The Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Thursday, 10 October 2019, announced that the Nobel Prizes for Literature for 2018 and 2019 were being awarded to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian writer Peter Handke, respectively.
The Academy explained about their choice of Handke: "2019 Literature Laureate Peter Handke has established himself as one of the most influential writers in Europe after the Second World War. The peculiar art of Handke, is the extraordinary attention to landscapes and the material presence of the world, which has made cinema and painting two of his greatest sources of inspiration."
However, Handke's win has been embroiled in controversy, since in the past, he had publicly suggested that Sarajevo’s Muslims were responsible for their own massacre, later blaming the Serbs; through this suggestion, Handke came to be perceived as a fervent denier of the Srebrenica genocide.
PEN American released a statement condemning the choice, saying "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."
Many others also took to Twitter to express their discontent.
Salman Rushdie said on Twitter that he had already commented on these "idiocies" 20 years ago, referring to a comment from 1999 to the Guardian when Rushdie had titled Handke runner-up for “International moron of the year” for his “series of impassioned apologias for the genocidal regime of Slobodan Milošević”.
I wrote about Handke’s idiocies 20 years ago. I agree with you. https://t.co/tfw0hbszjS
— Salman Rushdie (@SalmanRushdie) October 10, 2019
Author Hari Kunzru also tweeted, "I guess the Nobel committee’s appetite for scandal hasn’t been sated. Handke is a good writer but the politics of his support for the Bosnian Serbs are half-baked and pretty much inexplicable to me."
Two literature Nobels - 2018 to Olga Tokarczuk and 2019 to Peter Handke. I was on jury that gave OT 2018 Man Booker International prize. I teach Handke but have always confidently told students that giving eulogy at genocidaire Milosevic’s funeral would prevent him winning. — Hari Kunzru (@harikunzru) October 10, 2019
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama commented about the decision on Twitter:
Never thought would feel to vomit because of a @NobelPrize but shamelessnes is becoming the normal part of the world we liveAfter disgraceful choice made from a moral authority like the Nobel Academy shame is sealed as a new valueNO we can’t become so numb to racism&genocide!
— Edi Rama (@ediramaal) October 10, 2019
Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj said on Twitter that the award was appalled that the Prize had been awarded to a "genocide denier".
As a passionate believer in literature’s eternal beauty&power to enrich human experience&as a victim of ethnic cleansing&genocide, I’m appalled by the decision to award @NobelPrize in literature to a genocide denier. What an ignoble & shameful act we are witnessing in 2019! — Gent Cakaj (@CakajGent) October 10, 2019
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci tweeted that "The decision of Nobel Prize brought immense pain to countless victims."
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
Vlora Citaku, Kosovo ambassador to the US said that Hendke should not be celebrated:
Dear @carlbildt as someone who is very outspoken about injustice,I hope you will not turn a blind eye to the recent scandalous decision by the #Nobel committee to award #PeterHandke this year’s price for literature. Genocide deniers &#Milosevic apologists should not be celebrated — Vlora Çitaku (@vloracitaku) October 10, 2019
Mats Malm, permanent secretary of the Academy, defended their decision saying “the Nobel Prize in literature is awarded on literary and aesthetic ground. It is not in the Academy’s mandate to balance literary quality against political considerations.”
Thursday's Nobel announcements came in the wake of a controversy-ridden couple of years for the Swedish Academy, which had to suspend the 2018 Nobel for Literature.
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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2019 12:43:43 IST