Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Sorrow Beyond Dreams” as Want to Read:
A Sorrow Beyond Dreams
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Sorrow Beyond Dreams

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  1,182 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
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 h
Paperback, 76 pages
Published November 30th 2002 by NYRB Classics (first published 1972)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Sorrow Beyond Dreams

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mike Puma
Apr 19, 2015 Mike Puma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: austrian-author, 2015

Briefly: In Jeffrey Eugenides introduction, readers are told, “In fact, German has two words for self-slaughter: Selbstmord, which is roughly equivalent to the English “suicide” and Freitod, which means literally “free death,” and possesses a certain brave, even heroic, connotation.” This puts me in mind of the character of Jessie in Marsha Norman’s unforgettable play, 'night, Mother, a play everyone should see, or read, or watch the Cissy Spacek/Anne Bancroft film. Both the play and Handke’s b

PGR Nair
Mar 03, 2015 PGR Nair rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites

It is a difficult proposition to write a memoir about the death of one’s mother, and that too when she commits suicide at the age of 51 ( I have a somber association with that number as my mother too passed away at that age) . A Sorrow beyond dreams is Handke's poignant account of his mother's life and death. Prosaic, poetic, elliptical and self-conscious, it is an exacting picture of the shock and grief that await those who have inherited the ruins of a suicide. Rarely in rece
Jul 02, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
What does it mean to write about Death, not abstract death, or death of some invented Other, but Death in its most personal, intimate, self-shattering form? How, when the act of writing, of composition, is inherently distancing, can one write about that which is closest to us?

The relationship of Life to Death is that of Music to Silence; how can we write about the difference between the silence before a note, and the silence that follows?

The Death of the Mother. This is a hackneyed literary tro
Sep 10, 2016 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barely remembered reading this in 1996, back when I read everything Handke had published. Read a yellowed mass market paperback with a cartoon image of the author on the cover (Three by Peter Handke). Reread the novella in this snazzy < 75 pg. standalone edition -- for what felt like the first time really -- because Knausgaard recently mentioned it as a major influence. This straightforward yet essentially scene-less "life story" about Handke's mother's suicide gave Knausgaard a blueprint for ...more
May 21, 2016 سلطان rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
عمل أدبي إنساني مختلف، هادئ، رغم مأساوية حادثة انتحار والدة الكاتب التي عشنا معها في العمل مختلف تقلبات حياتها منذ ولادتها إلى رحيلها عن الحياة.
العمل في بعض أجزائه مكتوب بلغة بسيطة، وفي أجزاء أخرى بلغة عميقة.
الترجمة جميلة جداً.. وهذا العمل هو الثاني الذي أقرأه للمؤلف، وسأعمل على قراءة بقية أعماله المترجمة للعربية.
بشكل عام، هذا الكتاب يستحق القراءة
Sep 20, 2016 KamRun rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
همین که کلمه فقر به میان می آید، همیشه به این فکر می کنم که یکی بود، یکی نبود! و تا حد زیادی هم آدم آن را از دهان کسانی می شوند که در گذشته به آن دچار بوده اند، کلمه ای متصل به کودکی. یعنی نه اینکه "من فقیر بودم"، بلکه "پدر و مادرم انسان های فقیری بودند". توضیح واضحاتی شترپلنگ به قصد رنگ و لعاب زدن به خاطرات. ولی اینجانب از گل و بوته زدن به خاطره هایم معذورم

چند هفته ای از خودکشی مادر می گذرد و حالا پسر قصد نوشتن چیزی شبیه زندگینامه (نه دقیقا) برای مادر را دارد: مبارزه نافرجام زنی فرسوده که روزگا
Mar 11, 2015 Sue rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sue by: PGR Nair
Peter Handke has written an elegy for his mother, a suicide, unlike anything I've read before. It is also the story of many women born in Austria between the World Wars, when life was not only difficult, it was hard, even more so for women than men. Opportunities were few, happinesses meager. Escape taken if possible but then came the Nazi era, the post-War years, varying levels of hardship, marriage, family, no aspirations.

He talks of the family and community into which she was born.

For a woman
David M
Oct 27, 2016 David M rated it it was amazing
She was; she became; she became nothing.

A teenage boy gives his mother the books he's been reading - novels by Hamsun, Dostoevsky, Faulkner - and she absorbs them with enthusiasm. For the first time in her life she learns to express herself in words. However,

Literature didn't teach her to start thinking of herself bus showed her it was too late for that.

A gain in freedom, or even happiness, may ultimately leave you standing face to face with that thing you were successfully able to avoid for yea
Apr 14, 2016 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Are you ready to face the facts?
Shelves: read-in-2016
“This story, however, is really about the nameless, about speechless moments of terror. It is about moments when the mind boggles with horror…”

How to explain the agonizing disintegration of a life?
The gradual decay of whatever we humans possess that gives us a conscience? The notion of being?

Handke’s memoir on the suicide of his mother is not what you expect.
Dismiss all idea of long-winded paragraphs recreating the suffocation of being a faceless, nameless woman drowned in squalid poverty and t
Billy O'Callaghan
Sep 04, 2015 Billy O'Callaghan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: around-the-world
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 20, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
I don't believe that all books can be rated on a "star" system, nor do I believe that all should...I still believe what I've written above, but a book that is haunting me and continues to daunt me deserves 5 stars.
I don't believe that all books can be reviewed in words, nor do I believe that all should...
When you read a book and the words simultaneously seep into your "everything" inside and it confronts and confounds you on every page, that is all I believe needs to be said.
I think we could cho
NYRB not only has an amazing selection of books, but their cover design is invariably gorgeous, and in a few cases even seems reason enough to buy some of their titles. I loved the cover of Stoner and The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story and Novels in Three Lines, but the stark beauty of "A Sorrow Beyond Dreams" so far tops them all.

The book is a memoir of another sad little round of life, and the cover, a photograph by James Casebere called "A Barrel Vaulted Room," is a good match for it. I’m afraid
Jun 10, 2013 Ipsith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, favorites
Peter Handke’s A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, which I read in a single sitting, is a searing example of prose literature doing what no other art form can do – engaging the conflict between thought and emotion, building a narrative out of the intersection between ideas and lived experience – that I’ve come across in years. It’s a hybrid form – not quite memoir, but not exactly fiction either – about the life and suicide of his mother, written in the months immediately following her death. Handke struggl ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Peter Handke's mother, aged 51, committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. Here he looks back at her hardscrabble life and its few moments of happiness and tries to justify his writing about it and the manner he accomplishes the task.

Despite the potential of the plot and its minefield of emotions I found it difficult to connect with this piece, not looking forward to Handke's promise to write about this again "in greater detail,' because for reasons I could not fathom (or could it be th
Mustafa Şahin
Jul 12, 2016 Mustafa Şahin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-literature
İntiharının ardından annesine dair anılarını derlemiş Handke. İnsanı boğan ve mutsuz eden bir kitap o yüzden, ne yazık ki. İnsanlığın en büyük sorunu ilgisizlik olabilir mi acaba gerçekten diye düşünmeden edemedim okurken. Çok güçlü cümlelerle örülü bir kitap.
Arkadaşlık, büyük oranda hesaba ve çıkara indirgenmiş bu yaşam biçiminde birbirini yakından tanımak, ama birbirine yakınlaşıp içini açmamak demekti. Herkesin aynı kaygıları taşıdığı açıktı; kimi kaygıyı hafife, kimi ağıra alarak ötekinden
Aliaa Mohamed
Aug 27, 2016 Aliaa Mohamed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
" أحسني وحيدة لا رفقة لي سوى الأفكار المحبطة "

" ثمة عزلة هائلة في داخلي، ولا رغبة لي في أن أخاطب أحدًا من الناس "

"أكلم نفسي إذ أصبحت لا أملك ما أحدث به الآخرين "

" بات مجرد العيش أشبه بالتعذيب، ولكن الموت أيضًا كان يروعها "
رواية غير تقليدية وتحتاج لشيء من التركيز
أرجو أن أكتب مراجعة مفصلة للكتاب قريبا مع قراءات أخرى لبيتر هاندكه
mai ahmd
Feb 29, 2012 mai ahmd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
أخذت هذا الكتاب بين يدي وفي ظني أنه رواية لكنني تفاجأت بإنه سيرة وفاء لدًين , حيث قضت والدة الكاتب نحبها منتحرة بجرعة حبوب منومة , لذلك كتب هاندكه هذا الكتاب لأنه أكثر الناس قدرة على معرفة ظروف موتها وكيف قضت ساعاتها الأخيرة إلى جانب إنه أراد أن يخلد سيرتها في كتاب وفاءا ..
الكاتب النمساوي هاندكه كتب عن قصة والدته وسيرتها مع جده كيف كانت تمتلأ بالحيوية وكيف كانت دائما تضحك ثم كيف قُلصت رغباتها في الحصول على تعليم وافر , إلى متدربة في مطبخ ويسرد قصة زواجها من والده , وتربيتها للأبناء في ظروف بالغة
This book really didn't work beyond the beginning pages. And yet it wasn't bad. The writing was not engaging enough, the biographical style he chose ("after that, she did this..." etc.) is hard to stomach for too long. You can tell that Handke was conscious of this too, putting in things that broke from the pattern, even a whole page meta-talking about why he decided to write it in this boring style! The book fails in some interesting ways. I feel like Handke never had a good sense of what he wa ...more
Hans Castorp
Handke escribe desde el dolor más profundo sobre la madre; su vida, su muerte. Habla con sinceridad, pero escogiendo, puliendo, las palabras que llevan a todos a sentir el recuerdo, el sentimiento del autor, como algo propio.
Dec 07, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
In this nearly unbearably moving memoir of his mother, a suicide, PH remarks: "...I was beside myself with pride that she had committed suicide." (p.68) This statement, among others of equal power, produced in me an "Entfremdung" that PH may have wished to produce in a reader of this brief narrative, but perhaps not.

There is in this book, of course, the outlines of his mother's story, which he narrates in a form that to my mind suggests a writer's journal. And he says as much: "Someday I shall
May 27, 2009 Michele rated it really liked it
When did I trade light, joyful summer reading for the uber-depressing? Not quite sure but after this one, I'm switching gears. Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic book but it's fantastic in that gut-wrenching, can't-believe-people-lived-their-lives-with-this-much-pain-and-sorrow way.
Peter Handke tells the life story of his mother who grew up in Austria, came of age in Germany between the Great War and World War II, and committed suicide in her early fifties.
In the beginning he uses a child's
Nov 01, 2012 Turki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
رائعة, ومؤثّرة جدًا, طعّمها المؤلف بإقتباسات من رسائل والدته, وكانت ببساطتها, وبلغتها الصادقة, وحزنها العميق, من أكثر المقاطع عاطفيةً وتأثيرا بالنسبةِ لي, لقد قرأتها بتأثّر شديد, وكنتُ أُطيل تأملها, لقد كانت تهزّني كلماتها, وتؤثّر فيّ, أيّما تأثير! ولو اكتفى المؤلف بعرض رسائلها, لما رأيت في ذلك بأسًا, إذ كانت رسائل الأم الحزينة الصادقة, تشكّل قطعًا أدبية, في غاية الجمال, وعندما تكتب الأم إلى ابنها قائلة: "أكلّم نفسي إذ أصبحتُ لا أملك ما أحدّثُ به الآخرين. وأحيانًا يتكوّن لديّ انطباعٌ بأنني آلة. ...more
Sep 02, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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 t
جابر طاحون

" ليس صحيحًا أن الكتابة كانت عونًَا لي . فطوال الأسابيع التي انهمكت خلالها في تدوين هذا القصة ، كانت القصة ، هي أيضًا ، لا تكف عن مضاعفة انهماكي . لم تكن الكتابة كما ظننت في البداية ، مجرد تذكار لحقبة منصرمة من حياتي ، إذ لم أفعل سوي الإصرار علي تضمين العبارات مثل هذا الموقف فتغترني المسافة التي أضعها بين العبارة و بيني فلا تكون إلا اعتباطًا . وما زلت حتي اليوم أستيقظ مرعوبًا في الليل أحيانًا، كما لو أنني منبوذ من النوم باندفاعة باطنية خفيفة ، فأحبس أنفاسي إذ يتملكني الإحساس بأن الذعر يستحجرني و
Christian Engler
Dec 04, 2013 Christian Engler rated it it was amazing
A contemporary masterpiece in the genre of the literary memoir, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams is actually an unceasing nightmare where closure is not a possibility, primarily because it recounts the suicide of the author's mother, a woman whose desire for her own forged intellectual and independent identity is never completely made manifest. Peter Handke, one of Austria's preeminent authors and playwrites, looks painfully backward and assesses his mother's life, times and environment and tries to under ...more
Melanie Goetz
Peter Handke erzählt in diesem dünnen Band von seiner Mutter, dessen Selbstmord den Anlass dazu gibt. Wie zu erwarten wäre, ist dies ein schweres, eigentlich fast unvorstellbar schweres Unterfangen, doch er möchte über sie schreiben bevor das Bedürfnis, über sie zu schreiben, sich in die stumpfsinnige Sprachlosigkeit zurückverwandelt, mit der ich auf die Nachricht von dem Selbstmord reagierte . Er möchte dabei weder ihr Leben bloß nacherzählen, noch eine poetische Kunstfigur erschaffen, die ein ...more
Mar 13, 2016 Ian rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jan 28, 2010 Erica rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure about this at first. A lot of the set up involved little philosophical squiggles that I didn't much care about. But then it slid out of that and into a beautiful elegy, memoir, portrait.

Here are lines I liked:
"What she said about books could not have been put into print; she merely told me what had particularly caught her attention. 'I'm not like that,' she sometimes said, as though the author had written about HER. To her, every book was an account of her own life, and in reading
May 13, 2016 Montcrieff rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Have you ever squirmed at a funeral when the speaker described the departed? Did the prosaic facts that were recited capture the essence of a life? 'She was born. She attended school. She worked. She married. She had children. She overdosed and expired at age 51.' To eulogize is a thankless duty that sensitive sons must discharge on behalf of their mothers. Peter Handke forswears platitudes in recounting his mother’s thwarted life. He punctuates the obituary trivia with clues about a mysterious ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
NYRB Classics: A Sorrow Beyond Dreams 1 11 Oct 01, 2015 01:15PM  
  • The Oranging of America and Other Stories
  • The World Within the Word
  • Gogol's Wife and Other Stories
  • Falling in Place
  • Man in the Holocene
  • The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor
  • I Would Have Saved Them If I Could
  • The Pure and the Impure
  • The Changeling
  • Correction
  • Nog
  • The Blood Oranges
  • For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction
  • Advertisements for Myself
  • Rivers and Mountains
  • The Writer on Her Work
  • The Lord Chandos Letter: And Other Writings
  • An Ermine in Czernopol (New York Review Books Classics)
Avant-garde Austrian novelist and playwright. His body of work has been awarded numerous literary prizes.
More about Peter Handke...

Share This Book

“حاجة ماسة للبوح تصادفها أقصى درجات الصمت” 23 likes
“لا أقوى على البقاء في البيت، لذلك أتسكع في الجوار على غير هدى أو قصد. ففي هذه الآونة بتُّ أستيقظ في ساعة مُبكرة قليلا، و ساعة نهوضي من الفراش هي أصعب ما أعانيه، إذ أجدني مرغمة على الإتيان بأي شيء لكي لا أعود إلى الفراش مجددا، أصبحت لا أعرف كيف أُشغِل نفسي ولا كيف أستغل الوقت. ثمة عزلة هائلة في داخلي، ولا رغبة لي أن أخاطب أحدا من الناس. و في معظم الأحيان أشعر برغبة في تناول كأس عند المساء و لكن يتوجب عليّ أن لا أفعل لأن الشراب يبطل مفعول الدواء” 4 likes
More quotes…