The Handke narrative itself is devoted to simple descriptions of the natural and village landscapes. Clearly influenced by the writings of the philosopher Martin Heidegger, Handke’s character seeks authentic perception of being as it manifests itself in the simple objects and forms of...

(The entire section is 626 words.)