Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Peter Handke, a native of Austria, is one of the most prominent, and at times controversial, authors writing in the German language. He has produced a prodigious amount of work, including plays, poetry, and a number of novels and essays. The Weight of the World is his first published diary journal. It is very much a literary text, written as an experiment in aesthetic form. The English translation represents an abridged version of the original German edition. In collaboration with his translator, Handke excised a number of passages—especially those concerning politics and those too difficult to translate—amounting to about ten pages.

The work consists of short entries which have the quality of random notes. Indeed, Handke composed it by writing in a small book which he carried around with him during the period of November, 1975, to January, 1977. At this time he was living with his young daughter in Paris. Some of the entries are noted by both day and month, others by the month only. They are, for the most part, not organized thematically. Interestingly, very few of the entries—with the exception of those pertaining to his daughter—deal with particular individuals or even public events. This is, above all, a journal of the author’s inner world, a kind of phenomenological diary: that is, a record of the phenomena of consciousness.

In the preface to the original German edition—which is not included in the English...

(The entire section is 567 words.)