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Saturday, 8 May 2010

Peter Handke: Looking at the Doorknob (The Angst of the Goalkeeper)


Hilario/Andrade/Owen: Tom Clark, 2006

"In the stadium I once saw a player break his leg," the salesman said. "You could hear the cracking sound all the way up in the top rows."

Bloch saw the other spectators around him talking to each other. He did not watch the one who happened to be speaking but always watched the one who was listening. He asked the salesman whether he had ever tried to look away from the forward at the beginning of a rush, and, instead, to look at the goalie the forwards were rushing toward.

"It's very difficult to take your eyes off the forwards and the ball and watch the goalie," Bloch said. "You have to tear yourself away from the ball. It's a completely unnatural thing to do." Instead of seeing the ball, you saw how the goalkeeper ran back and forth with his hands on his thighs, how he bent to the left and right and screamed at his defense. "Usually you don't notice him until the ball has been shot at the goal."

They walked along the sideline together. Bloch heard panting as though a linesman were running past them. "It's a strange sight to watch the goalie running back and forth like that, without the ball but expecting it," he said.

He couldn't watch that way for very long, answered the salesman; you couldn't help but look back at the forwards. If you looked at the goalkeeper, it seemed as if you had to look cross-eyed. It was like seeing somebody walk toward the door and instead of looking at the man you looked at the doorknob. It made your head hurt, and you couldn't breathe properly any more.

"You get used to it," said Bloch. "But it's ridiculous."


Door handle with knob, Hotel Russia, Moscow: photo by Dsmack, 2005

A penalty kick was called. All the spectators rushed behind the goal.

"The goalkeeper is trying to figure out which corner the kicker will send the ball into," Bloch said. "If he knows the kicker, he knows which corner he usually goes for. But maybe the kicker is also counting the goalie's figuring this out. So the goalie goes on figuring that just today the ball might go into the other corner. But what if the kicker follows the goalkeeper's thinking and plans to shoot into the usual corner after all? And so on, and so on."

Bloch saw how all the players gradually cleared the penalty area. The penalty kicker adjusted the ball. Then he too backed out of the penalty area.

"When the kicker starts his run, the goalkeeper unconsciously shows with his body which way he'll throw himself even before the ball is kicked, and the kicker can simply kick in the other direction," Bloch said. "The goalie might just as well try to pry open a door with a piece of straw."

The kicker suddenly started his run. The goalkeeper, who was wearing a bright yellow jersey, stood absolutely still, and the penalty kicker shot the ball into his hands.

Mido/Ferdinand/Hislop: Tom Clark, 2005

Peter Handke: from Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick), 1970: translated by Michael Roloff


TC said...

Without too many plot spoilers, samples of the very interesting film The Goalkeeper's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick can be found here and here.

ACravan said...

This is wonderful. Thank you for posting the Handke text and film excerpts.

"It was like seeing somebody walk toward the door and instead of looking at the man you looked at the doorknob. It made your head hurt, and you couldn't breathe properly any more."

That’s very, very powerful. Yesterday's Nabakov and the painting that accompanied it caused me to carry football around in my head for the past day. This morning in the car I was listening to BBC World Service. Hearing the absolutely frenzied coverage of the approaching football season finale alternating with the fairly frenzied and peculiar extended UK elections “post-game” coverage cemented it in place. Season changes always put me on edge.

TC said...


Me too, I think.

Curtis Roberts said...

Revisiting Time Rotates But There Is Only One Season (poem, colloquy and exhibits) relaxed me some. Thanks very much. But I think I'll leave the radio off for the rest of the day, at least the political reporting. BBC's football coverage, which included enthusiastic participation from European, African and Caribbean callers, was infectiously enthusiastic.


I happen to have translated and a lot of handke plays and delight in his work and that it is so multifarious, a fellow handke tranlsator scott abbott even has a blog called
"the goalies anxiety"

Here is a bunch of Handke links: the handke.scriptmania project contains the site
handkefilm.scriptmania with lots of things about WINGS: 2010 SPRING STATUS

[moravian nights discussion, etc]

[dem handke auf die schliche/besuch auf dem Moenchsberg, a book of mine about Handke]

With three photo albums, to wit:

Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society
This LYNX will LEAP you to my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS:

"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]
"Siena me fe, disfescimi Maremma." [Dante]
"Ennui [Lange Weile] is the dreambird that
hatches the egg of
[Walter Benjamin, the essay on Leskov.]

TC said...


Well, by this time tomorrow that will all be settled. Not the world contagion of frenzy perhaps, but the EPL branch of it. And likely without any major surprises, alas.

Although I will hold out a frail hope for something good from Hugo "The Helicopter" Rodallega, a Wigan Colombian (!) whose doings in Mexico, over the years, were occasionally impressive... or failing that, from young Victor Moses, whose late entry against Arsenal some weeks back spoiled Arsene Wenger's day in the North.


Wonderful to have a visit from a man who not only translated this great text I have sampled, but who is an expert in the field.

I have read your statement on your web site with great interest.

By the by, here is the work (?) of another critic who appears perhaps to admire the Handke book a bit less than we do.

(Then again, perhaps he is simply bent on demonstrating his admiration in... shall we say an original way?)


Thank you for allowing me to leave such a large footprint on your site, Tom.
In a recent interview in a book that also contains wonderful collection of essays
about him and lots of photos of his manuscripts [FREIHEIT DES SCHREIBENS, edited
by Klaus Kastberger, Zsolnay Verlag, beautiful book, too] Handke mentions that he
wrote GOALIE in 28 days - however, he had spent at least a year thinking about it
and nominated a book on the linguistic aspect of paranoia-schizophrenia as book of the year,
and that is the STATE OF MIND into which the book puts THE READER as of the first page [you might want to put a photo of it on your site??] and keeps him in that state
then by phenomenological means until the end.... at which point, as Handke mentioned in another recent interview with Weinzierl, in Die Welt, Bloch is pretty much at
peace, back in his element .... of CONTROL! and I always that that at that moment that he catches the ball ... in his midriff - what a smart thing not to have dived left or right...not to have gambled on that famous 50/ that moment a cop puts his hand on one of his shoulders.... for when we meet Bloch next, as Albin, in WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES, the richest thing that Handke will probably ever write, Bloch is back
out of jail.... but still does some nasty stuff, such as setting off fire crackers in
crowded spaces... leaping out from behind trees.... One matter that has pre-occuppied the German lit scholars is what it is that brings Bloch to strangle the girl after
they have spent the night together.... like bubbles on a hot plate... ants scurrying...
unnameable rage at existence...or at a linguistic malapropism??? a dangerous fellow Peter Handke is, who has beaten up a lot women, and if he couldn't write would have been a major murderer!

file said...

Isn't the strikers angst more acute? An almost prescient piece given Drogba's sulk at losing penalty taking rights to fat Frank and subsequent second-half hat-trick...

wrote a story about this at pseuds, another hoof upfield to nowhere, wasn't Camus a goalie? Did he ever recover from the angst?

Isn't there poetic material in the irony of the most beautiful team (manager excepted) failing to win anything again?


Well, I played "delantero" as it is called in Spanish, I had a big advantage coming from Germany as a kid who was pretty soccer crazed [WERDER BREMEN was my team], and the forwar'd anxiety is Oedipal, in the sense that if you "score" your father will castrate you; the goalie's anxiety, in those terms, is more along the line of homophobic fears! I was very center forward, very much a striker but not good at organizing the horde or when i got too frustrated i played left wing even though i was very right footed i had a great passing left foot. i had such a great shot with my right foot, you use it very loose and very much like a slapping organ that our scots coach used as the demonstrator for american kids who had no idea except from place kicking in u.s. football. m.r

file said...

Hi SP, yes, that's great; the strikers Oedipal fears, the goalies homophobia (although an effective goalie is unlikely to be too afraid of balls?). I wonder if there's mileage in the libidian striker versus the destrudoic goalie... the projection of forwards, the defence mechanisms of goalies... the linesman's neurosis... ref as superego, fans as id, the ball itself is obviously a breast with 22 men vying to suckle it...

Freud lived all over, including just near my old flat in Swiss Cottage, I'd like to think he was an Arsenal fan, pathologically attracted to the symbolism of the Gunners:)

Germans for the (phallic) JR Trophy this year?

TC said...

Michael and File,

Lovely multifarious (to borrow Michael's term for PH) footie discussion has revived me (a bit) from a long day of doldrums, stretching into (is it) night.

File, the spectacle of Drogba spoiling the general triumphalist elation in Chelskiland with his hangdog sulking and snitting, embarrassing if he were a playground ten-year-old, but unbelievable in a presumed "adult", would have been what in the day of Stanley Matthews (et al.), or even for that matter the more recent day of Gordon Strachan (et al.), they might have called "a blemish upon the sport".

As 'tis, no big deal, I guess.

Michael, it seems that by playing (willingly or not) as a wrong-footed winger you were actually light-years ahead of your time. It is the latest thing in tactical newfangledness to play "natural" left footers on the left, "natural" rightfooters on the left. Mancini at Man City did a lot of that sort of clever switching this season, with Bellamy, young Adam Johnson, Wright-Phillips et al. How brilliant, it proved that with such innovative theory and 500 billion dollars you can actually somehow manage to finish out of the top four -- quite a feat when you consider that meant being even worse than Spurs (a thing previously considered almost impossible).

File, your daydream of Freud as a Gunners fan brought to mind the scene in Eastern Promises in which the young Russian lad, stubbornly in Gunners colours and chanting "Arsenal" while amid the stream of the partisan Chelsea throng, is, I believe, murdered, for reasons having nothing to do with football, upon departing the alien ground. Cronenberg is Sigmund Freud's distant relative, in the "illegitimate" line of the family, I believe.

(I hope this is not a "recovered memory".)

Of course we saw how ineffectual Karl Marx proved when brought on as a late substitute at forward in the storied cup final Germany v Greece.

TC said...

(And while we're on the curious psychology of European literary goalkeepers, Michael and File, perhaps you'd also be interested in this.)


for some reason i had a great hook pass with my left foot, which otherwise was the most useless of appendages, vestigial, that way i could get the ball into the penalty area from anywhere on its left side... it was a pass useful for someone who got his head on it, or it had to be body stopped... or trapped... well great volleyers of course can do anything... but i doubt someone who can really heel kick might have been able to do anuything with it... i knew how to heel kick but never scored with it... but i knew the scissors pass and had picked up a lot of tricky things watching werder play in bremen... as kids do watching baseball players when that is their sport...
... i could not shoot with my left foot the way i could so marvelously as with my right, i could use its inside to pass... without much juice on it... i suspect i could have been trained to use the left to better effect.... i am also extremely right handed... that is, i was until i did a psychoanalysis total regression and found out that my left hand was nearly as useful, but only somewhat less powerful because it had never really been used. the power of repressing left-handedness, bisexuality out of my system....

as to the goalie's anxiety, goalies in european handball, which is either played 11 players on each side on a soccer sized field or 6 men aside on a basketball size court with goals that are about half the size of a regular soccer or regular handball goal, that goalie is just as afraid at a penalty THROW! it's a question of WHAT is being protected, not of the kind of projectile that may penetrate, penetration is what the goalkeepers are afraid of, and the most courageous are entirely fearless of pain, and i recall the first goal keeper i adored, at Werder Bremen [Werder = means DIKE, a protective in that river region close to the North Sea], he was of Slavic origin and was called THE CAT, die KATZE, the highest compliment that came to mind for his acrobatics! so a fearful, insecure cat, a cat filled with fear and trembling! will not last long, he makes no end of mistakes and will be let go, as poor Bloch apparently had been, no wonder that Handke would go on and write the marvelous LEFT HANDED WOMAN!

TC said...


Could be you are on to something about the fateful strain of existential whateverness in los porteros felinos, judging by the recent problems of El Gato, a keeper for los rayados de Monterrey.


Thanks for the link to the Nabokov, Tom.

My putting myself into the left forward position was the closest i could get to having nothing to do, with not being involved in the game when i was unhappy with the rest of the cast. yet i could still be helpful if needed. there were no futuristic thought, tactical or strategic or otherwise in my head,
and also i would be pretty much ignored by everyone else. the game was better in college when half the team consisted of foreigners. americans were only useful at that time as goal keepers or backs, they had played football, and played soccer in the same way, tackling was second nature to them, and frightening to a real soccer player's legs!

i spent three years in mexico and their soccer must be the best in the world, and i used to wonder why they exported so few players, until i realized that money cannot make up for their team play and their family adhesion, and they don't fare well unless they have a lot of mexican around them. the same evidently is not the case with brazilian players, what would german premier league be without brazilian and yugoslav players, hardly a native on those top clubs now! and some of those, like ballach play abroad, if only the chunnel.

TC said...


You're right that the struggles of Mexican players abroad may have tended to cause people to disrespect Mexican football. Your account of the causes seems sensible enough.

Nery Castillo, who a few years ago looked like Mexico's brightest young forward prospect, was packed off by his agent to Shakhtar Donetsk. His career has not yet recovered. More seasoned forwards like Jared Borgetti and Omar Bravo have lately lasted less than a full year at Bolton and La Coruña, respectively.

Erstwhile under-20 sensation Gio dos Santos had bad times at Barcelona and Tottenham and when last playing professionally was in the kit of the Ipswich farmers. Carlos Vela at Arsenal has yet to fulfill his promise.

Midfielders and defenders have perhaps done a bit better. Pavel Pardo and Ricardo Osorio had a few seasons at Stuttgart. Carlos Salcedo and Masa Rodriguez have been at PSV for a few years now.

With the general unsuccess of Mexican players abroad as a backdrop, there was considerable surprise last month when Alex Ferguson of Manchester United swept in to pay something like $8 million for the brilliant young striker of Chivas de Guadalajara, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, whom nobody in England had heard of.

It will be interesting to see how he fares. He is long, lean, swift, strong, audacious, opportunistic, has remarkably quick feet and is equally dangerous with either of them. He is certainly player enough, but as you suggest, the cultural adjustment is another story altogether.


Well if Mexican exports dont even fare well in Spanish speaking countries... it is not just players, in Seattle where I am now, a Mexican by himself immediately starts to suffer not just from the inclement weather but from what he perceives as the general coldness of a Protestant region... Nordic, be they Skanis, Scot or Irish or of German heritage.

But get two Mexicans together and you have the beginnings of a party... they come from such strong family situations that perpetuates itself in teams... if you,say, signed three Mexican players they would probably all fare well, or maybe with other Latin American players... it was a country that really worked for me.If they were country Mexicans they were basically still Indios but with European manners, that part of Spain they had absorbed, polite but basically very wild!

file said...

hmm, the cat you say? There have been a few Cat goalies (Peter "the cat" Bonetti springs to mind...) The "Black Spider" (Lev Yashin) saved more penalties in his career than any other goalie ever, goalies are the drummers of the footie world (what is this saccer of which you speak?), but few impose their rhythms on the game, Peter Schmeichel (aka The Great Dane) - [another who grew up on Handball] was one such, often present at my "other" club Notts County this season watching his son (who was excellent, and saved 7 penalties out of 9 this season).

Tom, enjoyed your analysis of "tactical newfangledness", the slow but inexorable march of progress eh?

Don't know the first thing about Mexican footballers, will be interesting to see how El Chicharito fares. In fact, the only thing I know about Mexico (that I didn't learn from Tom Clark) is what I got from Graham Greene, who wasn't a goalie.

TC said...

Sadly enough El Gato Ortiz has just been suspended for two years for the offense alluded to in that clip I posted.

That leaves him eight more lives, though, one would hope.

Players in Mexico do have their problems with being relatively well-off, and extremely visible, in a country where very people are either of those things. Home invasions, kidnappings and carjackings are common hazards of the footballing profession.

Early this year the great Paraguayan delantero, Salvador Cabañas, of Club América, was shot in the head in the WC of a Mexico City night spot. He lives on, with a bullet in the back of his brain.

Last week a 22 year old player for Pumas (UNAM), preparing for a liguilla (playoff) game vs Santos, was shot and killed in his car. The match went on anyway. Pumas lost and were eliminated.

Whether or not there is any love lost, however, there appears to be love, all such troubles notwithstanding.

Cuauhtemoc Blanco, the greatest Mexican player of this century, after spending his whole career in his native country (with América, by far the richest club), went off finally to Chicago, where he instantly became the best player in MLS (though only the second best paid player, after Sir Golden Balls, who has yet to show he will ever earn his 25 or however many millions).

After a couple of years though, Blanco returned to Mexico, signing for a relegated club, Veracruz. At the press conference on the occasion of his return, he was in tears.


Mexican soccer best as I could tell still had all that village/ hometown fervor, no matter how rich the club of well off the players. however, the country has certainly got fucked up in a major way since i left about 15 years ago. And didn't Pepe play in the MLS or its predecessor briefly in the 80s? Golden Balls hasn't done much and looks like a waste of money on the face of things, but who knows how big a draw he is, I sure don't up here in Seattle which has a club that is one year old. xxx michael r.