The German word “Einfall,” meaning a sudden notion or fancy,
contains the image of something dropping precipitously into the mind.
Don Juan, in this whimsical tour de force by the Austrian writer Peter Handke, is not a man but an Einfall, and the mind into which he drops, with a crash, is that of a French innkeeper and chef who (unlike the world-renowned Handke) has lost his customers and is living in solitude.
Pretty soon the Einfall develops into a full-fledged idea.
But what is it? The book’s epigraph quotes Da Ponte andMozart’s
Don Giovanni: “Chi son’ io tu non saprai” —
“Who I am, you shall not discover.”
Perhaps, but I will hazard a guess: Handke’s Don Juan personifies the idea of the fulfilled moment, where time and eternity intersect.