“The Long Way Around” tells the story of Valentin Sorger, an Austrian geologist who, estranged from his native land, is doing field work in a village near the Arctic Circle. Challenged by the vast uniformity of the geological space and the barely formed social space of this Alaskan outpost, Sorger develops a keener sense for the subtle configurations around him. As he returns to Europe by way of California, Colorado, and finally New York’s Manhattan, Sorger sees his power for the discovery of humanizing forms increase with the complexity of the inhuman situations he encounters.
In “The Lesson of Mont Sainte-Victoire,” a first-person narrator recounts his pilgrimage to the mountain of Southern France immortalized in the paintings of Paul Cezanne. Having learned to view reality with Cezanne’s eyes, the narrator approaches, in another long way around, landscapes in Paris and Berlin before concluding with a description of a forest near Salzburg, Peter Handke’s present home.
The final section, “Child Story,” is an autobiographical account of a father rearing his daughter, first in the atmosphere of his faltering marriage in Germany, then in the isolation of his self-imposed exile in Paris. The author, guided again and again by the child’s innocence, allows her, after several years, to return home and finally follows her, thus repeating the pattern of uprooting and homecoming for a third time.
(The entire section is 432 words.)