Peter Handke

Peter Handke (born 6 December 1942, in Griffen, Austria) is an avant-garde Austrian novelist and playwright.

Early life

Handke and his mother (a Carinthian Slovene whose suicide in 1971 is the subject of Handke's A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, a reflection on her life) lived in East Berlin from 1944 to 1948 before resettling in Griffen. According to some of his biographers, his stepfather Bruno's alcoholism and the limited cultural scope in the small town have contributed to Handke's revolt against habitualness and restrictions.

In 1954 Handke was sent to a Roman Catholic boys' boarding school in Tanzenberg, Carinthia. Here, he published his first texts in the school paper, the Fackel. In 1959, he moved to Klagenfurt, where he went to high school. In 1961, he commenced law studies at the University of Graz.


Ever the enfant terrible, Peter Handke exemplifies the complexity of writing as an Austrian in the post WW2 period, and his work has continually provoked controversy and outrage on a variety of fronts.

While studying, he established himself as writer, linking up with the Grazer Gruppe (the Graz Authors' Assembly), an association of young writers. The group published the literary digest manuskripte. Both Elfriede Jelinek and Barbara Frischmuth were among its members.

Handke abandoned his studies in 1965, when the German Suhrkamp Verlag accepted his novel Die Hornissen (The Hornets) for publication.

He gained popular attention after a spectacular appearance at a meeting of avant garde artists belonging to the Gruppe 47 in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S., where he presented his play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience).

He became one of the co-founders of the publishing house Verlag der Autoren in 1969 and participated as a member of the group Grazer Autorenversammlung from 1973 to 1977.

Handke has written many scripts for films He directed Die Linkshändige Frau (The Left–Handed Woman), which was released in 1978. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide's description of the film is that a woman demands that her husband leave and he complies. "Time passes…and the audience falls asleep". This film was nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978 and won the Gold Award for German Art House Cinemas in 1980. Handke has also won the 1975 German Film Award in Gold for his screenplay Falsche Bewegung.

During the 1980s, he travelled extensively, visiting amongst other places, Alaska, Japan and Yugoslavia.

After leaving Graz, Handke lived in Düsseldorf, Berlin, Kronberg (all in Germany), in Paris, France, in the U.S. (1978 to 1979) and in Salzburg, Austria (1979 to 1988). Since 1991, he has lived in Chaville near Paris, France.

When Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004, she stated that she considered Peter Handke a more worthy recipient than herself and that she had been awarded the prize merely because she is female.

In 1996 his travelogue Eine winterliche Reise zu den Flüssen Donau, Save, Morawa und Drina oder Gerechtigkeit für Serbien (A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia) created considerable controversy, as Handke portrayed Serbia among the victims of the Balkan War. In the same essay, Handke also frontally attacked Western media for misrepresenting the causes and consequences of the war. This controversy still rages. Former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milošević asked that Handke be summoned as witness for the defense before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but the writer declined. He did, however, visit the tribunal as a spectator, and later published his observations in Die Tablas von Daimiel, (The Tablas of Daimiel).

On 18 March 2006, in front of more than 20,000 mourners at the funeral of Slobodan Milošević, Handke gave a speech in Serbian which sparked much controversy in the West. Handke later denied expressing "his happiness at being close to Milošević who defended his people". In fact, in a letter to the French Nouvel Observateur he offered a translation of his speech: "The world, the so-called world, knows everything about Yugoslavia, Serbia. The world, the so-called world, knows everything about Slobodan Milošević. The so-called world knows the truth. This is why the so-called world is absent today, and not only today, and not only here. I don't know the truth. But I look. I listen. I feel. I remember. This is why I am here today, close to Yugoslavia, close to Serbia, close to Slobodan Milošević".

Handke's positions regarding the war in Yugoslavia were challenged by the Slovenian writer and essayist Drago Jančar and the two have engaged in a long polemic.

In 2006 Handke was nominated for the Heinrich Heine Prize, but the prize money of €50,000 is subject to approval by the city council of Düsseldorf. Members of the council's major parties stated they would vote against awarding the prize to Handke, resulting in the prize being withdrawn.

He has two daughters: Amina, from his relationship with Libgart Schwarz, and another daughter with Sophie Semin. Handke has been living with the German actress Katja Flint since 2001.

List of works

Works in English translation are italicized.

  • 1966 "Die Hornissen", ("The Hornets"), novel
  • 1966 "Publikumsbeschimpfung und andere Sprechstücke", ("Offending the Audience and Other Spoken Plays"), play, English version in Offending the Audience and Self-accusation
  • 1967 "Begrüßung des Aufsichtsrates", ("Welcoming the Supervisor"), prose texts
  • 1967 "Der Hausierer", ("The Peddler"), novel
  • 1967 "Kaspar", ("Kaspar"), play, English version also in Kaspar and other Plays
  • 1969 "Deutsche Gedichte", "German Poems", poetry
  • 1969 "Die Innenwelt der Außenwelt der Innenwelt", ("The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld"), text collages
  • 1969 "Prosa, Gedichte, Theaterstücke, Hörspiele, Aufsätze", ("Prose, Poems, Plays, Radio Plays, Essays"), collected texts
  • 1969 "Das Mündel will Vormund sein", "The Ward Wants to be Warden"), play
  • 1970 "Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter", ("The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick"), screenplay and novel
  • 1970 "Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald von Ödön von Horvath", ("Stories from the Wienerwald by Ödon von Horvath"), re-narration
  • 1970 "Wind und Meer. Vier Hörspiele", ("Wind and Sea. Four Radio Plays")
  • 1971 "Chronik der laufenden Ereignisse", ("Chronicle of Current Events")
  • 1971 "Der Ritt über den Bodensee", ("The Ride Across Lake Constance"), play
  • 1971 "Der kurze Brief zum langen Abschied", ("Short Letter, Long Farewell"), story
  • 1972 "Ich bin ein Bewohner des Elfenbeinturms", ("I Am a resident of the Ivory Tower"), essays
  • 1972 "Stücke 1", ("Plays 1")
  • 1972 "Wunschloses Unglück", ("A Sorrow Beyond Dreams. A Life Story"), story
  • 1973 *"Die Unvernünftigen sterben aus", ("They Are Dying Out"), play
  • 1973 "Stücke 2", ("Plays 2")
  • 1974 "Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat. Gedichte, Aufsätze, Texte, Fotos", ("When Hope still Helped. Poems, Essays, Texts, Photos")
  • 1975 "Der Rand der Wörter. Erzählungen, Gedichte, Stücke", ("The Words' Edge. Stories, Poems, Plays")
  • 1975 "Die Stunde der wahren Empfindung", ("A Moment of True Feeling"), story
  • 1975 "Falsche Bewegung", ("Wrong Move"), novel
  • 1976 "Die linkshändige Frau", ("The Left-Handed Woman"), film version 1977
  • 1977 *"Das Ende des Flanierens. Gedichte", ("Strolling Comes to an End. Poems")
  • 1977 "Das Gewicht der Welt. Ein Journal", ("The Weight of the World."), texts
  • 1979 "Langsame Heimkehr", ("The Long Way Round"), story. also in Slkow Homecoming
  • 1980 *"Die Lehre der Sainte-Victoire", ("The Lesson of MountSainte-Victoire"), story, in Slow Homecoming
  • 1981 "Über die Dörfer", ("Walk about the Villages"), theatrical poem
  • 1981 "Kindergeschichte", ("Child Story"), story, in Slow Homecoming
  • 1982 "Die Geschichte des Bleistifts", ("History of the Pencil"), texts
  • 1983 "Der Chinese des Schmerzes", ("Across"), story
  • 1984 "Phantasien der Wiederholung", ("Phantasies of Repetition"),
  • 1986 "Die Wiederholung", ("Repetition")
  • 1987 "Der Himmel über Berlin", ("Wings of Desire") with Wim Wenders, screenplay
  • 1987 "Die Abwesenheit. Ein Märchen", ("Absence"), film version directed by Handke 1992
  • 1987 "Gedichte", ("Poems")
  • 1987 "Nachmittag eines Schriftstellers", ("Afternoon of a Writer"), story
  • 1989 "Das Spiel vom Fragen oder Die Reise zum sonoren Land", ("Voyage to the Sonorous Land or the Art of Asking"), play
  • 1989 "Versuch über die Müdigkeit", ("Essay about Tiredness")
  • 1990 "Noch einmal für Thukydides", ("Once Again for Thucydides")', texts
  • 1990 "Versuch über die Jukebox", ("Essay about the Jukebox"), Engl. version in The Jukebox and Other Essays on Storytelling.
  • 1991 "Abschied des Träumers vom Neunten Land", ("The Dreamer's Farewell to the Ninth Country"), texts
  • 1991 "Versuch über den geglückten Tag. Ein Wintertagtraum", ("Essay about the Successful Day. A Winterday's Dream")
  • 1992 "Die Stunde, da wir nichts voneinander wußten", ("The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other"), play
  • 1992 "Die Theaterstücke", ("The Theatrical Plays")
  • 1992 "Drei Versuche. Versuch über die Müdigkeit. Versuch über die Jukebox. Versuch über den geglückten Tag", ("Three Essays. Essay about Tiredness. Essay about the Jukebox. Essay about the Successful Day.")
  • 1992 "Langsam im Schatten. Gesammelte Verzettelungen 1980-1992", ("Slowly in the Shade. Collected Dispersals 1980-1992"), texts
  • 1994 "Die Kunst des Fragens", ("The Art of Questioning"), texts
  • 1994 "Mein Jahr in der Niemandsbucht. Ein Märchen aus den neuen Zeiten", ("My Year in the No-Man's-Bay"), novel
  • 1996 "Eine winterliche Reise zu den Flüssen Donau, Save, Morawa und Drina oder Gerechtigkeit für Serbien", ("A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia"), essay
  • 1996 "Sommerlicher Nachtrag zu einer winterlichen Reise", ("A Summary Addendum to a Winter's Journey"), essay
  • 1997 "Zurüstungen für die Unsterblichkeit. Königsdrama", ("Preparations for Immortality. A Royal Drama"), play
  • 1997 "In einer dunklen Nacht ging ich aus meinem stillen Haus", ("On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House"), story
  • 1998 "Am Felsfenster morgens. Und andere Ortszeiten 1982 - 1987", ("At the Mountain Window in the Morning. And Other Local Times 1982 - 1987), texts
  • 1998 "Ein Wortland. Eine Reise durch Kärnten, Slowenien, Friaul, Istrien und Dalmatien", with Liesl Ponger, ("A Land of Words. A Journey through Carinthia, Slovenia, Friaul, Istria and Dalmatia"), essay
  • 1999 "Die Fahrt im Einbaum oder Das Stück zum Film vom Krieg", ("The Canoe Ride or The Play about the Film about the War"), play
  • 1999 "Lucie im Wald mit den Dingsda. Mit 11 Skizzen des Autors", ("Lucie in the Forest with the Thingie."), texts
  • 2000 "Unter Tränen fragend. Nachträgliche Aufzeichnungen von zwei Jugoslawien-Durchquerungen im Krieg, März und April 1999", ("Asking through the Tears. Belated Chronicle from two Crossings through Yugoslavia During the War, March and April 1999"), texts
  • 2002 "Der Bildverlust oder Durch die Sierra de Gredos", ("Crossing the Sierra de Gredos")
  • 2002 "Mündliches und Schriftliches. Zu Büchern, Bildern und Filmen 1992-2000", ("Spoken and Written. About Books, Images and Films 1992-2000"), essays
  • 2002 "Untertagblues. Ein Stationendrama", ("Underground Blues. A Station Play")
  • 2004 "Don Juan (erzählt von ihm selbst)", ("Don Juan (Told by Himself)"), novel
  • 2005 "Die Tablas von Daimiel", ("The Tablas of Daimiel"), essay
  • 2005 "Gestern unterwegs, ("Travelling Yesterday"), texts
  • 2006 "Spuren der Verirrten", play
  • 2007 "Kali. Eine Vorwintergeschichte", novel
  • 2007 "Samara", story, previously announced as "Die morawische Nacht"


Handke collaborated with director Wim Wenders on a film version of his novel Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty), wrote the script for Wenders' The Wrong Move, and co-wrote the screenplay for Wenders' Wings of Desire.

English editions

Many of Handke's works have been published in several English speaking countries by different publishers. Only one edition of each work is listed.

  • 1970 Kaspar and Other Plays, Hill and Wang, ISBN 0-8090-1546-3
  • 1971 Offending the Audience/Self-accusation, Methuen Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-416-19570-9
  • 1972 The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-16376-6
  • 1973 The Ride Across Lake Constance, Methuen Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-413-29690-3
  • 1974 Slow Homecoming, Collier Books, ISBN 0-02-051530-8
  • 1974 Short Letter, Long Farewell, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-26318-3
  • 1974 The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld, A Continuum Book/The Seabury Press, ISBN 0-374-28745-7
  • 1976 They Are Dying Out, Eyre Methuen, ISBN 0-413-33690-5
  • 1976 Ride Across Lake Constance and Other Plays, Noonday Press, ISBN 0-374-51272-8
  • 1976 Nonsense and Happiness, Urizen Books, ISBN 0-916354-20-2
  • 1977 A Moment of True Feeling, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-17291-9
  • 1978 The Left-Handed Woman, Farrar Straus & Giroux , ISBN 0-374-18497-6
  • 1979 Two Novels by Peter Handke, Avon, ISBN 0-380-48033-6
  • 1984 3 X Handke, Collier Books, ISBN 0-02-020761-1
  • 1984 The Weight of the World, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-28745-7
  • 1985 Three by Peter Handke, Avon, ISBN 0-380-00968-4
  • 1986 Across, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-52764-4
  • 1988 Repetition, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-24934-2
  • 1989 The Afternoon of a Writer, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-10207-4
  • 1990 Absence, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-10022-5
  • 1994 The Jukebox and Other Essays on Storytelling, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-18054-7
  • 1996 Walk About the Villages : A Dramatic Poem, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 1-57241-000-0
  • 1996 Voyage to the Sonorous Land : Or the Art of Asking and the Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-06273-7
  • 1997 A Journey to the Rivers : Justice for Serbia, Viking, ISBN 0-670-87341-1
  • 1998 Once Again for Thucydides, New Directions Publishing Corporation, ISBN 0-8112-1388-9
  • 1998 My Year in the No-Man's-Bay , Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-17547-0
  • 2000 On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-17547-0
  • 2001 A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, Pushkin Press, ISBN 1-5901285-17-0
  • 2002 A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, New York Review Books Classics, ISBN 1-59017-019-9
  • 2003 Handke Plays, Methuen Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-413-68090-8
  • 2007 Crossing the Sierra de Gredos, Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0374281548

External links

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