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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama

    

Till Day You Do Part

by
Peter Handke


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Till Day You Do Part



Title: Till Day You Do Part
Author: Peter Handke
Genre: Monologue
Written: 2007/8 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 103 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Till Day You Do Part - US
Till Day You Do Part - UK
Till Day You Do Part - Canada
Till Day You Do Part - India
Jusqu'à ce que le jour vous sépare - France
Bis daß der Tag euch scheidet - Deutschland
  • or A Question of Light
  • German title: Bis daß der Tag euch scheidet oder Eine Frage des Lichts: Ein Monolog
  • Draft version (2007) originally written in French; also published, as Jusqu'à ce que le jour vous sépare ou Une question de lumière
  • This is a trilingual edition that includes both the French draft version and then the German original
  • Translated by Mike Mitchell
  • With an Afterword by the author
  • First performed at the Salzburger Festspiele, 9 August 2008, in a production directed by Jossi Wieler and starring Nina Kunzendorf and André Jung

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Our Assessment:

B+ : interesting Beckett variation -- especially in this trilingual presentation

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 11/8/2009 Gerhard Stadelmaier
NZZ . 25/1/2010 B. Villiger Heilig
Die Welt . 11/8/2009 Ulrich Weinzierl


  Review Consensus:

  Not too impressed

  From the Reviews:
  • "Fehlt eigentlich nur noch, dass sie ihm vorwirft, nichts zur Rettung Jugoslawiens unternommen zu haben. (...) Sonst aber sind alle Handkeschen Denk- und Dicht- und Schreibklischees versammelt. Nur dass sie – außer der zwischen den Zeilen schwelenden Hauptklage, dass eigentlich ein Handke den Krapp hätte erfinden dürfen müssen – nichts mit Beckett zu tun haben. Und den Krapp hier in ihrer enervierenden Kunzendorfschen Ton-, Interesse- und Hilflosigkeit so sehr nicht treffen" - Gerhard Stadelmaier, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Kurz gesagt, findet sie sich als «unknown female» von Krapp auf der ganzen Linie verkannt. Bloss sagt sie das in endlos mäandernden handkeschen Phrasen voller Bildungszitate und Versatzstücke aus dem Repertoire ihres dichtenden Spiritus Rector. Der nämlich will, wie kurios, dem sich selbst zur Genüge quälenden Krapp des grossen Beckett auch noch feministisch heimleuchten." - Barbara Villiger Heilig, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Handke wollte die Frau, die bei Beckett nicht auftaucht, endlich zu Wort kommen lassen: Er lieh ihr seine unverwechselbare Stimme. Nach dem aus der Antike übernommenen Rechtsprinzip: Audiatur et altera pars. Was bei der Lektüre beeindruckt und anregt, das Essayistische, poetisch Reflektierende, geht freilich in der Wirklichkeit des Theaters unter. Mag sein, dass Wieler das Ganze allzu stilisiert realistisch, zu behutsam und zu ungebrochen umzusetzen versuchte. (...) In Becketts radikal reduziertem Text steckt ein packendes Drama, in Handkes Monolog: schön verpackter Text." - Ulrich Weinzierl, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Till Day You Do Part or A Question of Light is a dramatic monologue that plays off of Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (1958). In his Afterword, Handke says it is not so much an "answer" to Beckett's monologue, but: "An echo, rather".
       The scene opens with something resembling: "a gravestone, the kind they used to have for Roman couples [...] complete sculptures or figures, each standing upright in its niche". The male figure -- clearly Krapp -- even has what: "looks like bits of tape from a casette round his forehead". They are contrasting figures:

No greater contrast imaginable between this woman and this man: that between alive and quite dead.
       The woman begins to talk -- and: "it seems clear to whom she's talking", not an audience but rather the figure at her side. Indeed, she opens her monologue directly addressing him:
My act now. Your act's over, Herr Krapp, Monsieur Krapp, Mister Krapp.
       She is the woman from the punt (oddly, translated (?) by Mitchell as 'boat' throughout), from that memorable night about which Krapp had said: "We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us, gently, up and down, and from side to side" (words she echoes in her own monologue, as Handke incorporates pieces from this and other plays at various points in Till Day You Do Part). But the woman differentiates herself from Krapp, and his memories, and especially his tape-recording and -listening sessions, insisting:
I'm letting the past be. I'm not listening to old spooools on the tape recorder, I'm not reacting to my voice from decades ago.
       She contrasts her approach to Krapp's -- complaining, for example, about his pauses and (would-be) meaningful silences:
If I speak without special pauses, it's not because I'm a woman, but rather because those pauses -- and above all yours, those intentional, pre-arranged pauses of yours full of hidden and yet completely unhidden meanings -- are not part of my act. Signs, yes -- but no meanings. Definitely no meaning !
       (Mitchell translates the German 'Spiel' (and French 'jeu') as 'act' throughout (so also in her opening words -- "My act now", etc.), which doesn't quite convey the same sense; in German Spiel also means game, while, as in English, a play is a Schauspiel ..... Meanwhile, "Bloß keine Bedeutung !" is more forcefully exasperated (and funny) than: "Definitely no meaning !" -- that bloß being devilishly hard to capture.)
       The woman's monologue is very much one of accusation. So also she complains of Krapp's lack of engagement, focused solely on his self:
You were incapable of duologue. You were incapable of togetherness. In a duo you were out of place and sounded out of tune. You only existed solo.
       Here, too, the translation can't quite capture the sounds of the original, with the Latinate 'solo' and 'duo' somewhat forced substitutes (even as 'solo' does appropriately function for 'alone'):
Du warst nicht fähig zu einem Zwiegespräch. Du warst nicht fähig zur Zweisamkeit. Zu zweit warst du falsch, und klangst falsch. Nur allein hast du existiert.
       Handke originally conceived this piece in French; the German edition includes the final German version along with the French draft, while the English-language edition admirably includes both of these, along with Mike Mitchell's English translation (of the German). Aside from the obvious value of being able to compare the translation to the original, it is interesting to also see French version -- which is similar but not identical to the final German text. Among the major changes is that in the just-quoted scene, as in the French original the woman speaks less directly, this judgment not so much hers as Krapp's mothers; the woman also puts his aloneness is specific contrast to other figures who should be close to him, most notably notre enfant -- 'our child', an expansion of the text that Handke clearly felt moved too far and pulled back from in the final (German) version:
Ta mère m'a raconté en plus, que tu n'étais pas capable de parler à deux. Ou tu sonnais juste et tu étais 'juste' au milieu de plusieurs, ou seul. À deux tu sonnais faux, tu étais faux: avec ta mère, avec ton père, avec un soi-distant ami, avec ton soi-distant amour, avec ton soi-distant -- avec notre enfant.
       Till Day You Do Part or A Question of Light is certainly a response to Beckett's play, playing very much off it, with much that the woman says based on, and reacting to, what is found in Krapp's Last Tape (as well as literally echoing some of the words and phrases). It is a counter-imagining, bringing to the fore a character who did not come to voice in the original play and considering her perspective; it's certainly quite interesting -- and successful -- as that.
       It also, perhaps even more so, an attempt at personal engagement with Beckett's drama -- specifically its language and approach --, Handke in dialogue with the master, fifty years after the (original) fact, considering the possibility of drama in light of -- or rather, in the shadow of -- Beckett's masterpiece. So also in his Afterword Handke acknowledges:
With that play Beckett achieved absolute reduction, a necessary reduction of the theatre, by freeing himself of the remains of symbolism and opinions of existence in his other plays. Krapp's Last Tape perhaps embodies the end or the terminus of the theatre, as pure theatre. It is a primary, essential play. It is possible that after Beckett there were only our secondary plays, for example, as an example, Till Day You Do Part. No more reduction is possible, no more zero space is possible -- just traces of those who have lost their way, here the first to lose her way ?
       Tied so closely to Beckett's original, Till Day You Do Part is naturally best appreciated in conjunction with it. Equally significantly, it should be placed in the context of the evolution of Handke's own, often radical experimentation with drama. A late play, it is not a culmination of his (dramatic-poetic) art but a variation on his (late) themes and approaches -- not so much in line with them, but an interesting little off-shoot (a dead-end only insofar there is no step beyond it, which doesn't make it any less interesting).
       The English-language edition from Seagull is recommended also because it offers a fantastic opportunity to consider three variations of/on a text, in three languages. There are two translations here, whereby Handke's from the French to the German is less between languages than versions, and it is fascinating to see the (generally) small changes he made -- not least in the closing, the German practically speaking to Beckett (via Krapp): "Du der Hall, und ich der Nachhall" ("You were the sound and I resounded" in Mitchell's reasonable but 'echo'-missing translation) while the French -- with bits of German and English -- is a much more agitated and even forward-looking one:
Und dann ? Et après ? ... Kein dann, pas d'après ... Et maintenant ? Und jetzt ? Und jetzt ? ... Storm still ? Tempête tranquille ? Toujours tempête ? ...
       A minor and, in a way, limited work, but certainly rewarding -- especially in this trilingual presentation.

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 October 2019

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Links:

Till Day You Do Part: Reviews: Peter Handke: Other books by Peter Handke under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Prolific Austrian author Peter Handke was born in 1942. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2019.

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© 2019 the complete review

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