Handke and his mother (a Carinthian Slovene whose suicide in 1971 is the subject of Handke's A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, a reflection on her life) lived in East Berlin from 1944 to 1948 before resettling in Griffen. According to some of his biographers, his stepfather Bruno's alcoholism and the limited cultural scope in the small town have contributed to Handke's revolt against habitualness and restrictions.
In 1954 Handke was sent to a Roman Catholic boys' boarding school in Tanzenberg, Carinthia. Here, he published his first texts in the school paper, the Fackel. In 1959, he moved to Klagenfurt, where he went to high school. In 1961, he commenced law studies at the University of Graz.
Ever the enfant terrible, Peter Handke exemplifies the complexity of writing as an Austrian in the postwar period, and his work has continually provoked controversy and outrage on a variety of fronts.
While studying, he established himself as writer, linking up with the Grazer Gruppe (the Graz Authors' Assembly), an association of young writers. The group published the literary digest manuskripte. Both Elfriede Jelinek and Barbara Frischmuth were among its members.
Handke abandoned his studies in 1965, when the German Suhrkamp Verlag accepted his novel Die Hornissen (The Hornets) for publication.
He gained popular attention after a spectacular appearance at a meeting of avant garde artists belonging to the Gruppe 47 in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S., where he presented his play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience).
He became one of the co-founders of the publishing house Verlag der Autoren in 1969 and participated as a member of the group Grazer Autorenversammlung from 1973 to 1977.
Handke has written many scripts for films. He directed Die linkshändige Frau (The Left–Handed Woman), which was released in 1978. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide's description of the film is that a woman demands that her husband leave and he complies. "Time passesand the audience falls asleep". This film was nominated for the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978 and won the Gold Award for German Art House Cinemas in 1980. Handke has also won the 1975 German Film Award in Gold for his screenplay Falsche Bewegung.
During the 1980s, he travelled extensively, visiting amongst other places, Alaska, Japan and Yugoslavia.
After leaving Graz, Handke lived in Düsseldorf, Berlin, Kronberg (all in Germany), in Paris, France, in the U.S. (1978 to 1979) and in Salzburg, Austria (1979 to 1988). Since 1991, he has lived in Chaville near Paris.
When Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004, she stated that she considered Peter Handke a more worthy recipient than herself and that she had been awarded the prize merely because she is female.
In 1996 his travelogue Eine winterliche Reise zu den Flüssen Donau, Save, Morawa und Drina oder Gerechtigkeit für Serbien (A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia) created considerable controversy, as Handke portrayed Serbia among the victims of the Balkan War. In the same essay, Handke also frontally attacked Western media for misrepresenting the causes and consequences of the war. This controversy still rages. Former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milo?evi? asked that Handke be summoned as witness for the defence before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but the writer declined. He did, however, visit the tribunal as a spectator, and later published his observations in Die Tablas von Daimiel (The Tablas of Daimiel).
On 18 March 2006, in front of more than 20,000 mourners at the funeral of Slobodan Milo?evi?, Handke gave a speech in Serbian which sparked much controversy in the West. Handke later denied expressing "his happiness at being close to Milo?evi? who defended his people". In fact, in a letter to the French Nouvel Observateur, he offered a translation of his speech: "The world, the so-called world, knows everything about Yugoslavia, Serbia. The world, the so-called world, knows everything about Slobodan Milo?evi?. The so-called world knows the truth. This is why the so-called world is absent today, and not only today, and not only here. I don't know the truth. But I look. I listen. I feel. I remember. This is why I am here today, close to Yugoslavia, close to Serbia, close to Slobodan Milo?evi?".
Handke's positions regarding the war in Yugoslavia were challenged by the Slovenian writer and essayist Drago Jan?ar and the two have engaged in a long polemic.
In 2006 Handke was nominated for the Heinrich Heine Prize, but the prize money of ?50,000 is subject to approval by the city council of Düsseldorf. Members of the council's major parties stated they would vote against awarding the prize to Handke, resulting in the prize being withdrawn.
He has two daughters: Amina, from his relationship with Libgart Schwarz, and another daughter with Sophie Semin. Handke has been living with the German actress Katja Flint since 2001.
1969 "Das Mündel will Vormund sein", "The Ward Wants to be Warden"), play
1970 "Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter", ("The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick"), screenplay and novel
1970 "Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald von Ödön von Horvath", ("Stories from the Wienerwald by Ödon von Horvath"), re-narration
1970 "Wind und Meer. Vier Hörspiele", ("Wind and Sea. Four Radio Plays")
1971 "Chronik der laufenden Ereignisse", ("Chronicle of Current Events")
1971 "Der Ritt über den Bodensee", ("The Ride Across Lake Constance"), play
1971 "Der kurze Brief zum langen Abschied", ("Short Letter, Long Farewell"), novel
1972 "Ich bin ein Bewohner des Elfenbeinturms", ("I Am a resident of the Ivory Tower"), essays
1972 "Stücke 1", ("Plays 1")
1972 "Wunschloses Unglück", ("A Sorrow Beyond Dreams. A Life Story"), story
1973 *"Die Unvernünftigen sterben aus", ("They Are Dying Out"), play
1973 "Stücke 2", ("Plays 2")
1974 "Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat. Gedichte, Aufsätze, Texte, Fotos", ("When Hope still Helped. Poems, Essays, Texts, Photos")
1975 "Der Rand der Wörter. Erzählungen, Gedichte, Stücke", ("The Words' Edge. Stories, Poems, Plays")
1975 "Die Stunde der wahren Empfindung", ("A Moment of True Feeling"), story
1975 "Falsche Bewegung", ("Wrong Move"), novel
1976 "Die linkshändige Frau", ("The Left-Handed Woman"), film version 1977
1977 *"Das Ende des Flanierens. Gedichte", ("Strolling Comes to an End. Poems")
1977 "Das Gewicht der Welt. Ein Journal", ("The Weight of the World."), texts
1979 "Langsame Heimkehr", ("The Long Way Round"), story. also in Slkow Homecoming
1980 *"Die Lehre der Sainte-Victoire", ("The Lesson of MountSainte-Victoire"), story, in Slow Homecoming
1981 "Über die Dörfer", ("Walk about the Villages"), theatrical poem
1981 "Kindergeschichte", ("Child Story"), story, in Slow Homecoming
1982 "Die Geschichte des Bleistifts", ("History of the Pencil"), texts
1983 "Der Chinese des Schmerzes", ("Across"), story
1984 "Phantasien der Wiederholung", ("Phantasies of Repetition"),
1986 "Die Wiederholung", ("Repetition")
1987 "Der Himmel über Berlin", ("Wings of Desire") with Wim Wenders, screenplay
1987 "Die Abwesenheit. Ein Märchen", ("Absence"), film version directed by Handke 1992
1987 "Gedichte", ("Poems")
1987 "Nachmittag eines Schriftstellers", ("Afternoon of a Writer"), story
1989 "Das Spiel vom Fragen oder Die Reise zum sonoren Land", ("Voyage to the Sonorous Land or the Art of Asking"), play
1989 "Versuch über die Müdigkeit", ("Essay about Tiredness")
1990 "Noch einmal für Thukydides", ("Once Again for Thucydides")', texts
1990 "Versuch über die Jukebox", ("Essay about the Jukebox"), Engl. version in The Jukebox and Other Essays on Storytelling.
1991 "Abschied des Träumers vom Neunten Land", ("The Dreamer's Farewell to the Ninth Country"), texts
1991 "Versuch über den geglückten Tag. Ein Wintertagtraum", ("Essay about the Successful Day. A Winterday's Dream")
1992 "Die Stunde, da wir nichts voneinander wußten", ("The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other"), play
1992 "Die Theaterstücke", ("The Theatrical Plays")
1992 "Drei Versuche. Versuch über die Müdigkeit. Versuch über die Jukebox. Versuch über den geglückten Tag", ("Three Essays. Essay about Tiredness. Essay about the Jukebox. Essay about the Successful Day.")
1992 "Langsam im Schatten. Gesammelte Verzettelungen 1980-1992", ("Slowly in the Shade. Collected Dispersals 1980-1992"), texts
1994 "Die Kunst des Fragens", ("The Art of Questioning"), texts
1994 "Mein Jahr in der Niemandsbucht. Ein Märchen aus den neuen Zeiten", ("My Year in the No-Man's-Bay"), novel
1996 "Eine winterliche Reise zu den Flüssen Donau, Save, Morawa und Drina oder Gerechtigkeit für Serbien", ("Justice for Serbia"), essay
1996 "Sommerlicher Nachtrag zu einer winterlichen Reise", ("A Summary Addendum to a Winter's Journey"), essay
1997 "Zurüstungen für die Unsterblichkeit. Königsdrama", ("Preparations for Immortality. A Royal Drama"), play
1997 "In einer dunklen Nacht ging ich aus meinem stillen Haus", ("On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House"), story
1998 "Am Felsfenster morgens. Und andere Ortszeiten 1982 - 1987", ("At the Mountain Window in the Morning. And Other Local Times 1982 - 1987), texts
1998 "Ein Wortland. Eine Reise durch Kärnten, Slowenien, Friaul, Istrien und Dalmatien", with Liesl Ponger, ("A Land of Words. A Journey through Carinthia, Slovenia, Friaul, Istria and Dalmatia"), essay
1999 "Die Fahrt im Einbaum oder Das Stück zum Film vom Krieg", ("Voyage by Dugout"), play
1999 "", ("Lucie in the Forest with the Thingie."), texts
2000 "Unter Tränen fragend. Nachträgliche Aufzeichnungen von zwei Jugoslawien-Durchquerungen im Krieg, März und April 1999", ("Asking through the Tears. Belated Chronicle from two Crossings through Yugoslavia During the War, March and April 1999"), texts
2002 "Der Bildverlust oder Durch die Sierra de Gredos", ("Crossing the Sierra de Gredos")
2002 "Mündliches und Schriftliches. Zu Büchern, Bildern und Filmen 1992-2000", ("Spoken and Written. About Books, Images and Films 1992-2000"), essays
2002 "Untertagblues. Ein Stationendrama", ("Underground Blues. A Station Play")
2004 "Don Juan (erzählt von ihm selbst)", ("Don Juan - His Own Version"), novel
2005 "Die Tablas von Daimiel", ("The Tablas of Daimiel"), essay
2007 "Die morawische Nacht"previously announced as "Samara",
2008 "Kali", a fable
2009 "Die Kuckucke von Velica Hoca," intimate reportage of a Serbian enclave in Kosovo
2010 "Still Storm" , a play about the Slovenian uprising against Hitler in 1945
to premiere at the Bugtheater in February 2010
Handke collaborated with director Wim Wenders on a film version of his novel Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick), wrote the script for Wenders' The Wrong Move, and co-wrote the screenplay for Wenders' Wings of Desire.