Peter Handke: Austrian writer, playwright and film director (1942-) | Biography, Bibliography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Peter Handke
Austrian writer, playwright and film director

Peter Handke

Peter Handke
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Austrian writer, playwright and film director
Is Poet Lawyer Writer Novelist Playwright Film director Screenwriter Translator Poet lawyer
From Austria
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Law Literature
Gender male
Birth 6 December 1942, Griffen
Age 80 years
The details (from wikipedia)


Peter Handke (German: [ˈhantkə]; born 6 December 1942) is an Austrian novelist, playwright and political activist. His body of work has been awarded numerous literary prizes. His writings about the Yugoslav Wars and subsequent NATO bombing of Yugoslavia with criticism of the Western position and his speech at the funeral of Slobodan Milošević have caused controversy.


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 the Soviet-occupied Pankow district of Berlin from 1944 to 1948 before resettling in Griffen. According to some of his biographers, his stepfather Bruno's alcoholism and the limited cultural life of the small town contributed to Handke's antipathy to habit and restrictiveness.

In 1954 Handke was sent to the Catholic Marianum boys' boarding school at Tanzenberg Castle in Sankt Veit an der Glan, Carinthia. Here, he published his first writing in the school newspaper, Fackel. In 1959, he moved to Klagenfurt, where he went to high school, and in 1961, he commenced law studies at the University of Graz.


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

Handke abandoned his studies in 1965, after the German publishing house Suhrkamp Verlag accepted his novel Die Hornissen (The Hornets) for publication. He gained attention after an appearance at a meeting of avant-garde artists belonging to the Gruppe 47 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA, where he presented his play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience). Handke 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." The film was nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978, and won the Gold Award for German Arthouse Cinema in 1980. Handke also won the 1975 German Film Award in Gold for his screenplay Falsche Bewegung. Moreover, he played a big part in writing Wim Wenders's film Wings of Desire; the poem at the beginning of the film was also written by him. Since 1975 Handke has been a jury member of the European literary award Petrarca-Preis.

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


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 Yugoslav Wars. In the same essay, Handke also attacked Western media for misrepresenting the causes and consequences of the war. Former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milošević asked that Handke be summoned as witness for the defence 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). In 1999, Salman Rushdie wrote that Handke "has astonished even his most fervent admirers by his current series of impassioned apologias for the genocidal regime of Slobodan Milosevic." He noted that Handke received the Order of the Serbian Knight from Milošević for his propaganda services during a visit to Belgrade, and that his "previous idiocies include the suggestion that Sarajevo's Muslims regularly massacred themselves and then blamed the Serbs; and his denial of the genocide carried out by Serbs at Srebrenica."

On 18 March 2006, in front of more than 20,000 mourners at Milošević's funeral, Handke gave a speech in Serbian which sparked controversy in the West. 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 position regarding the war in Yugoslavia has been 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 had to be approved 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.

In 2014, Handke was awarded the International Ibsen Award, which caused some calls for the jury to resign. The decision was condemned by PEN Norway. Bernt Hagtvet, an expert on totalitarianism, called the award an "unprecedented scandal," stating that "awarding Handke the Ibsen Prize is comparable to awarding the Immanuel Kant Prize to Goebbels." A group of demonstrators protested against him when he arrived to receive the prize. On the other hand, Jon Fosse, former recipient of the prize, welcomed the decision, saying that Handke was a worthy recipient and deserved the Nobel Prize in Literature.


  • 1973: Georg Büchner Prize
  • 1987: Vilenica International Literary Prize
  • 2000: Brothers KARIC Award
  • 2002: America Award
  • 2008: Großer Literaturpreis der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste
  • 2009: Franz Kafka Prize
  • 2012: Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis
  • 2014: International Ibsen Award

List of works

  • 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, 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), novel and screenplay of 1972 film
  • 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
  • 1972 Der kurze Brief zum langen Abschied, (Short Letter, Long Farewell), novel
  • 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. A Journal), texts
  • 1979 Langsame Heimkehr, (The Long Way Round), story. Also in Slow Homecoming
  • 1980 Die Lehre der Sainte-Victoire, (The Lesson of Mount Sainte-Victoire), story, in Slow Homecoming
  • 1981 Über die Dörfer, (Walk about the Villages), theatrical poem
  • 1981 Kindergeschichte, (Children's 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), essay
  • 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 Winter Day's Dream)
  • 1992 Die Stunde, da wir nichts voneinander wußten, (The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other), wordless 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: 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, (Voyage by Dugout), 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 - His Own Version), 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
  • 2008 Die morawische Nacht, (The Moravian Night)
  • 2009 Die Kuckucke von Velica Hoca, intimate reportage of a Serbian enclave in Kosovo
  • 2010 Immer noch Sturm (Still Storm), a play about the Slovenian uprising against Hitler in 1945, ISBN 978-3-518-42131-4; first performance: Salzburg Festival 2011
  • 2011 Der große Fall, ISBN 978-3-518-42218-2
  • 2012 Die schönen Tage von Aranjuez. Ein Sommerdialog, ISBN 978-3-518-42311-0


Handke collaborated with director Wim Wenders on a film version of The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, wrote the script for Wenders' The Wrong Move, and co-wrote the screenplay for Wenders' Wings of Desire and The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez. He has also directed films, including from his own novels, The Left-Handed Woman and L'absence.

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
  • 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 978-1-901285-17-8
  • 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 0-374-28154-8
  • 2009 Voyage by Dugout, Performing Arts Journal, May 2012
  • 2009 Slow Homecoming, NYRB Classics, ISBN 978-1-59017-307-7
  • 2010 Don Juan - His Own Version, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, ISBN 978-0-374-14231-5
  • 2013 Repetition, The Last Books, ISBN 978-94-91780-00-4
  • 2014 Storm Still, Seagull Books, ISBN 978-0857421814
  • 2016 The Moravian Night, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, ISBN 978-0-374-21255-1

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