'A troubling choice': authors criticise Peter Handke's controversial Nobel win

20 years earlier than Peter Handke would turn out to be a Nobel laureate, he received every other name. In 1999, Salman Rushdie named him the runner-up for “World moron of the 12 months” within the Father or mother, for his “sequence of impassioned apologias for the genocidal regime of Slobodan Milošević”. (The winner used to be actor Charlton Heston, for being a gun lobbyist.)

The Austrian playwright, whose Slovenian heritage had impressed in him a fervent nationalism all the way through the Balkans warfare, had publicly prompt that Sarajevo’s Muslims had massacred themselves and blamed the Serbs, and denied the Srebrenica genocide. Seven years after Rushdie’s sizzling condemnation, in 2006, he would additionally attend warfare felony Milošević’s funeral.

On Thursday, after the announcement of Handke’s win of the 9m Swedish krona prize (£786,000), Rushdie instructed the Father or mother: “I’ve not anything so as to add lately, however I stand via what I wrote then.”

The verdict to award Handke the 2019 laureateship – along Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk for the 2018 medal – used to be broadly criticised via observers as a damaged promise on two fronts.

First, the Swedish Academy’s obvious dedication to be much less “male-oriented” and “Eurocentric” simply days earlier than have been briefly confirmed false, with two Eu winners and most effective the 15th feminine laureate in 120 years. Secondly, having declared that the prize would take a fallow 12 months to reconsider its course after a now notorious sexual harassment scandal, the academy had left observers hopeful that the Nobel would prevent eliding controversy with highbrow rigour, and make a choice authors which may be praised for each their paintings and their politics.

“Handke is a troubling selection for a Nobel committee that is attempting to place the prize heading in the right direction after contemporary scandals,” mentioned writer Hari Kunzru, who has taught the laureate’s paintings to his scholars. “He’s a positive author, who combines nice perception with stunning moral blindness.”

Kunzru mentioned he believed that Handke would have received the Nobel previous, “had he no longer determined to behave as a propagandist for the genocidal Milošević regime”. He added: “Greater than ever we want public intellectuals who’re in a position to make a strong defence of human rights within the face of the indifference and cynicism of our political leaders. Handke isn’t this sort of individual.”

Slavoj Žižek, Slovenian thinker and longtime critic of Handke, instructed the Father or mother: “In 2014, Handke known as for the Nobel to be abolished, pronouncing it used to be a ‘false canonisation’ of literature. The truth that he were given it now proves that he used to be proper. That is Sweden lately: an apologist of warfare crimes will get a Nobel prize whilst the rustic absolutely participated within the persona assassination of the actual hero of our occasions, Julian Assange. Our response must be: no longer the literature Nobel prize for Handke however the Nobel peace prize for Assange.”

Slovenian writer Miha Mazzini mentioned: “Some artists offered their human souls for ideologies (Hamsun and Nazism), some for hate (Celine and his rabid antisemitism), some for cash and tool (Kusturica) however the person who indignant me essentially the most used to be Handke along with his naivety for the Milošević regime. And it’s private. I will be able to by no means put out of your mind the chilly iciness when Yugoslavia used to be falling aside and there used to be not anything at the cabinets of the retail outlets. We had been a tender circle of relatives and my daughter used to be a baby and it used to be bitterly chilly. I’d spent the entire day within the queue for the heating oil and within the night, virtually frozen, I began studying Handke’s essay about Yugoslavia. He wrote of ways he envied me: whilst the ones Austrians and Germans, the ones westerners, had fallen for consumerism, we, Yugoslavs, needed to queue and combat for the whole lot. Oh, how just about the character we had been! How much less materialistic and extra spiritualised we had been! Even on the time, I discovered him merciless and completely self-absorbed in his naivety.”

And in a commentary issued on Thursday, novelist Jennifer Egan, president of literature and human rights organisation Pen The us, mentioned that whilst Pen “does no longer most often touch upon different establishments’ literary awards … lately’s announcement should be an exception.

“We’re dumbfounded via the choice of a author who has used his public voice to undercut historic fact and be offering public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb chief Radovan Karadzic,” Egan endured. “We reject the verdict author who has consistently known as into query completely documented warfare crimes merits to be celebrated for his ‘linguistic ingenuity.’ At a second of emerging nationalism, autocratic management, and popular disinformation all over the world, the literary neighborhood merits higher than this. We deeply be apologetic about the Nobel Committee on Literature’s selection.”

Handke’s politics have lengthy been derided via former buddies and authors. In 2008, novelist Jonathan Littell remarked: “He could be an unbelievable artist, however as a human being he’s my enemy … he’s an asshole.” Alain Finkielkraut known as him “an ideological monster”, whilst Susan Sontag, who spent a number of months in Sarajevo all the way through the Bosnian warfare staging a efficiency of Looking ahead to Godot, mentioned Handke’s feedback had “completed” him amongst his former buddies in New York.

Dr Helen Finch, affiliate professor in German on the College of Leeds, praised Handke’s talent to discover “the fringes of human enjoy in an odd method and for his “early and sophisticated type of ecopoetics”, however mentioned his Nobel win “displays that the prize committee continues to be infatuated via white Eu males writing in an elitist poetic custom, and is cloth-eared to the political complicity of the ones males”.

Some had been happy via Handke’s win, alternatively: Serbian media covered as much as reward the verdict, calling Handke a “nice buddy”, whilst Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen known as Handke’s voice “unfussy and distinctive … Now we have so much to thank Peter Handke for. I am hoping he is aware of that.”

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