Study Guide


by Peter Handke

Across Summary

Summary (Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Across is a first-person narrative with little plot action. It consists of three major sections and an epilogue. Andreas Loser is a teacher of ancient languages at a high school in a suburb outside Salzburg, Austria. He lives separated from his wife and two children. He considers himself to be an observer of, and not a participant in, life. One day, Loser deliberately knocks over a passerby while walking in Salzburg. He does not know why he does it, but only that he must act—that it is now or never. He is clearly undergoing some kind of inner crisis, and he believes that he needs time to assess himself and his existence. The day after this incident, he takes a leave of absence from his teaching post. Loser uses the free time to work on a treatise he is writing. His hobby is researching and excavating ancient doorsteps, or entryways (the German, Schwelle, also suggests a threshold or brink). During the rest of the first section of the novel, Loser remains an observer, describing his apartment and the suburb in which he lives. He longs to find those things that might still have meaning for him: landscapes and simple objects. He is very interested in the ancient Roman writer Vergil, especially his bucolic literature. Late at night, he hears a child wailing and reflects upon its distress.

In the second section, Loser becomes a participant in life, ironically through an act of willful destruction. He is on his way over the Monch mountain to attend...

(The entire section is 540 words.)