Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Peter Handke may be regarded as an avant-garde iconoclast reacting against accepted narrative traditions and criticizing the complacency of the generation of German writers who preceded him. Handke first gained notoriety in 1966 when he challenged the “realistic” achievements of the prestigious Gruppe 47 writers who represented the establishment. Distrustful of language and of conventional notions of reason, Handke’s early works were an assault against the literary establishment of his time. His plays, one of which bears the title “Offending the Audience,” were antitheatrical Sprechstucke (literally, pieces of speech) that assailed time-honored conventions of drama.

His first novel, Die Hornissen (1966; the hornets), was recognized as a German equivalent of the French New Novel and enhanced his reputation as an experimental writer. In addition, his alliance with Wim Wenders connected him with a new generation of filmmakers who were revitalizing the German cinema.

For Handke, characters take precedence over the story being told. Interviewed in 1979, he said “What is ‘story’ or ‘fiction’ is really always only the point of intersection between individual daily events.” He described narrative as “an ‘I’...writing a narrative poem about the time in which he lives, about the self, and about others.”

The psychology of the central characters of both The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick and The Left-Handed...

(The entire section is 609 words.)