The foundation’s decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature to the Austrian author has been widely condemned by literary bodies and authors over his past comments on the Bosnian genocide.
Peter Handke is the 2019 Nobel Laureate in Literature, but the decision to grant him the most prestigious literary prize has been slammed by politicians, leading authors and writers’ organisations.
The Austrian writer won praise from the awarding body for “an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience” but his past comments on the Bosnian genocide have led many to question the wisdom of the selection.
Where were you in 1996? Peter Handke was doing his slumming in Serbia tour, making the pilgrimage to Radovan Karadzic, fake newsing avant la lettre, reciting the prose and poetry of genocide denial in Kosovo.— Edin Hajdarpasic (@_edinh) October 10, 2019
Today is a good day to be done with that garbage—tell your stories! pic.twitter.com/l7c3qdPIJ4
During the Nineties, Handke earned a reputation as an apologist for the Serbian government as it was involved in acts of genocide against Bosnian Muslims and carrying out atrocities against other Balkan peoples, such as Kosovar Albanians.
In one notable incident in 2014, while receiving the Ibsen Prize in the Norwegian city of Oslo, Handke shouted down survivors and relatives of victims of Serbian atrocities. “Go to hell, where you already are,” he said.
Milošević sympathiser & genocide denier awarded Nobel Literature Prize.— Remembering Srebrenica (@SrebrenicaUK) October 11, 2019
The Nobel committee said that for decades, Handke produced “influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience”.
The author remained a friend of Serbian ultranationalist leader Slobadan Milosevic, who oversaw and incited the atrocities, until the latter’s death in 2006 while on trial at The Hague for war crimes. Handke visited Milosevic in prison before his death and gave a eulogy at his funeral.
His award, which was announced on Thursday, has drawn a torrent of criticism from varied sources.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said until he heard the news, he had never felt the need “to vomit because of a Nobel Prize".
I remember in 1990s Václav Havel, Susan Sontag and many others knew that evil in Europe must be stopped. That genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo had a perpetrator. #Handke chose to support and defend perpetrators. The decision of @NobelPrize brought immense pain to countless victims.— Hashim Thaçi (@HashimThaciRKS) October 10, 2019
In a further damning condemnation, PEN America took the rare step of speaking out against the decision to award Handke.
“We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic,” the organisation said in a statement.
"We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth & offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide," says PEN America President @Egangoonsquad on Peter Handke receiving Nobel Prize in Literature: https://t.co/sKfeqYszeL.— PEN America (@PENamerica) October 10, 2019
“We reject the decision that a writer who has persistently called into question thoroughly documented war crimes deserves to be celebrated for his ‘linguistic ingenuity’,” it added.
The 2019 announcement came coupled with the announcement of the 2018 winner, Polish author Olga Tokarczuk. Last year’s award announcement was postponed because of a sexual harassment scandal.
TRT World reached out to the Nobel Foundation for comment, it said:
"The Nobel Foundation never comments upon the Prize awarding institutions’ independent selections of Nobel Prize laureates."
Handke award makes sense once you realize that the Nobel Committee is trying to put sexual abuse allegations behind it. No better way to normalize abusing one woman than lionizing a writter who celebrated genocide and mass rape as technique of warfare. pic.twitter.com/SbUtjBBpG7— Reuf Bajrovic (@ReufBajrovic) October 10, 2019