Other Literary Forms
Although Peter Handke first achieved literary celebrity on the basis of his avant-garde plays, he is best known as a writer of fiction, having largely abandoned the theater early in his career. Most of Handke’s novels are quite short (several are of novella length), and their language is highly concentrated. As critic June Schlueter notes, while Handke’s awareness of the linguistic medium has remained constant, there has been a development in his fiction from an early emphasis on the limits of language and the failure of communication to an emphasis on the “redemptive power of poetic language.”
In addition to his novels, Handke has published several books, which are often classified as nonfiction but which he himself regards as of a piece with his fiction. Among these are the much-praised novel Wunschloses Unglück (1972; A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, 1975), written in response to his mother’s suicide, and Das Gewicht der Welt (1977; The Weight of the World, 1984). Handke has published a small number of short stories, essays, and several slim collections of poetry; he has also written radio plays and has written or co-written screenplays and otherwise collaborated on the making of several films. Since the 1980’s, Handke has translated many works of French, Slovenian, English, and Greek writers, among them Marguerite Duras, Bruno Bayen, Aeschylus, and William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (pr. c. 1610-1611).