Controversial Austrian writer Peter Handke, best known for his screenplay for Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire , is this year's winner of the International Ibsen Award, the world's leading theatre award given to individuals or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the development of theatre as an art form. He receives NOK 2.5 million (€300,000).
Handke is a controversial figure. His eulogy in Serbian at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic in 2006 provoked much criticism. Later that year he was nominated for the €50,000 Heinrich Heine Prize, but political opposition resulted in the prize being withdrawn.
The Ibsen award was established by the Norwegian government in 2007 and has previously been awarded to Peter Brook, Ariane Mnouchkine, Jon Fosse and Heiner Goebbels. The jury’s citation states that Handke is beng honoured for “a body of work that is unparalleled in its formal beauty and brilliant reflection”, and continues: “If Ibsen was the model playwright of the bourgeois epoch, which has yet to end, Peter Handke is undoubtedly theatre’s most eminent epic poet.”
Handke was born in Kärnten, studied law at the University of Graz from 1961 to 1965, but broke off his studies when his first novel manuscript, Die Hornissen, (The Hornets , 1966) was accepted in 1965. In the same year, the legendary play Publikumsbeschimpfung (Offending the Audience) was put on in Frankfurt, directed by Claus Peymann. He has since published more than 30 novels and works of prose, and has written a number of plays and screenplays, including the screenplay for Wim Wenders' well-known, award-winning Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire or The Sky Above Berlin , 1987). He has won a number of international awards for his literary work and is regarded today as one of the great names of European literature. Handke lives in Chaville outside Paris.
The award ceremony will take place on September 21st during the Ibsen Festival at the National Theatre in Oslo. Handke's Immer noch Sturm will close the festival. The award is funded by the Norwegian Government and is awarded every second year on Henrik Ibsen's birthday.