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A Sorrow Beyond Dreams by Peter Handke
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A Sorrow Beyond Dreams (1972)

by Peter Handke

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506931,173 (3.72)19
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.… (more)
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    verenka: Both books by contemporary Austrian authors deal with difficult mother-daughter relationships.
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» See also 19 mentions

English (8)  French (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This slim volume (76 pages) is an author's attempt to process his mother's suicide. It ends up being both the story of his mother's life, and more generally, about what it was like to be a poor woman in Germany, living through World War II and its aftermath. About a woman's sense of identity or lack thereof in a pre-feminist society.

But mostly it is a book about grief. The reader is constantly reminded that this is not so much a biography of his mother as it is a way to deal with his loss, to try to gain perspective and distance from his pain and from the memory of his mother. Of course it doesn't work as he hopes that it would. But that's what makes it moving. That's what saves the book from his attempted detachment from the specifics of his mother.

I wonder if he ever wrote or ever will write the more thorough story of his mother promised in the last line of the book... ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
Speri-/senti-mentalismo amaro. ( )
  downisthenewup | Aug 17, 2017 |
La mère de l'auteur s'est tuée le 21 novembre 1971, à l'âge de 51 ans. Quelques semaines plus tard, Peter Handke décide d'écrire un livre sur cette vie et ce suicide. Simple histoire, mais qui contient quelque chose d'indicible. Histoire d'une vie déserte, où il n'a jamais été question de devenir quoi que ce soit. Vie sans exigence, sans désirs, où les besoins eux-mêmes n'osent s'avouer, sont considérés comme du luxe. A trente ans, cette vie est pratiquement finie. Et pourtant, lorsqu'elle était petite fille, cette femme avait supplié ' qu'on lui permette d'apprendre quelque chose '.
  PierreYvesMERCIER | Feb 19, 2012 |
A Sorrow Beyond Dreams is a memoir that Peter Handke wrote following his mother's suicide in 1971. It is a brief gut-wrenching examination of a life that spanned the rise of Nazi Germany, the 2nd World War, and the years of national impoverishment, confusion and shame that followed. Handke's mother was an invisible woman. Her sporadic flirtations with self-assertion ended when necessity or illness dragged her back down to earth. She married a man she grew to loathe and worked her fingers to the bone. Readers of his early works know that Handke's style is normally restrained to the point of minimalism. In this instance he exerts such control over the emotional content of the story he is telling that, like some potion or elixir, its bitterness is concentrated and overpowering. This is an account of a life so desolate, so utterly lacking in hope, it seems narrated in shades of grey. One wonders how much is fact, how much fiction, and how much speculation. It is a difficult but necessary book-- more easily admired than enjoyed--that provides a glimpse into the life of one person who endured the austerity and bleakness of post-war Germany, but in the end succumbed to physical decline, personal despair and an overwhelming sense of worthlessness. ( )
3 vote icolford | Aug 2, 2011 |
"Later on, I shall write about all this more details." (Last sentence of the book in my own translation.) I would have wished that Handke would have followed this plan. Very very little of his whole oeuvre reaches the quality of this relatively early text.
  hbergander | Mar 18, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Handkeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Manheim, RalphTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mooij, MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whistler, James Abbott McNeillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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He's not busy being born is busy dying.

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Dusk was falling quickly. It was just after 7 p. m., and the month was October.

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Unter der Rubrik VERMISCHTES stand in der Sonntagsausgabe der Kärntner "Volkszeitung" folgendes: "In der Nacht zum Samstag verübte eine 51jährige Hausfrau aus A. (Gemeinde G.) Selbstmord durch einnehmen einer Überdosisvon Schlaftabletten."
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