A Sorrow Beyond Dreams (Paperback)
NYRB Classics, 9781590170199, 96pp.
Publication Date: November 30, 2002
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.