Die Stunde der wahren Empfindung (1975) is a relatively early entry in Handke's (b. 1942) oeuvre, but he already has much of his characteristic voice and strengths in this book. A minor functionary, Gregor (*), at the Austrian embassy in Paris dreams one night that he murders an old women, and this dream causes him to fall right out of the bottom of his life - suddenly every aspect of himself, his job, family and surroundings is alien, suspect, threatening. (The experience is not exactly unknown, even in the popular mind - "This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!") The reader spends the rest of the day in Gregor's mind as he tries to maintain a semblance of outward normality, while Handke, the phenomenologist of emotion, has him rapidly flitting through contradictory extremes inside. The hypersensitivity of a neurasthenic is perfectly matched with Handke's gifts, as he surely knew. Gregor manages a very busy day at work, with his mistress and at the presidential palace. Certain incidents occur which may or may not have been imagined. After much wandering through the streets of Paris (always a pleasure, even when one is losing one's mind), the protagonist reluctantly arrives home where his wife and dinner guests (an Austrian writer and his girlfriend) await. Let's just say that the evening did not go well. Let's also say that humor is not usually an important part of Handke's art, but I laughed aloud many times while reading this book... The next day does not go any better for Gregor (no spoilers), really. However, a series of extremely unlikely events on that day threw me out of the story completely. After climbing back in with feelings of both irritation and curiosity, the narration became increasingly strange, dark and threatening. It ends abruptly, without resolution or explanation. To say this as simply as possible, whatever Handke's intentions may have been, this novel has no straightforward interpretation, though many have been suggested. (*) If one wants to maintain the realistic, psychological point of view in terms of which the narration of the first day still makes sense, then the second day could have been nothing other than the imaginings/dreams/illusions of a man who had slipped completely into madness during the night. Possible. But one can find many other interpretations. (Another: the note taking Austrian author - Handke himself - signals to his crumbling character in the third unlikely event that his purpose with him is accomplished.) I think none is definitive, for the open ending with no answers Handke actually wrote is clearly intentional, if anything can be! This book is meant to be irritatingly haunting, and very re-readable. I have no idea how Handke sounds in translation and have absolutely no desire to find out, for Handke is the finest German stylist alive, not in the flashy style currently in vogue among the fashionable literati in the USA, but rather in a deeply ruminative, highly sensitive, quietly poetic manner I very much appreciate. If I had to find one word to characterize Handke's language, I would choose "responsive" - his words can form themselves around any object, any emotion, any incident. What Handke wrote concerning his experience when reading Hermann Lenz' work better describes what I often feel when I read Handke's: "Da läse ich nicht mehr, sondern empfände einfach nur Glück." (I would no longer be reading, instead I would be feeling only happiness.)(*) When one recalls Gregor Samsa from Kafka's Die Verwandlung , one finds many parallels between the two stories, which offers another possible interpretation of this book. But I don't think that Die Verwandlung can be tied up in the neat little bows I have seen here and there, either.