In 1966, Peter Handke disturbed the world of German letters with the publication of his first novel and with his attacks on the complacency of German-language writers and their audiences. Since then, Handke--an Austrian whose works include drama, poetry, and critical theory as well as fiction--has become a leading European figure in the internationally established postmodern movement.
Klinkowitz and Knowlton survey Handke's progress as a writer, concentrating on his novels, to determine whether his creativity has been exhausted by his persistent assault on the systems that underlie conventional fiction, drama, and poetry. By placing Handke's work in the tradition of Gabriel Garc a M rquez's magic realism and Donald Barthelme's innovative fictions, the authors demonstrate that postmodern writers can create works of art in which content is effaced and the process of composition assumes increasing importance. Indeed, in so doing, Handke has made that process as humanly interesting and as fictionally dramatic as any stories of The Great Tradition: he has learned to address the human condition within the limits of a rebellious aesthetic. The lesson of the postmodern transformation, Klinkowitz and Knowlton argue, is that the abstraction of content is not a loss; instead, it leads directly to the most essential human concerns.
Jerome Klinkowitz is Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa and has written numerous books, including Literary Disruptions: The Making of a Post-Contemporary American Fiction (University of Illinois Press, 2d ed. 1980), Kurt Vonnegut (Methuen, 1982), and The American 1960s: Imaginative Acts in a Decade of Change (Iowa State University Press, 1980). James Knowlton is Assistant Professor of German at Rutgers-Camden. He has published many articles on Austrian and East German literature.