Peter Handke Nobel Prize row: Choice of 2019 Literature Laureate prompts criticism from Salman Rushdie, Albanian PM Edi Rama

  • Nobel Prizes for Literature for 2018 and 2019 have been awarded to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk and Austrian writer Peter Handke, respectively.

  • However, the decision to name Handke 2019 Literature Laureate has been embroiled in controversy.

  • Many took to Twitter to express their discontent.

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."

 Peter Handke Nobel Prize row: Choice of 2019 Literature Laureate prompts criticism from Salman Rushdie, Albanian PM Edi Rama

Peter Handke. Photo credit: Facebook @@ROLOFFPETERHANDKEPAGE.

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”.

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."

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama commented about the decision on Twitter:

Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj said on Twitter that the award was appalled that the Prize had been awarded to a "genocide denier".

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci tweeted that "The decision of Nobel Prize brought immense pain to countless victims."

Vlora Citaku, Kosovo ambassador to the US said that Hendke should not be celebrated:

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