Book #28: The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick

The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick by Peter Handke is a strange read.

I’m not sure if I liked it or not.

Basically, a former goalie kills a girl and then, as far as I can tell, goes insane. The man, Bloch, wanders seemingly aimlessly through towns [something else here but I don’t want to think about it right now.]

Most of the book seemed to be a reflection on communication and perception. Bloch goes through phases where words don’t seem to have meaning, or he’s very aware of the fact that language is completely nonsensical. He also, at times, suddenly discovers that he can’t talk to people, or that he seems to be existing slightly apart fro them.

Most of this book, despite it’s being about a murderer, was frighteningly relatable for me. I’m an introvert. I’m also, according to some people I know, a wallflower. I get along just fine when I’m out with friends or hanging out in a small group with people I know well, but put me in a room with a lot of people I don’t know well, and I tend to get awkward.

When I first came to Prague, I turned my socialization dial up full blast. For the first week, I was going to bars with my new classmates every night, cracking jokes, talking, laughing, and generally being a delightful person. One of my good friends told me that the first night we hung out, I set the bar for myself really high because I was so funny and crazy.

Anyway, at the end of the first week, the September TEFL training class had us over for wine and cheese, and then took us out for a night on the town. About 20 minutes into the party, I suddenly realized that I had completely forgotten how to interact with people. I couldn’t figure out what to say, I didn’t know how to introduce myself, I wasn’t even capable of having a normal conversation! It was strange. I sat on the couch, dumbfounded. Eventually one of my friends asked me what was wrong. “I totally forgot how to socialize!” I moaned.

Like Bloch, I wound up  just watching everybody else talk and make friends. Words, conversation, and social situations didn’t make any sense to me. It was a really strange feeling of alienation. Usually I don’t always understand everything that’s going on between people, but this was very odd. It was disconcerting and I didn’t like it very much.

Basically, that’s what I got out of this book. It did a really good job of meditating on words, communication, and interactions between people. At times I related to it a bit too much.

Rating: ***
Up Next: Emma


One response to this post.

  1. I’m sure we’ve all experienced social awkwardness at one point or another. For me, the tones in a room can become muddied and ravelled together; my mind operating on a more granular analysis of the micro-expressions on display. When it happens, I feel a little alienated but it comforts me when friends — from all walks of life — tell me that they sometimes experience the same. Anyway, loved your review, and despite the very dark tones of the book, there does seem to be quite a lot to relate to. May pick it up and have a nose myself! Thanks, Paul


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