Cover image for A sorrow beyond dreams : a life story
A sorrow beyond dreams : a life story
Handke, Peter.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Wunschloses Unglück. English
Publication Information:
New York : New York Review Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 76 pages ; 21 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PT2668.A5 W813 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Peter Handke's mother was an invisible woman. Throughout her life--which spanned the Nazi era, the war, and the postwar consumer economy--she struggled to maintain appearances, only to arrive at a terrible recognition: "I'm not human any more." Not long after, she killed herself with an overdose of sleeping pills.

In A Sorrow Beyond Dreams her son sits down to record what he knows, or thinks he knows, about his mother's life and death before, in his words, "the dull speechlessness--the extreme speechlessness" of grief takes hold forever. And yet the experience of speechlessness, as it marks both suffering and love, lies at the heart of Handke's brief but unforgettable elegy. This austere, scrupulous, and deeply moving book is one of the finest achievements of a great contemporary writer.

Author Notes

Peter Handke was born in Griffen, Austria on December 6, 1942. He studied law at Graz University from 1961 to 1965. He is a playwright, novelist, poet, and essayist. His plays include Offending the Audience, Kaspar, and The Ride across Lake Constance. His novels include The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, The Left-Handed Woman, and A Sorrow beyond Dreams. He was awarded the Buchner Prize in 1973 and refused to accept the Kafka Prize in 1979.

(Bowker Author Biography) Peter Handke was born in Griffen, Austria, in 1942. His many works include Absence (FSG, 1990), The Jukebox and Other Essays on Storytelling (FSG, 1994), and, most recently, My Year in the No-Man's-Bay (FSG, 1998).

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

In this heartwrenching account of his mother's illness and death, avant-garde Austrian novelist and playwright Handke (Once Again for Thucydides; Ride Across Lake Constance and Other Plays) details his struggle to tell the story of his mother's life and his relationship to her without turning it into an overwrought elegy. The result, first published in the United States in 1974 as part of a collection (this is the first time it has been published as a freestanding book), is indeed considered by most critics to be one of Handke's finest literary achievements, one that is much less abstract than much of his other writing. Seven weeks after his mother's suicide in 1971, Handke felt compelled to preserve his memories of her, of their life together during the postwar misery, and to record his rage over the problems that his mother left for him to solve after her death. Both his anger at this legacy and his admiration for his mother are obvious, and the essay is melancholy and lucid. Highly recommended for large public library and academic literary collections.-Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.