Peter Handke  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Peter Handke (born 6 December 1942) is an Austrian novelist, playwright, translator, poet, film director and writer of screenplays. In the late 1960s, he was recognized for works such as the play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience) and the novel Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick). Prompted by his mother's suicide in 1971, he reflected her life in the novel Wunschloses Unglück (A Sorrow Beyond Dreams).

Handke was a member of the Grazer Gruppe, an association of authors, of the Grazer Autorenversammlung, and co-founded the publishing house Verlag der Autoren in Frankfurt. In collaboration with director Wim Wenders, he wrote screenplays such as Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire). Handke held political positions about the Yugoslav Wars, critical of the Western position, which caused controversy. His speech at the funeral of Slobodan Milošević was described as an apology for far-right Serbian nationalism.

Handke received many awards, from the 1973 Georg Büchner Prize to the 2018 Austrian Nestroy-Theaterpreis for his complete work. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2019.



In 1996, Handke's travelogue Eine winterliche Reise zu den Flüssen Donau, Save, Morawa und Drina oder Gerechtigkeit für Serbien (published in English as A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia) created 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 his 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 commented 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." --Salman Rushdie, "May 1999," in Step Across This Line, Random House, 2008

On 18 March 2006, in front of more than 20,000 mourners at Milošević's funeral, Handke gave a speech in Serbian which was considered controversial 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 converted to Serbian Orthodox Church renouncing Roman Catholicism. 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. --to return when sourced --> When Handke was awarded the International Ibsen Award in 2014 it caused some calls for the jury to resign, as Handke was widely described by critics in Norwegian media as a fascist with ties to war criminals.

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.


Handke's first play, Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience), which premiered in Frankfurt in 1966 and made him known, was the first of several experimental plays without a conventional plot. In his second play, Kaspar, he treated the story of Kaspar Hauser as "an allegory of conformist social pressures".


Handke published novels, plays, screenplays, essays and poems, often published by Suhrkamp.


Handke collaborated with director Wim Wenders on a film version of Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter, wrote the script for Falsche Bewegung (The Wrong Move) and co-wrote the screenplay for Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) and Les Beaux Jours d'Aranjuez (The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez). He also directed films, including adaptations from his novels, The Left-Handed Woman after Die linkshändige Frau, and The Absence, after Die Abwesenheit.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Peter Handke" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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