Real Life Fiction, Historical Form: Peter Handke’s “Storm Still”

Presentation at the conference “Biography and/as Experimental Fiction” (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Location: Goldsmiths, University of London, Richard Hoggart Building
Date: Jun 5, 2015
See the conference report

See infos on the paper


The Austrian writer Peter Handke frequently integrates biographical episodes in his literary works. This is especially true for texts that process historical events, the most incisive experience being the Second World War. It seems that addressing this trauma brings with it the necessity to transcend genre borders as well as actual experience.
Handke has frequently freed his texts of the corset of biographical facts in order to reflect on historic events. This paper will focus on his most important work in this context, Immer noch Sturm / Storm Still (2010), which tells the story of Handke’s Corinthian Slovene family members, adding to their actual biographies an imagined contribution to the Corinthian Slovene resistance to the national socialist regime. However, Handke develops this fictional aspect of the story by using an almost scholarly approach: The Storm Still work material contains numerous excerpts of partisan memoirs, from which Handke assembled quotation collages that were integrated in his text. The real life memories of experiences made by Corinthian Slovene resistance fighters are transformed into fictional experiences of fictional characters, which were themselves drafted from real life people.
In addition to this complex non/fictional plot, Handke has suspended the line between genres to enable historical references. Storm Still is a classical drama in five acts explicitly referring to and adapting ancient Greek and Shakespearean forms, yet it is set as running text. This paper will show how Handke creates poetic reality by integrating different non-fictional story lines in a highly artificial form.