Peter Handke

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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.[1]


Ever the enfant terrible, Peter Handke exemplifies the complexity of writing as an Austrian in the postwar 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.[2] 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.

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